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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 14023


Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (19:21): On indulgence: it has been a very big year in terms of politics, legislation and also events in the global economy and the national economy. It seems that every year new challenges present themselves and life just seems to get faster and faster. So I think we are all looking forward to Christmas, to spending some time with our families, to doing what we can to think about those in the community who are least fortunate at this time, to think of our troops overseas and to basically think about and value all of those things that drive us in our lives—not just our public lives but our family lives as well.

It has been a volatile year again in the global economy. Four years on from the global financial crisis we are still living with the aftershocks of that. That is very challenging for many people. Whilst our economy is resilient and has strengths that many other economies do not, there are many in our community who were affected by those aftershocks of the global financial crisis through a higher dollar, cautious consumers and rapid technological change. We also reaffirm that we must come here to this parliament and do everything we can to make life better for our fellow citizens.

When it comes to legislation, we have heard a very big year—something like 450 bills through the parliament. I particularly want to pay tribute to Anthony Albanese for the role that he has played in this parliament over the past year. It has been very difficult with a minority government to make sure that it worked effectively. I think I can say that this parliament has worked much more effectively than many other parliaments with clear majorities. Perhaps it is because of Anthony's approach to the job or perhaps it is because we are much more aware of the need to progress things in a more disciplined way. But it is extraordinary that legislation has passed the way it has in the situation in which we find ourselves. I think in no small measure that is a tribute to the efforts of Anthony and his team and his relationships with those across the parliament and on the crossbench.

I would also like to pay tribute to the Independents and the role that they have played. They have shown what can be achieved with a spirit of cooperation and a determination to deliver for all Australians. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to one Bob Katter, who I have spent a bit of time with in the last few years. I have a favourite memory of being with him up in North Queensland earlier in the year. We were at Mission Beach inspecting what needed to be done to restore facilities which had been impacted by Cyclone Yasi. That shows that we can work together across the aisle.

This is also a time to acknowledge the burdens we place on so many people—not just those who work in the parliament but also those who work in our offices, both here and in our electorates. It is important tonight to acknowledge the work done by the clerks, the Speaker, the deputy speakers, the security guards, the COMCAR drivers, HRG, the cleaners, the gardeners and the librarians—all those people who make our life in this parliament liveable. I particularly wanted to pay tribute to Peter Slipper and to Anna as well. I think they have both done a fantastic job as Speakers of the House. I think that is recognised quite widely.

It is also a time to acknowledge the efforts of our personal staff. We simply could not do the job without the superhuman efforts of our staff. In my case, I have been very well served both here in Canberra, in my ministerial office, and in my electorate office in Lilley. Tonight I pay particular tribute to three people in my ministerial office here—Jim Chalmers, Matt Coghlan and Matt Brine—who have served for a very long time. They are officers who demonstrate the spirit we find across all of our offices—people who have been absolutely dedicated to the cause and who, year after year, have worked very hard, motivated by the desire to make Australia a better place. I thank all my staff here in the ministerial office but particularly those three long-serving staffers who have done such a fantastic job. They are outstanding young Australians.

I also thank all the staff in my electorate office in Brisbane, led by Lisa Reynolds. It is always difficult when you are working in an electorate office and the member is a minister. It attracts a lot of attention and they work very hard and very effectively. So I thank, from the bottom of my heart, each and every one of my personal staff for the effort they make day in and day out to make Australia a better place.

I also thank all the officers of the Treasury—Martin Parkinson and his senior officers and all the officers who work in that fantastic organisation. Our Treasury is admired around the world for its skill and commitment to good public policy. Sometimes they do not get the thanks or acknowledgement they deserve—I guess that it just a fact of the political debate. But I think we all acknowledge the professionalism of our public servants. It is why governance in this country is so admired around the world. We find that embodied not just in the Treasury but also in many other Public Service departments and I think it is very important to acknowledge the role they play.

Tonight I pay particular tribute to the Prime Minister. I think that, in the face of some pretty aggressive attacks, she has absolutely delivered in spades. Nobody in our history has had more hard yards to make in more difficult circumstances. She has done that with unmatched humour and determination. I am very proud of what she has achieved over the past year and I am very proud of what the government has put forward in that time—the NDIS, school funding reform, carbon pricing and so on. But tonight is not a night for discussion of policy.

I thank all of my cabinet colleagues and the caucus. There is a great team in the cabinet. I particularly thank the Treasury team—Bill Shorten, David Bradbury, Brendan O'Connor and Bernie Ripoll. I also thank Penny Wong, the finance minister, who has been terrific to work with. She is very committed and has done a fantastic job. I hope they all take the opportunity, over Christmas, to have a very good rest.

I also acknowledge the work of the opposition. Politics is a tough environment and we have some pretty vigorous exchanges. We do not often agree. But I do enjoy the tussle. I certainly wish the member for North Sydney all the best for Christmas. I hope he gets to spend some time with his young family—it is particularly challenging when you have a young family. I know he might be into a bit of summer reading, so I thought I might send him a pack with the IMF reports, the OECD reports, the World Bank reports and all the other reports which talk about the resilience and strength of the Australian economy and how much better off we are than Greece, Ireland, Spain and all the other countries that are in trouble.

I do thank the opposition for what they do in this place because it is an important part of our political process. Joe, if you are travelling overseas at some stage in the next couple of months I hope you tell them how strong our economy is when you are there, yet again—as you did last time you were away.

Finally, I would really like to thank my family. I think we all understand here what a strain political life does put on our families. We simply could not do these jobs without the love and unqualified support of our families. To my wife, Kim, and my kids, Erin, Libby and Matt: I certainly thank them from the bottom of my heart for everything they have done to support me in my public life.

Lastly, I would like to sign off by thanking all of the electors of Lilley. I very much enjoy my role as a local member of parliament. It is a very important way of staying in touch with what people are thinking in our community. I would like to thank all of my local party members.

Once again, I would like to join with many others in acknowledging, particularly this Christmas, that we still have many troops serving overseas. In fact, I will be attending a return parade in the next week of troops returning from Afghanistan.

Having said all that, Australia has actually achieved a couple of significant milestones in the last 12 months. We are now the 12th largest economy in terms of global economic strength. This year we chalked up 21 consecutive years of economic growth. None of that would have been possible if it were not for the fact that over a very long period of time governments have put in place the long-term reforms to build our prosperity and to build our economic resilience. This is the product of something that is very special about our country, the product of the hard work of a lot of people over a long period of time, by millions of Australian workers and businesspeople that have knuckled down and got on with the job of lifting our living standards and creating a better and fairer society.

At this time, particularly in the lead-up to Christmas, I think we do, in that spirit, always think of the most vulnerable in our community, and it is always important that we keep them very much to the fore of our thoughts.

To everyone, merry Christmas and a happy new year.