Wednesday, 3 April 2019
We'll now move to valedictory statements from Senators Scullion, Moore and Cameron. I will invite the three senators to make their statements before I call for contributions from around the chamber regarding all three. I'll commence with Senator Scullion.
Mr President, as I rise I acknowledge the Ngunawal and Ngambri peoples on whose traditional lands this Parliament House stands. I also acknowledge their elders, both past and present, and I'd like to particularly recognise one such elder in the gallery—Matilda House. Matilda was also in the gallery nearly 18 years ago to hear my maiden speech. Thank you, Matilda, and your extended family, for making me so welcome on your country.
I rise in this place today to offer my thanks and acknowledgement to those individuals and communities that have supported me in my time as the Country Liberal senator for the Northern Territory and to also offer some observations about my time in this place. First, and most importantly, could I offer my thanks to all those Territorians from all walks of life who supported and, in fact, voted for me in the last six elections. You can always rely on Territorians for good judgement.
I thank the Country Liberals for their unwavering support. I'm proud to belong to a political movement that always puts Territorians first. I acknowledge how tough it is for so many Territorians at the moment, and I hear your cries for change. I must say that it has been a real honour to have been the first-ever conservative cabinet minister to hail from the Northern Territory, and I genuinely hope I'm not the last. I simply can't overstate how critical it is to the governance of our nation to have representatives from north Australia sitting around the cabinet table.
Mr President, I thank you and acknowledge your professional and impartial leadership of the Senate. It's an absolutely crucial role, and I acknowledge all the Presidents since I arrived in this place. They've done a remarkable job in often difficult circumstances in maintaining peace and good order, particularly with those on the other side. I'd also like to thank the Nationals for their support during my time in the Senate. I've been supported by such great leaders—John Anderson, Mark Vaile, Warren Truss, Barnaby Joyce, and now the excellent Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack.
I know for a fact that every other senator in this place secretly wishes they could be part of our Nationals Senate team. Why wouldn't you want to be part of such a close-knit family that so effectively leverages the best outcomes for regional Australia? And I can tell you, Mr President, that we have a lot more fun doing it! It's a party of great characters like my good mate Wacka Williams. What a wonderful contribution you've made. Australia and particularly your constituents in New South Wales are richer for your time in the Senate.
Senator O'Sullivan—Bazza, mate, regional Queensland has lost a fearless champion, and this place has lost a committed contributor. Thanks for being such a funny bastard. I suspect your wicked good humour helped us all through some of our tougher times. Senator Steve Martin, our Nationals most recent addition, your endless capacity and enthusiasm for your beloved Tasmanians will, I'm sure, see you returned as a much-needed champion for regional Tasmania. I should also acknowledge your recently acquired ability to put more fish in the boat than me, a record I will correct on my next visit.
To Senator Matty Canavan: mate, you're just so hard to keep up with. You're a walking encyclopedia, a man who seemingly overnight can absorb, evaluate and then respond to the most complex of documents. You constantly demonstrate the innate ability to engage so quickly with everyone you meet. On behalf of north Australia, thanks, mate, for all the positive change you've created.
To my wonderful mate Senator McKenzie, Cyclone Bridget: it's rare to meet such a hardworking, effective senator. Regional Victoria is just so lucky to have you. You'll continue to be my close personal friend. I can tell you: sitting next to you is about the only thing I'm going to miss about bloody question time!
Can I also recognise the support of Bozzie, Sandy and Nashy before they left this place. Bozzie in particular is that rare breed of parliamentarian who never really retires once they leave this place. He is always on the phone. There was no fight, big or small, that Bozzie was ever too afraid to take on, and he usually won, too. You're a class act, mate. I only hope my retirement doesn't look anything like yours! But it is people like Bozzie and parties like the Nationals that make Australia such a great nation, the truly remarkable democracy that it is.
The Nats are the party for the regions, for remote Australia, whether it's on the coast, in the bush, in the desert or in our major regional centres. We never, ever take our regions for granted, because there are threats. We have this perverse situation where we have small but vocal groups of activists, primarily in southern and eastern Australia, dictating to rural Australians what industries they're allowed to have, what industries they're not allowed to work in, and what jobs they can and cannot have. Well, we in the Nationals fight for rural industries, shamelessly and proudly. We fight for industries like farming, like mining, like forestry and like fisheries. There is no shame in being a diesel mechanic working on a bauxite mine or an iron ore mine or, heaven forbid, a thermal coalmine. Nor is there any shame in being a beef producer, a dairy farmer or a cotton grower and growing the best food and fibre anywhere in the world.
We on this side—and certainly I—are not afraid to support the proposed Adani Carmichael mine or the development of the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory. Not only will these projects meet all of the state and territory environmental approvals, as they must do; they also have the overwhelming support of traditional owners and the communities in those regions. The traditional owners support these projects; so do the communities. They want the jobs, they want the opportunities and they want the economic development that they will deliver.
As you know, I'm a very keen hunter and sporting shooter myself. So I was very pleased that we all supported a motion reaffirming our commitment to the National Firearms Agreement. We all proudly support the legal rights of law-abiding firearm owners. The National Firearms Agreement hailed the most significant gun reforms in our nation. I believe these laws have achieved the right balance between keeping the community safe and giving firearm owners, whether sports shooters or farmers, a well-regulated and licensed framework to own and use their firearms.
I should make special mention of that excellent class of 2001. It's amazing how few of us remain. As a member of that class, Senator Penny Wong, thank you for your leadership and your guidance of those opposite for many years—and a few of them needed a bit of guidance too! You've made an articulate, dignified and often courageous contribution to this chamber. Congratulations.
There are still a few who predated my arrival. To Senator Marise Payne: Marise, thank you for your friendship and leadership in a variety of portfolios. I know from my garrison town of Darwin how much you were respected in the role of Minister for Defence and what an incredible job you are doing as Minister for Foreign Affairs. Well done, mate.
To Senator Mitch Fifield, Mitchie Boy—again a great mate and supporter. You've done a remarkable job of leading government business in the Senate. To Mathias, the Machine: I thank you for your leadership in the Senate. You're doing a fantastic job, and I trust that you'll excel in that role for many years to come. To the remainder of our coalition team, to Linda, Birmo, Cashy, David, Rusty, Richard and Zed: what a remarkable bunch of Australians you are; what a cracker frontbench. You are completely deserved of the prize we have in you.
To the remainder of those opposite and to all my coalition colleagues, thank you for the contributions you've made to the Senate and to that other place. To the prime ministers I have served, Mr Howard, Mr Abbott, Mr Turnbull and now that excellent Prime Minister Mr Morrison, thank you for your advice, your leadership and, most importantly, your seamless, endless patience.
To the Territory senators I've served with, Trish Crossin, Nova Peris and Malarndirri McCarthy, the collegiate relationship we have enjoyed, most of the time, has ensured that, in this place, the Territory's interests have come first.
To the Greens, while there are not a lot of policies and philosophies I necessarily support, you have clearly stood by your beliefs and rarely vacillated from them. You have my every respect. Since I've worked so closely with Senator Siewert, could I make a special mention of Rachel and her passion for Indigenous affairs and support for Indigenous communities. Thanks, Rach, for your support and assistance in dealing with my portfolio matters.
To One Nation, without a doubt, Pauline—and I'm sorry you're not here to hear me—you are the most controversial politician I've ever worked with. Whilst I mightn't agree with you on all of your policies, I thank you for supporting a number of reforms in my portfolio that have made lives better for Indigenous Australians.
With controversy comes division, and I think the challenge for all of us in the place and as leaders in this place is to always to strive to appeal to Australians' better nature, rather than our worst. I do hope all of us can provide that leadership not only at the next election but in the years that follow.
To the crossbenchers, Senator Bernardi, Chesty, we've had some great times together and I'm sure we'll catch up for some more. To Senator Hinch, Derryn, I don't know anyone else who'd spend time behind bars for their beliefs. You have continued your principled crusade for the most vulnerable Australians since you arrived in this place. All the best for your continued efforts.
Nick Xenophon sort of snuck out. I know he's no longer here, but he remains a good friend of mine. I thank him for all the laughs. To Centre Alliance, to Senators Patrick and Griff, I've enjoyed a great working relationship. Thank you.
I also acknowledge Tim Storer and the very recent—perhaps a dash of sunshine for a very short moment!—Duncan Spender. Although I didn't really get to spend a lot of time with either of you in this place, I wish you both the best of luck. To Brian Burston, now with Clive Palmer's United Australia Party, it's been great to work with you. Clive is a very colourful character whom I know well.
We should never pretend that, as senators, we can achieve anything in this place without the support of our incredibly hardworking staff. You can see them up there in the President's gallery. They are very special, and have been so ably led by Bev Cubillo. Bev's been with me for the best part of 17 years, and she reckons that you get a shorter sentence for murder! A big thanks for your fantastic work, Bev, and also to Gusey, Justine, Billo and Adam, who do such a fantastic job in my electorate offices in Darwin and Alice Springs.
To my ministerial staff, supported by my dedicated and ever enthusiastic chief of staff, Ben Peoples—Benno, you've done a tremendous job leading the team of Bala Jacob, Katherine, Ali, Rick, Trilby, Bretty, Rachel, Hannah and Coops—thanks so much to you all for your dedication, hard work and support and for sharing a multitude of adventures with me over the last 5½ years.
I'd like to also take this opportunity to acknowledge my previous staff, including my previous chiefs of staff: Russell Patterson—fantastic job mate and good to see you; Kevin Donnellan, thanks for your work, mate; Kerrie Tim, the first Indigenous chief of staff—what a great legacy, Kerrie; and Sekur Clayton, you looked after me for so many years I promised I'd get you in Hansard one day!
To all the parliamentary staff who seem to magically run this place—our cleaning staff, all of our security staff, our wonderful Comcar crew, Hansard and all those other staff—you really are the engine room of the Australian parliament.
I also acknowledge the committed staff in my departments, whom I have worked with over my time as minister both in community services and the Indigenous affairs portfolio. I acknowledge those who are in the chamber tonight. I thank the many departmental liaison officers who have worked in my office; the regional network staff, who do a fantastic job supporting all my frontline service delivery; and the leadership of the department, particularly Ray Griggs and Professor Ian Anderson, who is the most senior Indigenous public servant, and who is in the gallery today.
In 2007 I was lucky enough to be asked to serve as Minister for Community Services under the Howard-Vaile government.
Whilst all elements of this portfolio were fascinating, I'd particularly like to thank the disability sector for helping me understand the detail of the challenges that faced us and to share with me the better policy approaches that would ensure that all Australians, irrespective of their circumstances, were treated fairly and equally. I'm confident that the NDIS is making a real difference and will continue to do so.
My current portfolio of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs is one I held in opposition for some time and, in my now informed view, is without doubt the most challenging and important of all cabinet responsibilities. Now, those who will undoubtedly quietly disagree clearly have never held a portfolio. Despite the challenges we inherited—and I know that we have made significant progress—when I say 'we', I mean Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in genuine partnership with government. It would be disingenuous in the extreme for me or our government, or indeed our parliament, to take credit for the success in these endeavours without recognising and acknowledging that, without our now long and enduring partnership with our First Australians, we would never have achieved the changes in the landscape we see today. I would particularly like to thank Senator Pat Dodson for his friendship and assistance with my portfolio—I value them both.
Could I acknowledge and thank the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council, so ably chaired by Roy Ah-See and Andrea Mason. I also thank the past co-chair, Chris Sarra, and the current members, Fraser Nai, Dr Ngiare, Djambawa Marawili and Susan Murphy.
The Indigenous Advisory Council was never just advisory. That was made abundantly clear, I think, in the first two or three minutes of the first meeting. They have assisted in every element of policy development across such a wide range of issues and, on behalf of our shared constituency, thank you.
With the able assistance of then Prime Minister Tony Abbott, we made significant structural reform, the first of which was to bring the primacy of a standalone portfolio of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs for the first time into cabinet. The past hotchpotch approach of each portfolio having separate programs and funding arrangements was replaced by a new regime which brought all the funds supporting our First Australians together under the IAS, the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.
Whilst at the outset there were a few detractors, this reform brought demonstrably more rational oversight and a far more coordinated approach with an unashamed focus on education, employment, and community safety and wellbeing. It was this structural reform that allowed government to seek advice from our First Australians who were receiving services as to their community priorities rather than governments. A principal legacy of these reforms is a move from 30 per cent of the services being delivered by Indigenous businesses when we started to 60 per cent Indigenous delivery today.
I'd particularly like to acknowledge the Empowered Communities program, which now provides community advice on which programs continue to be funded and assists with timely adjustments to program delivery. I thank the hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders throughout Australia for their robust efforts in moving our parliament to deliver the programs their communities need and support—a huge reform from the convention that government knows best.
