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Thursday, 7 December 2017
Page: 10172


The PRESIDENT (19:56): In concluding and concurring with all of the speeches just made, I won't repeat all the acknowledgements, but there are a few I wish to highlight. To Richard Pye, the Deputy Clerk, the Clerks Assistant and the extraordinary staff of the Department of the Senate: my personal thanks and, I know, thanks on behalf of all senators, particularly, from a new President, as I have come into the role rather suddenly. You and your team are custodians of the traditions and customs in this place, demonstrated today, probably ideally, when a private senator's bill that meant so much to so many Australians passed through the parliament. While the public may not see your role as they see us—not always to their liking, I might add—you share the long hours, and the committee staff share the travel with us. In a year of unprecedented challenges in terms of unexpected departures, the Senate staff has dealt with difficult circumstances for those colleagues and staff with both professionalism and aplomb.

I want to particularly thank John and the team of Senate attendants. Here when we start, cleaning and locking up after we conclude, your seamless role in the operation of this chamber is not always noticed precisely because of your professionalism. I have a particular appreciation for them, given my mother-in-law, Frances, served as a Senate attendant in both this chamber and the old, and my father-in-law's uncle served as a Senate attendant for over two decades in the old house.

I want to thank Rob Stefanic and the entire team at DPS, in the library and in Hansard, particularly those coordinating the most significant projects around this building since it first opened 30 years ago—and, I might add, in an environment that provides new challenges from both within and without. To the security staff who ensure this unique workplace is safe for the thousands of visitors and staff: a particularly safe and relaxing Christmas to you.

I turn now to our families. Families aren't define by law. But, on a day where thousands of families feel particularly affirmed by it and by the actions of this parliament, those closest to us bear the cost of our privilege to serve through our absences, birthdays and anniversaries celebrated by FaceTime rather than by our presence, and even witnessing and feeling the barbs their loved ones receive in the course of our privilege and our roles. To the families of all senators, to our staff and to their families: enjoy a safe and merry Christmas. I promise we will all eventually unwind, but you should feel free to confiscate our phones occasionally.

Christmas wishes to those colleagues who left us in unexpected circumstances throughout the year that I know a number of us have mentioned. Particularly, I add again, to their families and staff: they all worked as hard as we did and their families missed them as much as ours did. While those close to them and the families of their staff are probably happy to have them home more often, the unique circumstances of their departure were not what any of them would wish. You are all in our thoughts.

My thanks to the senators—particularly to all party leaders, managers, whips, temporary chairs and my Deputy President, Sue Lines—for their understanding and patience as I have taken on this new role in somewhat unexpected circumstances. On a personal note, I'd like to thank all senators for all the kind messages sent to me and my family during my unforeseen illness. It was a reminder of what other people have commented upon tonight: the unique nature of the collegiality of this chamber. On a particularly personal note, to my wife, Helen, and sons, Nicholas and Benjamin: during a year more difficult than any of you deserved, your support is beyond my ability to put into words. I couldn't do this without you, but neither would I want to.

Merry Christmas to all who work in and around this building, our staff and our loved ones.

Honourable senators: Hear, hear!