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Monday, 23 June 2008
Page: 5630

Ms REA (7:06 PM) —I too rise with great pride and pleasure to address theGovernor-General Amendment (Salary and Superannuation) Bill 2008. This bill has come about as a result of the appointment of a new Governor-General who, as we know, will be the first female Governor-General to reside at Yarralumla and is a great Queenslander. For those reasons, I am very proud to stand in this chamber and endorse the appointment of the Hon. Quentin Bryce. Queensland has a very rich and diverse political history. Sometimes the other states like to tar us with a particular stereotype, but Queenslanders contribute a lot to the political life of this country. We produced the first Labor government—an achievement that all of us Queenslanders on this side of the House are very proud of.

Mr Neumann interjecting

Ms REA —I can hear the member for Blair behind me endorsing those comments. We elected to the Queensland parliament the first and only member of the Communist Party to be elected in Australia. We also elected probably one of the most controversial National Party governments in the country. The legacy of that government, in particular under the premiership of the late Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, has been well noted in many historical accounts in terms of the events and decisions that were made by that government.

We are also unique in the sense that we elected the only group of politicians who in fact voted themselves out of a job. Once they were in the majority in the Queensland upper house they in fact voted to dissolve that upper house. The Queensland electorate are always very proud that there were politicians who were prepared to give up their jobs. Of course, both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are Queenslanders. We have topped it all off with the appointment of the first female Governor-General, who is also a Queenslander. This has been a very fitting accomplishment for this last 12 months because all of that was preceded by the appointment of the very first female Premier in Queensland, the Hon. Anna Bligh.

At last we have some recognition—and national recognition—of the breadth and the depth of political talent that has always existed in Queensland. It is a chance for us to showcase on the national stage the talent that we know has always resided in the sunshine state. It was with great pride that I heard of the Prime Minister’s announcement that the Queen had accepted his nomination for Governor-General and appointed Quentin Bryce the next Governor-General of Australia.

Of course, our head of state is a woman. In fact, we have had two female heads of state and they have been two of the longest reigning monarchs in British history. I think it is a testament to women in leadership that those two women have gained the international recognition that they have. With a female head of state it is very fitting that we now have as her representative in Australia a female Governor-General. I know that one day we will have an Australian as our head of state. Indeed, as an avowed republican, I look forward to that day. For now, I think it is incredible and wonderful for all Australian women that the highest position in the country will be held by a woman. It is not just a matter of great symbolism; it is a very real and practical sign that women in Australia can achieve even the highest office in the land.

This evening in this chamber we have heard many speakers talk about Quentin Bryce. There is probably no more appropriate Queensland woman who could attain and hold the position of Governor-General. Quentin’s curriculum vitae and her community involvement are a testament to her lifetime of public service. Having trained as a lawyer and been one of the very first women to be admitted to the Queensland bar, she has used her skills and experience to improve the lives of women and children throughout the whole country. She was the inaugural Director of the Queensland Women’s Information Service, the Queensland Director of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, the federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, the founding chair and CEO of the National Childcare Accreditation Council, Principal and CEO of the Women’s College at the University of Sydney, a member of the Australian delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and a lecturer in law at the University of Queensland and is currently the second woman to serve as Governor of Queensland.

It is an impressive life of service indeed which is equalled by her impressive contribution as a person and her inspiration as a woman, particularly for young women in Queensland. Quentin is synonymous with the campaign for equality for women. Her role in the Women’s Electoral Lobby is a testament to that. Her persistence and dedication to improving the lives of women and children inspired many young women, like me, to seek political office and to try to make a difference. Indeed, many of us are both grateful and indebted to her and the women that she worked with. If it were not for women like Quentin Bryce then women like me would not be sitting here as members of the Australian parliament, and for that we are very grateful.

Of course, no woman or man is an island. Our upbringing and childhood experiences contribute significantly to the adults we all become. It is, therefore, no coincidence that Quentin Bryce is a past student of Moreton Bay girls college. Moreton Bay College is one of the largest girls schools in the electorate of Bonner. Indeed, it has long been recognised as one of the foremost girls schools in Brisbane. I have a personal connection with that school and I am proud to be the federal member who represents it. My husband’s mother was a previous boarder at that school and she too was a woman dedicated to community service and to supporting education for all women.

