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Thursday, 26 November 2009
Page: 13034

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (12:59 PM) —As we approach the Christmas season, we should rejoice in the fact that Australia is one of the world’s most open and free societies. We are a true democracy that reflects freedom—freedom of speech and expression, freedom of political association and freedom of worship as well as freedom from want and freedom from fear. Our citizens are free to choose where they live within our shores and are free to travel throughout the world. Like other open liberal democracies of the world, our society and lifestyle are a beacon of hope to all those who are oppressed or persecuted.

This parliament is at the epicentre of our democracy. It is the battleground of ideas, not of weapons. While we have disagreements on policy, both sides of the House are fundamentally committed to making a difference for the betterment of the lives and communities of all in Australia and in other places around the world. The coalition members believe that the ideas and policies they bring to this place not only are good ideas and good policies but are right and just for Australia. The government members believe that their ideas and policies are right and just, and we can agree to disagree. But we must respect each other’s views. We must not seek to prevent each side from arguing passionately for their ideas and their policies. We should not personally denigrate, ridicule or vilify those whose views differ from our own. This is part of the strength of our great parliament, the strength of our system of representative parliamentary government. The diversity of views, the passion with which ideas are debated must be done with civility and respect, with good humour and with humility.

I had my ideas of robust parliamentary debate rather expanded after a recent visit to our friends in South Korea. I was discussing our democratic traditions, and one of the members of the South Korean National Assembly told me that, as many of the male members of parliament have a background in martial arts through their mandatory national service, when things get a little heated in the assembly they resort to rather robust tactics to make their point, including taking the Speaker hostage by surrounding the Speaker’s chair and then neatly landing a few tae kwon do kicks on the backs of their opponents. In fact, I was sent a YouTube link to their latest fracas last July. I must admit that I was in awe of the female members of the national assembly who joined in the fray. I suggest that the YouTube link is worth looking at. Although, Mr Speaker, I am not suggesting any change to the standing orders in this place, when the Leader of the House asked the Manager of Opposition Business to step outside recently the image was almost too good to resist.

Our democratic process is a source of strength and stability. We respect election outcomes however painful. Australians do not seek to overthrow their governments but reserve their passion for the ballot box where they are free to vote as they please. Sadly, this is not the case internationally where we still see political differences settled by violence and by the intervention of military forces. While I would not be so presumptuous as to assume that our system of government is so perfect or so ideal that it should be adopted by every other government around the world, I do believe that most people have the same aspirations for freedom and for choice. People the world over aspire to personal freedom and to go about their lives free from the threat of violence. They want a peaceful environment in which to raise their families and to build a more prosperous life.

During the past year we have seen the struggle continue between the extremists, who seek to impose their vision and control on others, and those who are defending freedom. At this point I pay tribute to Australia’s armed forces who are serving or who have served particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Special Air Service is in my electorate and this year I was privileged to visit the troops who are serving in Afghanistan to demonstrate our support for their work overseas. The world was uplifted at the start of this year by the election of President Obama, who spoke of his aspirations for ridding the world of nuclear weapons and for promoting greater peace and cooperation. While some nations have continued their pursuit of nuclear weapons and others have continued to jail and oppress political opponents, democracies of the world have continued to work for greater stability and prosperity for all the people around the world.

I take this opportunity to place on record my thanks to the many people who have supported this place throughout the past 12 months. I want to thank my colleagues in the Liberal Party. I am honoured to have been elected their deputy two years ago and I take my role as deputy leader very seriously.

Mr Billson —We are pleased to have you.

Ms JULIE BISHOP —It is not always the case that the leader and deputy have a close working relationship, and the relationship between the occupants of the two leadership positions has in the past been a source of tension and instability. I see my role very much as one of providing support to my leader and to my colleagues, to be a conduit and to be a stabilising influence, and I have sought to do that with both leaders of the Liberal Party whom I have served as deputy. I thank my leader, Malcolm Turnbull, a person of immense ability, a person of substance, who has already achieved a great deal in his pre-parliamentary life and who will, with his intellect and drive, achieve much more. Hopefully at the next election he will achieve the ultimate prize, which is to be the Prime Minister of this country.

I pay tribute to the work of the Senate leadership team: Nick Minchin, for whom I have a great deal of respect; and my counterpart deputy, Eric Abetz, whose dry humour makes our leadership meetings a joy to attend. The Manager of Opposition Business, Christopher Pyne, is a wonderful personality and dedicated to whatever task he undertakes, always with great vigour, great wit and ability. The Leader of the National Party, Warren Truss, is a person with whom I have a strong working relationship and for whom I have a great deal of affection. I thank the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate, Barnaby Joyce, for the great working relationship that we have. I enjoy his company and he is a passionate advocate for the National Party. My colleagues in the Liberal Party and in the National Party are a great source of support to me. I enjoy their company, I respect their views, I admire the great effort that they put in—

Mr Schultz —Even the introverts like me?