Could I also acknowledge Galarrwuy Yunupingu and thank him for the great assistance he provided me in redesigning township leases that kept in the case of Gunyangara the new township lease completely under Aboriginal control. This process has become the new standard for township leasing. Bapaji, thank you.
Just last week I was delighted to chair the first ministerial council meeting that included our First Australians. This is a significant move from the convention of only the state, territory, and Commonwealth ministers meeting to the long overdue inclusion of the coalition of Aboriginal peak organisations. For the first time, our First Nations people are at the centre of Australia's endeavours to close the gap of opportunity and equity, and I'd like to thank Pat Turner for co-chairing this historic meeting with me.
Probably the most significant policy introduced by this new partnership has been the Indigenous Procurement Policy, so successful in not only the quantum of the Commonwealth procurement of the First Nations businesses moving, as I've said in this place ad nauseam, from $6.2 billion to now over $1.83 billion but, most importantly, the change in the lives and circumstances of around 40,000 Indigenous families in that they gained a principal breadwinner through full-time employment as a consequence of this initiative. Could I also acknowledge and thank the leadership of the premiers, chief ministers and mayors of all the state, territory and local governments that have adopted this initiative as their own. I hold every confidence this will have a positive and enduring impact on the circumstances of First Nation businesses and their swiftly growing number of employees.
To all those who seek the Treasury benches, a word of advice: this new way of doing business in equal partnership with our First Australians is the way of the future—a hard-fought and deserved future, and a partnership that must forever be.
Finally, and most importantly of all: my family. To my children, now adults, Sarah, Daniel, Luke and their partners Jacob, Suzie, Jamielee and little Kiki—good to see you, Biddle—including my nephew, Luke: you have given me incredible support throughout my time here. Thank you for always being there for me.
To my lovely Carol: I could not have done much of this without you, mate. I thank you for your support and your sacrifices over the years; I love you very much.
I hope my modest achievements in this place validate the responsibilities and trust that Territorians have placed in me. I thank them for the opportunity to serve.
I just want to put on record that every time I've been called to speak in this place by any President or Deputy President I've always had a special shiver, and that shiver is with me tonight. As I did with my first speech, I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of this land then paying my respects to elders of all cultures. The Labor senators who came here in 2001—Ruth Webber, Linda Kirk, Ursula Stephens, Gavin Marshall and Penny Wong—had the special privilege of having an introduction session with the inimitable John Faulkner and Robert Ray. During that session we were advised—I remember this so clearly—that the speeches that would be most remembered about most of us in this place would probably be the first one and those made about us after we're dead. That was possibly not particularly comforting for those who were terrified about our looming first speeches but it makes me a little bit more confident about this one tonight.
I was not particularly keen to make this speech this evening but I decided, after some thought, that what I wanted to do was put on record my thankyous to so many people who have meant so much to me and who have made this experience great. When that initial grouping got together, that was our first opportunity to meet the amazing range of people who care so much about this place, our system and this marvellous building and who wrap services around us to ensure that we can do our job as well as we can and be part of this continuing legacy of the Senate, the parliament and our history. In that time they made me aware that probably nothing I personally could do would bring down this Senate. That was a comfort: as the Senate has continued since 1901—so far, so good.
I want to start by thanking Richard and the Clerk team. You follow on from the most amazing people. When we were first here, I was given so much support and encouragement by people like Harry Evans—wonderful—Anne Lynch and Rosemary Laing. I recently was talking with Rosemary and I said that I lived in this place to ensure that she never frowned at something I did or said. She, as always, was inscrutable and gave me the belief that I had not done so. I hope that was genuine.
I also want to remember the remarkable Cleaver Elliott. In my time, his passion, commitment, knowledge and humour gave me and so many other people such a great understanding of the importance of what we do and how we can do it better. He took this knowledge not just to our parliaments but to parliaments across the Pacific, and there are still people who talk about the training sessions that Cleaver did in other parliaments that make me proud not just of him but of our whole system.
I pressed twice to get more water tonight just so I could see the attendants who look after us so well in this place again. Thank you, John, so much. John, Bryan, Adrienne, Rosemary, and Fiona and all those who've gone before you, I thank you for your unstinting help, greetings and positive nature. Whether it's 9:00 in the morning or 2:30 in the morning, they never fail to make us feel welcome and to let us know they're around here looking after us. Thank you so much to all of you.
To Hansard, all of you, everyone in Hansard: I apologise for my appalling notes. I know they're quite well known in the Hansard area and they won't be any better this evening either. I also thank you for exposing my overuse of the meaningless adverb 'actually'. Just scrub it out every time I say 'actually'—that's worked so far so good.
To Broadcasting: I apologise for my noisy jewellery. I know it has caused trouble in the past and people know when I'm speaking. It's a bit like having a cat with a bell on it—they know when I'm about to speak. I do apologise because I realise over the years that I tend to talk to you. When I'm talking in this place, I know you're supposed to speak to the President but I find when I'm speaking that I'm inevitably talking to Broadcasting. I apologise and I hope you haven't found it too threatening.
To all the people in Parliamentary Services here and in Brisbane, thank you so much. Our team has been served so well by your patience, your consideration and also your effort. You really cared about the services you were providing to us—the people who helped us in Brisbane particularly—so thank you so much. There have been some moves and so on but you've always been great, so I wanted to say thank you and I will be seeing you before I leave.
To 2020: thank you for your patience, understanding and inevitable nonjudgement. Whenever I have dealt with you, it's been fantastic. To the Comcar drivers, wherever you are, I'm not sure whether people truly understand the value of your service until they no longer have that service—that's what I've heard from other people. Thank you for the courtesy, the absolute certainty that we're going to be looked after and for the knowledge that, again, people care. The team in Brisbane can stop having that contest about whether they will get there before I'm waiting for them. It's been going on for years and I know it's been looked at but I like to be early, at least to start with—that's important.
To the security people, you are always helpful, always smiling, making everyone feel welcome. For those of us who have had the wonderful opportunity to travel, Colin and Onu in the international branch have been there for us and have worked miracles when there have been some very tight times. Thank you so much. And, Colin, you will have to find more people to come to those lunches now at the last moment. Thank you for the opportunities.
To the people in the gym, thank you. There are some people here who know about the wonderful services of the gym. I know there are people who have never seen where it is. If you do get the opportunity, pop down and see them; it's usually not fatal.
To Dom and Bridget and the whole team at Aussies: If there is one thing that brings unity to this parliament, it is Aussies. They absolutely care for us, and the place offers us welcome all the time. Thank you so much. We will miss you. Also, to the dining room staff and all the people who serve at so many of our functions, thank you. It often strikes me in this place how you will see people serving at breakfast early in the morning and then you see the same people serving at late-night functions on the same day. I think we all benefit from the extent of their service, their work and their professionalism. I really want to put on record how much I care for them and for the cleaners in this place—absolutely. We see them, we smile at them. Their work is exceptionally caring and professional, and they're part of this building. They're part of a team that lives here. Thank you so much. I have probably forgotten people, but I will just put on record that we all know that you care for this place and that you've extended that care to each of us—so thank you very much.
I particularly want to thank all the people who have made submissions and provided evidence to Senate and other parliamentary committees. For me, our committee system is the heart of our Senate. We have extraordinary opportunities to hear from people who care deeply about issues which affect them. I've been shocked, angered, inspired, challenged and brought to tears sometimes by the contributions to our committees. Each of those red and white books that we all have in our libraries, sometimes way too many, reflects important issues that people have felt the confidence and the trust to bring to us, because they wanted their parliament, their Senate, to hear what was important and how they can make changes to policy—and they work. So many amazing policies, so many programs, so many royal commissions, have come from the work of the committees in our Senate. I think it's important that we know that that system is there, that we value it as it should be valued and that we use it to its best extent. It is what I always say makes our Senate special.
Committees also provide us the opportunity to work together as a Senate, regardless of which party we come from and regardless of what we think we know about an issue. It's our chance to work together as a committee, to travel together, to get to know more about each other—which is sometimes a little difficult. It also provides real friendships. I have to say that, through my work on a number of committees, I've established friendships with senators from across this place, which remain very true and very special for me. Our committee process also gives us the opportunity to make friendships and connections with people who have come to talk with us. Through many of the committees on which I've worked, I now have people whom I consider friends, who come to me with their purposes and their causes and who stay in contact. I can't name them all; it would be inappropriate. But I think I do have to mention at least Leonie Sheedy and the amazing CLAN group, whom we got to know through important committees around the forgotten Australians—those forgotten Australians who will never be forgotten anymore. We made that promise to them.
There are also people in the mental health area. We had an extraordinary committee inquiry into Australia's mental health many years ago. Those connections are still there—the advocates, the professionals, the people who care. It's hard to pick out particular ones, but I want to put on record this evening that the experience many of us in this place had working on issues around women's gynaecological cancer changed lives. We had the opportunity to work with people who were looking at their own condition and at their own death in many ways but who were still prepared to come and share, to ask and to express needs that we could actually then give back in policy. The increased focus on ovarian cancer and other forms of gynaecological cancer which are now active in Cancer Australia came directly from that committee. The unity that we had in the parliament in supporting that issue and the royal commissions will always be very special moments for me.
Something we all know when talking about the committees is that we could not operate without the secretariats. Those men and women who give so much to keep these committees operating are really the backbone. Over the years, I have relied on so many and worked with them, sometimes with extraordinary expectations from ministers in terms of the deadlines put on the committee work. We need to treasure those people and to remind them constantly of the good work they do. I think it is something we all can share.
I also want to thank the governments who've been strong enough to say sorry. There was the time when my friend Kevin Rudd said sorry to Indigenous Australians in this place. I felt that this building actually throbbed. I felt the earth move when that expression was made, across not just this place but the whole of our nation. That apology, that identification that we had people in our nation who had been wronged, Indigenous people who had been wronged, and that the government—our government, our Prime Minister—on behalf of each of us was prepared to stand up and say sorry was extraordinarily special, and it continues to be important.
That experience has been had three more times, and I hope it will continue to happen. For the people who were in institutional care, Kevin, again, was the Prime Minister of the day. It took a bit of encouragement, because he and other people were concerned about whether he would be known just for saying sorry. But I think the importance was known by the whole of the parliament—that when you have a wrong you need to apologise. From the experiences that we heard, again through the committee system, we have now made an apology to the people who were in institutional care, which continues to remain so important to them.
Then again, a few years later, we had the forced adoptions inquiry. We met women and their children and their families who were damaged by governments in Australia—some of them thought they were doing the right thing, but nonetheless lives were damaged—and again our parliament, our government, decided that this was such a great wrong that we needed to say sorry. I, and people who have met those people, continue to understand how important that experience was.
So I want to thank governments that are strong enough to say sorry. Very recently Prime Minister Morrison actually took the apology statement to people who had been identified through the royal commission process as having suffered sexual abuse in institutions. Again, you could feel the way that the parliament was connecting with people, with our community, and I think that's what makes us strong. So thank you to those governments who knew that they could say they were sorry.
I want to say thank you to my party, the Australian Labor Party, and particularly to the members of the Queensland branch who have given me the opportunity to serve as a Queensland senator in this place. When you actually make that oath and sign those amazingly large and important historical documents that sit there when new senators come on, it is a contract. It is a position of trust. I really want to thank the people in the Queensland party who gave me this chance and who felt that I was serving them well.
I love my state, and I've had the great opportunity, basically through this job, of meeting many people from all parts of Queensland. In fact, that extends to all parts of the nation. I would like to acknowledge the school hall program, which meant many of us got a chance to go to a lot of places that we may not have known existed before. I went to a school that had five pupils, who had not had a library and who had not had a hall. I went to very large schools. It was a wonderful experience to be there and be part of that whole process, so thank you to the party.
I also want to particularly thank the party for a special joy that I've had in this parliament, which was representing the party on two national institutions. The National Archives has an advisory council by legislation, including members of parliament. The National Archives provides the memory of our nation, collecting and preserving Australian government records that reflect our history and identity. So to David Fricker, who is the director-general, and Denver Beanland, my mate from Queensland who's the chair of the council: thank you so much for the opportunity to serve on that council. It is important, and I really think, again, it's the history of our nation.
Another special joy—I must have been standing in the right place that day—was that I also got appointed to the National Library Council. Our National Library is an absolute treasure. It's so close, and yet I know people in this place may not have got there. So please take the opportunity to visit the Library and the Archives. The Library, by its legislation, is responsible under the act for maintaining and developing a national library collection of material, including a comprehensive collection of material relating to Australia and its people. That's us. So take the opportunity to go to the Library and learn more about the wonderful services that they have. To Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, who's the current national librarian, and Dr Brett Mason, who is now the CEO of the advisory council: thank you as well for that chance to serve with you.
