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Thursday, 4 December 2003
Page: 23886

Mrs CROSIO (5:52 PM) —I rise to express my first valedictory in nearly 14 years in this parliament. I do so because I have always believed that, as an elected representative of parliament, I should express my thankyous every day of the week that I am in this place. Due to the fact that I have chosen to retire at the next election, I may not have another opportunity to publicly put my thoughts and thanks to what we call the `paper' but, in this particular case, in the Hansard.

I join the other speakers when I say thank you to the government members. I wish them all the best for a very good Christmas and a very happy and healthy new year. I particularly pay credit to my opposition members because I know, having sat on the government benches, that the team we have over here now are really ready to govern. So I wish them well also. I would particularly like to say `thank you' to you, Mr Speaker, and to past speakers. I have perhaps at times been a bit of a thorn in their sides, but I have appreciated very much the opportunity that you have provided to me in learning the processes of this House and more particularly having the opportunity to participate in the way I have.

I would also like to mention the attendants in this House, as others have. I look around at two who are sitting here now, and I say to you and to all of the others: you are, guys and girls, second to none. You are certainly fine people. You are a credit to your jobs, but more particularly you are certainly a credit to this parliament. I say thank you to our clerks, and I want to say to Ian Harris, Bernard Wright and Peter Mason: you are very special people. You are able to give us confidence when we are in times of need, when we think we know it but we do not, so we run and say, `I am sure I am right, but what would you say about this?' I often do that. So I particularly want to put on the record my thanks for the job that you do and the way that you quietly go about being really professional people in this parliament.

I thank the previous speakers, particularly Julia and Jim, and join them in thanking, from my staff, Joan Sierra-Torrens. She is really a very special person. In fact, it was only about three hours after I was elected by my colleagues to this particular position, the Chief Opposition Whip, that I had an interview with Joan. I knew there and then that she was the person I could work with and that she was the person who could run this place. We often say that, and she does it very well; but I can also say to Jim Lloyd: Cay and your staff are also a credit to you. I particularly pay credit to my whips, Michael and Harry. As Jim Lloyd has expressed, we do have times when we may differ, but we certainly get on well; and I compliment and commend his other whips, Joanna, Stewart, Neville and John.

I have had an opportunity, in the 11 elections I have won and in the elected positions I have held since 1971, of serving under many fine leaders. I am particularly proud that in this parliament I have been able to serve under Hawke, Keating, Beazley, Crean and now Latham. Looking back on my state career, I have been able to serve as a minister and to serve under Neville Wran as Premier and under Barry Unsworth and Bob Carr. In local government, I gave the orders for four years but I did appreciate serving with the others for five years as well.

I look at our fine people who are coming forward, who are going to be our leaders and continue to be the leaders of tomorrow, and realise that, as some people plan their lives, to other people life just happens. In my case, I wonder: if the Vietnam War had not been on, would I have joined the Labor Party at that time? I was a young mum with kids and a business. I look at a stinking, burning tip in my electorate and think, `If that had not been there, would I have joined local government?' Fate is there. Fate is written out in the higher echelons and sometimes we cannot even question it. I have done that and I am very proud indeed that I have had that opportunity.

As we thank all of the staff of this building—and I mean it collectively, as others have expressed, the cleaners, the library, the security staff—each one of them is special in their own way. As I have said, as this is my first valedictory, I have tried in these 14 years to thank them every day of the week that I have had anything to do with them. I appreciate it very much.

I particularly want to put on record my thankyous to my wonderful family. As our guys in the House would talk about how they appreciate their wives, I have had three children who have gone through many years of having Mum involved. To our son, Paul, to our twin daughters, Linda and Dearna, to their partners and to our nine grandchildren I say that they are very special people. They have had a mum who has been involved; they have a mum whom they still accept as a mum; and more particularly they have had a mum whom they occasionally bring down to earth and say, `Listen, Mum,' and then I know that I have got to pull up and say, `Oops, I must think I'm still in parliament,' but all of a sudden I am back home.

