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Monday, 23 June 2008
Page: 5627

Mr JOHNSON (6:45 PM) —I echo the sentiments of the previous speaker, the member for Oxley, my fellow member from the great state of Queensland—in fact, his electorate adjoins mine. I am pleased to speak on the Governor-General Amendment (Salary and Superannuation) Bill 2008 because I know that the people of Ryan would be very interested in my thoughts and also in a profile of our Governor-General designate. I think it is fair to say that Quentin Bryce is going to be an outstanding Governor-General when she takes up that office.

I will elaborate on that in a few moments, but on this day, with your indulgence, Madam Deputy Speaker Bird, given that this bill has at its heart a lady, I would like to take the opportunity to very briefly put on the record in the parliament of Australia my deepest condolences to the McGrath family. Of course, we heard in the news today and last night that Jane McGrath passed away. She was a cancer campaigner and the wife of the great Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath. She was only 42. It has all been said in the media and in this place, but I would like to add my words on behalf of the people of Ryan, whom I represent here in the national parliament. She was clearly a lady of extraordinary courage, rare grace and, perhaps in particular, a selfless quality that few others could match. She was struck down by a terrible disease but decided that she would not let that disease overwhelm her life completely and that she would fight as much as she could to survive the cancer that eventually took her life at the age of 42. I extend my sympathies to her family and friends.

In the scheme of things this bill is a technical bill. It amends the salary of our next Governor-General from $365,000 to $394,000. Section 3 of the Constitution provides that the salary of the Governor-General shall not be altered during their continuance in office. Therefore increases are usually accommodated before their appointment. At the outset, that certainly seems like a lot of money—indeed, it is a lot of money—but in the context of the high office that the Governor-General occupies, and the work and esteem of that office and of the individual who holds that office, I believe that it is entirely appropriate. I certainly support that significant amount of money as a salary of the Governor-General designate, Quentin Bryce.

I have a particular interest in speaking on this bill because I want to talk about themes related to women. I know that all the women in my electorate would want me to talk about issues like domestic violence, crimes against women and their place in society.

But, before I do that, I would like to mention that Quentin and Michael Bryce previously lived in the Ryan electorate, in St Lucia—in Hawken Drive, which is very much the heart and soul of that suburb. Quentin Bryce was born in Longreach, one of four daughters, and grew up in a town in south-western Queensland. She studied at Moreton Bay College, Wynnum, Brisbane and later at the great University of Queensland, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1962 and a Bachelor of Laws in 1965. The University of Queensland is also located in the Ryan electorate. As the representative of that electorate in the parliament and as someone who also did arts and law at the University of Queensland, I have great pride in representing that university here. I am sure that all those who know of Ms Bryce’s academic accomplishments would be pleased that she will now be appointed to the high office of Governor-General.

I understand that in 1965 she was the first woman to be admitted to the Queensland bar. As someone who is also at the Queensland bar, I am particularly pleased to be able to put that on the record for the people of Ryan. I know there are many lawyers who live in the western suburbs of Brisbane, and they would be very well pleased that someone who was at the bar in Queensland will now hold this high office. From 1968 to 1983 she taught in the faculty of law at the University of Queensland, the first woman to do so. In 1984 she became the first director of the Queensland Women’s Information Service under the umbrella of the Office of the Status of Women. In 1987 she became Queensland director of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Over a four-year period, 1989 to 1993, Quentin Bryce served as the federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner and was later the founding chair and CEO of the National Childcare Accreditation Council. From 1997 to 2003, Bryce was Principal and Chief Executive Officer of Women’s College, University of Sydney, New South Wales. The college and university is where my sister studied and recently graduated with a degree in medicine. My sister Catherine Johnson has a small link to the Governor-General designate in the sense that she was a member of the same college where Quentin Bryce was CEO—Women’s College at the University of Sydney.

I am pleased the Prime Minister has appointed Quentin Bryce to be the 25th Governor-General and our first female Governor-General. In achieving high office, she will leave the position of Governor of Queensland where those who have come across her in her work would have been deeply impressed and taken pride in the way she conducted herself—with great dignity, grace, elegance and eloquence. Irrespective of one’s politics, whether one supports a republic or a constitutional monarchy, those who saw Quentin Bryce in her role as Governor of Queensland would have been mightily impressed.

Recently, I had the pleasure of being at the big Salvation Army fundraising breakfast in Brisbane and Quentin Bryce was guest of honour and guest speaker. Again, she demonstrated her charm, her elegance and indeed her compassion. The connection she made with such a large gathering as was present at the Queensland Convention Centre demonstrated her compassion and her great feelings for those disadvantaged in our community who really need the help of governments across the land. She also connected with those who might be in a position to be philanthropic and generous in supporting the people who really need the help of all of us.

I would like to touch on some Australian women who clearly are role models for young women in our country and, indeed, examples which bring pride to the rest of the country. For instance, Professor Fiona Wood is Western Australia’s only female plastic surgeon. She is a mother of six. She was head of Royal Perth Hospital’s Burns Unit and a director of the Western Australian Burns Service. She is a co-founder of Clinical Cell Culture, recognised in medical circles internationally for its remarkable research and breakthroughs in the treatment of bones. Dr Wood would also have been known by many for her skill and work in paediatrics and child health at the University of Western Australia and as a director of the McComb Research Foundation. Ordinary Australians would know that she was an Australian of the Year and again, like the Governor-General designate, conducted her duties in that role with great aplomb.