I want to also thank the party for the wonderful chance in the last two parliaments to serve as a shadow minister. It wasn't my goal. It was not something that I had planned to do, but it was a wonderful chance to look after two particular portfolios that mean so much to me. One was as the shadow minister for women for disability and careers—my friend Carol Brown now works in the disability and careers area—and the other one, the one that I'm doing in this parliament, is as the shadow minister for international development and the pacific. I cherish the opportunities I've had to work in this space and the people I've had the chance to meet.
There are so many advocates and NGOs and people who care about all these areas, but I want to particularly mention the Parliamentary Group on Population and Development, which I've mentioned many times in speeches in this place. That group—I can see people who've been on the group nodding—encapsulates the issues of international development, the Pacific, women, disabilities and our whole focus as parliamentarians working on developing policy in this area. I really encourage parliamentarians in the next parliament to work on this cross-party committee, which is so important to our area. I couldn't leave this area without giving a little nudge to Penny and her office, who've done work in this space and provided opportunities. I'll also mention the Sustainable Development Goals. I will not go into a long rant on that. I've done that many times before, and I assure you I will continue to do it. But, if you look at what the SDGs talk about, it's what we need: we need to work together.
Mr President, I haven't got too much more. I did have a time limit, but I've noticed with interest that there's no clock moving, so that's terrifying for everybody! I'd like to acknowledge my union, the CPSU, the union that serves people who work in the public sector. I am a public servant. I have been a public servant my whole working life, just in different ways. I particularly acknowledge Bill Marklew, my good friend in Brisbane, and his team. You have been behind me, you have been my friend and you've been my support. I am a life member of that union and I will always be active. They mean a lot to me.
That leads on to my absolute support and advocacy for the public sector. That's where I worked. I see public servants doing the jobs that we require of them all the time, and I look on them with respect through the Senate estimates process, which I know we love and adore—in fact, I actually do enjoy Senate estimates. I don't believe it is a gladiatorial contest; I believe it's somewhere you exchange information. When I see the work, commitment and genuine care for our society that the public service should be doing, I want to genuinely put, again, as I did in my first speech, my absolute commitment to being part of the public sector.
I'll talk about my team—I can't name them all—from over the years. We've built up a bit of an alumni group of people who've survived working in my office. There are a few of them up there. There's Meredith and Monique, who are walking. It's fantastic. They have actually been great to me. I can't name them all, but they have shared the passion and they have shared the journey. I particularly want to mention Anne, who was with me from the start, from the Sunshine Coast. I actually was blessed by having two Merediths—one is with me here tonight and the other is the backbone of my office, my friend and someone with whom I work so closely and we couldn't do it without her. It has been a great privilege to work with her and also Claire. We know Claire from the Labor Party. When I was working in another position in this job, she helped me through the intricacies of the operations of the Senate and was there when I returned in shock after a heavy question time of taking points of order. She was always there ready to support me when I returned quite exhausted and deeply concerned about whether I'd done the right thing in this place, so thank you very much.
I'll mention my long-term commitment to having women in parliament. I want to put on the record my thanks to EMILY's List, an organisation with which I've worked with for many years. They have been strong. They have been supportive. They work to have women in parliament, which is something we hear so much about, but, more than that, they work at inclusion in parliament so that we have people who represent their community in this place. My goal is that our parliament reflects our community. Everybody who is an Australian citizen should feel as though they can serve in parliament—really whether they want to or not. They can feel as though that option is here. We are getting better on that, but I think, as a parliament, we are seeing that we need to do that.
I want to thank the wonderful people who have supported us in the whip's office. They do a great job. You and your team are exceptional. I particularly want to thank Maria, Kay and Lenny. They provide so much support to us and are always there. They always should be thanked and acknowledged. To Penny, for you and your office: it's a tough gig and the office does amazing work and is there to provide leadership and support.
I want to thank my friends, who are always there. You should always have people around you who are your friends and who will tell you the truth, when you're failing as well as when you're doing well. I can't mention you all, but I particularly want to put on record Janice Mayes, my good mate, who actually told me I could do this job. I wasn't sure at the time, but she felt that was something she could tell me, in faith, that I could do. Thank you so much, Janice. Thank you to Virginia, who is always there and just makes life easier for many people by bringing her joy into their lives.
For my first speech, my family sat up there and I had nieces and nephews who were very young. They are now adults with their own families. Thank you to my two sisters and their families. They have been so supportive. I'm not sure whether they always understood this process, but they have become committed and I always knew that they were right behind me. For an end, I just want to thank everyone with whom I've worked. It has been a deep joy, a pleasure and an honour. There's unfinished business, and I won't be going away. I wish to put that clearly on record.
However, I want to end with just one regret. When I was sworn in and I had the kids with me, they got immense pleasure out of being in this place. One of the things they enjoyed most was running over Parliament House, throwing themselves down that wonderful green space. I have to admit that I did as well! There will be many people who will never actually know that experience, because things have moved on so much in this place that we don't have that. That is a regret to me. I'm sorry; I know the world has changed, but there was something particularly special about the openness and the welcome of the Senate that I joined, the parliament that I joined. I hope we will always keep that spirit alive, if not the ability to run over the hill. Thank you very much.
I also acknowledge the Ngunawal and Ngambri people and acknowledge their leaders past and present. I rise tonight to make my final contribution to the Senate, which I have had the honour of serving in since 2008, while representing the citizens of New South Wales and the great Australian Labor Party.
My work as a trade union official and senator has given me the opportunity to meet wonderful and interesting people throughout the length and breadth of this huge country. The overwhelming majority of Australians who I have met have been working people. They would probably describe themselves as 'ordinary Australians'. However, the working men and women of this country are anything but ordinary. In the main, the Australian working class are industrious, loyal, intelligent, politically engaged and big hearted. They are not xenophobic, ultranationalistic or racist, as some on the crossbenches would have people think. The men and women who work in factories, in hospitals, on building sites and in classrooms are the people who make this country great. These workers, many of them union members, build and maintain our great nation.
Knowing that I had to make this final speech got me thinking about why I'm here, what brought me to this place and what I have tried to achieve while I was here. In reality, it all comes down to one thing: socialism. I know those opposite have just about fainted!
I'm a proud socialist.
Socialism is at bottom a question of ethics and morals. It has mainly to do with the relationships which should exist between a man and his fellows. Therefore it is the equaliser in the position of the rich man's too much and the poor man's too little.
The former member for Parkes, who I never met, Les Haylen, provided another take on socialism, and it's also one to which I subscribe. In 1961, Les Haylen described socialism in these terms:
anti-war, anti-poverty, anti-monopoly, anti-greed and anti-race discrimination, and forever opposed to the savageness of capitalism which has kept the world in fear and misery for centuries … Socialism is a standard of shared goods, jobs and opportunities. It's another word for equality—fair shares.
To this day, those opposite view this alternative economic program, one that has served so many of our allies so well, as inferior to capitalism and neoliberalism. Well, I'll let those opposite in on a little secret: you've got socialists in your ranks too; they just won't admit it! My old mate Wacka Williams is an agrarian socialist if I've ever seen one. Nobody that's been kicked in the guts by capitalism and the banks, like Wacka has been, could be anything else. What other reason could there be for a farmer and a trade unionist to get along so well?
But it was the late, great Leonard Cohen who provided probably the most poetic metaphor for inequality, unfairness and corruption, in his song 'Everybody Knows'. While I'm not going to test the standing orders, or your sensibilities, and sing, I'll read the first verse:
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
I grew up in Bellshill, where there were a lot of poor people—a small working-class town a few miles south-east of Glasgow, in North Lanarkshire. Bellshill was a steel town, an engineering and mining town, a tough town. It was home to a large Lithuanian migrant population, which included my mother's family. I grew up in Scotland in social housing, colloquially known as the schemes, with my brother, Andy; my sisters, Marilyn and Sandra; my mother, Anne; and my father, Dougie. My father was a sergeant major in the British Army. He served behind Japanese lines in Burma with the British expeditionary forces, and then in India. He was a man stricken by the ravages of malaria and war. Like many returned soldiers, he ended up abusing alcohol and dying young. He was a strict disciplinarian, as sergeant majors are, and an authoritarian, which I think engendered in me a keen sense of civil disobedience. I am not a pacifist, but I hate war.
We never had much money, and my mum had a tough time making ends meet. I entered the workforce at 12 delivering newspapers. I left school at 15 to take up an apprenticeship as a fitter. I joined the union on my first day at work and, apart from marrying Elaine, it was the best call I ever made. In 1973, aged 22, Elaine and I left Bellshill with our 14-month-old daughter, Lynn, and migrated to Australia in search of a better life, one free from sectarian conflict and hardship. Because I had a trade certificate as a fitter and machinist, we had a choice of countries including the United States, Canada and New Zealand. However, Australia had a reputation as being an egalitarian, multicultural country where a worker would get a fair go and a fair day's pay as a result of large, effective trade unions.
Upon our arrival we stayed at the Endeavour Migrant Hostel in South Coogee. I was, in reality, an economic refugee—the sort loathed by some of the crossbenchers. As I've looked across this chamber in recent times, I've done so in the knowledge that there are some people in here who would have denied my family and me the opportunity to make a life in Australia if the decision had been theirs. Fortunately, those with xenophobic and racist views are in the minority, and their bigotry will never ever be accepted by mainstream Australians in this proudly multicultural country where about 30 per cent of residents were born overseas.
As a fitter, I was able to secure employment at General Motors Holden in Pagewood, at Garden Island dockyard and at National Springs. And Elaine was one of the first women to work on the production line at General Motors Holden as a spot welder—because we had $80 when we arrived in Australia, the equivalent of a week's wages. I had to work, Elaine had to work and we had to make a life in this country. I worked with other migrants, many from non-English speaking backgrounds who shared my dream of living in a bountiful, peaceful country, free of the poverty and divisive politics that had afflicted Europe.
In 1975, I accepted a job as a maintenance fitter at the Liddell Power Station near Muswellbrook. It was a heap of rubbish then; I don't know what it's like now—this lot want to keep it going! It was at Liddell that I became a union activist and convener. On arrival at Muswellbrook with Elaine, Lynn and our newborn daughter, Fiona, we discovered that the house provided as part of the job had been vandalised. When I raised this with the bosses, they just shrugged their shoulders. So here I am with a wife and two young children and nowhere to live but a dilapidated, dirty, unsafe worker's cottage. Fiona was only a few months old. Luckily for me, I was a member of the union. As soon as I spoke to the shop steward, he took it up with the bosses and we were given a different house, one fit for a family with a new child. I have never forgotten that act of support, strength and solidarity and I never will.
In 1982, after seven years on the tools at Liddell and after many industrial disputes, I was elected as a state organiser for the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union. In 1986, I became the New South Wales assistant state secretary of the union before becoming the assistant national secretary. From 1996 until I commenced my first term in the Senate in 2008, I was National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers and the vice-president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
A union is only as strong as its weakest shop, and we would use the strength of our 'hot shops', the well organised sites, to raise standards across the industry. Pattern bargaining, as it was known, is the most effective way for working people to get decent pay and conditions. WorkChoices essentially outlawed pattern bargaining, and, as a result, workers' pay and conditions have stagnated while company profits have soared. Under the current industrial system, workers would have been unable to achieve shorter hours, career paths, superannuation and industrial democracy, free from complete managerial prerogative. John Howard's war on workers and their unions culminated in the waterfront dispute and the introduction of Work Choices, the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Registered Organisations Commission.
In 2007, when the workers of this country rose up and countered these unprecedented attacks on their rights at work, I was very fortunate to be elected to the Australian Senate. I was encouraged to seek preselection by my friend and comrade Greg Combet—so you can all blame Greg! I was strongly supported by Sally McManus, a great trade unionist and a fantastic leader.
We often hear about the shortcomings of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years—more often than not from the Murdoch press. We hear about the internal fighting, the removal of a sitting Prime Minister and the endless cycle of payback. And, yes, that all happened. I opposed the removal of Prime Minister Rudd, and I think my position has been vindicated. The only thing worse than engaging in that sort of nonsense would be to witness it, ruthlessly exploit it and then immediately repeat it as soon as you got into power. And that's exactly what the Liberal Party has done.
Less spoken about are some of the great achievements of the Rudd-Gillard years, starting with the long-overdue apology to our First Nations people. Indigenous Australians continue to pay a heavy price for having their country stolen and their culture attacked. Rudd's apology started a healing process, and I firmly believe this important work must continue if Australia is to ever reach its full potential.
