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Monday, 15 June 2009
Page: 5880


Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) (2:03 PM) —Mr Speaker, if I may I will add to those remarks, on indulgence. I am advised that the member for Higgins has indicated that he will not be seeking re-election at the next federal election, nor will he be seeking preselection for the seat of Higgins—a seat, of course, which we still hold out hopes of winning one day for the Labor Party! It was a joke, Malcolm; it was a joke!

Can I say something about what is an important milestone in any member of parliament’s career. We enter this place with aspirations and hopes, and all the expectations of our families, our communities and ourselves that we bring here. It is an important day when you are elected to this place. Each of us can cast our minds back to when we first stood in the House of Representatives and the enormous pride which we felt in being elected and so representing our political party and our community.

There is another equally important day, and that is when we choose to exit this place, and it should be marked appropriately as well, in terms of the contributions that have been made to public life. And this is one such day in the career of a member of this place—and a most notable member at that, the member for Higgins. To have been a member of this parliament for 20 years is, of itself, a significant achievement. For that, in itself, the member should be commended—for having represented his constituency for such an extended period of time. Secondly, for having been Treasurer of the Commonwealth for virtually 12 years is, of itself, a further credit to the individual member’s talents and abilities. He would not have been put in that position by his political party, nor nominated by my predecessor Mr Howard, had confidence not been expressed in him by his party and by the leadership of his party in his considerable intellectual skills and the policy skills which he brings to the public policy debate in Australia. And for that he should be commended as well.

On top of that I will add some remarks about his contribution to Australia’s place in our international economic engagements through the IMF and beyond. The Treasurer, as he was then—Mr Costello, the member for Higgins—was Australia’s representative on the IMF and, through his occupancy of that position, other international financial institutions for which Australia has representation. I would make two particular points about the IMF. One is that in the deliberations following the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98, the decision at that stage to establish the G20 finance ministers meeting was something in which the member for Higgins—the Treasurer as he was at the time—played a role.

The establishment of the G20 finance ministers meeting from that time on, and the events of the last 12 months in turn, provided a platform through which we, together with other governments, were able to elevate it to a heads of government meeting. That is now the G20 summit, which served this nation well in the meeting held in Washington at the end of last year and in London most recently, and will again, prospectively, in Pittsburgh this September. It has been an important vehicle for global economic governance. It had its foundations in the fact that we did have a body established at the finance ministers and treasurers level across 20 of the world’s leading economies back then. In those deliberations at the time, the Treasurer, as he was then, the member for Higgins, played a significant role.

The further point I would make in that respect is that off the back of the Asian financial crisis at the time, significant decisions were made here to intervene and support various of our neighbouring economies that were experiencing difficulties—from memory, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Republic of Korea. Decisions were taken by the then government, led by the Treasurer, as he was then, to provide significant offers of financial assistance to assist those economies through that difficult time. These were correct decisions in the national interest. They were correct decisions as good neighbours of these countries. And they were correct decisions, I would remind the House, which are not forgotten today. The fact that we have good relations with the countries which I have just listed is in part anchored by decisions taken back then, and I would like to make appropriate recognition of that in the House today.

I will make one final point about the importance of family in a place like this. The nearly 20 years that the member for Higgins has been in this House—as other members who have been here for an extended period of time will understand—has obviously been an extraordinary burden for his wife, his partner, as well as his children to bear. That is a burden which those of us who have been here for some time fully recognise and understand.

I would say to the member for Higgins, on behalf of his confreres and great mates here in the Australian Labor Party, that we wish him well and we wish his family well, after what has been a quite extraordinary career in Australian public life.