Thursday, 28 June 2018
Statement by the President
Usher of the Black Rod
Senators, as some of you may be aware, this morning marked the last occasion on which I will be ushered into the Senate by Brien Hallett, the Usher of the Black Rod. Brien joined the Senate department in January 2009 after undertaking senior roles in the Australian Electoral Commission and as Deputy Official Secretary to the Governor-General. He will shortly commence leave, pending his retirement prior to our resumption.
All of us have firsthand experience of Brien's courtesy and professionalism. He's often been the first point of contact for new senators—a somewhat busier job in the last 12 months than it was previously!—and he embodies the service ethos of the Senate department and the Black Rod's office, in particular. I've been particularly appreciative of his advice and support since I took this office last year.
Brien also led the Senate Committee Office in the previous parliament during an extended period of particularly high and intense committee activity. The capacity of the secretariats to cheerfully meet the Senate's requirements during that time is a credit to his leadership.
Senators should also be aware that part of the legacy Brien will leave behind will be found in two publications, There being no objection and I seek leave to continue my remarks, which bring to life, principally, in Brien's words, 'forgotten tales from the Australian Senate and the wider parliamentary world'.
I know we all think that all staff of the Senate, and particularly it's leadership, are important custodians of the traditions, mores and values of this place. They play a crucial role in assisting those of us elected to it to uphold and develop these as time goes on. I am sure that all senators will join me in thanking Brien for his exemplary service to the Senate and wishing him a long and leisurely retirement.
Honourable senators: Hear, hear!
by leave—Mr President, I rise to make some brief remarks on your statement on behalf of the government. With hindsight, it is possible to see each step in Mr Hallett's career as preparation for his time in the Department of the Senate and his eventual elevation to the job of Usher of the Black Rod. Graduating from the University of Melbourne, he became a high school English teacher in the western suburbs of Melbourne. Some may argue that his firm grounding in Shakespeare's tragedies and comedies left him well prepared for the drama of the Senate chamber from time to time. Similarly, his degree in journalism no doubt proved useful when dealing with the press gallery, which from time to time is known to invade areas that they shouldn't. Mr Hallett also worked in the media and public affairs areas of the Australian Electoral Commission, which is part of my broader portfolio. Later, a stint as Deputy Official Secretary to the Governor-General offered him a unique insight into our nation's political process and ceremonial matters more broadly.
Outside of this place, Mr Hallett's ongoing service as treasurer of the Michelago Rural Fire Brigade—I am from a humble non-English speaking background, so I am very sorry if I inappropriately pronounced this—in his local community speaks to a man with a genuine concern for his community. It also suggests that he has experienced putting out more than just the spot fires that can occasionally spring up on the Senate floor.
In addition to serving as Usher of the Black Rod, Mr Hallett has also run the Senate Committee Office and served as a clerk at the table, graduating to the right-hand chair just last year—a rare honour. I see him nodding. I note that you are nodding because, as is often observed, Hansard cannot pick up a nod.
On behalf of the Senate, and on behalf of the government, I thank Mr Hallett for his distinguished service to the Australian parliament and, in particular, the Senate and wish him all the best in his retirement.
Honourable senators: Hear, hear!
by leave—I rise also to contribute some brief remarks to acknowledge the contribution of Brien Hallett to the Senate, to the public service and to the Australian people. You've served our nation diligently and efficiently for many years, although I confess that I have never got the spelling of your name completely right in my head! As Senator Cormann and the President have said, Brien is currently the Usher of the Black Rod for another month and a bit. Mr Hallett has always been helpful in assisting senators, particularly new senators, with a broad range of matters for which the office is the principal contact. I was reminded in estimates, I think earlier this year, that this was the third time that Mr Hallett was the Usher of the Black Rod.
Mr Hallett's interest in and knowledge of Senate practices and, dare I say it, eccentricities have obviously contributed to the publications that the President has described. As Senator Cormann has said, he served as clerk at the table in the Deputy Clerk's chair and more recently had the honour of serving in the Clerk's chair.
Mr Hallett garners much respect and affection from his colleagues and from senators in this place. He's regarded as a team player extraordinaire. He played an instrumental role in supporting colleagues through the establishment of the new departmental leadership team over the last 12 months. I'm also advised that he is a delightful MC at the Department of the Senate annual Christmas party and a regular and reliable supplier to his colleagues of eggs from his chooks.
Brien, I know you're looking forward to your retirement. I know you'll miss us—well, we hope so! We're probably likely to miss you more. On behalf of the Labor Party, thank you for all you have done not just in this role but in your previous roles. We all give you leave to continue your remarks.
As one of the recent entrants that Mr Hallett has had the opportunity to welcome to this place, I would like to thank him for his hospitality and guidance, and particularly his assistance in facilitating my rather unusual needs in joining you all here as a legislator. It has been an honour to work with you and to be part of this process with you in making this space more accessible and inclusive for all Australians. I would like to extend my personal thanks for the assistance you've offered me in that process that continues going forward.