Senate debates

Monday, 18 October 2021

Parliamentary Office Holders


10:06 am

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Clerk, I remind the Senate that the time has come when it is necessary for the Senate to choose one of its members to become President. I propose Senator Brockman, and I move:

That Senator Brockman take the chair of the Senate as President.

The Clerk: Are there any further nominations?

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I propose Senator Faruqi and I move:

That Senator Faruqi take the chair as President.

The Clerk: Are there any further nominations? There being two nominations, I invite each candidate to address the Senate.

Photo of Slade BrockmanSlade Brockman (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Firstly, I acknowledge my colleagues from the government who have nominated me for this role. It is humbling simply to be nominated. As the previous President said at his nomination, this is not a circumstance that I thought would ever present itself. The position and the role of the Senate in our democracy have always been the focus of my political interest and much of my career. The Senate plays a role in our democracy first as the states' house and also as the guardian of our fine and effective committee system. It gives voice to the diverse groups across our various constituencies and to interests that might not otherwise be heard.

If elected, I will always strive to maintain and champion the place of the Senate in our democracy and work with all of you with fairness and impartiality. I would seek to continue the tradition of the two presidents I have served under in this place, Senator Parry and Senator Ryan, both fine people and fine defenders of this institution. I submit myself to the will of the Senate.

10:07 am

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

What a huge privilege it is to represent my wonderful state of New South Wales in the Senate. Thank you so much to my colleagues for nominating me and, especially today, it is wonderful to be joined by two incredible black senators, Senator Cox and Senator Thorpe, and be standing here with our team, which actually respect and celebrate First Nations culture and diversity in Australia.

The Senate is a place where a huge diversity of political views are heard and it is important that the Senate is facilitated by people who can also represent that plurality. But what we see again and again is a stitch-up between the two major parties, the Liberals and the Labor Party, and we see it again today. This is not the first time it has happened. We talk about democracy here—this is the chamber of review—but again and again democracy is shut down. How many times have we seen, just in the last couple of years, debate being shut down by guillotine motions? We stopped the Notices of Motion as formal business and that shuts out the plurality of views represented in this parliament.

To my colleagues in the Labor Party, if you really want to be an opposition, then act like one. In the history of the Senate, there's only been one woman in that chair and that was decades ago. We've been talking about gender equity all this year. If you really care about gender equity, then things need to change. I would be very honoured to facilitate this chamber as the second woman ever in history and the first woman of colour. It is time to shake things up. It's time for change.

The Clerk: Unless any other senator wishes to address the nominations, a ballot will now be held. Before proceeding to ballot, the bells will be rung for four minutes.

The bells having been rung—

The Clerk: The Senate will now proceed to a ballot. Ballot papers will be distributed. Please write on the ballot paper the name of the candidate you wish to vote for. The candidates are Senator Brockman and Senator Faruqi. I invite Senator Dean Smith and Senator McKim to act as scrutineers.

A ballot having been taken—

The Clerk: Order! Senators, the result of the ballot is as follows: Senator Brockman, 45 votes; Senator Faruqi, seven votes; Senator Gavin Marshall, one vote; one vote returned blank. Senator Brockman is therefore elected President of the Senate in accordance with the standing orders.

Senator Brockman having been conducted to the dais—

10:24 am

Photo of Slade BrockmanSlade Brockman (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I sincerely thank the Senate for its support and I thank you for the great honour you have given me today. I also welcome our two new senators, Senators Grogan and Cox. I have not met you yet, but I look forward to meeting you and working with you in the future. As I have said, I did not expect to be in this role, certainly not at this time. Senator Scott Ryan—I should never say this—was younger than me, and I expected him to be around as President for a very long time. I wish, for a moment, to honour former President Ryan.

President Ryan displayed, particularly in the difficult two years that we have just been through, a calmness, an intellect, a level of pragmatism, that helped us all navigate this pandemic. He upheld the finest traditions of this institution whilst recognising the need to adapt to circumstances. I personally wish to honour his service to the nation and to the Senate.

