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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13842


Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (16:42): It has been an extraordinary 12 months. Indeed, this year marks 60 years since the role of Leader of the House was created. The first Leader of the House was Eric Harrison. A lot of things have evolved since then, but one thing has stayed the same. The Leader of the House's job is to be the leader of the party's lieutenant. I take that job seriously in terms of looking after the interests of the government. Also, however, in this parliament, I think the Leader of the House's job has evolved due to the nature of it. I very much try to look after the interests of members across the board and have probably more contact with non-government party members than any previous Leader of the House. I note that the nature of this parliament means that we have a Speaker who is an Independent just like we had in the last hung parliament. From 1941 to 1943, under that great Labor leader John Curtin, the Speaker of the House of Representatives was a member of the United Australia Party. In terms of the position, that is the case.

It has been an extremely successful parliament. In spite of the fact that we started off with 71 votes on each piece of legislation, now 72 votes, we have seen some 254 bills passed by the House of Representatives, including major legislation: the National Broadband Network, all of our budget measures, national health reform, putting a price on carbon and, this week, the mining tax. This is important reform in spite of the fact that it has been opposed by the opposition, whom I have dubbed the 'noalition', which is what they have transformed themselves into. I hope that over Christmas Santa brings the leader of the 'noalition' a policy, but I am reminded of the fact that Santa says, 'Ho, ho, ho,' not, 'No, no, no.' So, when the leader of the 'noalition' talks to Santa and asks for a policy, I hope that does occur.

I thank the Prime Minister for her support of my position as Leader of the House. I thank the Deputy Prime Minister and my friend the Treasurer, Mr Swan. I find it always pays to be nice to the Treasurer, and on that basis I also thank the Minister for Finance and Deregulation just because I can! It is always good to have the Treasurer and the finance minister as friends, and I certainly do that. To my deputy, Mr Smith: it is always nice to have a deputy leader who has assets, and the Minister for Defence is always good to have as Deputy Leader of the House.

To other ministers, including those who represent me at estimates, and to my friend the Chief Government Whip: we have been in this place through the long years in opposition. It is terrific to work so closely with you as the Chief Government Whip. To the crossbenchers, with whom we have meetings at least weekly and often many more times than that: thank you for your honesty, your integrity and your goodwill. It is important in terms of the functioning of this parliament that people mean what they say and do what they say they will do, and in each of the crossbenchers I have found that that is the case.

Henry Thomson and the team in the PLO do a fantastic job in making this parliament work, as do the people in the Chamber Research Office and Parliamentary Library. To the Clerk of the House of Representatives, Bernard Wright; to David Elder and their team; to all of the House of Representatives staff, including Lupco: thank you for the work that you do. And thank you to the Table Office, the Serjeant-at-Arms, catering, housekeeping, HRG, IT support, security, attendants, staff at Aussie's, Comcar drivers and other DPS staff. I spend probably more time with the Manager of Opposition Business than either of us would like to occur, but the fact is that the Manager of Opposition Business is someone I have a good relationship with. We should not make that very public, because it would undermine both of our careers! But we do have a good working relationship that helps the parliament to function.

To the secretary of my department, Mr Mrdak; to all the staff of my department; to the Chief of Staff, Michael Choueifate; my personal assistant, Karen Bissaker; my electorate office manager, Chris Cruden, and all my other staff; to the volunteers who go out there and help in the proud name of Labor to keep me as the federal member for Grayndler: thank you. To my family, who give up a lot of time and commitment: thank you for your support.

Finally, as the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport I encourage everyone to drive safely on the roads over the holidays. It is a sad case that every year around Christmastime there are tragedies on our roads. We need to make sure that we get that drive-safe message out there in the community. It is something I encourage all members of the House of Representatives to do in terms of the messages to their electorate. For too many families in this country Christmas is a time of sadness as they reflect on past Christmases when they lost loved ones. Let us make sure that we minimise the road toll this Christmas. I wish everyone a very merry Christmas.