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Friday, 13 December 1996
Page: 8637

Mr PRICE(5.50 p.m.) —Mr Speaker, my thanks to you and the role that you play. I will not go through all the list of people who have been mentioned. In politics they say that there are no second prizes. I think on this side we understood that all too well on 2 March. I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) and his front bench. They have now very important responsibilities to the people of Australia.

I thought one of the things about going into opposition, apart from the depression of it all, was that in government it was what you did behind closed doors that really made you an effective member of the back bench. You really do not have that opportunity in opposition. Apart from the leadership of Kim Beazley, so important to us because we avoided, I think, the self-destruction that may have come with such a bitter defeat, I wanted to particularly thank all the new members on our side in particular—the class of `96. Notwithstanding the defeat, they brought an enthusiasm to their role that I think geed up a lot of those who were perhaps, initially at least, focused on licking their wounds.

The right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) made some predictions about Australia and what might happen in 1997. I would not want to take issue with him about his predictions except to say that perhaps I would disagree. But I certainly believe that 1997 will see a very different Australia from the one we have experienced under Labor.

We do not often comment about the friendships that we form in this place. I would like to thank those with whom I enjoy friendships on this side of the House and particularly some of those on the other side of the House. I apologise to the government back bench that it is so large that I have yet to make the acquaintance of all of them.

Mr Speaker, I wish you and all who serve this place a very happy and holy Christmas and a successful 1997. I look forward to the day when the Labor Party returns to its rightful place, I believe, back over there.

Mr McGauran —Born to rule.

Mr PRICE —That's right.

Mr SPEAKER —I join with the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Beazley) in wishing all members and their staff a joyful Christmas and a happy, healthy and safe New Year. I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to a number of people who have provided assistance, advice and support to me over past months. Thank you to the Deputy Speaker, Garry Nehl, and to the Second Deputy Speaker, Harry Jenkins, for your help and cooperation during the year. You have performed your duties admirably, with enormous professionalism and in an exemplary manner.

My thanks also go to members of the Speaker's Panel. You certainly get a different perspective on the debate from this chair. I think all of us who have sat here during the year have had to face particular challenges and we have all benefited and learned from our experiences.

I give my thanks to the staff of the parliament. I know that they face special difficulties during late night sittings. None of us operate at our best when we are tired and some of us can get a little bit testy at times. Nevertheless, our staff manage to maintain their usual cheerful demeanour and willing and efficient approach to their duties, and we all appreciate their efforts.

It has not been a particularly easy year for the parliamentary staff. There have been significant reductions in all of the departments. Some experienced officers have left and this has provided additional challenges to those who remain. I refer particularly to the committee area, where new staffing arrangements were introduced. They may not be ideal, but they are the best we can manage under the circumstances. I am a great believer in and advocate of our parliamentary committee system. I would like to compliment the chairmen, members and staff of the various committees on their work and their achievements throughout the year.

My special thanks go to the Clerk of the House, Lyn Barlin, whose guidance and assistance to me has been invaluable. He has proved a wise and patient counsellor to a new Speaker on a steep and rapid learning curve. He has also been a tower of strength in these times of reduced funding. His devotion to the parliament and his dedication to his duties are beyond question and the outstanding service he continues to give to the Department of the House of Representatives is without any doubt simply the best. Lyn is supported most competently by the Deputy Clerk, Ian Harris, and the Clerk Assistant, Bernard Wright, Ian Cochran and Jim Pender, and the Assistant Secretaries, Peter Gibson and Robyn McClelland, and, of course, Monica Johnson and Elizabeth Robertson. My thanks to them all.

To our Serjeant-At-Arms, David Elder, and to Dalma and Neville and the friendly helpful staff of the Serjeant's office and to the attendants who look after us so very well, thank you all for your assistance throughout the year. Our thanks also go to Anne Hazelton and the staff of the Parliamentary Relations Office. Theirs may seem a rather glamorous job to outsiders, but it involves a lot of delicate diplomacy, complicated organisation and hard slog. It is a difficult job at times, but they do it so well.

To Andy Hall and his team and all the other staff of the Department of the House of Representatives, many thanks for your good work throughout 1996. To Michael Bolton and the Joint House Department and to John Templeton of the Parliamentary Library and the Department of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff and the officers and staff of their departments, I also say thank you for a job very well done.

In the course of the year, I have had the opportunity to visit the bowels of the building, the basement area. Down there is a whole new world with people working away for the parliament, doing jobs that many of us are simply unaware of and which are vital for the day-to-day operations of the parliament. I would also give them special recognition for their efforts on our behalf, and I would suggest to all members that they, too, take time to visit the hive of activity underneath this building. It is really an eye-opener.

And to the staff of the Transport Office, Narelle, Brian and their assistants, and the Comcar drivers, thank you for getting us here and getting us all home again on the regular basis that you do, plus all of the bits and pieces in between. In particular, our thanks in advance for making sure that we all make it safely away from here tonight or tomorrow, or whenever it may be, and back to our families and electorates for Christmas.

To all of the other people who contribute to the operation of the parliament—the caterers, the switchboard operators, the guides, the nurses, those providing the retail services to our community, the bank, Aussie's, Qantas, Lizzie's, the fitness centre, gym and swimming pool, the post office and the parliament shop, the gardeners and the cleaners; there are so many people who work here on the Hill, and if I have forgotten to mention any of you I apologise—most sincerely, on behalf of all members, I would like to express our gratitude to you all.

Thank you also to my personal staff, Phil Bergin, Pauline Osmond, Denise Jeffs, Marie Donnelly and Carol Nichols. They are a wonderful team. But you know that. I can always count on their loyalty and support. Some of the newer members may not realise that Marie has been here since Federation, a fact about which she constantly reminds me if ever I dare trespass on her special domain, which is allocating tickets to the Speaker's Gallery. Over the years, she has earned the respect and affection of all members, spouses and staff. I know this because, when I was elected as Speaker, numerous members and staffers stopped me in the corridors to say, `Congratulations, Bob, and I hope you are going to keep Marie.' Well, I would not have contemplated doing anything else.

Finally, to all members and staff, I wish you and your families a joyful and peaceful Christmas and a happy, healthy and safe New Year. Thank you for your friendship and support during 1996 and I look forward to seeing you all back here again in 1997. Enjoy the recess. I think we all deserve it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.