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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 1434

Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs) (16:38): It is a pleasure to add my comments to those that have been made already in recognition of Senator Arbib's contribution to the federal parliament. I remember his first speech. I sat here listening and was impressed, but a couple of things made me turn around and look. One of them was his quoting of Moore's Law. Another was his statements recognising that information technology and new technologies are the platform for future growth and the kind of investment we need in this country to help our economy develop and diversify in the 21st century. The other thing—and no-one will be surprised at this—was his reference right at the end of his speech to sport. He evoked the characterisation of the Australian hero as being the mums and dads who sustain our sporting clubs through their commitment to their children and their volunteer effort, and he likened them to our Olympic heroes.

These sentiments struck a chord with me. When you look at the issues that Senator Arbib committed to in his first speech in this place, you can see that, systematically, he has made a substantial contribution to each and every one of them. There was some mention of those efforts and those contributions, and I would like to mention a couple as well. First is the Apprenticeship Kickstart program, which gave so many young people an opportunity for employment where there could have been none. It was an extraordinary period in the global financial crisis, and federal Labor was doing everything to save jobs to keep our economy on the rails. We did this with enormous success, now recognised around the world, with our Treasurer having been cited as the world's best finance minister for his leadership and guidance through that difficult period.

It is programs like Apprenticeship Kickstart that made surviving the GFC very real this country. I believe that the younger people that have benefited from that program have a chance at a life that they would otherwise not have had. Coming to this as a young person who left school at the age of 16 and was given my chance in the building industry—although not quite lucky enough to land an apprenticeship, I did work as a labourer for some years—I know that gave me my whole life. It gave me the opportunities I subsequently experienced, and I understand the importance of Apprenticeship Kickstart in difficult economic times. I would like to take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge Senator Arbib for his vision, foresight and effort in putting that into place.

I would also like to acknowledge his work in the sports portfolio. I am also very passionate about sport, and there is nothing more gratifying than being part of a government with a sports minister who is doing a fantastic job and, most importantly—and I heard these words again today—understands that sport is far more than the sum of its parts. It is an area of social policy and is often the glue in communities where none other exists. It is often the link between generations of families and across extended families. It is one thing that can bind us. If you have a look at how people choose to spend their personal time and associate themselves with their given team, it is more often than not what gives them a sense of identity, again perhaps when nothing else does.

I also acknowledge the role that sport plays in my portfolio of multicultural affairs by providing a platform for people newly arrived in Australia, be they migrants, humanitarian entrants or refugees. Sport is often the place where they make their first friend. They make friends for life, and sport becomes the platform for developing a sense of self and a sense of belonging in their new home of Australia. All of these things are important. Senator Arbib is right in that they are worthy of recognition beyond that which people traditionally associate with the sports portfolio. Again, I take this opportunity to commend Senator Arbib for his devotion to the good public policy of sports and recreation in Australia.

I would like to say a few personal things as well. Senator Arbib plays a mean game of chess. Three hours and eight minutes is an extraordinary time for running a marathon, and I wish you all the best with your upcoming ironman commitment. It demonstrates that Senator Arbib is a man of many talents, and no small physical talent as well. When he turns his mind to something, he is an exceptional performer. We got to know each other a bit playing soccer, although he has way more talent than I will ever have. It shows the wonderful character and spirit of the federal parliament that sport in itself has become a platform where friendships are made and time is spent together. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for so many colleagues to get together through the parliamentary organisation and informal sports.

Finally, I thank Senator Arbib for his friendship. I have had a wonderful time seeing your contribution. While I knew your reputation before you came here, I only met you on your first day here, when you gave your first speech, which had such an impact on me. Thank you for your friendship. You will be sorely missed. We all have a duty to honour the legacy you have left with the policy achievements you made as a minister across a range of portfolios. I, for one, undertake to do that.