Another enormous achievement of the previous Labor government was guiding Australia through the economic turmoil of the global financial crisis without the widespread job losses and foreclosures experienced around the world. Some of this lot over there were saying that there was no global financial crisis—that it was an American or European crisis. I don't get it. How these people were ever seen to be good economic managers beggars belief. It should not and will not ever be forgotten that it was a Labor government that shielded the people of this country from the excesses of capitalism. This was real economic leadership by Prime Minister Rudd and Treasurer Swan. It stands out compared to the economic vandalism of the Howard and Costello years.
While this Senate has faced some serious headwinds throughout my time here, it's the recent contributions by neo-fascists masquerading as patriots that have caused me the most concern. I'll make this point very clearly. It is not Australia's Muslim community that is a menace and danger to our society and to what we collectively hold dear. It's not Australia's Muslim community who invited a toxic foreign entity like the NRA to buy our democracy and expose our community to semiautomatic weapons. It's the extreme Right; they are the incubators of hate and intolerance. It's One Nation, people like Fraser Anning and the extremists on the far Right of the Coalition that would destroy this great country if given half a chance.
The very wealthy, self-serving, anti-union former Liberal Party candidate, Pauline Hanson, pretends to be a voice for those without financial or political power. One Nation does this while voting with the Liberals on key legislation including the ABCC, penalty rates, free trade agreements and tax cuts for the wealthy. They pretend to love this country while dispatching their idiotic minions to sell us out to the NRA. They pretend to care about everyday Australians while subscribing to imbecilic conspiracies about the Port Arthur massacre. And now they want us to believe they were all taken out of context with their half-baked plan to hijack this parliament with US gun money. I strongly urge working-class Queenslanders, working-class Australians, to give this treacherous, treasonous rabble the boot at the upcoming election.
I say to the Australian Muslim community: you are welcome here. You are an important part of our multicultural society. You contribute far more than Senator Hanson and her poisonous policies. You belong here as much as anyone else, and don't let anyone tell you any different.
One of the most important trips I made as a senator was to the Wilkins aerodrome in Antarctica with the environment and communications committee, where scientists explained to me the impact climate change is having on our planet. How our opponents became so wedged on this important issue is beyond me. I do take comfort, however, in the knowledge that a Shorten Labor government, if elected, will take meaningful action on climate change to safeguard future generations.
Over the past six years I've been honoured to serve in Bill Shorten's shadow ministry as Labor's spokesman on, firstly, human services, housing and homelessness, as well as skills, TAFE and apprenticeships.
Unfortunately, Australia's housing market is failing. Home ownership is at record lows, rental stress is preventing young people from saving for a home deposit, and homelessness is skyrocketing. There are very few social outcomes that so unambiguously and shamefully expose our failure to live up to the promise of being a fair and decent society than the persistently high number of young Australians and older women either at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
We must stop viewing housing purely as a source of investment and wealth creation and recognise that a society as wealthy as ours should view having a roof over your head as a human right. I also believe that, given the social and economic importance of housing, it should be part of the infrastructure portfolio.
I am deeply concerned that too many politicians argue that 'equality of opportunity' is the key to resolving social and economic disadvantage. This rhetoric belies the massive difference in opportunity available to the children of the wealthy compared with the children of working-class and disadvantaged Australians.
Young people under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government have faced high rates of unemployment and underemployment, wage stagnation and penalty rate cuts, underinvestment in vocational education, and increases in the proportion of young workers relying on the minimum wage.
This hopeless and dysfunctional coalition government has also decimated our TAFE and apprenticeship systems by cutting more than $3 billion from the sector. There are 140,000 fewer apprentices since they were elected, and TAFE enrolments have plummeted by 24.5 per cent. Last night's budget did nothing to address this terminal decline; rather, it was a pea-and-thimble trick designed to fool voters into thinking they are investing more money when, clearly, they are not.
Among the highlights of my time in the Senate was the delivery of my proposal to establish the National Workers Memorial in Canberra. The memorial serves the dual purpose of honouring those killed at work and reminding us all of the need for occupational health and safety in the workplace—and, Wacka, thanks for your support on that committee.
If there is one small thing I hope I am remembered for when I leave this place it's consistency. I've consistently backed progressive causes, even when they have been unpopular. Sorry, Penny, but I've never voted for a free trade agreement in the caucus. I've never believed in the magical power of the markets and I've remained extremely sceptical about the virtues of privatisation and competition policy. Privatisation has not worked in health, in education, in the electricity market or in the vocational education sector. We've seen countless big government instrumentalities handed over to the private sector, who more often than not have profiteered while reducing services.
One of the most consistent criticisms levelled at me by the Murdoch press and others is that I engage in class warfare. Apparently, defunding public schools and hospitals, cutting legal aid, closing TAFE campuses, allowing wage theft and cutting penalty rates are not class warfare. If protecting the working class from the excesses of the wealthy elite and the coalition is class war, I plead guilty to class war.
When I was first elected to the Senate, a colleague told me that I was no longer a trade unionist but a senator in the Australian parliament. Like many other pieces of unsolicited advice, I ignored this. I have always been and always will be a proud trade unionist.
Many great men and women have served the Labor Party over the years—people like Senator Bruce Childs, a fantastic individual, a fantastic senator. But there is one New South Wales senator that I'd like to single out as having left an indelible mark on democracy, society and the law—that's Lionel Murphy. The former Attorney General's many reforms were driven by a visceral sense of social justice and a fierce determination to pursue equality for all. Lionel sought justice for women in the mid-1970s through his abolition of the Matrimonial Causes Act and the introduction of no-fault divorce. His establishment of Commonwealth legal aid provided many Australians previously shut out of the legal system with rights and access to legal support. Lionel's well-placed concern about the accountability and transparency of our national security agencies remains of fundamental relevance to Australian democracy today. This parliament needs more oversight—such as the UK parliament, the Canadian parliament and the US government all have in place—over our security services. If you want to give them more power, they must be more accountable.
Lionel is credited with establishing the Senate committee system—an innovation that has contributed so much to democratic accountability in this country.
There are far too many good comrades in the Labor Party for me to mention today, but I will single out my Senate colleagues for special mention: thanks, comrades; you've been great. They have been an inspiration and tremendous support for me over the years, and I thank each and every one of them for this.
In the other place, I want to make a special mention of deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek. I believe Tanya will make a truly great deputy prime minister and I hope she gets that opportunity very soon. I want to acknowledge Jenny Macklin, one of the most talented, hardworking, intellectually precise people I've ever met—a fantastic contributor to this nation.
I want to just say that my Queensland colleague Murray Watt has been a forensic interrogator in Senate estimates, and I know for certain he will make a significant contribution to Australian public life over the coming years. The same goes for my New South Wales comrades: Deb O'Neill, Kristina Keneally and Jenny McAllister—three remarkable women who will continue to serve this nation very well. Claire, you and I are going out at the same time but you have made a remarkable contribution to the Senate and to the parliament.
One of the most formidable and intelligent politicians I have ever met is my leader in the Senate, Penny Wong. Penny, you and I have had our differences on a range of policy issues. You have always argued your position with strength and integrity, even though your remarkable powers of persuasion failed to change my mind on trade and competition policy.
I could not leave this place without special mention of my mate Albo. What can you say about Albo? Self-made, raconteur, DJ—my goodness!—and not a bad numbers man. He is the ultimate political warrior. He dominated the House of Representatives as Leader of the House, and his contribution to Labor, allowing us to now be a genuine alternative government, should never be underestimated.
And finally, to my successor and AMWU brother, Tim Ayres: I wish you all the best for the future. I know you will serve the people of New South Wales well. Good luck, comrade, in the future.
I leave this place in the knowledge that the labour movement and the Labor Party are in great shape. Sally McManus and Michele O'Neil have reinvigorated the union movement with their uncompromising leadership style. I've been extremely impressed by the way Bill and Tanya have united the Labor Party, leading us out of the wilderness and into contention to form the next Australian government. Under Bill's leadership, the Labor Party again feels like the Labor Party I joined many years ago. It is unashamedly progressive, pro-worker, pro-women, outward-looking and confident. I am quietly confident myself that Australians will give Bill the opportunity to lead this great country. He will make a great Labor Prime Minister who will govern for all Australians, particularly those without access to wealth and power.
In closing, I want to thank the Parliament House staff, who do a tremendous job in keeping this place running. I'll just adopt the thank yous that Claire gave, and I think that'll save a bit of time!
I might mention the cleaners. The cleaners in Parliament House have been subjected to wage theft, and if the cleaners in Parliament House are subjected to wage theft, how can workers out in the general community be confident that their wages will be looked after? The cleaners do a tough job. The cleaners do a great job. Yet this rabble of a government allowed their wages to be cut. It defies belief.
In closing, I want to say that my own personal staff, both past and present, have been absolutely fabulous. They have provided me with the resources, support and advice that I have needed to do my job properly. Helen, Siobhan, Rebecca, Jason, Justine and Michael—a talented team—thank you. I must mention Phil Morgans, who worked with me for near on 20 years as my chief of staff in the union and is a friend and adviser without peer. Phil will be shaking his head, because I think this is the first time for a long time I've actually written a speech and stuck to the speech—probably because Wacka Williams and The Nationals have behaved themselves!
I want thank my wonderful wife, Elaine, who has given me the love and support I've needed throughout our time together. We have been married for 48 years—shit! I was going to say she's a lucky woman, but she'll shake her head. Actually, Elaine saved my life. Elaine supported me as I recovered from alcohol addiction.
To my beautiful daughters, Lynn and Fiona; their partners, Rick and Perry; and my beautiful grandchildren, Amy and Scott: thanks for being so great. Thank you for turning into reality your mum's and my hopes when we emigrated to Australia: to have a great life, not only for ourselves but also for you, in our adopted country. You have been a credit to us. We love you and we thank you for being so good.
Thanks, everyone. This is the last time you'll hear from me—but I liked the battle.
I rise on behalf of the government to pay tribute to Senators Scullion, Moore and Cameron for their service in the Australian Senate and to the Australian people. You hear sometimes, when people reflect upon politics, that they believe that politics and service in this place changes people. Of course, in some ways it has to—it has to change us in terms of enhancing our outlook, expanding our knowledge, and broadening and enriching our experience. But, equally, this evening the Australian Senate farewells three characters, three genuine individuals, who, I think, each leave with their core essential characteristics firmly in place, just as they entered this place with.
Nigel, your grounded authenticity is something that we all love so deeply. To the bloke from the bush, who is as much the bloke from the bush here in Canberra as he is up in the Territory or anywhere else around the country, and fisher from the north, who I think in his approach has always brought to bear that old proverb that it's better to teach someone how to fish than just to give them the fish—mate, we will miss you so much. You have much to be proud of—just by being here, to start with. Your background—indeed not unlike many in this place and not unlike those others we farewell tonight—is a background that we would not necessarily have expected to see come to this Australian Senate. You had a nomadic childhood in many ways, in terms of the places you lived. You found yourself making the Territory your home and working across mining, maritime salvage, security and engineering. Most notably, you worked as a fisherman, establishing your own fishing business, serving as chairman of the Australian Seafood Industry Council and coming to represent the Territory but also the fishers of Australia most fiercely.
You've been a fierce advocate for the Territory for those from your background, but also, of course, for First Australians—First Australians, first and foremost, right throughout. If anyone had any doubt about Nigel's affection for his home territory, you need only read his first speech, speaking of its natural beauty but also of the depth of its ancient heritage and the calling of its people.
Nigel, you reflected on your service as a minister in the Howard government and in a range of shadow portfolios. But it's been in the period since 2013 where we and many across the nation have been able to see the full force of your energy and conviction on display as the Minister for Indigenous Affairs. It's notable and it's to your credit. You are one of the few people in our government who has carried the same singular portfolio right throughout the time of our government and of your service within it. It's a testament to your deep understanding of the complexities, opportunities and moral significance. As you rightly said, being a standalone Minister for Indigenous Affairs in the cabinet afforded the issues the attention they rightly deserve.
Your relationship with our First Peoples predates this time in the Senate well and truly. As well as being with your fellow Territorians—your neighbours—you spent years living off the sprawling coast of Arnhem Land. You know their work and they know your work and the connections that are there. You matched your personal concerns with the practicality for tangible improvements over the last nearly six years. In particular, our government is so proud of the Indigenous Procurement Policy, which you have driven and championed and which has seen Indigenous businesses win Commonwealth contracts, creating jobs and opportunities across the nation and ensuring those jobs and opportunities are generating ownership, opportunities and greater prosperity for their Indigenous owners.
