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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 14031


Mr PYNE (SturtManager of Opposition Business) (19:54): On indulgence—The valedictories are an opportunity to thank the people in this building who make the whole show work, who make us look as good as they possibly can, which is, in some cases, not as easy as in others. Obviously, in Joe's case it is very easy; in mine it is much less easy. The valedictories are an important tradition because, in spite of all the sound and fury—sometimes signifying nothing—the parliament goes on, members of parliament come and go and we are all part of the great historical continuum of this parliament. We are all fortunate to be here at this time representing the people in our electorates.

The clerks, Bernard and David, and all of the other officials in this building stay here long after those of us fortunate enough to have been be elected have come and gone, making sure that the parliament operates, that bills get passed and that the business of government goes on. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Bernard and David, the Clerk and Deputy Clerk; Robyn McClelland, the Sergeant-at-Arms, and her team; people like Anne Kay, who leads the House attendants, and all the other attendants who take care of our every need in this building; and the Comcar drivers, without whom many of us would be lost. I tried a self-drive vehicle in Canberra for a while, but I decided it was a dangerous thing to do and thought it might be better to have the Comcars taking me back and forth from the parliament.

An opposition member: Good idea!

Mr PYNE: Sometimes we overreach!

I would like to thank the Speaker's panel, Deputy Speaker Bruce Scott and Second Deputy Speaker Steve Georganas, who was recently elected. I would like to thank you, Madam Speaker. This has been a very difficult year for the chair. I think you are doing a sterling job—I have told you that privately and I am happy to say it publicly. I think you have taken the chair in very difficult circumstances and have acquitted the role very well. In 2013 I am sure you will continue to do that—until the election, when I hope of course for a coalition victory.

I know this will not be popular with my colleagues, but in spite of the difficulties that we had with the former Speaker this year—in fact, today is the anniversary of the former Speaker's election—as a human being, I feel he has gone through a very, very difficult year. It cannot have been easy for him or his family, or indeed the staff in his office. There are of course allegations that surround him and it cannot have been easy for those people who have been involved in that particular court case, but as another human being, I hope that he has a better summer than he has had in 2012 and that he can recover as a person throughout 2013, and into the future.

I would like to thank my long-suffering staff—as some would describe them—led by Adam Howard, my Chief of Staff. Kaye Gaskin is my PA and has been for a very, very long time; without her, I think I would probably have to resign from parliament because I do not know how anything works in my office—or in my personal life really!

Mr Hockey: How many children do you have?

Mr PYNE: Four children. Kaye Gaskin basically runs my life, and, without her, the whole thing would fall apart. Aliide Murphy, who is my one education adviser, does an incredibly good job. James Newbury, who runs the parliamentary side of my office, does an amazing job, and is practising the paso doble in my office as we speak. He will understand that allusion, not that most people in this building will. And, I thank all the rest of my staff in the electorate office who basically help me to get re-elected and to serve my electorate as well as I possibly can. Without them, I would not be able to be the member for Sturt and I would not be going into my 20th year. My anniversary is in March next year, and I am sure many of my colleagues will be very pleased to celebrate that on March 22 next year.

I would also like to thank my Liberal and National colleagues—we are a great team, we are a tremendous family and we pull together. So much happens in oppositions—and, I am sure, in governments—that goes unspoken. Mal Washer for example, who is basically the Parliament House doctor, spends a great deal of his time taking care of his colleagues, prescribing and reassuring. I have used his services this year for pulled muscles and other things that he has assured me are not anything to worry about. He is a great fellow, Mal, and we need him in the House doing that job for us. I do not know what we would do without him.

Thanks to all my other colleagues, who are so understanding of me as Manager of Opposition Business. I am certainly not the most popular person in the parliament—and that goes for my own side as well as the Labor side—often having to disappoint my colleagues and ask them to be forbearing, and they are all forbearing and patient and do a tremendous job to make the opposition hold the government to account and prepare it for government.

Amongst my colleagues, I especially mention Warren Entsch, the Chief Whip, and Patrick Secker, Nola Marino, Mark Coulton and Paul Neville, who all help in whips roles for both the Liberals and the National Party.

I thank the leadership team. We meet every morning; it is a great start to the day, we argue little, we agree a lot, and once we have decided on the direction for the day we are a very close-knit team. I thank Warren Truss, the adult in the room, Joe Hockey, not always the adult in the room, and Julie Bishop, the deputy leader, who has had a terrific week and a terrific year.