I have to put on record my particular thanks to a person whom I met at 15 and knew then was going to be my partner for the rest of my life. He is a very special man—my husband, Ivo. I do not know whether he is here yet. I would not have been doing what I am doing today if it had not been for his 1,000 per cent support behind me. It is always very difficult in life, and many of the women in this parliament and all who have been in public will admit: to have a man behind you, he has got to be a special man, because even though he stays in the background, you know and he knows that he is not in the back-background. He is always there beside you; he is always there for you. I have had that in my life since I was 15. I was 15 when I met him, and I married him at 18 just in case somebody else thought they were going to get their hands on him. I decided it was not going to happen. I say quite publicly, in extending those thanks: there has not been one regret.

I look at my life and how proud of it—and I still drive down Northbourne Avenue and look at that flag and think, of the 20 million people now in this nation of ours, 150 of us have made it, and I am one of those. I hope that every member of parliament realises and appreciates that. I know when there is a new term of parliament all of a sudden they come in—through the Serjeant-at-Arms' office and the whips—for the seating arrangement. As I say occasionally to people, `Just be grateful you have got a seat. There are many others out there who missed out.' No matter where you sit, if you have got a seat in this parliament, you have certainly got to stand up and be proud.

I am glad Joan came in, because she knows I mean what I have said with all my heart. We still have to work together, by the way, Joan; I am wishing you all the best for Christmas but you have a great New Year ahead of you. I want to put on record my thanks to my electorate staff. Julie Starr looked for her first job in 1984 and came to work for me; she is still working for me; she has gone through state and federal parliament with me. She is a great secretary. Brian Thompson came on board my staff in 1988 and is still with me. Obviously, I cannot be too bad to work with.

I thank my research people who through family commitments and other things have moved on. I want to give particular tribute to one who has just come back on staff, Lloyd Cuthbert. When I was in my council days, Lloyd came to work with me in a particular area of local government. Then we parted ways and each of us went in different directions. I rang him up recently and said, `My research guy has gone back to the department. Would you like to come back on board?' Lloyd said, `Yes, I will.' I thank him for doing that. It is not always easy because as with all things political—and particularly now—I cannot say to him, `You're going to have that job for three months, six months, 12 months.' I hope it is 12 months. Nevertheless, I will accept the inevitable time when the Prime Minister—as is his right—chooses to call an election.

I particularly say to each one of us as we go out and celebrate Christmas: let us, as others have expressed, think of those less fortunate. More particularly, let us also think of those who have to work during this holiday period so each one of us can in our own way enjoy this particular time of pleasure. I appreciate what they do.

I particularly appreciate, too, that I would not have been here in this parliament or in state or local government without the ALP members in my area and without the electors of my area. They are the people who have given me the proud honour and the privilege to be here and to be their representative. We can always take them for granted. But they will always take you and knock you on the shoulder and say, `Don't take me for granted or you may not be there next time.' I say that as a word from the old and the wise to those who are new or coming in. No electorate is ever a safe electorate. I have always had a very strong electorate; a very `safe' electorate. But I have always treated it as though it was my electorate and not either safe or marginal. It is an electorate through which I represent the people and it is for me to do that to the best of my ability.

To Gerard and to the previous PLOs and to your staff: yes, we do have certain problems occasionally. But Gerard is a tremendous asset to the government as a parliamentary liaison officer. I have certainly appreciated the dealings I have had with him and I hope to continue those into the New Year.

To all of my colleagues: thank you for the honour you have given me in allowing me to finish my term as the Chief Opposition Whip. I respect, admire and love you all. I would particularly like to say to our government members that, while there are many over there whom I may at times disagree with, one thing is for certain: when I leave this House, whatever anger I felt in it goes; the anger stays in this House. I admire and I commend and I congratulate so many of the people sitting in this parliament. I am proud to have been able to serve with them.

I know, Mr Speaker, you are probably waiting for a break. I say to you all collectively again: thank you for the honour; thank you for the privilege; thank you for giving me an opportunity to serve in the way I have. More particularly, thank you to my beloved family and to all my staff and to my gorgeous grandchildren. I am going to enjoy them a lot more.