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Thursday, 12 December 2013
Page: 2660

Mr TRUSS (Wide BayDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) (16:58): As today marks the last sitting day of the year—a long and somewhat tumultuous year—it is appropriate that we pause to say thank you to those who supported members of parliament in their role over this period. Among them I include people who supported us in our homes and in our offices and the people of Australia, who have entrusted us with a great responsibility of managing our nation as parliamentarians.

I am pleased to extend my very best wishes to all of those who have been mentioned previously in these valedictory remarks and to extend my Christmas wishes to all of those who help make this parliament work. Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, I hope you may convey to Madam Speaker and the rest of the Speaker's panel our thanks for the work that you do in managing the parliament and in making sure that the parliamentary process works well. There are several thousand people in this building, and to manage what is a mini city requires a lot of people to do their work well so that we can manage the affairs of state and the activities of this parliament smoothly.

There has already been mention of the Clerk and his successor today. I again express my gratitude for their service and wish them well over the Christmas period. To all of their supporting staff as well: our thanks to you. If there is some message that might come to them as a result of today's appointment, it is that you only have to wait 30 years and it might be your turn to be Clerk! We certainly appreciate the role of the whole team and the way they serve the committees and every element of the working of the parliament. That includes the attendants and the Serjeant, who courteously welcome us into this building and make sure that everything is arranged as it ought to be. We appreciate their courteous attention and patient advice and the cheerful nature with which they go about their duties no matter what time of the day or night it might be.

Particular acknowledgement needs to go: to the Hansard staff; to the 2020 staff, whom we tend to call on far too often because electronic equipment hardly ever seems to work correctly; to the Reps IT people for their constant support; to the COMCAR drivers we particularly appreciate; to the staff in the catering sections of the parliament, who do a remarkable job, often under difficult circumstances, and we appreciate their work; and to the FCM Travel Solutions people, relatively new to the task and so still in some ways learning all of our idiosyncrasies, and in their first year in the job I thank them for the work they have done. Also there are the unsung heroes of the building: the Limro cleaning staff. Maria, Anna and Luzia particularly look after our part of the building and we thank them very much for their service. So our thanks go to all those who work in the parliament for making this year's activities work smoothly.

I also acknowledge my colleagues in the chamber—and, indeed, those on the opposite side. This past year has been a tumultuous one. I do not think history will look kindly on the last parliament. It was raucous, and I do not think it reflected well on the process of our democracy. We are all anxious to make sure that the next parliament works better and achieves the kind of reform and progress that we want for our country. It has been a demanding year, and so we will very much be looking forward to this break—this Christmas period—to refresh and to move forward. It was an election year, and I acknowledge: my Nationals colleagues; the federal secretariat; those who helped us through the election campaign; and my parliamentary colleagues. All these people worked so hard to achieve the outcome that occurred: a change of government—a rare change of government and one which I think offers hope and opportunities for the future.

I thank my party colleagues: deputy leader Barnaby Joyce and the leaders in the Senate; Nigel Scullion and Fiona Nash; the whips, who do a terrific job in arranging affairs for us; and Mark Coulton and George Christensen and their staff. I thank my frontbench colleagues as well, most of whom are learning to be ministers or parliamentary secretaries for the first time and, I am sure, enjoying the challenge. In that context I join the Leader of the Opposition in acknowledging the help that we get from our departments in putting together the business agenda and helping us to deliver on our policy platform. There is often a lot said about blue books and red books, but the reality is that they are the plans the department has already put in place when a new government comes to office to deliver on its election manifesto. For that reason the work that they do backs up and helps us to achieve our objectives but also gives us the support and the information we need to make good decisions in a timely way.

The people of Australia put their faith in a new government. They expect this to be a parliament where the government can pursue its agenda, keep its promises and deliver a positive plan for the future. I say as Leader of the Nationals that I will certainly be doing what I can to make sure that regional Australia is not forgotten in all of the big national economic discussions and all the important decisions that are made for the future of our country.

Indeed, regional Australia is more often than not in the news because of the disasters—because of the troubles that come. As I think back on this year it was in January when there were fires in Tasmania, there was successive flooding in my own electorate and neighbouring electorates had some of the most disastrous flooding we have seen in our region for 100 years. In some cases it was the worst ever. There has certainly been enormous damage and a huge rebuilding task which will go on yet for several years. Indeed, some parts of Queensland now have been in flood recovery and rebuilding for about three years and there is still quite a lot of work to be done to restore the roads and infrastructure that everyone needs; and then lately there have been extensive fires through New South Wales.

One of my great hopes for this Christmas season is that it can be a disaster-free season for all Australians. We have had some pretty unhappy Christmas times—or particularly New Year times—over recent years. We have had enough of those disasters, and I pray that this will be a Christmas season which will be safe for everyone and where we can all enjoy the spirit of Christmas and the hopes and aspirations for the New Year without being interrupted by disaster.

I wish everyone within these parliamentary walls and those in the community whom we serve a very happy and safe Christmas and best wishes for the New Year. As transport minister, I appeal to people to drive safely this Christmas. Our roads are getting better and we spend more time in more comprehensive training for drivers, but accidents spoil too many Christmases and too many families' celebrations. I urge everybody to take the extra time and allow a little bit of extra time so that they can get to their destinations safely.

I hope that everyone has the opportunity for a well-deserved break over this period and I look forward to joining everybody back in this chamber in February so that we can get on with the business of making the change that needs to be made and delivering the government that Australians want so that there can be the confidence for our country to grow and prosper in the years ahead.