Your personal experience has driven you to ensure that you focus on other priorities, such as the Community Development Program, which has remote Australian communities at its heart and has helped remote jobseekers find over 37,000 opportunities for employment, many of which have translated into long-term, gainful employment opportunities. You've been instrumental in driving the Indigenous Advancement Strategy used so effectively to deliver support programs to the areas of greatest need. You have been a constant champion for the Indigenous rangers initiative, empowering Indigenous communities to protect the natural wonders of our nation and of their culture and heritage.
In recent times, you worked to secure the historic Closing the Gap partnership, a landmark agreement that will revolutionise the practical working relationships that exist between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and governments at both state and federal level, taking the Closing the Gap agenda, rightly, to the next level and its next place. Upon entering this place, you were one of the first to admit that many of the issues our nation faces in Closing the Gap are complex. They've been there throughout our modern history and will be there long into the future, but you can be proud of the fact you have made a focused, determined and, in many ways, successful effort to make crucial progress in terms of the lives of First Australians.
Away from the ministry, we commend you, Nigel, for having served in National Party leadership roles in the Senate chamber for many years, including as its Senate leader since October 2015. Few can truly appreciate just what a challenge it can be to lead the National Party, particularly the National Party in the Senate. Those of us who sit amongst the leadership group with you and have had that honour get rare glimpses and insights, but, of course, to be able to bring together the different perspectives of the Nats is one of life's great tests, and you have always been there rising to that occasion. As a dedicated Country Liberal, you've always fought hard for your party's cause in the Territory, and whilst here you stand proudly as a Nat, we know that you stand uniquely as a Country Liberal. For many of us Libs, you're a Nat who we always wanted. We'd have happily traded you in to the Liberal party room at any time and place, happily had you and seized you.
That is too rich an invitation, Senator Fifield—far too rich an invitation for me! And particularly because I was going to observe that, on those rare occasions of certain free votes and deliberations on issues of values in this place, where sometimes I find myself voting against quite a number of my colleagues on some of those issues, Nige, you were frequently one of the ones I'd find sitting close to me, making sure that, though we might have been small in number, we made sure that the views and values we held dear were made clear.
I know that all on our side, particularly all coalition staff, will be looking upon your departure with one clear question: mango daiquiris—who's going to make the mango daiquiris in future? Who's going to be responsible for that key tradition that ensures the coalition staff Christmas party can, to some extent, live up to the wonders of the National Party Christmas party? It is well known. So, obviously, we expect you back with mango daiquiris!
Mate, your contribution over 17 years has been something that we have enjoyed and that you should be proud of. You've previously noted 'that the hopes and dreams of First Australians reflect those of all Australians'. How right you are. You can retire knowing that, through your dedication and work, those hopes and dreams are somewhat closer. And the work for all of us in this place is to continue to make sure that we deliver on that passion and vision that you've demonstrated.
We're going to miss your good nature, your good humour, the knowledge that you're somebody who any of us, I think, would feel comfortable reaching out to at any time in terms of our lives and in any circumstances. The fact that you've been so successful at befriending people right across this chamber, and especially some of those on the crossbench from time to time—the orphans of the chamber who come in here as Independents—is a testament to the way in which you reach out.
As you leave this place, we wish you, your wife, Carol, your three children, all of your loved ones, the very best for the future. In your first speech in this place, you invited all of your colleagues to visit the Territory and take home a slice of paradise. Well, you're getting to go back to paradise. I can assure you that many of us are going to come and make sure that we haunt you in your paradise, that we visit you there, that we make sure that, whether it is the barramundi or the wild pigs of the Top End that need to watch out once Nige is back, we'll also be there to make sure we get one of those rich Nigel experiences. Mate, thank you for your service.
Can I turn to Senator Moore. Claire, thank you also for the service you've brought—a real true Queenslander—to this place. I think most importantly it's the care, the compassion and the considered approach that stand out. Many who dislike the combat of politics would, if they had the chance to look around here, look at Claire Moore and think that you are the type of politician they want to see. I can't think of a time that I've served in this place with you where I've heard you say an ill word of anybody. You've always been thoughtful, careful and considered in the approach that you have brought to bear.
You spoke of your background, your lifelong time in public service. But, over 17 years here, that public service has allowed you to contribute in so many different ways. Your service on Senate committees is, I think, something that all will remember. I have to say: if I think of things I might regret at moments like this, it's that I never had a lot of time serving in Senate committees with you, Claire. But, in your contribution, when you spoke about the committee work on gynaecological cancer, I did reflect, of course, that I fill Jeannie Ferris's vacancy in this place. Just a couple of months ago I held, as I do each year, a large 'morning teal' in Adelaide acknowledging Jeannie and her work. But at that time we were talking about the work of the Senate committee on gynaecological cancers. I know the role you played in the thought leadership there and the fact that, with senators like you, people feel more able to open up and share their soul and their problems than they're necessarily always able to do. But I also know that you were a great rock of support for Jeannie during that time, as you have been for many.
I think of greatest note, in terms of your service here, is your time as chair of the community affairs committee. Many would see your time in the Senate as being synonymous with the work of the community affairs committee, but also, importantly, as you highlighted, the Parliamentary Group on Population and Development, as well as your consistent work in the AIDS space.
You reflected upon the jingle-jangle in the chamber at times. Indeed, I think the Senate will miss your decorative flair—you raised it, so I feel that I can go there!—so well displayed not only in the chamber but also, notably, in your senatorial office. Packing up will be quite a task, I imagine.
On behalf of the government, I want to commend you for the clarity of your convictions. You will leave here, I know, for a life pursuing many of your different passions and hobbies, from cricket to Irish folk music and beyond, and with the opportunity to find many a quality detective fiction novel, I'm sure. But you leave a place and a chamber that will miss the way in which you approach debates. You have approached them all with a sense of purpose and decency of which you can be very, very proud.
I turn to Senator Cameron, to Doug. I said that each leaves, in many ways, as they came: the grounded authenticity of Nige, the care and compassion of Claire, the warrior instincts of Doug Cameron—a warrior for his union; his party; his causes, particularly the cause of socialism; the people that he represents; and even, often, people who might not want Doug to represent them. Doug would stand there and argue the toss to represent them. He'll leave this place, but I am sure it won't be the last that we hear of his wicked tongue, with its sometimes cutting insults but also very rich sense of humour.
Doug, you spoke of your background, as you did in your first speech. You also spoke about a range of issues, and as always, after you've spoken in this place, it's incredibly tempting to anyone on this side to respond to highlight what we think are the inaccuracies or differences, but tonight I resist that temptation. Your career lends credence to the old saying that, while you may not always agree with another person's beliefs, you can certainly still respect the strength with which they hold them and the conviction with which they advocate for their cause. And there are few who advocate with as much conviction and determination as you have in your life—prior to being in this place, throughout your time in this place, and, I am sure, in the time hereafter. Yours, as you acknowledged, was a remarkable journey to this place. I think it was just yesterday, in condolence motions, that I reflected upon a Labor senator from the west who had a very similar history and also some similar lines about Scottish accents.
I particularly recall time spent with you, Doug, on the Senate environment and communications committee, and seeing your chairmanship of that committee, to which you brought the work-to-rule instincts of your union background. We would always finish at the precise time, and, if we didn't finish at the precise time, the lunchbreak would still be 60 minutes long to make sure that everybody had appropriate downtime. But I also know that there was a little bit of workplace flexibility that you brought to bear on it. I can remember conspiring with you one day to make sure that we ordered the proceedings of the committee in such a way that I could catch a plane to get home and see my kids. It is that human touch that many wouldn't have seen from the way in which you fiercely advocate for your issues and causes. But I know that it's there, and we've seen that reflected in your comments about your family and, indeed, in the care for the lives of other people that your conviction is driven by.
Politics can be fierce and tough, and it's fair to say that Doug has never shied away from a political scrum, from speaking his mind, and we heard that tonight. This place, of course, will miss his very distinguishable voice. Whilst Claire's jingles and rattles may have caught Hansard's attention occasionally, everybody knew who was speaking the moment Doug Cameron rose to speak.
Whatever the difference that exists across the political divide, our democracy is stronger thanks to the robust advocacy we see from Doug and from all of those who depart this chamber tonight. I want to commend each and every one for their service. I wish each and everyone's families—Elaine, in your case, Doug, and your children and your grandchildren, everybody—every success. May you enjoy getting your loved ones back from the service. Thank you for lending those loved ones to our nation. Congratulations to each and every one of you on your service. We wish you well and thank you.
I rise to make some valedictory remarks for Senators Scullion, Moore and Cameron. I'll just note at the outset that a couple of senators leaving, as they indicated in their speeches, are from the class of 2001 in which I entered the parliament. I don't know whether that's just a reminder or whether somebody might be saying something! Anyway, first to Senator Scullion.
It's a certain type of personality that goes from professional fisherman to Australian senator, but Nigel is quite a unique individual. Some might be surprised that we have a few things in common. We both spent our early years in Malaysia. We were both on early episodes of Kitchen Cabinet. But I reckon that whilst my lunch with Annabel Crabb was pretty sedate, Senator Scullion took her on a boat and told her a tale of how he once shot a mud crab off his thumb with a gun, so I think his was a much more interesting episode.
Senator Scullion brings his own larrikin style, his somewhat laconic style at times, to the Senate. He's also a survivor—he's managed to be a minister, as he mentioned today, in the Howard government and in the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments since day one in the same portfolio. I think you're probably the only one! There's Senator Cormann too—that's right. Senator Scullion and Labor may have disagreed quite vehemently at times with this government's policy approach in his portfolio, and sometimes those debates have been strident, but I do say this: I recognise, and I think we all on this side recognise, that Senator Scullion cares passionately about this policy area. I think his pride at being the first minister responsible for Indigenous Affairs in the standalone portfolio was manifest today in his remarks. Whatever differing opinions we may have about government initiatives, Labor recognises Senator Scullion's determination to work with our First Australians and to further his personal knowledge of country and culture, and we respect that. In announcing he wouldn't recontest his seat in the Senate, Senator Scullion had some words of warning for the game animals of the Top End: 'If I were a wild pig, a duck or a mud crab, I'd be starting to get nervous.' I hope he's right.
I also turn tonight to two of my colleagues, two Labor senators who I think demonstrate the richness of the Labor tradition and the breadth of progressive politics. I'll start with Senator Moore. As Senator Moore indicated, we came to the Senate on the same day—elected in 2001, commencing on 1 July 2002. Claire has always shown great empathy for and solidarity with the vulnerable and the marginalised. In her first speech, Senator Moore said:
Any choice to be involved in a political system must be based on a personal commitment as well as a real sense of support and purpose.
Some people do not always succeed in keeping their principles and personal integrity intact in politics, but that is a challenge that Claire Moore has well and truly met. Her personal commitment has never wavered, especially in areas including the advancement of women and the protection of human rights as well as the importance of community services.
Senator Moore's list of committee appointments and inquiries is quite a rap sheet—actually it's not, because she would never do anything wrong, so it's probably more a very lengthy CV! It demonstrates the depth of her care and commitment to those Australians and others beyond our shores who would otherwise be pushed to the margins and have not had a voice at the table of national decision-making.
Her service on committees also underlines her belief, as she reiterated today, in the merit and power of the Senate committee system as a valued aspect of the Australian democracy. I note her membership of the landmark Senate Select Committee on Mental Health, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, and the Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library—as she spoke about tonight—and, of course, her service as the member on the councils of the National Library and National Archives. Claire has a keen sense of history, the importance of history and knowing who we are and where we have come from. Senator Moore's many years of service on the Senate Community Affairs Committee have included some nationally significant inquiries, such as the children in institutional care inquiry, which produced the Forgotten Australians and Protecting vulnerable children reports and which led to the national apology and the royal commission.
Senator Moore has also been a leader on many issues in relation to women's rights. One particularly important contribution was Senator Moore's role in the debate on the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Repeal of Ministerial Responsibility for Approval of RU486) Bill 2005. As Claire said at the time:
It is not a national referendum on the rights or wrongs, legality or morality of a woman's right to choose to abort. In fact, it seeks to clearly identify for all our community where the appropriate assessment process for the safety, efficiency and quality of a medication should be.
We all know the contentious nature of this topic and how difficult at times it is for parliaments to deal with it. Senator Moore was key to the discussions which brought this bill forward and achieved its passage in the Senate. It was an extraordinary cross-party effort led by women, for women. In the debate, Senator Moore noted:
… it showed that people can work together if they have a common aim and can share their knowledge and experience to ensure that we can work to achieve results for the community.
