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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Page: 11954


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (11:35): This is no ordinary day and you are no ordinary Joe. It is an unusual day. When people leave this place, some remark that it is actually easier to get here than to leave. But it is not always easy to leave at your timing and with the mutual respect of the people who serve here. The standing ovation, spontaneous from your colleagues and the opposition, should be one of the memories you cherish here because you cannot get that by just turning up. You cannot get that sort of respect. Respect cannot be given by a position or a title. It cannot be given by longevity alone. There is something else involved in achieving that.

It may surprise you that many of my colleagues want to say a few words about you—good words. They want to wish you and your family well. I think it is a great reflection on your friends that so many of them have come here to hear you say goodbye. But I think it is an even greater credit to you that you have inspired them to be here. It is fitting that you receive the thanks of this chamber. Nineteen years is a long time.

You went from backbencher to Treasurer. It was another Treasurer, Peter Costello, who said: 'You can spend either the first half of your working life here or the second half of your working life here. You should not spend your whole working life here.' It is something that I am sure we would all reflect upon at a time such as this when a central player and character in the Australian parliament story and in the story of government and politics bids farewell.

I understand that the timing of this valedictory is not necessarily what you would have imagined perhaps a couple of months ago. But you should draw solace from the fact that you leave this place with many years ahead of you to make a contribution. Again, all of us would perhaps hope that we could leave here a little bit in the manner in which you are leaving today. You have certainly earned it.

You have time on your side. You love this country. You want to serve it. I respect that. But also as a father I understand that you want the benefit of more time with your family. No-one in this place with a family or a partner enjoys those Sunday departures from them to come back here—but our families enjoy them even less. No-one enjoys cruel and mean things being written about them, but our families have even less capacity to protect themselves from it. You will be free of some of that.

I am sure you will be grateful for the precious time you will have with your kids and your family. I am sure they will be even more grateful. I am sure you will be grateful not to have to explain some of the things which get said and to have to tell your kids not to worry about it. I am sure you will be pleased not to have to deal with the concerns of your family as they have to put up with some of the ill-informed critique and hurtful comments that you so preciously want to protect them from and cannot always. I thank your family for lending you to this nation. It is time that they got you back.

There is also a natural temptation at times like this to minimise the political difference of past battles. I do not think the member for North Sydney would want us in Labor to pretend that we were uncritical admirers of his actions. We have disagreed, often quite sharply, on issues. In the case of the 2014 budget, we disagreed on almost everything! On occasion harsh words were exchanged, but I have to say, Member for North Sydney, that you never shied away from the contest. You gave as good as you got, with the volume turned up. Given that you have three minutes to answer a question and we have only 30 seconds to ask one, you have always had longer to give it! The member for North Sydney would bump into you all day. He would wear the bumps and bruises. But he could still join you for a laugh, a wry grimace or, indeed, a beer at the end of the day.

The member for North Sydney and I share an admiration for Theodore Roosevelt. I know the member for North Sydney has a fondness for quoting him. I have previously heard him refer to Roosevelt's famous description of the man in the arena:

… whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds …

The member for North Sydney has been that man in the arena. He can leave this place knowing that we all think that he has strived valiantly, knowing that he fought in the most unforgiving arena in the land for things that he believed in. That is something that he can always be proud of. No-one can ever take that away from him.

In the grand sweep of our national life, serving in this place is a privilege afforded to very few. A place on the frontbench is rarer still. To serve as the Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia is an honour that only 39 members of our parliament have ever known. Joe, as you know, Teddy Roosevelt said:

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty …

Teddy went on to say that he 'never envied a human being who led an easy life'. Instead, he 'envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well'. Member for North Sydney, I envy the parliamentary life you have lived. I envy the distinction and decency with which you have lived your parliamentary life. On behalf of the opposition, I wish you and your family well in everything you do from this day forward.