If you will indulge me this once, I would also like to acknowledge my family. We cannot do this job without the support of those back at home. I could not do what I do without Rebecca and Jonathan, Eleanor and Felicity. You have my thanks and you have my love. My goals are quite straightforward. For as long as I hold this position, I will act to defend the interests of senators and the Senate itself. Whilst a diverse range of perspectives are represented in this chamber, I will treat each of you as duly elected and equal representatives of your states. I will take your arguments on their merits and seek to act impartially at all times. I thank you, once again, for the distinguished honour that you have granted me.

Honourable senators: Hear, hear!

10:26 am

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

or BIRMINGHAM (—) (): Mr President, I inform honourable senators that the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the President and party leaders or their representatives in the President's suite immediately.

I should, indeed, add my very sincere congratulations to you, my acknowledgement and thanks for the words you have given to this chamber, your commitment to the chamber in upholding the traditions and conventions of the Senate and respect for the place of each individual senator no matter how diverse their views, in terms of the way in which they approach their business, and the need for their rights to be respected as well. I was pleased to nominate you on behalf of the government, knowing, Mr President, that you will perform these duties diligently, competently and with a deep history in this place as a senator but also in your work prior to that, and your understanding of the important roles of government, opposition and minor parties across the chamber in terms of their work.

I thank you for your kind words in relation to former Senator Ryan. Scott is a dear friend, was a very valued colleague throughout his time and was a president admired and respected across this chamber. You fill big shoes in taking on the presidency following Scott Ryan. I know we all wish Scott, Helen and their children every success and happiness in the future, and we thank Scott for the way in which he fulfilled the role with humility, dignity, always with the interests of this chamber at heart, as a senator, for the way in which he engaged in a principled manner, true always to his values, to his interpretation of Liberal values and traditions and customs and principles, and for the way in which he engaged strongly on behalf of his state and fulfilled a number of roles through this place, including his service as a minister. He will be missed. You are now welcomed in the chair and we look forward to the leadership that you provide to this place.

10:28 am

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the opposition I join with the Leader of the Government in the Senate in extending our congratulations to you on your election to the office of President. We note that your election is in keeping with a longstanding convention of the Senate, that the government of the day has the right to nominate the President. This is essential to our democracy because it goes to the effective functioning of this chamber. So I thank Senator Birmingham and I thank Senator Cash for their commitment to the permanence of this convention. In a chamber where no one party of government holds a majority, conventions such as these, that government and opposition senators hold the role of President and Deputy President respectively, matter.

This is the chamber in which executive government is held to account in a way that rarely occurs in the House of Representatives. Impartiality and objectivity are essential qualities for any president, and, as the opposition, we obviously look forward to you maintaining that even-handed approach. We also look forward to you being a defender of the place of the Senate in our constitutional system of government; of its mandate conferred by the people to review, reject or amend legislation; and of its privileges. I note, Senator Brockman, that you come to office with just over four years of experience as senator—significantly less than the average of 11 years for most senators assuming this position. This does mean you will bring a different perspective to the position from most presidents who preceded you. I hope and trust this will be a positive for the Senate.

I would also like to make some remarks about former Senator Ryan, who had served as our President since 2017. As I've said publicly, Scott Ryan deserves to be remembered as one of the great presidents of the Australian Senate, as a strong believer in liberalism and in democracy, and as someone who sought to defend and enhance the role of the Senate and the privileges of the parliament. He discharged the responsibilities fairly and with distinction, and he worked hard to be a consultative president—another essential quality of a holder of the position. Scott Ryan had a deep understanding of and a personal commitment to the role and importance of the Senate in our democracy. I have listened to you today, Mr President, seeking to emulate Scott Ryan in the discharge of your work as President.

Once again, on behalf of the opposition and personally, Mr President, I congratulate you on your election, and we look forward to working with you.

10:31 am

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Minister for Emergency Management and National Recovery and Resilience) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today on behalf of National Party senators to congratulate you, Mr President, on your appointment to the highest office of President of the Senate. The last Western Australian Senate President was Michael Beahan in the years 1994 to 1996. Here we are, 25 years later, with a President and a Deputy President from the great state of Western Australia.

