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Thursday, 4 December 2014
Page: 14289

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Mr PYNE (SturtLeader of the House and Minister for Education) (12:31): It is a great pleasure to follow the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on the valedictory, which is my favourite time of the year in the chamber. It is a great opportunity to thank the people who make this place run—you chief amongst them, Madam Speaker, in the chair, with your staff and all the people associated with the parliament. The valedictory is an opportunity to thank people, to talk briefly about the end of the year and to wish everybody a very safe and happy Christmas holiday period. I will not use it as an opportunity to make a ministerial statement.

I would like to start by thanking my colleagues particularly for being so forbearing of the long sitting hours and the changing schedule that is sometimes forced upon us by arrangements in the Senate which come back to us at all hours of the day and in all manner of ways. I think both the government and the opposition understand that sometimes the House of Representatives is the handmaiden of the Senate, as we are today. The forbearance that all of our colleagues show with a changing schedule is something that is not new to the parliament—this is my 22nd year in the parliament—and it has been this way every year, and this year is no different. I would like to thank my colleagues. I would like to thank them for being enthusiastic about coming to parliament every day and about question time—submitting questions and being part of the process.

I would like to thank my counterpart, the Manager of Opposition Business, the member for Watson, for his enthusiasm in holding the government to account in the nicest possible way. In fact, the other member at the table today, the member for Chifley, is very enthusiastic in question time, when he is here and has not been thrown out or taking extended holidays. It is important for the good working of the parliament for the government to have a vibrant opposition. When we were in opposition, both of us were at the spear tip of the opposition in holding the government to account. It is a very important part of the democratic process. Those countries that have a robust opposition have generally got good government because of it; and in those countries that do not often the government gets sloppy; and in some countries, even worse, it gets corrupt. I would like to thank the Manager of Opposition Business and the opposition for the role that they play in making our parliament the exciting, very productive and constructive place that it often is.

Without the clerks, led by David Elder, we would not be able to look as good as we sometimes do. There are times when we get things wrong and that is because we do not take the Clerk's advice. When we stop to take the Clerk's advice, we usually get things right. I would like to thank David Elder and his team. Claressa—whom I have known for a very long time; she was the secretary of one of the committee's when I was chairman many years ago—Claressa Surtees is the new Deputy Clerk. What a great job they, and all the people associated with them, do. I would like to thank the Serjeant-at-Arms for the work that Bronwyn Notzon and all her attendants do. In spite of the fact that Luch is probably the most well-known attendant in the building, he is not actually the leader of the Serjeant-at-Arms Office. The Serjeant-at-Arms might need to put him on a tighter leash sometimes. We do very much enjoy our relationship with the attendants.

In making those comments, I should say we enjoy our relationship with all the people who work in the building. They are essentially completely bipartisan. I am sure they have their own private views about who they want to be in government, but in serving us I have never had an experience that has not been a good experience—whether it is the cleaners or the Comcar drivers. Many of the drivers become like family after you have been in this place for a long time; they know where you want to go; they know how to get you home; they take care of you; they rush you to the airport if you are running late; sometimes they are part of the family; they are absolutely marvellous. Then there are the people who organise our travel, the attendants in the chamber, the security guards within the building, the Australian Federal Police who are now both within and without the building. This place is quite a hive of activity when parliament is sitting; I think up to 10,000 people are in this building at that time and they are all working to make our great democracy—and it is a great democracy—work as well as it possibly can.

Sometimes we forget that we are the 12th largest economy in the world. We have had the same system of government since 1901; and there are very few countries—I think about four—that are in the position of having had a democratic government since 1901. We sometimes undersell our greatness as a nation, but we are the envy of the world. I do like to thank all those people in this building who make us look as good as we do and make the democracy work. The librarians—I still like to ring the library myself when I want something and I am not absolutely sure that my staff will necessarily be able to put it in the words I want it. It does sometimes surprise the librarians to hear my voice on the end of the phone, but my view is that we need to stay in touch with the people who make this place work. Whether it is the Table Office, the Parliamentary Liaison Office, the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, led by Peter Quiggin —they are all vitally important to our success.

