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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 7204


Ms LIVERMORE (Capricornia) (11:02): I was so pleased to see this motion of the 25th anniversary of the new Parliament House on the program of business this week because it meant that in this, my final week in the parliament, I could have the opportunity to pay tribute to this magnificent building, which has been one of my workplaces for the last 15 years and to, as it were, extend my valedictory speech to thank the many people, the staff of Parliament House, who have helped me do my job in this place for the five terms that I have served.

It has been fantastic to listen in to this morning's debate and to start back in the days of Old Parliament House, listening to the member for Berowra talking about serving on the committee that put some of the building blocks in place that led to the design and construction of this building. Also, to hear from the member for Fraser, who has such a strong connection as a member here in the ACT, about how this building was conceived and what it was hoped to embody and convey to the Australian people at the time of its design.

I can still remember coming to this building for the first time in 1989, maybe 1990. I was a university student at the time and came down to visit a mate, who was at ADFA. My first impression has stayed with me ever since and it is something that I always share with school groups or people who ask me about this building when I am back in my electorate. To me, what is so great about it is that it is so quintessentially Australian. It is grand enough to be our Parliament House, to be the nation's capital building—the nation's parliament. But it is not ostentatious, it is not flashy and it is not in any way over-the-top. This is a very Australian characteristic. I think embodied in Australia's Parliament House is that sense of Australians wanting it to be appropriate but not in any way flashy or ostentatious.

The member for Fraser talked about some of the design principles that the architects wanted to convey in the building. They have been very successful in creating a building that is impressive but not imposing. To have the building topped by that incredible Australian flag, that huge Australian flag, sends out a signal of who this building is for and what this building is for. When I see it from the air, or when parliament is sitting, I cross the lake to drive up to Parliament House on a Sunday afternoon the flagpole conveys very much the significance of this building, what this building is for and who owns it. When you get closer to the building itself, it is, as I say, impressive but not imposing. The building really invites people to gather at its front and then for them to participate within it—this is something very special.

But a building is only as good as the people inside it. I am just so fortunate to have been looked after by the staff of Parliament House for these many years. I will start with the people whom you first meet as a new MP, and they are the corridor attendants and those in the Serjeant's office. They are so friendly and helpful, and this has been the case for my entire 15 years here. Nothing is too much trouble for them. I tell you what: when you pick up the phone to the Serjeant's office, it does not matter how obscure your question is, they will have an answer and the patience to find a solution or to help you in some other way with what you are asking about. I really do appreciate all that they have helped me with over the years.

I am going through this list in no particular order but with who just popped into my head during this week. The starting point for me was when the attendants were looking after me in those very early days and making that sure that I felt at home in my office and that I could get to work straightaway as the member for Capricornia. I also want to thank the security guards for always being so courteous, so friendly and so professional. I have been to other parliaments around the world and have gone up to the security staff with a big smile and a hello, only to be met with stony-faced silence—so different from here. We are so lucky to have the security guards around Parliament House, keeping us safe and doing their job but also making everyone feel welcome and that this is their house. I cannot remember the number of times that I have had people from my electorate come here, looking a little bit lost, and a security guard has come up to them in the entrance hall and asked: 'How can we help you? Who do you want to see? Here's a phone. Let's get you sorted out.' This has always been my experience of our security guards in Parliament House. They are a great bunch.

Thank you to the clerks Bernard Wright and David Elder and to Marion Bartlett and all the other chamber staff who serve us so well. You literally make this place function and, in doing so, help us all to do our jobs and to present the best possible face of this parliament to the Australian public. I have really valued your experience and assistance over the years, especially in my time as a member of the Speaker's panel. The library staff do a terrific job as well. They are such an important but sometimes undervalued part of the democratic function of this place. Again, when you go to an overseas parliament or when overseas delegations come here they want to learn about our library—how it is structured and the role that it plays in our parliament in assisting members to be diligent in their decision-making processes in this place.

