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Thursday, 26 June 2008
Page: 3592

Senator STOTT DESPOJA (6:26 PM) —I promise this will be a brief contribution. I feel a little remiss in not having acknowledged individual or specifically or indeed in more detail the contributions of other departing senators. Tonight I want to briefly acknowledge three particular female friends in this place with whom I have worked particularly closely. I am not going to attempt to revisit my valedictory or even to reflect on all senators or indeed my party. I have done that to some extent, and it is also too hard to talk particularly about colleagues and the things that we have been through. I am also standing up in a blatant attempt to prevent Senator Rod Kemp tabling the men of the Senate calendar, as he has threatened to do! If I have to, I will filibuster as my last show of defiance in this place.

Seriously, I cannot endeavour to pay tribute appropriately to all departing senators, and of course those include former Senator Robert Ray. He will forever be held in high esteem by me, not because of his extraordinary knowledge of the processes of this place but simply because he referred to me once as Princess Leia—and therefore he is good. I am sorry to say that it did involve him referring somewhat derogatorily to someone else as Jabba the Hutt, but that is not the point. I digress, Madam Acting Deputy President; you see: you give a departing senator the floor and we could stay here all night. I do not know but I think this is perhaps a form of denial.

I cannot do justice to all departing senators. I did salute or pay tribute in a general sense to them last night, but tonight very briefly and very quickly, given it is Senator Ruth Webber’s night, I would like to say to Ruth—through you, Madam Acting Deputy President—I had a wonderful time working with you on the stem cell bill. I acknowledge your involvement in that was not always given a high profile, but you were the person who was brave enough, resolute enough and progressive enough to say, ‘I will put my name to this bill,’ and then, not just in name only, you did the work, you did the hard yards and you understood the legislation. I guess we would have liked it to have been a cross-party bill—because we knew it was going to get through, didn’t we?

Senator Webber —Absolutely.

Senator STOTT DESPOJA —Said with a slight uncertainty towards the end there! I have just discovered that uncertainty is remaining—but, Andrew, you did the right thing, as far as the majority of us are concerned anyway.

Senator Bartlett —It was only just a majority.

Senator STOTT DESPOJA —Those were fun times—and let’s not even acknowledge that interjection. I mentioned last night, and I know that we have all reflected on this, that it has been unusual to have women working together in this place, but when it has happened it has been fantastic. I think a lot of tribute needs to be paid to the many senators involved in that instance and to Senator Webber in particular. I am sorry that you are not going to be in this place, Senator—and it is not that I am not going to be here so I am not going to miss your presence in that respect, and I am sure we are going to keep in touch and be dear friends, I hope, for a long time—because you have made an amazing contribution, and anyone listening to your speech would understand that, and there has also been your understanding of complex and broadranging issues, absolutely so.

Another fine legislator and dear friend is Senator Kerry Nettle. It may surprise people but, over the years, I have found her a wonderful sounding board, simpatico on a lot of things. We have had our political differences as well policy-wise, but the people of Australia need to understand that they are losing a fine legislator. I respect her role very much as an activist, wanting to bring the streets into the parliament, because that is our role. Certainly, the Democrats strongly believe too that we can be campaigners and activists but when we come in here we are legislators. I suspect some stereotypes of Greens senators, particularly by mainstream media, would be that they were not capable of being legislators. Well, Kerry Nettle is a legislator and it has been an honour to serve with her.

Finally, very briefly, my dear friend Senator Linda Kirk referred in her speech—in an oh so surreptitious way—to our ‘extracurricular activities’, which really just meant going out and having some fun girly times on occasion. Have we got so many constitutional lawyers in the Senate that we needed to get rid of this one? Hello! I will never quite understand or respect that decision but it is not my place and I understand that, in political parties, things happen. As a Democrat, you have to understand that. To Linda, your leaving will be a great loss here. I have really enjoyed being a friend but, more importantly, working with you. I know you are passionate about human rights and really nerdy stuff too—constitutional law; that is pretty nerdy. I always think constitutional lawyers should probably end up in the Senate. But, having said that, I think you will end up in an august body or institution that will do you, your family and this country proud. I have no doubt that, after here, you are destined for some exciting things and I look forward to sharing some of the down time with you.

To all my departing colleagues—it is just too hard to do this—I did want to take advantage of the fact that we were saluting Ruth in particular tonight and say that our stem cell bill will go down in the history books. It may not have passed this chamber—not with our names on it anyway—but it was one of the things I am most proud of. I just wanted to acknowledge and thank you for that.