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Thursday, 12 December 2013
Page: 2666


Mr BURKE (WatsonManager of Opposition Business) (17:24): I will be very brief with my comments, because I am mindful that while we make long speeches about how hard it is on families, we are also determining whether or not people will see their families tonight.

First I will just refer briefly to Bernard Wright. As a new member of the parliament I was told very early on by the Clerk of the Legislative Council in New South Wales the extent to which I would be able to trust the clerks when I got to Canberra. I spent a bit of time very early on talking to Bernard, who was sitting in the chair where David Elder now sits. He was the one who would give us strategic opposition advice. I realised very quickly how correct the advice I had been given was.

Of all the different arms and agencies of government and the public service throughout Australia, I cannot think of one other than the clerks of the parliament that has always kept the confidences that were placed in it. I cannot think of another institution that has always done so, without exception. It means that members of parliament can have absolute trust in their dealings and provide complete transparency as to what they would like to achieve in the parliament with the knowledge, first, that they would be given accurate advice and, second, that what they have requested will be told to no-one. That actually means not merely that we have a properly functioning chamber, but that we are allowed to have a democratic one. The advice from the clerks is the only pathway that actually guarantees this. Bernard Wright has excelled at that. I think we often forget when we quote House of Representatives Practice that the editor of it is Bernard Wright. He will be deeply missed. David Elder, I am very pleased that one of the few parts of Australian democracy that has a logical career path is the clerks, and I am very much looking forward to you moving into that role.

I am not going to go through a list of the different people we all want to thank. It has been done many times and I am mindful of the time of the day. Christmas time for many people is not only a time of joy but is often a time of grief and a time that is very dangerous for many people in Australia. So I simply, from the opposition, wish people the best and to keep safe.

I am mindful that over recent years people have often used terms like 'greetings of the season' or 'happy holidays'. In my part of Sydney, which is one of the most diverse parts of Australia, people have always been very generous with me. If they are celebrating an eid they have wished me 'Eid Mubarak'. If they are celebrating Deepavali they have wished me 'Happy Deepavali'. I was mindful of the moment when people were being sworn into this parliament only a few weeks ago, when in the one group we had people taking an affirmation, people swearing on the Bible, someone swearing on the Koran and someone swearing on the Torah. I think we are getting closer to an Australian parliament that mirrors the diversity of Australian society.

In the same spirit that people have always wished me the best for their festivals may I as Manager of Opposition Business wish everybody the peace and joy of Christmas.