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Thursday, 4 December 2008
Page: 8109

The PRESIDENT (9:31 AM) —This is the last sitting day for the Usher of the Black Rod, Andrea Griffiths, before her retirement. Andrea started in the Department of the Senate on 1 July 1982—more than 26 years ago. Andrea’s first job here was in the Senate Table Office producing the Senate red. In those days, I understand she did the Journals with an old typewriter, and cutting and pasting was done more literally than today. In 1987 Andrea moved to the Black Rod’s Office as Deputy Black Rod and performed that role for nearly 12 years. She helped with the move to the new Parliament House in 1988—a most significant moment in the history of the parliament. In order to broaden her experience Andrea transferred to the committee office in 1999 as secretary to a number of committees, including the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee.

In 2001, Andrea was promoted to the position of Usher of the Black Rod—the first woman to be promoted to this position in the federal parliament. Andrea has been involved in arranging every opening of parliament since 1987, so the last one was her eighth opening and third as Black Rod; the swearing-in of five Governors-General, two as Black Rod; the swearing-in of many senators; and she has attended countless divisions and quorums over the years. Andrea announced three presidents of foreign nations at joint meetings in the House of Representatives chamber—United States President Clinton in 1996, and United States President Bush and President Hu of the People’s Republic of China in 2003. Her work in this ceremonial role has been acknowledged by the offices of the Governor-General, the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Prime Minister and the Speaker. The new Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce, also singled out Andrea for looking after her so well at Parliament House on the occasion of her swearing-in.

Andrea has advised seven presidents, including me, and advised committees of this place over many years. Those who know her will know she is not backward in providing frank and fearless advice. She has been a welcoming face at the entrance for new senators when they arrive at Parliament House for the first time, and many senators have commented on how important that friendly welcome has been. Andrea has been on a number of parliamentary delegations as delegation secretary. I was fortunate to be on one with her—not only was she very well organised, but also she was very good company. Andrea embodies the parliamentary service values to the highest standard. She has the qualities of honesty, integrity and enthusiasm. She is a straight shooter when dealing with senators and is respected by all sides of politics.

Andrea could not have had this successful career without the support of her husband, Keith, who played a major role in raising their children, Kate and Thomas, on all those late sitting nights. I am sure all senators will join with me in thanking Andrea for her contribution to the parliament and particularly to the Senate over many years. We wish Andrea and her family all the best for the future.