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Monday, 23 June 2008
Page: 5647

Mr SLIPPER (8:17 PM) —I had endeavoured to get on the speakers list, but I was advised that it was being confined to a small number of members. But, when the honourable member for Shortland saw fit to jump up without being on the speakers list, I thought that the same rules ought to apply to the opposition. I will be quite brief because I realise my friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister has to sum up the bill and we have to move to private members’ business at 8.30 pm.

I want to use my contribution to the Governor-General Amendment (Salary and Superannuation) Bill 2008 as a chance to place on record my great admiration for our retiring Governor-General, Major General Jeffery, and also for the role played by Mrs Marlena Jeffery, the wife of the Governor-General. They have done an absolutely outstanding job and I would like to wish them well in retirement.

I would also like to congratulate Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce on her appointment as Governor-General of Australia. I must say that I think it is appropriate that the Governor-General’s salary is not increased during the term of the Governor-General and, thus, this bill is most timely, essential and appropriate.

I think, however, the fact that so many people have praised Ms Bryce as being someone who has been chosen because she will be the first woman to be Governor-General is probably not giving Ms Bryce the credit that she deserves. She is a person who is eminently qualified to be Governor-General—not because she is a woman but because she is a qualified person to be Governor-General. She is not the token woman; she has not been chosen because she is a woman; she has been chosen because she is a competent person whose gender happens to be female. I have observed Her Excellency’s role as Governor of Queensland. She has performed in an outstanding manner. In her capacity, she has gone the length and breadth of Queensland—including, I suspect, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, to your own electorate of Maranoa. She is widely and well respected by everyone.

I would, however, at this stage also like to mention that I believe that there is a defect in our Australian honours system in that we are not currently able to appropriately recognise the holders of vice-regal office. I think it is ridiculous that a person who is Governor of Queensland and about to be sworn in as Governor-General of Australia is known as simply Ms Bryce AC. I understand, of course, that the government has an objection to the former honours system, but under the Order of Australia we did have the position of Knight or Dame of the Order of Australia as part of our uniquely Australian honours system. Those awards were able to be made to a very small number of people who were eminently deserving of that level of recognition.

I consider that it would be appropriate for the governors of the several states and also for the Governor-General of Australia to be properly recognised within our Australian honours system as holders of very high office. It would set the person in the federal sphere, the head of state of Australia, apart. It would mean we would be able to adequately respect that person’s position. For the holder of that office to be Mr, Mrs or Ms like the rest of us I think is sadly to demean the very high office to which those people have been appointed.

Having said that, I would like to wish Major General Jeffery and Mrs Jeffery every happiness and success in their retirement. I would like to wish Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC and her husband, Mr Michael Bryce, every success in the new appointment. There is no doubt, in my view, that Quentin Bryce will be as effective a Governor-General as she has been the Governor of Queensland.