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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 238


Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (21:09): A number of speakers on both sides of the chamber have spoken tonight about how they remember so vividly where they were when the historic apology was made to our nation's Indigenous Australians. Of course I remember it very vividly too. One of the elements that I remember most vividly is the fact that the Prime Minister went to see Nanna Fejo before the apology and spoke to her about her experiences, her life, what it had meant being taken from her family at such a young age and what she had missed of her culture and her family. The reason I raise this is that, in my experience of working with the former Prime Minister on the issues of homelessness, that was so typical of his approach—to speak to the people who were working in the area of homeless but most particularly to sit and speak with, and most importantly listen to, those Australians who were experiencing homelessness.

Before the 2007 election, before we had made any announcement about homelessness policy, we went together to the Mission Australia homelessness facility in Surrey Hills and with no media present, just the then Leader of the Opposition and me, we sat there for several hours talking with those men—some women but mostly men—about their lives: how they had become homeless, what had happened in their families, what had happened in their backgrounds and how we could change things so that not only would they have roofs over their heads but also they could leave homelessness behind and find permanent homes. That personal discussion and investigation that the then Leader of the Opposition brought with him into attacking and addressing the issue of homelessness was very important.

The other thing I noticed then, and I think it was typical of his time as Prime Minister, was that, as well as that deep understanding of the personal stories connected to the issues that he was addressing, he spoke to every expert, he read every piece of work, he asked every question and he investigated every issue as deeply as he possibly could. Colleagues will remember that we started to call it 'kevidence' because it was the most evidence-based approach to these large questions of public policy that we had ever had in Australia—the most intellectual approach. I saw that again most recently when the former Prime Minister went to see some amazing biomedical research facilities in Brisbane—facilities that he had supported the funding of. The depth of understanding that he had and the questions that he asked of those biomedical researchers I know surprised the scientists on the day. The policy lessons that he drew from those conversations and what he saw first hand of course informed the decisions that we made.

I think we have seldom had a Prime Minister of such prodigious intellect and with such a wide variety of interests and such a capacity to translate personal stories and evidence from so many different experts into policies that have made our nation a better place.