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Thursday, 7 February 2013
Page: 498

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (09:42): Thank you, Deputy Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to a person I have actually never met, but who has provided more than 30 years of outstanding public service to our community as a member of both the Victorian and the Australian public service.

As other members in this place would be aware, we are often required to assist our constituents with issues relating to immigration and passports and our staff are required to deal directly with a range of departments and it is not always a positive experience as they try and navigate their way through the bureaucracy. The exception for my staff has been dealing with a fellow by the name of Peter Podgornik, who has been the go-to man within the passports area for my staff for more than 20 years. Peter is actually retiring this month after a very distinguished career.

He started in the Victorian public service in 1978 and then transferred to the Australian Public Service in 1980, when he obtained a job in the department of foreign affairs. In 2007, Peter became the regional director of the Australian Passport Office for Victoria and Tasmania. Essentially, he has worked in the public service for more than 30 years and the last 16 years have seen him in that senior role as manager of the Australian Passport Office in Melbourne, with the additional responsibility of Tasmania over the past five years.

I spoke to some of my staff this morning just to get a sense of their relationship with Peter, and they were quick to praise him for his professionalism, his courtesy and the healthy dose of common sense he brought to the role. As we all know, the term common sense is an unusual one as it is not that common these days, but Peter certainly had a healthy dose of common sense and he always went out of his way to help people and to help my staff in his dealings with them. A typical example would be if a person lives in the electorate of Gippsland and their father dies in London. They have an urgent requirement to get to a funeral within four or five days, but if they do not have a passport then we would work with Peter, who organises for someone to meet that bereaved person at the airport and help them to get a passport in time to catch a flight, sometimes within 24 or 48 hours. He went above and beyond the call of duty and was a highly experienced and very well-respected passport manager.

Peter led his team with exemplary people skills and he put the word 'service' back into the public service, and we thank him for that. He was a very resourceful public servant and made the rules work in sometimes difficult circumstances. So he ran a great team in the Melbourne passports office, and my staff have nothing but praise for him and wish him well in his retirement. It is funny that my staff dealt with him for more than 20 years and only met him last year for the first time when they were attending an immigration course and dropped in to say g'day.

We wish Peter well. He is a family man who has fostered a real family environment amongst the team of staff in the Melbourne passports office and we wish him well for a long, healthy and happy retirement. I understand Peter loves his sport. He follows the Essendon Bombers. I do not wish him that well in his pursuit of his football team's success, but I wish him well in his other passions of horse racing and cricket. I hope he has a very healthy and happy retirement.