I would also like to thank my team, the team on this side of the House, the Leader of the House's office—my marvellous staff, led by Meredith Jackson, who is my chief of staff. There is also John Bathgate, who is not in the chamber but who is the adviser who organises the parliament. There is his counterpart, Ewan Kelly, from the Manager of Opposition Business's office, about whom I am told, 'We always know where the opposition stands; they are very straightforward.' I think that is a great way to be in this business. We often disagree. We have robust debate. But the Manager of Opposition Business's office and my office have an understanding that this place can only work if people are straightforward about their intentions. So I would also like to thank Ewan Kelly and John Bathgate.

I would like to thank Luke Hartsuyker, the Deputy Leader of the House, for the good work that he does on behalf of the National Party and on behalf of the coalition. I would like to thank the whips and the whips office—the member for Berowra, the member for Forrest and the member for Wright, Scotty Buchholz, on the government side and, indeed, the chief whip on opposition side, the member for Fowler. They all work closely together, too, to make this place work. I think the public do not realise, Madam Speaker, how much goes on within the building that is of a bipartisan nature to make sure that the place works well. So I would like to thank them as well.

I would also like to thank the Speaker's panel, the Deputy Speaker and the Second Deputy Speaker. Madam Speaker, I even thank the Second Deputy Speaker! Hopefully, in future, he will leave his phone in his office when he is sitting in the chair in this chamber. I would like to thank Talethia andDamien from the member for Watson's office. They have a close relationship with my office and, I am sure, with the opposition members as well in making this place work.

I would like to thank a couple of particular people. I would like to thank the Prime Minister, because it is a great privilege to be a cabinet minister in a government, in a country like Australia. It is a great privilege. The member for Watson has had that privilege and maybe the member for Chifley, if he behaves himself, might have that privilege one day in about 20 years—perhaps when the Wyatt Roy-led opposition will have to face off against the member for Chifley. It is a great privilege. You only get that privilege on this side of the House if the Prime Minister chooses you to have it, and so I would like to thank him.

It is a great privilege to be the Leader of the House. I do love the parliament, Madam Speaker, as I know you do as well. I think it is an important part of our democracy. I like knowing about it, I like studying it, I like being in it and I like speaking in it. And I do thank my electors of Sturt—my long-suffering electors—who have for 22 years continued to re-elect me in this place eight times—and sometimes it has been closer than others; I hope that does not happen again. Nevertheless, I have survived all this time because of their forbearance and because they believe in the philosophy of the party that we represent and also, hopefully, that I can do the job for them here in Canberra that they want me to do. I would like to thank the Prime Minister's office—people like Andrew Hirst, David Whitrow, Peta Credlin and Dave Hughes. They are all part of the team that is this government, that makes the parliament operate and that makes question time and the legislative agenda work smoothly. Without them, it would not be possible.

In closing, I would like to thank my family. My family are part of the Pyne team. I chose to go into politics when I was 24, but then I was married and all my children were born after that time. So the relationship they have with politics is one of being organically part of it. They are part of 'Team Pyne'. They shared my disappointment this week when my bill was defeated in the Senate. They are a marvellous group of people. There are four of them: Barnaby, Eleanor, Felix and Aurelia. My wife Carolyn keeps the whole show on the road. I am very much looking forward to spending time with them over Christmas and summer.

It has been a busy year, but I would say that the first full year of the 44th Parliament has been a hell of a lot better than any of the years of the 43rd Parliament—not just because we are in government, although that is part of it. They were gruelling years, and I am glad they are over. I think the member for Grayndler and I are both glad that they are over.

At the end of the first full year of the coalition government, I would like to wish all of my colleagues, even the ones whom I sometimes disagree with, a very happy Christmas and a safe Christmas. I hope they have a terrific holiday over summer, because we will be back at it in February, with the same gusto, hopefully, that we have enjoyed this year.