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Wednesday, 19 September 2007
Page: 20

Mr JULL (10:31 AM) —I would like to declare that this is my final speech—although I may have to make a speech in tabling a report tomorrow. This is also the 371st speech I have made since 1981. If you go back to the beginning of my career in 1975, I suppose you could add 100 on to that—so we are probably getting very close to the 500th speech I have made in my 30 years in this place. I was not going to make a final speech. I thought it might be more appropriate just to ride off into the sunset and let others judge my career and what I may or may not have achieved. But I have been convinced that I should speak today, and I looked at maybe getting a text on which to base my speech. I thought an appropriate one was the 129th psalm, which opens with: ‘Many a time have they fought against me. Yea, many a time have they fought against me from my youth up, but they have not prevailed against me.’ I think that is a fairly appropriate opening for this final speech, because the thing that I appreciate more than anything is that I am leaving this place in my own time—they did not get me.

It has been a wonderful career, and I hope that I will be recognised over the years as making some contributions. From my own point of view, I think the highlight of it has been my association with the electorate. I have been very fortunate to represent a huge part of southern Queensland. When I first stood in 1974, my electorate ran from the north of Moreton Island to Springwood and west to Sunnybank, an area of something like 642 square miles with a population of 125,000 voters. It was also one of the fastest-growing areas of Australia and included not only the Wynnum Manly district and great areas of metropolitan Brisbane but also the Redland shire—which at that stage had a population of about 25,000 people and now enjoys a population of about 180,000 people—and parts of Logan City, which then, I think, had about 30,000 people and now has a population of more than 200,000 people. Over the years, by means of various distributions, that electorate has gone further south, to the point where I now represent the northern end of the Gold Coast, which in itself is still the second fastest-growing area of Australia, with growth rates of 14 per cent.

In that respect, my job in this place was to be an advocate for those very fast developing areas and to become involved in areas like local government, particularly in education, to make sure that the infrastructure and the facilities were available to the people who were flooding in to the south-east corner of Queensland. As somebody said at a farewell function recently, one of my epitaphs will be the number of plates on school buildings which I opened. That is probably true. One of the most satisfying things has been my involvement in local schools to see that the best possible infrastructure and the best possible education could be achieved. I think of some of the great schools that I have represented—for example, the new Moreton Bay College and John Paul College, which are two of the finest private schools in Queensland. I think of my association with MacGregor high school, which produced the honourable member for Moreton, and, in more recent times, Springwood High School. These are great institutions. It gives you a great deal of confidence when you visit them to see what they have done.

There has been tremendous Commonwealth investment in my electorate in areas such as roads—and the demand for that infrastructure is going to be more and more as the years go on and the population continues to increase. It really has been a challenge to work out what the attitude should be in our approach to local government. There have been moves and suggestions that local government should become part of the Constitution. I do not know whether or not that would work, but there has to be a much greater relationship between this place, the government of the Commonwealth, and local government. It is a plain fact of life that, with the inefficiencies of the system we have at the moment where the state governments are involved, it does not always work and is not necessarily to the betterment of  the people in those areas.

I was originally a radio journalist. I was thrown into the coverage of the Queensland state parliament at the ripe old age of 19. It was that period in the early sixties when radio had decided that they were really being threatened by television and they were going to take them on. Macquarie Broadcasting Services set up about 57 stations. They all had news representatives and there were key stations in every state. And, frankly, they took on the ABC. I am not quite sure whether or not the writing or the accuracy were always quite as good but, in terms of the speed in delivering the news, we used to beat the ABC hands down. The news editor walked in to the station one day and said, ‘We need a state parliamentary roundsman.’ Obviously no-one put their hand up, so he looked at me—a cadet at 19 years of age—and said, ‘You’re it.’ For a number of years I had the experience of covering the state parliament and the state government of the day under Premier GFR Nicklin. I guess that is what really opened my eyes to politics and what it was all about. I made a decision then that one day I would enter parliament, because you had to be on the inside to change things. I then went to television but still had that association with state coverage.

