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Monday, 23 June 2008
Page: 5617

Mr TREVOR (6:02 PM) —I congratulate the member for Dickson, Peter Dutton, for his contribution to this debate. Since my arrival in this House I have watched the member for Dickson and he is indeed an eloquent speaker. I rise to support the Governor-General Amendment (Salary and Superannuation) Bill 2008. The background to the bill is that section 3 of the Constitution precludes any change to the salary of a Governor-General during the term of office. Whenever a Governor-General is to be appointed, changes to the salary of the office must be made by way of amendment to the Governor-General Act 1974 prior to the appointment. The bill in question amends section 3 of that act to set a salary of $394,000 per annum. The bill also amends sections 2A and 4 of the act to remove references to the superannuation surcharge, which was discontinued in 2005. While the bill amends the act to remove the superannuation surcharge for future governors-general it does not affect the continued application of the surcharge to those former governors-general to whom the surcharge applies.

According to the Queensland Government House website, the soon to be appointed Governor-General, Her Excellency Quentin Bryce—a Queenslander like me—has enjoyed a rich and dynamic career as a talented lawyer, academic and senior public officer and is a prolific and dedicated contributor to a range of community organisations. She has made choices throughout her professional and community life that reflect her strong sense of responsibility to the community, a commitment to advancing human rights and equality, the rights of women and children and the welfare of the family, and her willingness to share her skills and experiences to improve the lives of many. As a mother and grandmother, these things rest close and dear to her heart.

Her Excellency’s achievements and participation in professional and community service are immense and outstanding and have been recognised in her appointment as a Companion of the Order of Australia. Her former roles are many and include: inaugural director of the Queensland Women’s Information Service and the Office of the Status of Women; Queensland director of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission; federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner; founding chair and chief executive of the National Childcare Accreditation Council; principal and chief executive officer of the Women’s College, University of Sydney; member of the Australian delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Commission; and lecturer in law, University of Queensland. In her role as Governor of Queensland, Her Excellency takes great pleasure in the honour of passing on to Queenslanders the benefits of her many years of wisdom and passion.

There are many, many reasons to celebrate the appointment of Her Excellency Quentin Bryce as the next Governor-General. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was reported as saying on the ABC that his fellow Queenslander will be a Governor-General for all Australians. He was also reported as saying:

It’s obvious that we needed to have a governor-general for Australia who captures the spirit of modern Australia.

He went on to say:

And the spirit of modern Australia is many things: giving proper voice to people from the bush and the regions; giving proper voice to the rights of women; giving proper voice to the proper place of women in modern Australia; and proper place to someone committed to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians.

These are all considerations in shaping my recommendation to her majesty the Queen.

As the member for Flynn, I was thrilled at Her Excellency’s appointment. But the appointment also thrilled some of the country’s most influential women. Apparently, Liberal Senator Helen Coonan was a member of the Women’s Electoral Lobby with Her Excellency back when they were among the nation’s few women lawyers. She is reported as saying to the ABC:

The country is ready for women to step up to the plate in these positions. And perhaps it’s the people doing the appointing that have not kept up with public sentiment. I think people would be very well pleased with the fact that there is such an accomplished woman who is available to take on the job of governor-general.

The Chairman of the Women’s Electoral Lobby, Eva Cox, agreed and is reported as saying that there is no question the appointment is based on merit, not gender. She is reported as saying:

The fact that she is actually comes from Queensland, she comes obviously from a rural background, she’s had parcel of kids, she’s been a lawyer, she’s been an academic, she’s worked in so many different situations that this one should be a bit of a doddle for her, but I think she might be one of the best governor-generals we’ve had.

Of course, the historic appointment left the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, herself a woman and a great Premier, with the task of finding a successor to the popular Ms Bryce. Premier Anna Bligh, according to all reports, is still celebrating. She is reported as saying:

It really does say ... something important about how far this country has come. For Queensland to deliver Australia’s first woman governor-general is a great moment for us but I think it’s important for the whole country.