I want to thank the International and Community Relations Office, who have been extremely helpful over the years in many different ways—Onu and Paul for helping out with passports and visas, and Geoff, Raymond and Colin for always being there to answer my questions and to get things sorted out for international travel or hosting delegations here. Thanks too to the Comcar drivers, as well as Greg, Roger and Carol in the Transport Office. Some mornings you might not really want to come into this place, but the Comcar driver greets you with a friendly smile outside your accommodation and then there's a big cheery 'Hello, how are you going and welcome' from Greg. It is those little things that really do help you get through your days in this place.

One of the things that all of those of us who are retiring are most anxious about is how to survive in the outside world without 2020, those IT experts here in Parliament House, helping us to turn things on and off and to understand what this or that instruction means. Seriously, I do not know what I am going to do without them. They are always so patient with me—I am in my 40s and I do not know how to do all this stuff. They have been eternally patient and have never made me feel too much of an idiot when it comes to technology. The dining room staff, and especially Tim, always makes you feel like a million dollars when you go up there. I thank them for making the Members and Guests Dining Room a special place—I really like to take guests up there to experience not only the view, but also the atmosphere that has been created through the professionalism of Tim and his team.

I also want to thank Hansard for always interpreting those place names in my electorate correctly and keeping me out of trouble by getting people's names right and creating that perfect record of what goes on in here. As the Deputy Speaker would know, it is a great thing to be able to mention a school or a person's achievements and present them with a perfect Hansard record of it. I appreciate Hansard's assistance over the years. I also want to thank the Auspic team who always cooperate with photos in the chamber or passport photos. It is another one of those services that is easily taken for granted, but it has been great to have them on hand to help out with such things over the years.

The member for Berowra mentioned the childcare centre. My goodness, that was quite a long time coming and a big battle to get that facility, but who would question its value to the parliament these days? I am very fortunate to have my office directly above the childcare centre. What a wonderful thing it is to see those children out enjoying this beautiful building and its magnificent grounds as much as we do. It is wonderful for people working in this place to have their children close by and part of their world inside Parliament House.

I have had the great privilege of serving on some terrific committees, and the best ones have been the ones in this final term, including the Standing Committee on Regional Australia, so wonderfully served by Glen Worthington, Siobhan Leyne, Casey Mazzarella and Emily Costello. We have travelled all over Australia and even around the world. It has been great to do that with the member for Riverina, who is here in the chamber, and also with our chair, Tony Windsor, the member for New England. I would like to take this opportunity to wish Tony all the best in what will not be his retirement, but for his life after this place. I have also served as the chair of the Public Works Committee and that has been a fantastic experience, with the assistance of Anthony Overs, Alison Clegg and Fiona Gardner and my deputy chair the member for Mallee, who is also leaving this place after a very distinguished career.

I am going to say a quick thank you to staff at FCm Travel and their predecessors who, again, have always been very patient in helping me figure out travel, travel with children and the back and forth between here and Rockhampton. They have always been very quick to answer my inquiries and get me on my way so I thank them. I appreciate all the work of the gardening and cleaning staff. This is a magnificent building but, I tell you what, it would require a lot of upkeep. They keep it looking its best for us and for the Australians who want to come here and feel proud of this place.

Finally, I am going to talk about the Parliamentary Education Office. I had the great pleasure of working with Jason and Marisa in my electorate just in the week before I came back here for this final fortnight of sitting. They came around to a whole bunch of schools in my electorate to bring lessons about the work of the parliament to students. The Parliamentary Education Office and the work they do every day ensures that this building, this parliament and the work that goes on here can be understood and that those children who come here feel a connection to what we do. We hope they aspire to be part of this—to be part of our parliament—whether it is as a politician, a researcher or a staff member, or in some other form. It is the work of the Parliamentary Education Office in introducing students to the parliament and encouraging them to take an interest that will ensure this building, and the work of this building, continues to be held in high esteem in the future. Thank you very much to all the staff of the parliament who have made this such a special place to work. I look forward to returning in other capacities in the future and wish all of my continuing colleagues all the best as well.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the member for Capricornia and I think it is a good thing that you have mentioned all of those people who make our lives easier. I call on the member for Riverina.