Government members interjecting—

Mr JULL —The days of being a teenage idol! I thought I had my life all worked out, and I thought my mid-40s would probably be a good time to go into television. Then we had the advent of the Whitlam government and I was a bit upset about some of the things that were happening. I joined the Liberal Party and somehow found myself as a candidate in 1974. And that was the end of it, because I had the bug, I had the calling, and I came to this place in 1975.

A media background is one of the best bits of training you could possibly have for this place. I always acknowledge what I learned at that time and the things that I could apply to my work in here, in areas such as committees. Journalists should have inquiring minds and a process of getting information out. I am not sure of the attitude to some of the committee work that I have done, but I hope that that process has been in there to a great extent, because it was good training.

I have probably made only one really major mistake in my committee work over the years, when I was on the committee that examined broadcasting procedure. We went through the process in the early 1980s, when we knew we were coming to this House, as to whether or not the proceedings of this House should be telecast. We saw tapes from around the world. The Canadian parliament had seen a vast improvement in the behaviour of its members since it started telecasting. We saw tapes from the United States and that seemed to work very well. Britain had just started, I think, and that was a little bit of a mess. The decision was made, unanimously, I think, to proceed with the telecasting of parliament. When I say it was a mistake, I think people should have access to everything that happens in this place, but the reality is that the quality of the coverage and the journalism that come out of this place have suffered severely. There are two inputs into the coverage of this place, apart from the handout press releases—and you do get lazy journalists who will just run a release as it is written. There is the side door in the morning, where everybody gets bailed up and that gives them their news until midday; then you have question time and then you never see another journalist in the gallery again. That is, I think, one of the great pities of it. Some of the great debates and some of the great discussions that happen in this place do not receive the coverage these days that they probably deserve. And AAP sit up there, as they have for years and years, and faithfully report every word.

I do think it is a pity that we do not have some of the great reporting that we had 30 years ago when I first came into this place. I am not sure what you do about it, because the whole nature of the coverage of political events in Australia is changing so fast. You wonder just how many people under 30 bother about reading newspapers these days. A lot of them do not even get their news from television sources. Whereas if you go back 20 years about 92 per cent of the population got their primary news coverage from the six o’clock news and they did read newspapers. That is gone, and I think that is one of the tragedies of this place.

There are a couple of other things that we have seen over the years. I know I have mentioned this publicly before: I loved the old house. It had the most magnificent debating chamber, and our lives in some respects were better in the old house. While we did not have space to move and we seemed to be thrown in on top of each other, there was much more interaction between the members. If I can be critical at this late stage, could I say that the design mistake in this place was putting in a separate ministerial wing. If you want to go and see a minister you have got to pack a cut lunch and a thermos of Milo, and probably make an appointment to go around there to see them. Whereas in the old house there was likely to be a ministerial office next door to your office. If you could not get to see the minister in those days, you would probably run into him in the gents toilets anyway, and you could bail him up on great issues of the day. I also think that the camaraderie that existed between both sides of the House, because we were mixed up and so close, was much closer in those days.

As I look back over the years, I note some of my good mates in this place came from both sides of the House—and they still do. Some very close friendships developed in that old house because we were thrust in together. But I would never knock the facilities in this place. The equipment that we have to work with now is absolutely marvellous and we should make the most of that, but it is a different parliament from the one that was there before. One of the great privileges of serving in this place is the fact that we have access to what must be one of the best parliamentary libraries in the world. I pay great tribute to the people who provide that service for us. They certainly do a magnificent job and have helped me so much over the years.

It is a funny place. My mind goes back to matters of great moment and great tensions in this House. I mentioned in my comments on the passing of Sir Jim Killen that the first speech I heard in this place was on Tuesday, 17 February 1976, just after the dismissal of the Whitlam government. Then opposition leader Gough Whitlam got up and gave an amazing speech and, about halfway through, Prime Minister Fraser beckoned to Jim Killen to come over. It was obvious that while Mr Fraser was listed as being the next speaker, he would ask Killen to do that speech. Without a note, Killen got up and did a devastating rebuttal of the arguments of Mr Whitlam. At the end of that time, Mr Whitlam walked out one side door with smoke coming out his ears; Killen walked out the other side with smoke coming out his ears. Legend has it that Mr Killen went around to the bar, ordered a bottle of champagne, got two glasses, scribbled a note and asked the attendant to take it around to Gough’s office—‘Gough, can we still be mates?’—and they sat there and had a very pleasant evening together.