The office of President is an important one, Mr President, and I know you will take seriously the duty of fairness and impartiality that are, in my view, fundamental requirements for the role in this chamber. Whilst debate can occasionally become heated in this place, I know your calm manner and respect for the standing orders will be valuable in maintaining the productive and respectful debate that we're known for. The Nationals would also like to note your background as a proud advocate for rural and regional Australia, having grown up on a family farm, running it and working in the Pastoralists and Graziers Association and Australian Grains Champion. It's nice to have someone that understands the regions and what we need from parliament in a role such as yours. We look forward to continuing to work with you in your new role and we wish you all the very best. I know you'll do a great job.

Mr President, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank your predecessor, a lovely Victorian senator, former President Scott Ryan. Upon announcing his retirement, Senator Wong said that former President Ryan deserves to be remembered as one of the great presidents of the Australian Senate, and I agree. Speaker Smith and former President Ryan steered this parliament through a very difficult time during the course of the pandemic. It is a remarkable achievement that this parliament was able to continue to operate during these very difficult times, which has been vital to ensuring that the legislative arm of government was able to continue, and those in the opposition were able to hold government to account through the inquiries and committees that are so fundamental to our work as senators on behalf of the people who sent us here. On behalf of the Nationals, I'd like to thank former Senator Scott Ryan for his services in this place, not just as a senator but as a president who always put this chamber and its place in our democracy first.

10:33 am

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise on behalf of the Australian Greens to offer my congratulations to you as our new President, Senator Brockman. Whilst there is a convention that the big parties agree upon who will fill the roles of President and Deputy President, the Greens don't think that that stitch-up serves democracy, and hence we nominated a strong and fabulous woman of colour who would have been a brilliant President. It was not to be this time around; however, President, I think you have a very good temperament to fulfil the role of President, and we wish you well in those endeavours.

I note that in your speech to Senator Siewert's valedictory, you spoke of your experience working with her as policy director for the Pastoralists and Graziers Association, where you learnt about the possibility of bridges being built across the partisan divides of this chamber. I look forward to working with you in continuation of that spirit and ensuring that this chamber continues to fulfil its role as a house of review and a place where we hold the government of the day to account.

I'd like to say a few brief words about former senator and President, Scott Ryan. During the time of his presidency he was an impartial and fair chair. We had a positive working relationship with him; whilst we have, obviously, fundamental differences of opinion on many matters, he always had an open door. I would particularly like to acknowledge and commend the work that he did on a remote parliament in a global pandemic. He has steered us and this chamber in a good direction over that time. The work of Senator Ryan in enabling the Senate to continue its role during those challenging times, along with all of the work that went into that by so many other people in this place to make that happen, deserves commendation. Of course, we wish him and his family well in his coming endeavours.

10:35 am

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I know I speak on behalf of the crossbench in saying that Scott Ryan was a fantastic President. He served the Senate very well. And I wish to congratulate you, Mr President, on your election to the role of President. I have served with you on the Senate Select Committee on the Multijurisdictional Management of the Murray Darling Basin and, indeed, on the Economics Committee, and you have always been fair. I haven't heard you raise your voice in the Senate, so I'm looking forward to question time today!

10:36 am

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I rise as Deputy President to congratulate you on your election this morning. I look forward to working with you. I note that you'll be the third President I've worked with; I'm not sure if that says something about the government or something about us as the opposition, but I do look forward to working with you. As I discussed with you when we met in Western Australia a couple of weeks ago, I've seen you work as chair of committees and you've always been very fair, and I look forward to that fairness.

I also pay my respects to Scott Ryan as the previous President. He had a very calm way of working and I know that you do too, and I look forward to that continued calmness. So congratulations on your appointment today.

The CHAIR: There being no further contributions, the sitting of the Senate is suspended until the ringing of the bells.

Proceedings suspended from 10:37 to 11:15

The PRESIDENT (Senator Brockman ) took the chair at 11:15, read prayers and made an acknowledgement of country.