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Thursday, 26 June 2008
Page: 3535


Senator MINCHIN (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (3:13 PM) —by leave—Mr President, on behalf of all coalition senators, I do warmly congratulate you on your term as President of the Senate. In my view, you have presided with great authority and with great objectivity, wisdom and knowledge and, I think, an appropriate degree of fairness. I do regret very much that your term as President has been so relatively short. I am prepared to accept my part of the blame for that. Our complete inadequacy in ensuring the return of our government has meant that your time as Senate President has therefore been somewhat cut short. I did look forward to you having at least another three years as Senate President. But that was not to be and we defer to the great wisdom of the Australian people in making that decision.

In the short time you have had I think that you have been an outstanding holder of one of the most significant offices that this Australian nation can bestow on anyone. I think that you have made, as you mentioned, all those in our state of South Australia, such a relatively small state, very proud that one of its senators—now the sixth—has served in such a high office. It just shows the quality of the senators that South Australia produces, and I say that around the chamber.

You mentioned that you have had superb training for this role—you are one of the most experienced committee chairmen this Senate has ever seen. You had, I think, eight years as chairman of one of the parliament’s most prestigious committees, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, which I think gave you that great training. That has been evident in the way in which you have conducted yourself in the chair. I think that you are widely regarded as one of the best chairmen that the Senate has had in its time. It has certainly been a privilege for me to speak under the same roof as such a distinguished holder of such a high office for the last 10 months. Indeed, it was a privilege for me to be the state director of the South Australian Liberal Party when you were the president of the South Australian Liberal Party. It was also a privilege to have been the leader of the coalition in the Senate while you have occupied the high office of President of the Senate.

In your remarks, you indicated your view that a government senator should occupy the chair. I formally indicate that is also the longstanding view of coalition senators, and the coalition will be voting for the government nominee for President. May I express my delight at the Leader of the Government in the Senate’s confirmation that Senator Hogg will be that nominee. I also want to congratulate you, Mr President, on being elected unopposed as the opposition’s nominee for the office of Deputy President in the new Senate, and I look forward in anticipation to the new Senate electing you to the office of Deputy President. Congratulations on a wonderful service.