I myself attended a local Catholic school in the bayside area. In those days, girls studying the sciences, particularly maths and physics, were fairly rare. Let us say we were amongst the minority in the school. Indeed, some of those subjects were not even offered in our school. Moreton Bay College was the girls school just down the road, along Bay Terrace in Wynnum. It also did not offer all the maths and physics subjects that we needed in our senior years, so there was a reciprocal arrangement. I, in fact, studied senior physics at Moreton Bay College. Girls from that college came up to our school to study maths too. So, although I am not an old girl, I do have a close personal connection.

The residents of Bonner can really feel that they are in the thick of things at the moment. The electorate borders the electorates of both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and is home to the school that has produced the first female Governor-General. But, as I have already indicated, this is no accident. I have visited Moreton Bay College several times over the last 12 months and have always been impressed by the calibre of the students and the professionalism of the staff under the very competent stewardship of Principal Jennifer Haynes. The college has a longstanding record of academic, sporting and cultural achievements, but I think what seals this school’s status as a great school and one worthy of respect is its genuine emphasis on community service and compassion for the disadvantaged. Moreton Bay College has a long history of teaching the value of service, encouraging students to think and act in a way that supports the community within which they live and to appreciate diversity. It is a value that stays with many of the past students, including our soon to be Governor-General.

Ms Bryce has in fact put her name to a bursary fund at Moreton Bay College. It is a bursary fund that can be positioned as one of the ways Moreton Bay College models the behaviour that it teaches by working to support the community. It is about providing opportunity to someone who could use it to change their life and about creating something lasting. It is about believing that education is a valuable component in providing life-changing opportunities. It is about the need to contribute to issues that are socially just, understanding that not all families have the capacity to pay the fees charged by Moreton Bay College, and a desire to give back to the community. It is a bursary that I think all of us on both sides of the parliament would be proud to see endorsed at one of our local schools, in particular at one that has the prestige and the status of Moreton Bay College.

Indeed, I was very pleased to attend the launch of the bursary, which was held by Her Excellency the Governor at Government House. I think this is a great testimony to the role that Quentin Bryce has played in her position as Governor of Queensland, where she has seen her role as an opportunity to reach out to all Queenslanders and include them in any way that she can in community and public service. In fact, I think it indicates also her very personal involvement in the bursary. It indicates that she will always continue to support the improvement of the lives of young women across the country, no matter what circumstances they find themselves in, that she will always use her position not just as one of status or personal reward but as one of giving back to the community and encouraging young women to pursue their goals and their dreams. But it also indicates her affection and gratitude for the school that gave her the education which she has used so effectively for the common good.

What is very interesting about this particular bill, given the speeches that have been made on it—and this is a true reflection of the standing that Quentin Bryce holds within the community of Queensland and indeed the community of Australia—is that it has bipartisan support. It demonstrates that her community service has outweighed political partisanship and that both sides of politics respect her as someone who has the dignity, the capacity and the ability to uphold the position of Governor-General and to ensure that the position is used to advance the cause of all Australians.

I think it is also interesting that it has bipartisan support in that even the member for Oxley and I, who have always been avowed republicans, can stand up here to support her appointment to this role. It is respect for the position of Governor-General, but it is in particular respect for the capacity of Quentin Bryce to uphold that position that has commanded such broad based respect and support across the whole community—even among those like me who will one day be very pleased and proud to see an Australian citizen as our head of state. I hope we will see that day in the very near future, but in the meantime I know that Quentin Bryce will do her best to ensure that the position of Governor-General is one that is respected, that she will continue to advocate the cause of socially just issues and that she will continue to advocate for the support of women to seek to achieve whatever their dreams are, including holding the position of the highest office in the land. I would like to conclude by paying my respects to her. She will be a great representative. I wish her, her husband, Michael, and her family all the very best in her new role.