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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13796

The SPEAKER (14:03): I would like to make a few remarks on my election as Speaker of the House of Representatives. At the outset, I thank my nominators: the honourable member for Banks and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. I also thank the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for their very kind remarks and also the honourable member for Lyne and the honourable member for Melbourne. It is a great honour to be elected unopposed as the Presiding Officer of the House of Representatives.

I also place on record my tribute to the former Speaker, the honourable member for Scullin. I first served in this house when his father, Dr Harry Jenkins, was Speaker. I had a very high regard for Dr Harry and I have an equally high regard for the former Speaker, with whom I worked very successfully as Deputy Speaker following my election after the last poll. I saw the honourable member for Scullin smile when I mentioned his father. When I was first elected as a member of this place I was a member of what they used to call 'cockies corner'—that is, the National Party. We used to sit approximately where the honourable member for Denison and the honourable member for Lyne are currently sitting. I do not know what that means, but I was very vocal and I was regularly warned by the honourable member for Scullin. I never knew how he fully recognised that it was I who was interjecting. When I was elected as Deputy Speaker I found out that Mrs Wendy Jenkins, Harry's mother and Dr Harry's wife, used to sit in the Speaker's gallery and apparently point me out as the offender.

During the time I have been in this parliament I have been ejected from the House on five occasions—not as often, of course, as the Leader of the House at, I think, 34 times or the member for Sturt at 32 times. I do not know whether the honourable member for Dickson is looking to add to his 18 times. This is a robust place, but I would like to see members be as well behaved as possible.

I am not offended by the fact that my friend the honourable member for Sturt saw fit to nominate numerous other people. I have a very high regard for his ability, and I am looking forward to working with all members of the House, regardless of where they stand. I do intend to be an independent Speaker in the Westminster tradition and I hope that this is establishing a principle which will be followed by Speakers in other parliaments. I am doing this for a number of reasons. I strongly believe that the Speaker ought to be independent. In this parliament the Speaker has not attended party room meetings, and the Deputy Speaker followed a similar practice. I think we have moved a long way towards an independent Speaker. I will, in fact, be an independent Speaker in the Westminster tradition. I noticed that on four occasions in September 2010 the Leader of the Opposition said that that was his preference as far as a model for the Speakership is concerned. Consequently, after 17 years membership of the National Party, 19 years membership of the Liberal Party and three years membership of the Liberal-National Party, I will be relinquishing my party membership. I must say that I have been encouraged in this opportunity to serve the parliament in a new way by the actions of some people in the Liberal-National Party in recent times.

I will endeavour, as I did as Deputy Speaker, to discharge my duty as Speaker in a nonpartisan manner. Frankly, I have got to admit that I am not perfect and I have made some mistakes, as some of the colourful stories about me reveal. But I pledge to serve the parliament and the institution and its members to the best of my capacity.

I would like to thank my wife, Inge, and my children, Nicholas and Alexandra. I would like to thank my staff. I would also like to thank colleagues on both sides of the House for their support over my 21 years service as a member of the Australian parliament. It is a very great privilege to serve in this parliament representing the electorate of Fisher on the Sunshine Coast and I am looking forward to continuing to serve that electorate in the future.

I would like to conclude by saying that my door will always be open to all members. I look forward to working with everyone, regardless of which side of the parliament people happen to be sitting on, because this institution is greater than any of us.