This has been the approach that Senator Claire Moore has taken across her career, building partnerships for positive change. I have valued her partnership in the Foreign Affairs portfolio, and we have done a couple of tours of the Pacific together.
Senator Claire Moore has always remained true to her social justice conscience and has put her beliefs into practice. In her first speech, she told the story of suffragette Emma Miller and her sisters, and finished with this quote:
The world will be what we make it, and a fuller, happier and more abundant world is possible for all of us if we are united in efforts.
Senator Moore, Labor feminist and internationalist, has brought her principles to this Senate. I honour her contribution, and I thank her.
I turn to Senator Doug Cameron. Senator Cameron came to us after an extraordinarily distinguished career fighting for the rights of workers in the trade union movement. Working class, Scotsman and Glaswegian—he is a bloke who never forgets who he is, where he came from and who he fights for. There is nobody better at calling out the rabble on the other side. He has a capacity for the pithy takedown. For example, today he said, 'The government's budget didn't last from Lateline to lunch.' There you go!
Senator Cameron has led the fight on many fronts over 5½ years in opposition. He has been relentless in his pursuit of the Liberals and Nationals, and some ministers have earnt a special place in his heart. I know that Senator Cash will miss him! Dougie understands discipline, solidarity and loyalty—all attributes of our movement. He exemplifies them. I want to personally thank him for that contribution. He eventually does what I say! It usually takes some work. But more important, and what I value most, is that whenever he is asked to step up for the group, for the team, his courage is second to none. I respect that, I value that and I thank him for it.
Doug Cameron has weathered many personal, partisan attacks in this place for his role as a trade union leader, for his relentless pursuit of the interests of workers and for asking legitimate questions about this. He has been accused in this chamber of aiding and abetting criminal behaviour. I do want, in this final valedictory, to make this point: there is nobody in this Senate who has done more to stamp out corruption and criminal elements in the trade union movement than Doug Cameron. His efforts as a union leader have come, at times, at a personal cost. I want to record that not only because it is a significant legacy but because his position, career and contribution have been so contrary to some of the personal insults that have been hurled by some of those opposite—not you, Wacka.
We often focus on Senator Cameron's passion and courage in the chamber or committee hearings, but it is important to underline that he pairs this passion with diligence and hard work. Having served briefly as Parliamentary Secretary for Housing and Homelessness in 2013, in opposition he has made substantial inroads in areas of policy too often neglected by the coalition. His contributions in the areas of vocational education, housing and homelessness not only speak to his commitment to opportunity and fairness but also will stand a future Labor government in good stead.
Senator Cameron is, like many of his comrades, living proof that being part of the labour movement is about wages and conditions but it is about much more. It is membership of a movement that stands with the most vulnerable in society, that reaches out to lift people up and that looks to a more just and more equal Australia. We will miss him in the Senate, but we wish him well and we wish his family well. I hope he and Elaine have a wonderful time in this next phase in their lives—and I say to Tasmania: look out!
I'm proud to call Senator Nigel Scullion a colleague, our leader and a great friend. He is a one-of-a-kind person, not someone you'd usually find around Parliament House. He's the sort of bloke you'd more likely find at Shady Camp boat ramp or at the bar at the Borroloola Hotel, but that is why he has been so successful in this place as a senator for the Northern Territory. He understands the pressures, the challenges, the real desires and the motives of the average, normal or, as Dougie said, ordinary Australian. He listens to people. He has his own code. He genuinely cares about what he can do to make their life a little better and give them more opportunity to take advantage of this wonderful nation. If you undertook an examination of the background of the representatives here in the Senate, you would not find one that had a similar one to Nige. No doubt there'll be many stories tonight and ongoing about his role here, but I think that is why he has been able to make such a unique contribution to this place. It's because of his character; it's because of where he's come from and what he's been through.
He was born in London and raised in Malaysia and Malawi, a varied background by anyone's standards, I'd suggest, that has played a part in the political career that followed. I certainly recall, way before the recent foreign citizenship challenges faced by politicians, that he undertook what might be called the midnight dash back from London to renounce his British citizenship just hours before the close of nominations. He flew across the world to ensure that he was eligible to sit in the Australian Senate. That's an example of his true dedication to the Australian parliamentary democracy.
It's well known that Senator Scullion is a keen fishermen. In 1985, he moved to the Territory to pursue his professional piscatorial interests. For over six years, he lived with his family on a boat off the coast of Arnhem Land in the NT as a professional fisherman. His love of the land and the Territory is renowned. He represents the true values of the Country Liberal Party, but he's always a bit of a conundrum to try and work out, and I think we saw some of that tonight in his valedictory remarks. In his maiden speech, he spoke of being both a conservationist and a proud professional fisherman. This demonstrates, I think, that it's not incompatible for those two sometimes seemingly opposing views to exist in the same human. But he has always proudly used science and reason to determine and argue his position from, and I think that is a great example for all of us. He has experienced some of the toughest country in the Territory and I believe truly represents the frontier concept that many Australians understand so well.
He is an enthusiastic natural history observer and collector and would always regale us with some special insect or grass specimen that he'd found somewhere that was quite incredible. He was always astounded and curious and respectful of nature and its wonders. His effort and work as a skipper on the vessel Reliance in the Northern Territory who transported herbarium staff into many isolated coastal localities have seen him have a plant named after him: the Eriocaulon scullionitrue story. This example, to me, sums up just what a—
Senator Williams interjecting—
Yes. Thank you. There's another scientist in the Senate. Senator Siewert is nodding profusely. That shows what a unique character Senator Scullion is. We can all imagine him, as a professional fisherman, swearing and cursing at the weather or complaining about not catching the fish on any given day, but he's also a very proud, passionate and practical conservationist.
Not wanting to confine himself to the life of a fisherman, Senator Scullion was previously a mango farmer. In support of the mango farming industry, he proudly brings them down here, and we ended up with mango daiquiri night at Parliament House, which then morphed into the coalition Christmas party, where many unsuspecting rookie coalition staffers were subjected to the delicious flavour of these mango daiquiris, only to find it a bit hard to get up the next morning! It will be a huge loss to the Christmas party this year.
I know Senator Wong mentioned his chilli crabs, made famous on Annabel Crabb's show. Recently he has initiated the National Party seafood barbecue in support of our seafood industry. The chilli crab dish is served loudly and proudly to all who come along. He did that in partnership with former Senator Ron Boswell to promote our seafood industry. It's so popular that we now have to limit who gets tickets to it, but that's testament to Nigel's passion for that industry and the success of his advocacy.
He also had a long and proud career representing the seafood industry, going on to chair the International Coalition of Fisheries Association in 1999. Senator Scullion was elected to the Senate in 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016. That is a lot of elections for a senator, but the two NT senators face the voters every single election. They don't have the luxury of six years. I might be so bold as to say that he is probably one of the most successfully elected senators, especially when senators are unfairly, I think, sometimes labelled as having a resistance to facing electors. He was appointed the Minister for Community Services in the Howard government. He became the Minister for Indigenous Affairs in 2013 and, at the same time, became a member of cabinet. He has also been the National Party whip—I think it's hard to find a National Party senator who hasn't been the National Party whip, but, as Senator Birmingham alluded to, it's not an easy role to be the National Party Senate whip.
There you go, Wacka. When I came to this place he was the Deputy Leader of the Nationals. He served magnificently in that capacity, bringing people together and exercising a particular style of leadership, which I think worked very, very well within the National Party. He has been the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate for a very, very long time. I think his ability to be very calm in a crisis, his wisdom and his creative thinking are much needed for all of these roles. For those of us in this chamber who've seen him ferociously fight, it's something that, as a Nat, you have to have. It's respected within the party, and absolutely Nigel has that in spades.
He's been a passionate advocate for the NT and calls a spade a spade, but it was really in the role of Minister for Indigenous Affairs where his advocacy to improve the health, education and living standards of our First Australians is his greatest political legacy. He has really changed the dial in a way that we've been wanting to see and that so many prior to him have failed to do, because of his determination and his focus to fight for resources and funding, to actually change structures and systems and to bring people together. He's fearless in his determination to see our First Australians economically empowered, and he has been incredibly successful at that.
He is also a fierce champion and is outspoken on his views, particularly on the Northern Territory cattlemen's interests, around the live cattle trade. He has been fearless around marine parks. Law-abiding firearm owners can actually be very proud of his contributions in this place, both publicly and privately.
On a personal note, Nigel and I have enjoyed our question times together and he has provided me a great source of humour, advice, irreverence and some lessons in life.
So I just want to say: thanks, Nige. We'll miss you a lot, but I know you're very, very much looking forward to this next chapter of your life with Carol and the kids and doing some cool stuff while you still can. But thank you for always applying your code consistently; for your common sense; for stating the truth regardless of its popularity; for always being prepared to break the glass when necessary; for always standing up and fighting for what is right, not what is expedient; and for always seeking to protect your family, your party, your people, the children and the community. Enjoy it. Thank you very much for your service and for your example to us all. We wish you well.
On behalf of the Greens, I'd like to say a few words about each of the people who have given their valedictories tonight. Nigel has always been sincere in any dealings that I have had with him. Having said that, I strongly disagree and have disagreed—and he knows that—with a lot of his policy positions. But I have never doubted his sincerity. I will also add that whenever I have taken a problem to Nigel, he has responded, if not always in the way I would have liked. In fact, he did so today on another issue I took to him just yesterday: he came back and responded today. Despite our political differences over policy, which are in many ways very, very significant, he has always been responsive when I have raised issues or perhaps pointed out a mistake that has been made. So I thank him very sincerely for that.
I have campaigned with him on several issues, particularly around supporting some specific individuals. That's where I have also seen his doggedness, his determination to get an outcome, and his determination to take it up to his own in trying to get an outcome. I'm also aware he does a lot behind the scenes to make sure that things get done and to help in a specific way. I thank him and recognise him very sincerely for that.
I will recount one very short anecdote—I could probably recount a lot! A number of years ago, we were on committees together. Senator Judith Adams, who many in this place will remember, and I and a number of other people were on this particular inquiry. Claire remembers it as well—I wasn't there for this particular event because I was in Darwin. But I heard about it straight after it happened, because Senator Adams retold it several times. They were travelling up from Katherine to Darwin. There was an assault that was, fortunately, interrupted and the people involved waved down the car that Senator Scullion and Senator Adams were in. The way Judith told it was that Nigel climbed up on top of the car, jumped down off the car, and chased the particular person involved. We all then had to talk to the police and recount that. For me, that was Nigel—when Nigel sees something wrong, he takes action.
I will now turn to Senator Moore, who I have spent many, many hours in committee with. I thoroughly endorse the comments that she made about the committee system. She and I share very similar thoughts on the work of the committee system. Her work is unparalleled. Her commitment is unparalleled in terms of working particularly for the most vulnerable people. I've seen the friendships that she has made with witnesses and with community organisations.
I've worked with Claire on many committee inquiries. Claire mentioned the forced adoption inquiry. At a Senate hearing in Alice Springs, I remember former senator Sue Boyce, Claire and I sitting down around a table during the lunch break. Do you remember that, Claire, when we were working on the forced adoption inquiry? We were all coming from the same perspective; we were striving for a consensus report, because that's one thing the community affairs committee has strived to do over the years—get a consensus report. Claire was an amazing contributor to that inquiry, and many, many other inquiries.
I think the first inquiry I participated in with Senator Moore was the petrol sniffing inquiry of the community affairs committee. Claire was chairing the committee. Again, I think the outcomes of that inquiry significantly contributed to the additional resources and funding that then went into addressing petrol sniffing in the Northern Territory. I am particularly in awe of the work that Claire's doing on development issues in the Pacific. She has, again, consistently pursued those issues and made an extremely significant contribution.
I was here when Claire was called Purple. Do you remember, Claire?
Yes, with George. When George was whip, when I was up there counting and George was counting, we were on opposite sides, and I'd hear George just say 'purple'. For those of you who are listening, the whips have to read out names when we're counting, and George would read out 'purple'. Claire, I will always, always remember you as being associated with purple, and that is because of the amazing work that you have done on women's issues, in particular. You've done an amazing job and you were always there at whatever was going on for women's issues. I've said this so many times: I think this place was at its best when we were working cross-party, when we were working on RU486 and on the stem cell debate, when the women really took control of this place and drove those outcomes. So, thank you, Claire, for all the work you have done.