Ms JULIE BISHOP —Particularly the introverts like the member for Hume. I admire the effort that they put in on behalf of their constituents. I know their families support the work that they do and it is not always easy with many days and weeks away from home. But they are dedicated to the cause of the Liberal and National parties. They believe in what they are doing and they believe that they offer an alternative that the Australian people want and need, perhaps more than ever before.

I acknowledge the work of the whips in the House—Alex Somlyay, Nola Marino and Michael Johnson. I also want to put on record my thanks to the federal secretariat, Brian Loughnane and his team, and also the state Liberal Party and the team at Menzies House.

While I am talking about Western Australia, I want to pay particular tribute to my colleagues in Western Australia—the Western Australian members and senators who make that trip each week across the Nullarbor and back. The bond that has formed between us is strong. It is not quite true that we hunt as a pack, but we are great friends and colleagues and there is something about that three-hour time difference that bonds us together. The 4 am phone calls from our friends in the Canberra press gallery can sometimes be a little trying; nevertheless, we are prepared to pay that price for living in the greatest state in Australia.

I thank the Liberal supporters who have stuck with us through some very difficult times. I ask that they keep the faith and continue to support our party. In particular, I thank the people of Curtin, my electorate, who have continued to be a great source of support and inspiration to me. I appreciate the input and I encourage them to continue to send me letters, emails, phone calls, tweets—whatever. I need to hear from them and I want to hear from them.

I acknowledge the work of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Leader of the House for their service to this House and to this country, as well as the government ministers and the members of the government. I acknowledge the work that they do for their constituents and the people who sent them to this place.

Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on your calm and measured demeanour. You have somewhat of a cult following among the afternoon question time devotees, and I have had a number of emails about your considered judgments.

Mr Billson —And how unnaturally handsome he is!

The SPEAKER —Order!

Ms JULIE BISHOP —Would you like me to take that intervention at that point?

The SPEAKER —No, I think we will let that ride.

Ms JULIE BISHOP —I pay tribute to our clerks. Ian Harris has had an outstanding career in public service to this country—37 years. The Prime Minister, in his own special way, would hardly be able to describe that as non-extraordinary service. It has been an outstanding effort, Ian, and we wish you all the very best. I do not know how this place could have functioned without you, but function it will. And I congratulate Bernard for taking on the extremely significant role of Clerk of this House. We look forward to working with him.

I acknowledge the Hansard reporters, the Parliamentary Library staff, security, the cleaners, the gardeners—everybody who works here makes this place function for the benefit of all Australians. I acknowledge the work of the Comcar drivers, who so cheerfully get us from A to B and everywhere in between. I acknowledge the staff who manage the bookings, the staff at HRG and all of the people at Aussies and in catering—all those who help make this great parliament function.

I thank my staff: my PA, Kirsten Ridge, and the girls in my electorate office, Suzanne Chambers, Rachael Gunderson, Georgina Adcock and Judy McEvoy; in Canberra, my Chief of Staff, Murray Hansen, whose loyalty to our cause is unquestioned, and I thank him and his family for the many hours he puts in working for me and for our party; my advisers, Justin States and Rochelle Hill, and the volunteers and interns who have spent time working in my office, Ursula, Dane, Paul, Rachael, Shiva, Chris, Liliana, David and Grace.

I also want to mention two of our colleagues who retired this year. Brendan Nelson, who was the Leader of the Opposition, was a great servant of the Australian people. He was legendary for his energy, his enthusiasm, his—

Mr Schultz —Sincerity.

Ms JULIE BISHOP —His sincerity, and his ability to support colleagues at any time in any place. I remember him flying across the nation to help colleagues in need. I also want to pay tribute to Peter Costello, one of the greatest parliamentary performers of our generation. I still cry with laughter at the thought of some of his parliamentary performances. Do you remember the rooster puppet performance when he mercilessly taunted the now Treasurer but with great theatrics and humour? I wish both Brendan and Peter all the very best in their post-parliamentary careers.

I also wish our two candidates for the Bradfield and Higgins by-elections all the very best—Paul Fletcher and Kelly O’Dwyer. Should the people of Bradfield and Higgins choose them to be their elected representatives in this place, I know they will make a magnificent contribution.

This great Parliament House is all about the people who work in it. I acknowledge each and every one. I acknowledge their dedication, I acknowledge their service, I wish each person here and their families a safe and happy Christmas. Let us hope that our parliament will continue to strive to provide good public policy and outcomes for the benefit of all Australians throughout 2010. I wish all Australians a happy, safe and prosperous New Year.