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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 14029

Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (19:42): I follow so many others in wishing everyone the very best for Christmas. Each year, I arrange with local school principals to identify some kids who are probably going to miss out and Santa Claus may not get to their homes. With a few friends, we are able to donate local awards and buy them bikes with helmets and so on. It means a hell of a lot to those kids. This year, one of the principals rang me and said, 'Can you manage three bikes at our school?' I said, 'Sure. What's the issue?' She said, 'I have a child of 10, a child of eight and a child of five who the department of community services said are never to be returned to their mother; their fathers cannot be found; they have to be separated into different families. The 10- and eight-year-olds are going into the foster care of a man in his early 40s and the five-year-old is going into foster care with two men in their 30s.' It just reminds you: there are still people doing it pretty tough.

The spirit of Christmas is more than salutations across the chamber. It is more than a holiday break. It is a reminder that there are a lot of people out there who are doing it pretty tough. They are not just adults; they are kids, not just here in Australia but around the world, and not just in more disadvantaged suburbs in the country but even on the North Shore of Sydney, which to some people seems a privileged area. But there are a lot of people in housing commission accommodation and a lot of people cannot pay the bills, like everywhere in Australia. So we have to remember those people.

So, in giving bikes to kids—with no media, nothing like that; just doing it because it is right—I actively encourage friends, particularly out of the business community, to donate the money. It is that act of giving that is important. Some of our friends in the media make a bit of fun of these occasions, but sometimes we need to remind them that there is a lot of work that individual members do that does change the lives of local constituents for the better. I think sometimes that is lost in a lot of the populist commentary about politics.

I do not accept the line that this is a more acrimonious parliament than any other. Maybe I am getting a bit long in the tooth, but I have seen acrimony in this place over the years and I have seen it in state parliaments and I have read about it. There has been plenty of acrimony in the House of Representatives, but ultimately we put the nation ahead of everything, as we should. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, it is far better to have debate and to use words against each other than to bear arms, as happens in so many other countries.

I want to place on the record my admiration for our Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott. I wish Margie and Tony and Lulu and Bridget and Frances all the very best for Christmas. It is going to be a big year, 2013—no doubt about that. I wish the best to Warren Truss and his wife, Lyn. Lyn is not only a wonderful wife but also someone that just does the yards with Warren. Warren is a very decent human being. I always thought John Howard used that term, 'decent', as the highest term of admiration for an individual—and I use it in deference to Warren Truss. To Christopher Pyne, who is here and is not a decent—no; you are a decent human being; I know you are a decent human being!

Mr Pyne: Deep down inside!

Mr HOCKEY: In our darkest moments in this place—we have highs and lows and all sorts in this chamber—Christopher just lifts the spirits. He is a much better person than he thinks himself to be sometimes—and certainly a better person than the majority of the population thinks him to be! So to Christopher and Carolyn and their beautiful children—and I know he is a magnificent father—I wish the very best for a nice break over the summer.

I thank my coalition economic team: Andrew Robb, who is stoic and does an enormous amount of hard work; Bruce Billson, who is an indefatigable fighter for small business; Mathias Cormann, who is just outstanding—you could not have a better shadow financial services minister and shadow Assistant Treasurer—and he is expecting a baby, so that is very exciting for Mathias; and Tony Smith, who does an enormous amount of work. They all work so incredibly hard.

I thank my personal staff. The Treasurer apparently has 27 staff, including five press secretaries. I have four personal staff, and I am very grateful for the work that they do. To Grant Lovett, my new chief of staff, thank you so much, mate, for coming on board. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to get someone of his calibre. I thank Tony Pearson, who has had a bit of rough year—he had a major operation. He has come through, and I am really proud of the work he does. Without mentioning them all, I really appreciate so much of what they do and give up. They are outstanding. I particularly want to thank Jackie Parker, who was my PA—this is going to shock you all—for 18 years. It is hard to believe someone could stick with me that long, but my wife and Jackie Parker have. I thank her. She resigned this year. Jackie has a relatively young family, and she has been fantastic. Trent Zimmerman was the head of my electorate office and is known to many of my colleagues. He is outstanding. I thank my FEC president, Rob Orrell, and Pam McClelland, who is a volunteer. My longest-serving volunteer, Erica Wyllie, died this year at the age of 95, and in the last 18 months I have lost two of the three mothers who volunteered in my office over the last 16 years.

To my political opponent, Wayne Swan: I wish him and Kim and their children all the very best. I think being Treasurer is the hardest job in the country after that of Prime Minister. I know that; I was very close to Peter Costello, in government, and I know how hard he worked. I know the stresses and strains that Wayne Swan goes through, so I wish him all the very best. I look forward to trying to take his job next year!

I particularly want to thank James Newbury, if I did not thank him earlier. I do not know why I am thanking him, because he works for Christopher Pyne now! But he asked me to thank him, so don't take offence at that! He has been an outstanding support as well. In addition to all the staff and assistants and everyone else—they are all thanked regularly and I really do appreciate their contributions—I thank the federal director, our party whips and so on.

Madam Speaker, congratulations on your elevation. I love this chamber; I always have. I feel an immense privilege every time I walk in here—every time. I was tortured, to be honest, by the way the chamber was previously going, with all the reputations that were tarnished, and I am glad that was resolved. You know where I am going. I wish you the very best, Madam Speaker. I know you threw me out for campaigning in your seat a week ago or two weeks ago. Perhaps I will revisit that, but I will make sure it is well away from parliament so I do not get thrown out again!

Finally, I wish everyone a very merry Christmas. When I am introduced at events, people reflect on the fact that my father was born in Bethlehem. Every Christmas I think of Dad and where he has come from. He was no relation to—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr HOCKEY: There was nothing immaculate about his conception, I was assured by my late grandmother! I managed to meet her. Dad is in his 80s. Mum is there and she is a fantastic support. I am very lucky to have all my family. My oldest brother turned 60 today. My other brother is going through chemotherapy, and so many families go through such times. But I feel so incredibly privileged to have a link back to the Holy Land, and I bear that in mind.

I thank my wife, Melissa, who is just a phenomenal woman in so many ways. She has been the main breadwinner, she has raised the children and she is a great support. For my children, Xavier, Adelaide and Ignatius, I will do it again this year: at midnight, I will go and put the flour down, put the Santa footprints in the flour.

An opposition member: Hey! They might be listening!

Honourable members interjecting

Mr HOCKEY: They are not listening; they are all in bed. If they are not in bed, I am in trouble! But we do that. Santa comes. Putting those damn toys together at three o'clock in the morning on Christmas Day—strewth! I wish there were instruction manuals for kids toys that were simple. So many of us do it. So many Australians do it, and that makes it all the more special.

I wish everyone the very best for 2013. Everyone has family in one form or another; everyone does. Even if you have no immediate relatives, you have family; you have a nation. Everyone does, and therefore we should be very grateful for what we have, reflect on how we can make it better and come back with more energy and more determination to make Australia an even better place in 2013.