Dougie Cameron! I will always remember 'rabble'; I love yelling that word across that chamber whenever you start talking about the rabble. Again, you've brought a fierceness and a commitment to this place. No-one can ever doubt your commitment to socialism! And I loved seeing the government senators on the opposite side of the chamber when you used that term here. Your commitment to social issues, in particular, and workers' rights is outstanding. The contribution you have made is outstanding. I've sometimes been on the end of your quite—
Okay, I'll use that word—your quiet diplomacy, yes! But I've never doubted the commitment that you have shown to issues, to promoting those issues for the most vulnerable members of our community. Sometimes we disagree on approaches, but I've never doubted your commitment to the most vulnerable members of our community, and I'm sure that you'll continue to work, somehow, on those issues. I hope that you have a really wonderful time—I've seen the photos of where you're going to be living in Tasmania, of your house, and I really hope that you have a very good time down there. I'm not going to say 'retirement', because I'm sure that you'll be very active in your community in Tasmania. Thank you for all the years of your work.
I would like to make a short contribution on two colleagues that are leaving the chamber today, two colleagues that will I miss immensely. I'd like to start with my friend Senator Claire Moore. Her contribution today was what we would expect of Claire—it was warm, it was inclusive and it was insightful. There are so many contributions that Claire has made over the years that she's been here that have contributed to lasting change. Senator Siewert and Senator Wong have named a few. The forced adoption inquiry was emotionally exacting, but there were thanks and gratitude from those people that came forward and gave evidence towards its outcomes and recommendations. We should remember that that inquiry elicited an apology from every state and territory and the Commonwealth. The committee system works well and the forced adoption inquiry showed that.
Claire was also instrumental in the Senate inquiry whose No. 1 recommendation was that there be a royal commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability, and at last we've seen that happen. Claire was also instrumental in another inquiry which people don't talk about very often: the inquiry into the living standards of people on pensions, which delivered the biggest-ever increase to pensions—delivered by the Rudd government but put forward and advocated for by Senator Claire Moore.
When I came here to the Senate, I was a former Senate staffer, so I kind of knew my way around—anyone who knows me knows that I don't really know north from south, or east from west—but it was very daunting. And the friends that I made the very first day I came here were former Senators Webber and Campbell, and Senators Marshall and Moore. They were sort of the Breakfast Club—I was more the Brunch Club—I don't do breakfast very well. But they have always been steadfast in their support of me. This is the thing about Claire: she doesn't just talk about mentoring, friendship and support; that's exactly what she gives.
It was evident in her speech tonight, where she took the opportunity to thank all the people that make this parliament and the Senate work, all the people that put together those wonderful reports that come to parliament and enact change. That change happens only if you push it. It's tabled, then you have to go and advocate and push for that change to be implemented by government. That is what Senator Claire Moore does.
She has always been a friend and mentor. I've always been able to go to Claire in confidence and talk about the issues that I need advice on. But, also, with all of us, we just want to know we're on the right track. We want to talk about it. There was her work in overseas development and with disability and carers. The RU486, if you weren't here, was an extremely stressful time. I think, Claire, we might have got it up by only one vote?
We've had some great wins. Claire has had some great wins. She's had great victories that have changed the face of our parliament and also the direction of the nation. She's been so supportive of women in parliament. She's been so supportive of EMILY's List. She's never taken a backward step in support of women into parliament. She's a Labor warrior—a quiet one. I'm a bit like that myself; I don't mind. But she is a Labor warrior. On the outside, we're all Labor warriors. We just do it in our own way.
I really don't know what I'm going to do when she goes—I don't want to be presumptuous, but I'm hoping that I might be returned. But I don't know what I'm going to do without my friend. There have been so many contributions that Claire has made, and they've been acknowledged across the chamber. Those who are leaving acknowledge Claire Moore's contributions as being thoughtful and incisive. That, basically, sums up Claire Moore. She has a love for the Labor Party, she has a love for this parliament, and she has a love for her family and friends. I'm going to miss her and I wish her well.
I will also take a few minutes to talk about our other colleague, a more fiery colleague: the wonderful Senator Doug Cameron. The Senate's loss, the parliament's loss, is, obviously, Tasmania's gain. We are looking forward to welcoming Doug to the Tasmanian family, whether he likes it or not, or whether Elaine likes it or not. From the very first time that I met Doug, it was obvious that he was here to make a difference. He was here to put forward the words of workers—what workers need. He was here to hold the government to account. He didn't take a backward step on that, and neither should he. I expect he would say that as well.
His contributions and his ability to articulate an argument are second to none. He has been a stalwart in the labour movement and also in ensuring that working class people are at the foremost of Labor Party policy and thinking. Doug has a special way about him. He doesn't take that backward step, but he has an extraordinary friendship across the aisle. We heard today in his contribution about his friendship with Senator Wacka Williams, as everyone who knows Wacka calls him. I think John is his real name. I actually think Wacka has mellowed in the years since Doug has been here. A couple more years and I reckon he would have crossed over to the Labor side—that's the sort of influence you had on him.
But Doug's love for the Labor Party, his love for the trade union movement, and his ability to always stand up for what he believes in and to stand up for the working people of Australia have been wonderful contributions to this Senate and to this parliament. Again, what's going to happen after 1 July when there's nobody here with that beautiful voice of his—that beautiful voice that cuts through everything that's going on? It's a sad day here today when we're saying goodbye to two loved senators who have made such an extraordinary contribution to the Senate, to the parliament and, more importantly, to the Labor Party policy direction. I know, knowing both of them, that that's not going to stop—and heaven help Tasmania! But I wish you well, Doug, and I wish Elaine well. I'm looking forward to the house-warming party. You will do estimates, of course—we won't let you get out of that—but I just hope that everything that you wish for into the future is yours.
I rise to make a few brief remarks and, given the hour, I will keep them brief—and I hope that my brevity isn't mistaken for a lack of interest or care, because there's actually a lot to say about the people who are giving valedictory speeches this evening. I will be very brief about Nigel, because Senator Scullion and I have had very significant political differences. But he has approached that task of responding to the aspirations and hopes of First Nations people with integrity and sincerity, and that has always been obvious. I also want to thank him for something very particular, which is that, just recently, I took to him a problem which was the problem of the Charities Commissioner, Gary Johns, repudiating the welcome to country as a practice in that institution. I thought that was disgraceful and, unfortunately, consistent with that commissioner's other repugnant views. Nigel was straight on it, repudiated it, and took him on, because he wasn't willing to allow those ideas to stand uncontested on his watch as Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
Senator Claire Moore came here after she had been a leader in her own union and a national leader in the Labor Party. She then served in our national parliament. The speech she gave this evening reflects all that she brought to this parliament. She determined always to play the ball and not the man or the woman—and the cricket pun is intended, even though I know nothing about cricket beyond those core facts. She has brought a passion for justice, she has advocated always for feminism and for women's interests, and she is totally committed to the practice of democracy—deep practice—not just once every three years at election time but through meaningful engagement with the communities that we serve. Claire, the women of the Labor Party in particular observe your quiet leadership style and thank you for the example that you've provided here.
Finally, I want to talk about my fellow New South Wales senator, Doug. He has made no secret over time that he comes from the left tradition in the New South Wales party, and so do I. He mentioned some of the members of that tradition here in the Senate, Senators Murphy, Childs, Gietzelt, Faulkner and Campbell. Doug has totally lived up to the example set by those senators—a tradition of speaking truth even when it is uncomfortable, of consistency in advocating for values. Doug has been all of those things and more.
I want to talk briefly this evening about what he's meant for the progressive people in that tradition, in New South Wales and nationally, because Doug has pursued many causes, but none is dearer to Doug's heart than the cause of working people. In his political engagement he's been so important in articulating what that means for Labor. He has articulated at an intellectual level the political significance of solidarity and working-class politics and representation. He has made the policy case for action in so many domains to support working-class people. At some deep and personal level, he has articulated and communicated the inherent dignity of every working person and, even more importantly, the significance and meaning of collective action in realising that dignity.
I will really miss Doug. The branch members and trade unionists of New South Wales will really miss him. We have been so proud to have him represent us, and we wish him and Elaine the very best in Tasmania.
I too will be brief, but I wanted to place on record some comments about my great mate Senator Nigel Scullion. As we've heard tonight, Nigel's been a fisherman, a shooter, an industry representative, a mango farmer, a senator, and a family man. In my view, in many respects, tonight we are losing more than just a senator; we're losing a number of people all at once, rolled into one, because he brings such diversity to this place. He brings something that no one person can replace. He has been a fantastic leader of the National Party in the Senate here. He is one of only three Country Liberal Party senators in the Senate's history. According to my research—I must admit done on Wikipedia while I've been sitting here—he is the third longest serving Indigenous Affairs minister in our nation's history as well. In fact, it's a bit of a dead heat: Ms Jenny Macklin beats him by about a hundred days, and Robert Tickner was Indigenous Affairs minister for a couple of hundred extra days. So he's in quite a pantheon there and he leaves a large legacy.
I want to focus on two things that I've seen Nigel do and achieve as a senator. One focuses on that portfolio that he has led ably for the last five years, with a great passion to help and advance the interests of First Australians. He will leave a legacy, in my view, after those 5½ years—a legacy of the focus he has put on delivering practical results for First Australians in school attendances, in employment participation, in training. Something that perhaps doesn't get focused on enough but I think is a real future task for future Indigenous Affairs ministers in this country is to support and develop the business capability and capacity of Indigenous communities. Nigel, in the last couple of years, has revolutionised government procurement in respect of Indigenous affairs, taking the Commonwealth government's procurement with Indigenous affairs companies from only a few million dollars a year to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. I think that is something that future governments can ably build on. I also hope that in my space, the resources space, it's something that businesses can take more seriously as well. While I often comment that the resources sector is by far the greatest employer of Indigenous Australians and has certainly contributed greatly to their advancement in the last 15 years, it could, of course, always do better. One area in which to do better is to engage more Indigenous businesses. I also want to see more Indigenous Australians in executive positions in mining companies. In the future it would be great to have Indigenous Australians run one of the major mining companies which operate in their communities. If that is achieved, I think a lot of what Nigel has started will be the reason for it.
The other thing I want to focus on is how Nigel has stood up for the little guy. He is a fighter, a natural fighter. He doesn't walk away from a fight. It doesn't matter who it is with. I have had great fun with Nigel fighting and defending the interests of fishermen and of the live cattle industry. Within our coalition, there's some tension sometimes, and Nigel's always willing to be there on the front line. It's been a pleasure to be there with him. I just want to relay one quick story, one of my favourite little battles—it's a small one in the whole scheme of things—that shows how we in the National Party will take up a fight, however much of a lost cause it is, because it is the right cause.
Nigel was very worked up about the impending ban on the importation of lion head trophies into Australia. Again, most people would think: 'That shouldn't happen. Why should we allow that?' Without going through all the details, those trophies are an incredibly important revenue source for poor African countries. Nigel cogently put the case that they are, in fact, also very important in helping with the breeding of lions, when well regulated. He only supported the well-regulated hunting of lions. In Australia, only about a dozen come in every year, but he was fighting for them. We didn't win that battle, but we did have some fun and achieved some other things through the battle. So we lost the war, but we won a few battles along the way.
It was particularly brutal. It was over a small thing. It wasn't a big issue. It didn't hit the headlines or anything like that. But I suppose that, sometimes, when the stakes are smaller the passions gets higher and people get more worked up, so it was quite an emotional couple of weeks. At end of one of the weeks, we were having a beer down at the Kingston Hotel, and I think it was Barry—Senator O'Sullivan—who suggested we should get Minister Hunt, who was the relevant minister, some kind of peace offering to get over the previous fractious couple of weeks of discussions. He, I think, suggested a stuffed lion toy. I thought that was a great idea, a smashing idea, so I said: 'Let's go one step better. Let's chop the stuffed lion's head off, mount it and present it to Minister Hunt.' So we now have Cecil in our office as a tribute, a trophy, to the fights that Nigel took up. The trophy artist did a fantastic job.
I will miss fighting along with Senator Scullion on behalf of people who wouldn't otherwise get a voice in this place. He's been a great contributor to the history of the National Party in this place. He will, I'm sure, have a fantastic retirement with his family, pursuing his interests and not being told what to do, which is what he likes. I didn't think I'd live to see the day where I saw Senator Nigel Scullion break down in the Senate, but it showed where his heart really lies and where he can now find time and solace.
Tonight, it is a great honour to pay tribute to two wonderful colleagues in Senator Claire Moore and Senator Doug Cameron. Senator Moore, you have given visibility to so many issues in this place and through committees and have been a role model for not only me but a great many other people in the labour movement and in the community. Yours is an enormous legacy that I and many others will never forget. I've seen the way you have been guided by the solid principles that belong in our party of social inclusion. But you are also, importantly, about community empowerment and empowering those whose voices aren't heard.
