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Thursday, 21 March 2013
Page: 2399


Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (16:01): I know it sounds a little peculiar but there are some things I should say. This is a time of turmoil on the other side of the House. Soon we may well get ourselves another Prime Minister and I would not be surprised in the least if this is the last day before we go to an election. Of course, if it is the last day and I am the last adjournment speaker, this could be the last time I speak in this chamber because I will be standing for preselection in Tamworth for the seat of New England. If I win, I will not come back in here and, if I lose, that is it. So it is important to try and get a few things on the record just in case.

The first thing I would like to do is thank my wife for helping me in my career. I would like to thank my children for putting up with the fact that I was never there. I would like to thank the staff who have been so patient in all this time. I would like to thank the National Party, for which I have worked for 20 years—and also with the LNP. I think that this chamber can do so much. It is a great protector of democracy. As Senator Evans said, there are a lot of theatrics that go on in here, but we know the difference between the football paddock which this place is and the civility which is the corridors or the waiting lounge at an airport.

I hope the Australian people recognise that we do not carry on outside this chamber as we carry on inside it. There is an incredible well of decent people in here trying to do the right thing for their nation, regardless of what side they are on the political fence. They work extremely hard and are philosophically driven. If I had a belief for this chamber when I first came, it was that it would be more of the states' house, as it was supposed to be. I have to say I think the biggest problem with this chamber is that it has become a representation of political parties. I think we fool ourselves. We say, 'The Senate is the states' house.' I have never ever seen a vote in this place based along state lines and that is a shame. Maybe if people sat in blocks in their state they would be less inclined to yell at one another and maybe you would have a more civil debate and we would remove ourselves from some of the unedifying spectacles that we get in here so often. That is never going to happen, of course. So we end up with this being like a quasi-political blockhouse.

It would also have been better if we were not so reticent about people having a difference as to whether they cross the floor. In my time in this chamber I think I have done it 28 times. It has not destroyed my political career. I hope I was never self-indulgent or selfish in that. I hope it gave the Australian people at times a sense that there is independence of thought, you can express it and, if the issue is correct, you should do it. It is obligatory for you to do it.

I have seen times, such as now, where people are able to rise above the issues of politics into the issues of what is right. That is on our side. I know the other side differ. On the ETS debate we realised that philosophically we just could not support it. It was completely against our ethos. We believe in small taxes, small government, the rights of small business and trying to keep costs down, and we had a tax that was going to bring about big bureaucracy, big government and belief that other people knew better what to do with our money than we did on the premise that it would somehow affect something that we knew it was never going to affect, the climate. That was a debate that started with very little support, except from this gentleman sitting beside me, Senator Ron Boswell. No-one gave us a hope; no-one gave us a chance. The world was basically ridiculing us as peculiar. Ultimately it changed the whole scope of where the nation went on that key policy.

Without self-deification, what that does show is that, if you have the right motivation and you really believe in something, then from this chamber you can change the direction of this nation. You certainly can. It is a great vessel for a higher form of debate. The committee system is an extremely good system and what the Senate offers when you come in the door, if you get involved in the committee work where you believe your role is appropriate and you best fit, is that then you can straightaway go into a period of effect. I have a suspicion that in the other place you can get lost in the bowels of the backbench and never be seen again. The Senate allows you a greater capacity to have a role right from your initiation.

The next few weeks will be an interesting time for me and for my family. I do not for one second presume that this will be a walk in the park; it will be an extremely torrid fight—Mr Windsor is a wily character. I might differ in the extreme with his political philosophy and process, but I do not deny his attributes as a politician. This will be an interesting observation for many people who watch this, but the process that Mr Windsor has followed in New England, to be honest, has defrauded so many people of their rights and how they see things.

It was the area that I grew up in. I grew up not in a town but in a location—in a place called Danglemah. There is not much there.

Senator Cameron: I've been there!

Senator JOYCE: I went to Woolbrook Public School. Senator Cameron went and saw the school that I was school captain of—the only other honour, apart from this one, I have ever had! It was peculiar: at Woolbrook Public School our biggest rival was the Catholic school. We could not stand the Catholics. The problem I had was I was Catholic, which was always an issue. I do not know how I ended up at the state school, but I did. If I am successful, it will be an interesting time for me to go back to a place that I left for work some time ago. I had to move to Queensland for economic reasons. There was not much work where I was in New South Wales. Anyway, one thing led to another and here I am.

I have a strong suspicion that this will be the last time I speak in this chamber. I would like to say that I have friends on both sides of the political fence, and the good thing about that is we respect each other's confidences and I think the Australian people should know that. I want to thank the Australian people for being so patient with me over this time. I would like to thank my party. The greatest honour I had was to lead the National Party. The National Party is so important. We get ridiculed for being hayseeds and this and that, but it is so important to try to bring to the debate the perspective of the poorest people in Australia. That is the thing I always kept closest to my heart—that is, we are the party that represents the poorest. We are the party that represents those people on the margins. And when we get ridiculed for being hayseeds, I always bear in mind that our people are ridiculed, with derogatory terms cast at the little towns and villages of the people we represent. Whether they are the fishermen or the farmers, they are generally the people who live in the weatherboards and irons out in the sticks; they are the people I came in here to represent and hopefully I will continue to do it.

If this is the last time, I wish my party all the best. They have been so kind to me. I hope I have been a good leader for them for the time I have been here. To everybody in this chamber and to my party, all the best and God bless.