I said before that as the member for the new seat of Flynn I was thrilled and overjoyed at Her Excellency’s appointment. There is another great reason why I was thrilled. The new electorate of Flynn covers some 314,000 square kilometres and within its boundaries is a little town called Ilfracombe, full of great country people. This town lies between Longreach to the west and Barcaldine to the east. Longreach is full of wonderful people too, as is Barcaldine, birthplace of that great Australian political party the Australian Labor Party, which governs for all Australians. Ilfracombe once boasted that it was part of the largest sheep station in the world. Now it has another claim to fame: Her Excellency lived and grew up in this tiny little bush town of Ilfracombe, in the electorate of Flynn, and she is reported as saying:

I grew up in little bush town in Queensland of 200 people and what this day says to Australian women and to Australian girls is that you can do anything, you can be anything, and it makes my heart sing to see women in so many diverse roles across ... Australia.

What a great ambassador for Australia and for Australian women. And the people of Flynn are proud to call her one of their own.

Her Excellency, Ms Bryce, will be sworn in on 5 September 2008. As I said before, section 3 of the Constitution precludes any change to the salary of a Governor-General during the term of office. Whenever a Governor-General is to be appointed, changes to the salary of the office must be made by way of an amendment to section three of the Governor-General Act 1974. It is important to bear in mind that the salary proposed in the bill is very much consistent with the convention applying since as early as 1974 under which the salary of the Governor-General has been set with regard to the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. In setting an appropriate salary, regard was also given to the pension received. This is in line with the precedent established by Sir William Deane in 1995, who asked that his salary as Governor-General be set to take into account the non-contributory pension he received under the Judges Pension Act 1968 after retiring from the High Court of Australia.

Major General Jeffery, the current Governor-General of Australia, in 2003 took the gracious decision to donate his military pension to charity during his term of office as Governor-General. I congratulate His Excellency for a job well done as a magnificent ambassador for Australia. As a person who is a substantial contributor to charity, I thank him for taking the decision to donate his military pension to charity during his term of office as Governor-General. I also thank him for the compassion and understanding he showed to flood affected victims in the seat of Flynn, namely in Emerald, earlier this year. Emerald is a town of great people and I am proud that my government announced millions of dollars in the budget for flood relief for flood affected victims in Emerald. I had the opportunity to accompany the Governor-General during his duties and tour of Emerald, and I was very proud to be associated with a man of much compassion and understanding of the people who were so badly affected by that flood. As I have said before, he has been a great ambassador for Australia, and I wish him well in his retirement and in his future endeavours.

In relation to the future Governor-General of Australia, may I say by way of commentary that I have been able to download her biography from the Queensland parliament and report to this parliament that the next Governor-General of Australia, Quentin Bryce, was educated at Moreton Bay College, Brisbane, and later at the University of Queensland, where she graduated with the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws. In 1965 she was one of the first Queensland women to be admitted to the Queensland Bar. From 1968 to 1983 Ms Bryce taught in the Faculty of Law at the University of Queensland.

In 1984 Quentin Bryce was appointed inaugural Director of the Queensland Women’s Information Service, Office of the Status of Women, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. In 1987 she became Queensland Director of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. From 1988 to 1993 Ms Bryce served as federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner and in the period 1993 to 1996 she was founding chair and chief executive officer of the National Childcare Accreditation Council. From 1997 to her appointment as Governor of Queensland in 2003, Quentin Bryce was principal and chief executive officer of the Women’s College within the University of Sydney, New South Wales. In recognition of her service to the community, particularly women and children, Ms Bryce was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1988 and elevated to the Companion of the Order of Australia in 2003. She was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws by Macquarie University, New South Wales, in 1998 and an honorary Doctorate of Letters by Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, in 2002.

Quentin Bryce and her husband, Michael, were married in 1964. Ms Bryce’s interests include the visual arts, literature, opera, and women’s history. I wholeheartedly and unequivocally commend this bill to the House and I congratulate Her Excellency on her impending appointment.