Underneath all of that is a framework deeply embedded in feminism, and you are a great custodian of that banner in our party. It is a banner that is passed on intergenerationally within our movement. When you spoke of suffragettes in your first speech, I not only thought of great women in the labour movement; I very much think of you as a modern day suffragette, Claire. One can see that in your experience in navigating pro-choice debates in this place as part of a feminist vanguard, when all the rules on how this place normally conducts its business get broken. You are as sharp as a tack and have your eye on the ball on that every time.
You've been a key part of creating a force and culture of sisterhood in the Labor Party, starting with Emily's List and permeating feminist communities right around Australia. It's impossible to do justice to your legacy in these very short remarks tonight, but I really want to say thank you for that custodianship and the values that I and so many others hold dear not only in the Labor Party but in feminist movements right around Australia and globally.
It seems strange to me that Doug won't be here after the election. His vigour and talent have been a real driving force in this place. I noticed him in the formation of my affiliation and attachment to the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, where both Jock Ferguson and Doug Cameron had unintelligible Scottish accents, but I learnt from them about what it means to show courage and solidarity in the face of adversity. It was terrific to be on the same side as Doug in debates—sometimes when you had your back against the wall. Even at those times, whether it was the ABCC or other things where we lost internal votes, the influence and the reliability of the positions that Doug took always had a lasting impact on the ultimate outcomes that were achieved in our movement. His stamp on the vocational education and training and housing policies that we're taking to the election is very clear. I want to say to both Claire and Doug: you both embody so much of what we are fighting for on this side of the chamber and at the next election. You will be a motivating force in the weeks to come and always into the future.
I too would like to respond to the valedictory speeches by the three senators here this evening, beginning with my colleagues Senator Moore and Senator Cameron. I'd like to just reflect that I first had the opportunity of meeting Claire with my son—at the time, he was about three years of age—when I attended an Emily's List conference in Brisbane. It might have been out of Brisbane. I can't quite recall.
It was certainly a long way from home for me and my little boy. At that time, I was introduced to Claire through a previous senator, Senator Trish Crossin, who represented the Northern Territory for 15 years here in the Senate. I just want to place on the public record the fine example, Claire, that you've provided to women coming into the parliament and particularly into the Labor Party—to woman who were unsure about taking that political step, who were asking questions as young mums about whether it was something that they could do and who were wondering if they could make a difference on such a large scale. At that time, I was standing for the Northern Territory parliament. My son is just about to celebrate his 21st year, so I would have to say that I look at that time with fond memories. When reflecting on someone who has influenced your life at different moments, I would have to say that you've certainly been one of those people. So to then come into the Senate and work beside you on Senate committees and see the diligence that you bring to the Senate in the thoroughness of your committee work and examination of issues and questions is an enormous credit to the Australian parliament.
I just want to say thank you for the work that you have done, even prior to my arrival here, on First Nations issues, for always bringing them to the fore at the Australian Labor Party caucus and also here in the Senate. Whilst we may now have a First Nations caucus, I know that we don't get to these places without having had people before us pave that path. I just want to say on behalf of First Nations people: thank you. Thank you for them.
To Senator Doug Cameron—what can I say about Dougie? He's an absolute legend. To know that you're coming into the Senate to work beside people of Doug's calibre is extraordinarily humbling, really. I've certainly grown up in a different kind of place with different experiences, in the north, and value greatly learning and listening to people like Senator Doug Cameron. That passion and, yes—I think as Senator Birmingham said—the warrior in Senator Cameron is something that has inspired so many of us coming into political office, not just here in the Senate but right around the country as Australian Labor Party members. His fight for workers and for fairness, and for a fair go in the trade unions and for ordinary Australians has been an enormous credit not only to this parliament but to the Australian families right across this country who've benefited from the powerful passion of this man who made Australia home. I think we are enormously blessed to have people who travel across the seas to make this country home, to then find that they stand in the highest offices in this country, thinking of others and other families.
Doug, to you and Elaine—lovely Elaine, who I also had the pleasure of getting to know over the last couple of years and, with my son one Saturday morning here in Canberra, having breakfast and catching up with you guys—hopefully, I'll see your new home in Tassie.
I come now to my colleague from the Northern Territory, Senator Nigel Scullion. I was thinking that he came here in 2001. At the time, I was working for the ABC and I remember being one of the many reporters doing the stories in relation to then Nigel Scullion the fisherman, who had put his hand up for the Senate. It's interesting what you remember, isn't it, when you reflect on things? I remember that mad dash this fisherman had to make across the seas to the UK. I remember in the newsrooms we all thought, 'Gee, what's going on?' That was the introduction, I guess, to understanding the importance of making sure we all know our backgrounds before we come into the Senate. It's interesting to see that, over the last few years in particular of this term, that has been one of the major issues of our parliament.
I certainly feel as though my time working with Senator Scullion here in the Senate, combative though it has been, based on ideology, has always largely remained respectful. I just want to point out that it is tough in this country to try to think you have the answers to dealing with the issues of First Nations people. Listening to Nigel tonight, and certainly to others, but knowing him through the different processes that we've had—in particular, the estimates process—there is no doubting whatsoever the passion of this man in wanting to stand up for First Nations people in this country and there is no doubting the commitment of this man to the people of the Northern Territory.
It is for the people of the Northern Territory that we stand here together, over these three years—and it's only my first three years in the Senate. I recall a time when Nigel sat with me on the other side of the house. He looked across over here and saw most of his colleagues sitting on this side. What was that vote that he sat with me on? It was on Territory rights. I said to him, 'How are you feeling?' He said, 'Oh, this wasn't a tough one to do.' That was in terms of knowing where he had to sit, but it obviously had other ramifications as well. But, again, that's a testament to the man. He knew that he had to stand or sit on that side, in terms of supporting Territory rights, for the people of the Northern Territory. We do battle it out. We are combative, but that is over policies and ideology on how we get there. But I never doubt, and still have never doubted, the passionate commitment that he has towards the people of the Northern Territory.
You only have to look at his maiden speech—and I have looked at Nige's speech—and you can see the journey that he's come on, his views and interpretations of First Nations people and what has moulded and shaped him. They're not my views, but I can respect and see where he has tried to come from to make a difference for First Nations people. There are major policy separations and differences that we have. I have no doubt that, over the next couple of weeks, we are going to go out there and be combative again.
I just want to say all the best to Nigel and to his wife, Carol, in particular. Carol actually worked for me when I was a minister in the Northern Territory government. She worked as my legal adviser at different moments when I was a minister in the Northern Territory. We go back a long way, Nige. To you and Carol, I sincerely wish you every happiness beyond the election and every blessing to you and your family.
On behalf of the people of the Northern Territory, it's a real commitment to travel on that plane and get down here. You travelled the thousands of kilometres not just from the Northern Territory to Canberra but right across the country in your role as minister. You have been right across the country. You won't have to make those trips anymore. This Senate doesn't understand that two senators have to cover such a vast area of coastline and of country. Hopefully, one day we can become the seventh state in the federation. Nigel, I hope you can come back from your pig hunting, your shooting out there and your fishing and maybe join us to make sure—there's still unfinished business for the Territory—that we do become the seventh state in the federation and that we do have more senators who can represent the people of the Northern Territory so that we have the numbers in here to make the very real democratic difference that we know we need to make for equality for the people of the north. Carol and Nigel, all the best to you and your families. Nige, I'll see you out on the hustings.
I will be brief. I just rise to say a few words of thanks in the order of the speeches tonight. On Senator Nigel Scullion, my leader in the Senate, my mate and my good friend, Senator McCarthy said it well: you can never question his commitment, his passion and his loyalty to our First Australians. That's probably the greatest legacy he'll leave here.
I will tell a little story. About six years ago, we had a National Party function in Tamworth. Nigel was a guest speaker. He flew into Tamworth, and a taxi picked him up at the Tamworth Regional Airport. They were driving off. Typical Nige, he said, 'How are you going, mate?' The taxi driver said, 'Good, thanks. Where are you from?' Nige said, 'Darwin, mate.' The taxi driver said, 'Darwin? Oh, Darwin. I was up there about 15 years ago, fishing in the gulf in our boat. We ran out of petrol. The sun was going down. We were drifting towards the rocks. We were in real trouble. I got on the radio and said, "Can anyone hear me?" This bloke came back and said, "I can hear you." I said, "We're in trouble. We're in a spot here. We've run out of petrol. We're drifting towards the rocks." Then this mad young fella come out in a 12-foot tinnie, going flat out with a drum of petrol. He poured it in and got us going. We were so grateful.' Nigel said, 'I only had a pair of shorts on. I was freezing cold too, what's more.' Here they were, 20 years later. It was one of the blokes that Nigel saved when he got the radio message, took the petrol out and got them going. He was the taxi driver in Tamworth, and they met again. How coincidental. You have been a great friend, Nigel. You've been a great leader. To you, Carol and the kids, we wish you all the best in your retirement. Thanks for your contribution to our nation.
To Senator Claire Moore, I haven't had a lot to do with you on committee work, although we did some committee work together. But where we teamed up together was in defence of our friends from Iran, Mohammed and Shayesteh—lovely people—when they fled Iran and their friends and relatives were trapped there in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty and we teamed up to say, 'Give them a go; get them out of there.' Finally they got out of there safe and well—not all of them. Some were bombed, killed, shot or punished. It was a terrible situation. I was glad to have both Mohammed and Shayesteh here at my valedictory. They are lovely people. Claire, I was glad to team up with you in defence of the rights and the treatment of so many Iranians, and I hope that changes in the future.
Well done, Claire. You're a thorough lady—that is the way I sum you up. Enjoy the trip to Fiji. I was with you on one of the tours over there, and my wife, Nancy, was with you as well. We went to mass and enjoyed the singing so much. Those Pacific islanders are so good as singers. You'd pay money to hear them sing. It was just wonderful.
Now to my mate Senator Cameron. He told a few things tonight, but he didn't tell one job he used to do: he was a pump salesman. But I can't go into that, because it's a secret. Perhaps a journalist might ask you one day. Dougie and I came in together in the 2008 class, political opposites. You can't get two more political opposites than Doug Cameron and me, I can assure you. We became good mates. We worked together. The ASIC inquiry was Dougie's idea. We brought out so much wrongdoing in financial planning et cetera. Hopefully, those days are behind us and the right thing will be done in the future.
I worked with Dougie when we put the workers memorial up for those people killed at work. Sadly, there was a young fellow yesterday, 18 years old. Scaffolding collapsed and he lost his life. That was one of Dougie's passions, and I was glad to work with him as we picked the design of the memorial. That's one of Dougie's legacies.
He's a ruthless attacker. Even in his valedictory speech, he was still playing politics and attacking us, something I didn't do. I just said thanks to everyone else, but Dougie can't help himself: he's got to go for the jugular vein all the time. The most important thing to say as I say goodbye—probably my last words in this place—is that it's like a game of football: play it hard on the field but, when you get off the field, go and have a beer with your mates. That's how the Senate should always be: play your hard game in here but, when you walk out, we work together in committees and we're friends.
So could I just say to Nigel, Carol and Claire: all the best to you. Claire, thank you for your wonderful, long contribution. You're a very much respected lady in this place. To Dougie and Elaine: all the best to you in your retirement. I hope you have a good time down in Tasmania. Look out, Tasmania. Trouble's coming your way, not with Elaine but with Dougie. But he's a good bloke. You know where he stands all the time, even though he stands way opposite me in politics. But I think the good thing in the Senate is that we can work together. As you highlighted today, Claire, the committee work here achieves so much for our country. I hope it works together in the future parliaments ahead. I wish you all well.
I will keep this brief because the accolades for Claire Moore have been well and truly shared with the chamber this evening, but I'm sure I speak for many of those coalition senators who are not here this evening. Sunday marked the seventh anniversary of the passing of the former Senator Judith Adams, and I remember sitting on the other side of the chamber, shortly after I was sworn in—you were sitting on this side of the chamber—hearing your contributions about Judith's contributions. In that very early instant, I got a sense of the deep interest, compassion and genuine desire you have for improving the livelihoods of many, many people. I know that, if former Senator Sue Boyce were here, she would also be applauding the contribution that you have made.
The Senate is probably one of the most poorly understood institutions in our country. In it, the committee system is very poorly understood, most particularly amongst our House of Representatives colleagues sometimes. You and I have participated in inquiries not just on the community affairs committee but also on the joint human rights committee when I was the chairman, testing the boundaries of joint parliamentary committees and their work and pushing the boundaries against executive government. On behalf of all coalition senators that have worked with you and joined in the contributions that you have made, I extend our deepest appreciation. Your contribution has already reverberated through this building and through this country, and I'm sure it will continue to do so in decades to come. Thank you.