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Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Page: 11

The SPEAKER (11:51 AM) —Members, I thank you very sincerely for the honour that you have bestowed upon me. It is often said that some of the challenges that confront us should be looked at as opportunities and in fact I see the situation of this, the 43rd Parliament, in that light.

I thank the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Nationals, the Leader of the House, the Manager of Opposition Business and the member for Lyne for their kind words of congratulation. I thank the member for Hindmarsh and the member for Cunningham for their comments in nominating me for this high office. I repeat an often made comment that those that nominate and second me for positions that involve chair duty should not look upon that as getting a free run from the chair. I know that both the members were very cautious in their comments, so that is probably an added advantage to them.

This is a challenging time for the parliament. The reform document that has been spoken about up until today was, I felt, in the ownership of a small number of people. It is now in the ownership of the whole House. The whole House—each of the 150 members—has an opportunity presented by a minority government in this 43rd Parliament of getting effective, positive changes to the way in which this place operates. But I would hope that we do that in a way that enables those changes to be sustainable—that those changes would continue under differing circumstances of numbers within the chamber. I feel that those from outside who look upon the work of the chamber demand that.

I have said that I want the parliament to be a modern parliament. We have a lot of traditions on which our work is based and which are the rock for the way we go about our work. There has been mention made of the Westminster system. I have had reason to research even further the Westminster system, and I urge those that can find the time to do so to research it themselves, because much of what we talk about in Westminster is by convention. It is by agreement; it is by parties with differing views in policy having a common aim about the way the parliament operates. So as we work along in implementing a number of things for which I see continuing agreement in the parliamentary reform document, I would hope that we look to further opportunities that might arise about the way in which we relate to each other that can bring this lasting change that I am hopeful of.

The Leader of the House made some comments about the membership of the class of 2010, and I believe that this is a wonderful occasion where, representing Hasluck, we have a proud Noongar, Yamatji and Wongi man, whilst, representing Chifley, we have the son of a Bosnian Muslim immigrant family. That does indicate that we are starting to have a more representative membership in this place. Let our work be more representative; let us be a chamber that, despite the continuing robust nature of our engagement, those who observe from outside can be proud of.

In conclusion I just have two groups of people that I wish to thank. The people of Scullin have continued to support me but I, like all of us, have to acknowledge that when we come here representing a major party, despite thinking it is our greatness that gets us across the line, it is because of the support for the organisation and the political party that we are proud to go forward as candidates. I have, as is demanded by the parliamentary reform document, put myself in self-imposed exile from the federal parliamentary Labor Party. Much has been said about how a person who steps outside that system can continue to represent their electorate. It is very high in my thoughts as to the ways in which I can continue to carry out that important duty, because to do that makes my job in representing an electorate more difficult.

In the 42nd Parliament I withdrew from the activities of the caucus when there was discussion of tactics. I think I was the first Speaker for a long time to have no idea of the list of questions from either side. I was happy with that, but the reason that I thought I should be involved in the discussion of policy was that I owed it to the people who placed me here as their representative. So the step that is made is a big step, but I say to the constituents of Scullin that I will use my best endeavours, like my 149 colleagues in this House, to make sure that their hopes and aspirations get some ventilation through the other aspects of parliamentary life that are available to me.

Finally, I thank my family, who are represented in the gallery today—both my immediate family and my extended family. It is true to say that it has been an interesting period over the last few weeks, and you get to acknowledge those that are close to you, both family and friends. At some stage, perhaps, the true story of the last few weeks will be aired, but I am happy that I have had the support of family and true friends over the last few weeks. It has given me the strength and the desire to take this position. I say to the House that I will use my best endeavours to make sure that the House of Representatives, throughout the 43rd Parliament, is a workable house and that we do engage in a way which is in the best interests of Australia as a nation.