There were great dramas like that. Things that people probably do not realise we have to wrestle with are some of the great moral issues. It is not easy to deal with things like abortion and everybody takes full responsibility for themselves on those issues. One of the most difficult issues that I ever had to face was the first Iraq war during the period of the Hawke government. It was the first time that I had to make a decision agreeing to commit Australians to war. While from memory I think it was a unanimous vote, it was not easy and one got that sense of responsibility.

I have been privileged to serve on the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade for more than 20 years. I never cease to be amazed at the quality of the work that is done by the Australian defence forces. With a number of other members in this place, I have seen them operate in places like Bougainville, which had a civil war for 10 years. Something like 16,000 people were massacred in that civil war. We went up there as a peacekeeping operation. Our young men and women were there without an armament—they were unarmed. I remember the members of the committee speaking at the end of the tour. We spoke to the women, who really ran the place, and they commented to us that they were very appreciative of all that Australia had done. They were very appreciative because we had included women within our forces and they found it much easier to speak and negotiate with women. We spoke to the men and they were also very appreciative, and one reason they were appreciative was that we had been there and had not raped their women. The work that was done was quite tremendous. The other place we visited was East Timor. A joint foreign affairs and defence delegation went there in the December after the problems and after we had settled them down. We saw the respect the people held for the Australian troops and heard the thanks from the locals for settling a dreadful situation. It was similar in the Solomon Islands.

One of the great privileges I had was four or five years ago when members of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade flew to Kuwait. My good mate Steve Gibbons, the member for Bendigo, was with us. We were on HMAS Melbourne watching them patrol the Gulf. We flew up to Kyrgyzstan and saw the refuelling work that was being done by the RAAF and we heard from the French and others that they really preferred to be refuelled by the RAAF, rather than by some of the others, because our people were so professional. We then went to Bagram Air Base—what a godforsaken place it was. It was 46 degrees and blowing a gale. It was as hot as Hades and there was dust everywhere. The place was surrounded by landmines and there in the middle of it were the Australian troops—the SAS. I am not sure if I am supposed to speak about this, but those fellows had earned themselves a most tremendous reputation. They were wonderful folk. They very proudly took us around to their accommodation, which was in an old hangar. The beds were all lined up—I do not know how many there were—and in the middle of them was a bed with a clothes line above it. Hanging from the clothes line was a black bra and black G-string. I thought that sense of humour could only happen with the Australians. It was one of the things that will always stick in my mind: here in the middle of this godforsaken place was this washing hanging on the line. But it says a lot, and the contribution of our troops has been fantastic.

When Clyde Cameron retired from this House, Mr Speaker Snedden granted him unlimited time. He spoke for about 48 minutes in one of the best speeches I have ever heard. I am not going to ask for an extension. I just say in conclusion that the time I have spent working on committees here has been most satisfying. I have had a marvellous career. I am going to miss the place. There are aspects of the work that I am not going to miss, but some aspects of the work here are going to be hard to replace with other things. I thank everyone for the support that they have given me. I also commend the Clerk and thank him and his team for the support they have given us over the years. I congratulate them for the work they do in developing other parliaments. That is terribly important. You can see what is happening around the Pacific. It is marvellous work that they are doing. There are too many people to thank—the car drivers and the caterers. We are looked after so well in this place and it has been a great privilege for me to be able to serve in this parliament for more than 30 years.

Honourable members—Hear, hear!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. DJC Kerr)—I thank the House for its acclamation for the member for Fadden. I note the Speaker took the chair for the member’s last speech. I am certain it is the view of all members that the honourable member deserves a very long and healthy retirement, and we wish him well.