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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Page: 11960


Mr BOWEN (McMahon) (12:05): The retirement of Joe Hockey is a very significant day in the 44th parliament because Joe Hockey is a very significant figure. He had almost 20 years of service to the parliament, 10 years as a senior figure in his own party, and is one of the best-known political figures in the country. As has been mentioned, the member for North Sydney and I, and outside of politics, have had differences and disagreements. I would disagree with some things in his speech, a few moments ago, and agree with others. But I will say this and be very clear about it: Joe Hockey was a very formidable opponent, never to be taken lightly and always to be respected.

He had his strengths and his weaknesses, like all of us, and an array of talents to call upon. He was no white-bread politician. For years, he entered the lounge rooms of millions of Australians every Friday morning, with Kevin Rudd, a pioneer of morning television, a task some of us would have struggled with but he excelled at and it did him well. He was prepared to take risks and to be courageous.

There is something that nobody can ever take away from Joe Hockey: he was Australia's 38th Treasurer. Nobody can ever take away from him. He has held that uniquely Australian office with the great responsibilities that go with that great office of state. And I remind Joe and the House today of something that Australia's 27th Treasurer said—a very good treasurer; a briefer treasurer than Joe Hockey—that is, Bill Hayden:

To be the economic manager of the nation was an overwhelming privilege. It was in many ways a more significant role than that of Prime Minister, although some former treasurers who have moved on would clearly not agree with that assessment.

I also want to say, through you Mr Speaker, something to Joe Hockey's family: there is not long to go; the speeches are almost over, kids! That is one thing. But there is something more significant. The former Treasurer, Joe Hockey, has a very young family. They may recall—I know he recalls—one day when, by complete accident, by complete coincidence, his family and my family turned up at the Powerhouse Museum at the same time. Passers-by might have thought it a bit strange—maybe some thought it was a conspiracy. But there we were at the Powerhouse Museum together. The role of modern-day Treasurer is an enormously onerous one—not only the endless ERC meetings, dawn to dusk, locked away in the Treasury building in the lead-up to the budget for weeks on end but also the international travel, now more important than ever before in this interconnected world. Director of the World Bank and of IMF are very important roles, as are director of the OECD, representative on the G20 and APEC, and other commitments—all time taken away from family. All essential; all time taken away from family. So I want to say to Adelaide, Ignatius and Xavier: I know you missed your dad, and I know that at times you were wondering what he was doing and why he was not with you. But you should always be proud of him. And in years to come, you will understand better why you should be proud of him. He was a true patriot doing an important job for his country. And although you would have missed him, you should always proud of him.

Also through you, Mr Speaker, to Melissa—Joe Hockey knows my views; that if Melissa had come to this House, she would have been a very, very formidable operator. She is an accomplished businessperson, and she may have been Australia's first female Treasurer—and, given that they met at a Young Liberal conference, it is not impossible that that might have happened. Public life was not for Melissa, but her contribution was substantial, through the family, and that should be acknowledged in this House today.

We should also acknowledge Joe Hockey's staff, as he has done. For myself, I want to particularly acknowledge Grant Lovett. I know, in a very contested and controversial environment, there was still business to transact in the national interest between the Treasurer and the shadow Treasurer. I know my chief of staff, James Cullen, valued the relationship of trust and discretion, and getting things done, that he had with Grant. It was always a courteous and professional relationship, in the national interest, and I acknowledge Grant in the office today.

In conclusion, Joe will reflect on the highs and lows, on the tumult, and on what might have been. But most of all, he should acknowledge and respect the achievements of a life of service which is far from over. I know that his service to the nation has more to go, as it should. He has much to contribute, in whatever capacity he chooses, and he goes with the best wishes of all of us.