I particularly thank Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition. It is the most thankless task in politics. Whether you are in state, territory or federal politics, being the Leader of the Opposition is a very difficult role, especially when you have been holding it for a very lengthy period, as he has since December 2009. He has held the team together, he is positioning us for government, and I think most fair-minded people in the press gallery and among the public would say that he has been the most effective Leader of the Opposition in living memory. He has certainly held the government to account, and in the book that he released this week, A Strong Australia, in the speeches that he has given over recent months, and over most of this year he has been laying out the agenda for the next coalition government, should we be fortunate enough to be elected. He is obviously a very close, personal friend of mine, since he has been in parliament since 1994—he came in after me, but I certainly do not hold that against him. We work very closely together as leader and as manager of opposition business in the House.

Mr Hockey interjecting—

Mr PYNE: Yes, he has done very well, Joe, thank you for pointing that out. But I am a servant, you see. The leader's office staff are marvellous, led by Peta Credlin, and they are a fantastic team as well, as is Warren Truss's office, led by David Whitrow, who is a good friend of mine too. He leads a fantastic team on behalf of the National Party. Luke Hartsuyker, the Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the House; I could not ask for a more supportive deputy in this role. We work together very well and very amicably. We might be from two different political parties, but very little separates us, certainly in our opposition to this government and our desire to see it changed, so we can both be sitting on the other side of the House as Leader of the House and Deputy Leader of the House—that is a message to Tony Abbott, of course, if he is reading the Hansard.

I would like to comment a little bit on this year in 2012. I regard this year as something like Lemony Snicket's books, A Series of Unfortunate Events, for this government, starting with the Australia Day riots and shoegate, through to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the member for Dobell and the HSU scandal, the change to the speakership and some of the issues that have surrounded the speakership, the introduction of the carbon tax, and ending this week with the AWU slush fund scandal. For this government it has been a series of unfortunate events—

Mr Lyons interjecting—

Mr PYNE: Very unfortunate for you, because I beat you, Mr Lyons, at billiards this week, so no wonder you are here.

Mr Lyons: No, snooker!

Mr PYNE: Snooker. This has been a series of unfortunate events for the government and also for the country, and it has been a torrid parliamentary year. Most years are, but this one has been particularly difficult given some of the issues that I have just raised. In spite of all that, I thank the Leader of the House, Anthony Albanese. Anthony Albanese is a man of his word, may I say. Every time he has told me that something will happen or that he will do something, he has kept his word, and I have tried to do the same thing.

In spite of the great difficulties the government has had this year—the obvious leadership challenge this year involving the member for Griffith and the Prime Minister, the unabashed carpet bombing of the member of Griffith and his supporters, the difficulties in the Labor caucus all year, their careering from one disastrous issue to another—the leader of the House always keeps a cheerful countenance. We try to work together. We try to hide that as much as possible but we do try to work together, and we do get along quite well, personally. We have even managed to have some fun in this torrid parliamentary year.

But that also speaks volumes for our democracy. In this country we change governments at the ballot box, not at the end of a gun, unlike many countries in the world. Even though he is at the spear tip of the government's attacks on the opposition, and I am at the spear tip of the opposition's attacks on the government, we can still have a perfectly reasonable and, in fact, a very healthy relationship. I thank him for that and acknowledge it.

I also thank Moksha Watts, who makes Anthony look good most days. She certainly tries to keep him out of trouble. Moksha and James Newbury of course, are the ones who know what is going on in the chamber most of the time. In fact, they are probably both dancing the paso doble at the Labor Party's party tonight. They are the ones who are really keeping the ship on an even keel.

In closing, I thank my opposite number, Peter Garrett. In spite of his obvious shortcomings he is a decent person. I think he is trying to do his best in the portfolio. I wish him and his family well for Christmas.

Finally, we are all lucky to be here. Our families allow us to be here. Without supportive husbands and wives, and patient and forbearing children, we could not do this job. Those of us who have chosen to come here have sought preselection and got elected. We love this job. We love the parliament. We love the opportunity to effect policy and to make a change in this country both at the macro level and at the micro level for our constituents individually—between them and government—but also with major government and opposition policy. But our families do not usually get much choice in the matter. So I thank Caroline, my wife of 19 years, for her forbearance and her support, and my four children: Barnaby, Eleanor, Felix and Aurelia. All of them regard this particular job as peculiar and weird and not in the least bit cool. They are amazing to put up with me and all the travel, publicity and everything else they would rather was not in the papers and the television. They would rather that they did not have people telling them that their dad is no good. Very few people tell them that their dad is any good but some of them might, hopefully, next year! They are great children. I have a marvellous wife. I have wonderful colleagues and I wish all of them a great and happy Christmas, a successful New Year.

I know there is quite a proliferation of Macedonians amongst the attendants and staff around this building, including the cleaning staff who take care of us. They are all very good people and I would like to say to them, 'Kako si ctrechen bozic i ctrechna nova godina na tebe i na tvoyata familiya.'