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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 7255


Mr BRIGGS (4:30 PM) —It is difficult to follow on from the member for Casey, but I follow on the topic that he was seeking to pursue. In the adjournment debate this evening, I will use the opportunity to talk about two people from our side of politics who have recently announced they will not be recontesting the next election. The first is the member for Higgins who last week announced to the House, in a very stylish manner, that he would not recontest the next election. This will bring to an end a high-class political career, one in which he has represented the Liberal Party and has made us very proud. He has represented our side of politics and our beliefs in this place for some 20 years. He deservedly should be proud of what he achieved in parliament, and I congratulate him for the way he announced he would not be recontesting.

He was elected into the parliamentary Liberal Party at a time when the parliamentary Liberal Party was in somewhat disarray. He was very quickly promoted through the ranks. He became deputy leader in 1994 to the former member for Mayo. He was instrumental in ensuring a smooth transition to John Howard, who went on to become the second-longest serving Prime Minister. It was the most successful political partnership in Australia’s history; it achieved great things for our country. The member for Higgins has often said, and particularly in the last week, that he came to this place to make Australia a better place. He leaves having achieved that aim, undoubtedly. We should be very proud on this side of the House to have had someone of the quality of the member for Higgins, who has dedicated a large portion of his adult life to our side of politics. It is a great honour to know the member for Higgins and to enjoy the experience that he offers those of us, the younger members on this side of the House, as we seek to emulate some of the feats he achieved as Treasurer of this country.

I do not need to remind the House—maybe I need to remind those on the other side—but when the member for Higgins became Treasurer there was $96 billion of debt, which he paid off. He established the Future Fund, taking pressure off future generations for the first time. He oversaw a period of growth in this country like we have never seen before. He managed the budget in a way that took pressure off ordinary taxpayers. He should be very proud of what he achieved in this place.

The other member who announced his decision not to recontest some time ago is the member for Bradfield. He is a house mate of mine, as is the shadow minister at the table, the member for Paterson, who is one of life’s gentlemen. The member for Paterson also has a very proud record in this place—unlike another member of our household, who we will not talk about. In service to our country, the member for Bradfield had a distinguished career prior to entering parliament. He gave up that career to give service to his country—which is something we often do not pay enough tribute to in this place, certainly on our side of politics.

He was elected in 1996 into government, but his record as education minister and defence minister is something he should be—and is—very proud of. He introduced education reforms into Australia which have not been seen before. He does not get the credit he deserves for what he did for our education system. He introduced reforms such as standardised testing and simple report cards, which this government is now largely running off the back of. He also introduced significant reforms for our higher education sector.  As defence minister, he did a very good job in what has been shown recently to be a very difficult portfolio. Again, he should be very proud. He led our party in a very difficult time following the last election. Of course, it is always difficult to lose the leadership in the circumstances that he did; however, he has handled himself with utmost grace. He should be very proud of his achievements. I use the opportunity this evening to put on the record my appreciation for both the member for Higgins and the member for Bradfield as they move on to the next part of their career.