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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13791

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (13:22): Mr Speaker, I rise like the Prime Minister to speak in praise of the former Speaker and to acknowledge your elevation to high office. I say very genuinely that Speaker Jenkins was an adornment to that high office. Speaker Jenkins was a friend of the parliament. Speaker Jenkins was an admirer and an upholder of the best traditions of this parliament and, I have to say, he will be much missed as he leaves the chair.

He has been in my judgment one of the very best Speakers to grace the chair of this parliament. Certainly he is the equal of the best of the Speakers that I have served under in my 18 years in this chamber. As the Prime Minister said just a few moments ago, he was a really outstanding Speaker with a really strong love of the parliament, which begs the question: why has Speaker Jenkins left the chair? Just why has this great man with a great love of this chamber and a great love of its traditions left the chair?

I respect the observations that the Speaker himself made from the chair this morning, that he has left the chair because he wants to more fully participate in the councils of the Labor Party and he wants to more fully participate in the life of his Labor colleagues. Doesn't that look to be the case, Mr Speaker, as he sits in that rather lonely position close to the gangway? Doesn't that look to be exactly what has happened, that he has gone to rejoin his comrades? I think that probably the loneliest man in this parliament right now is our former Speaker.

But I say this of our former Speaker: our former Speaker was born and bred in the Labor Party, and if there is one institution which he loves as much as he loves this parliament, it is in fact the Labor Party. I know that as a very loyal son of the Labor Party he would have accepted the dictation of his Labor superiors with a very heavy heart. That is what he would have done. He would have accepted it and, as a man who is also a creature of party and lover of party, I respect him all the more for doing it. You leave the great chair of this parliament, Member for Scullin, with our respect, with our affection and with our best wishes for your future inside the parliament and outside the parliament.

What has happened today in this parliament is extraordinary and unprecedented—absolutely extraordinary and unprecedented—and in the end this is about the judgment of one person, the person sitting opposite, the Prime Minister of this country. This is happening because she has made the judgment that the government needs to shore up its numbers in this place. That is why this is happening. She wanted the former Speaker gone to shore up her position in this parliament, and she should be judged accordingly. This is the Prime Minister's decision, sure, and it has just been ratified by the parliament as inevitably as it was going to be. This is her decision and her judgment, and she will stand or fall on this judgment.

Mr Speaker, we have known each other for many years. We have shared good times and not-so-good times. You have been an extremely effective and efficient Deputy Speaker of this parliament. You certainly have the technical skills and the knowledge of this parliament to be effective in this chair. We congratulate you. We wish you well and we express the hope and the confidence that you will serve without fear or favour.