Marie Bashir is the current Governor of New South Wales and Chancellor of the University of Sydney. She set a historical benchmark upon her appointment as first female Governor of New South Wales. Susan Kiefel and Susan Crennan are justices of the High Court of Australia. Both were appointed by the previous Howard government. Mary Gaudron was the first female justice of the High Court, appointed by the previous Labor government. These women are examples to young professional women in the law and at university that, with application and dedication, young women in this country can reach high office and be appointed to significant positions by the government of the day because their integrity, dedication and diligence warrant such appointments.

The 2007 Young Australian of the Year, Tania Major, is the youngest person elected to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. She is a key Australian for discussing and highlighting Indigenous issues for young women, particularly domestic violence. It is incumbent upon all of us to highlight the good work of young Australians whether they are like Tania Major, an Indigenous young Australian, or other Australians who try to do their bit to redress any forms of violence in our community, especially violence against Indigenous women throughout Australia. The 2006 Young Australian of the Year, Tricia Broadbridge, established the Reach Foundation designed to build young people’s esteem. Quentin Bryce will interact with these young Australians. She will have opportunities to engage in discussions in all parts of our country. It is a great thing and says so much about our country that a head of state is able to mix with Australians far and wide across the country, in all stations of life and from all backgrounds.

In our place in the national parliament, in the context of this bill and in honouring the first female Governor-General designate, I would also like to mention some women who have been elected to this place. Enid Lyons was elected to the House of Representatives on 21 August 1943 and on the same day Senator Dorothy Tangney was the first woman elected to the Australian Senate. The first female member of the ministry, Enid Lyons, Vice-President of the Executive Council, was appointed on 19 December. The first woman with a portfolio was Senator Annabelle Rankin, who was Minister for Housing in the Holt government from 26 January 1966 to 22 March 1971. The first female member of cabinet was Senator Margaret Guilfoyle, Minister for Social Security in the Fraser government.

At this time, we are bidding farewell to Senator Natasha Stott Despoja who, when she came to this place, was the youngest woman elected to the parliament. She has certainly captured the interest of young Australian women around the country, and I know she tried to encourage them to get involved in politics and in the political party of their choice. She bids farewell to the Senate after, I think, 13 years. I have had the opportunity of working with her on a couple of occasions. I had the benefit of her experience when we both went to Cambodia to be observers of a general election there several years ago. I appreciate her goodwill and her dedication to trying to make things better in this country as she sees fit according to her philosophical compass.

I also want to acknowledge the current Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, the current Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Julie Bishop, and the former Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the last parliament, Jenny Macklin. Irrespective of one’s politics, one can really only admire all of the women in this country—from Enid Lyons to Julia Gillard—who have decided that they would like to be in the front row of political life in Australia.

Ms Plibersek —What about the Deputy Speaker?

Mr JOHNSON —Indeed, I acknowledge Deputy Speaker Bird. At some point, we need to have our first female Speaker of the House of Representatives. I am not sure when that will happen; I am not sure if there are any volunteers at the moment. For my part, as some of you would know, I certainly advocate reform of the position of Speaker—but that is a speech for another time. To all those women in the current Labor government and in previous governments who have attained ministries and cabinet positions, I say in a bipartisan spirit that that is very commendable. I hope they use those positions not only to carry out their work but also to go a little further and talk to young women across the country about opportunities for women in parliament. Whatever one might think about politicians, I like to think that all of us come here with great determination to make a difference to our country—as Quentin Bryce, our next Governor-General, will do when she takes up her position at Yarralumla.

In closing, I would like to encourage all the men out there to appreciate women. I am a husband, a son and a brother to women. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have sisters, wonderful mothers and wonderful female partners or wives should treasure them. I do not have a daughter; I have a son who turned two yesterday. Those of us here who are parents know what a wonderful thing it is to have children. At the end of the day, they are our ultimate pride and joy—for all our high ambition in this place. I am very close to my mother, I am in a loving relationship with my wife and I am fortunate to have a sister—who I think voted for me at the last election but I do not know as it was a secret ballot! I want to pay tribute to the women in my electorate and to all women across Australia who are raising families and who are involved in their school communities—the sorts of women Quentin Bryce will be talking to. I am sure that she will have a particular interest in making the acquaintance of and getting the opportunity to talk to women in communities right across this great country. In that context, I want to pay tribute to the great women of this country.

Government members interjecting—

Mr JOHNSON —I hear a supporting comment from the two Queensland members sitting opposite. I am sure they will endorse my remarks that this is a bill which both sides of the parliament support. We want to encourage greater respect amongst men for women in this country. I am sure that, without exception, all of us in this place condemn absolutely any form of violence by men against women—whether it be verbal, psychological or physical. Of course, the reverse also applies—perhaps not so much with physical violence but with verbal and psychological violence.

On behalf of the people of Ryan, I am pleased to extend very warm congratulations to Quentin Bryce on her appointment by the Prime Minister to be our next Governor-General. We in the Ryan electorate, in the western suburbs of Brisbane, very much look forward to meeting her. I am sure that she has a fondness for Queensland and that she will return to Brisbane. She is certainly welcome to come and meet the wonderful people of the Ryan electorate, whom I have the great honour of representing in the national parliament for a third term. (Time expired)