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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13834


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (16:10): As the parliament draws to a close, I want to make some reflections, some Christmas valedictories. I know it always strikes us as a little bit strange that at the end of a parliamentary session in November we do Christmas valedictories. I do not want to give the impression to anyone that we are leaving this place and going on holidays. It always frustrates us when members of the public think that. People will be returning to their electorates for a full round of work, including those very special end-of-year school events that we all look forward to.

This has been a year with many different facets. It has been a year when some have enjoyed triumph on the sporting fields. Whether it has been the Maroons, the Broncos, the Roar, the Reds, the Firebirds, it has been a good year for Queensland. Tassie bagged the Sheffield Shield. A good grand final for the Cats was a good grand final for everyone who does not barrack for Collingwood—and that is quite a lot of them!

It was a year of Australian achievements. Brian Schmidt was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Ben Roberts-Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for valour. We saw an athletics world championship award Athlete of the Year to Sally Pearson. We saw Cadel Evans take the Tour de France. We saw Sam Stosur win the US Open women's singles tennis final. That was a remarkable event.

At the same time as these triumphs we also saw much tragedy. Here in our own nation we had the summer of floods, natural disasters and the cyclone that hit so many Australian families so hard. We saw the earthquake in New Zealand and then the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. We have seen the best of times and the worst of times in that sense, but even as we have seen the worst of times we have seen the best in our people. We certainly saw the best in Australians as they pulled together during those days of our natural disasters, as well as going to the help of others within our region.

Some remarkable Australians died this year: Paul Lockyer, John Bean and Gary Ticehurst in that dreadful helicopter accident; Rob Chalmers, a legend inside Canberra; Nancy Wake, a legend around the world; Claude Choules, the last combat veteran of the Great War; Margaret Olley and Lionel Rose, two of our greatest in the fields of arts and sport. In this place we remembered friends and members of the House who left us this year: David Jull, Clyde Holding and Ralph Hunt. On too many dreadful occasions we had condolences for those we had lost in Afghanistan. We remember them; we spoke about them on Monday during the debate on Afghanistan and I am sure as we move to the festive season our thoughts are going to be with our magnificent ADF personnel and the civilians who work alongside them who will spend the Christmas season not at home with family and friends but in those very rugged surrounds of Afghanistan.

As this year winds down I do want to say a big thank you to so many people who make this place work. Let me start with the Leader of the Opposition. I am not sure that saying he helps make this place work was quite the right intro, but when I was shadow minister for health I did publicly announce that my wish was to make him Leader of the Opposition and to ensure that he did the job for a long, long, long time. I have succeeded in the first part of delivering on that Gillard promise and I am dedicating 2012 and 2013 to delivering on the rest of it, making sure that he is there for a long, long, long time. To Mr Speaker of today and of course to former Speaker Harry Jenkins, to the Deputy Speaker, to the Speaker's panel: we are sorry for everything we put you through. I cannot really say we are going to try to do better, though we will work as hard as we can to honour our Speaker's panel. To Henry Thomson, my department's parliamentary liaison officer, and his team, thank you. To the Clerk and Deputy Clerk, to the Serjeant-at-Arms and to the attendants, thank you. They make us look good and someone really needs to; the clerks help all of us—members of the opposition and members of the government alike—get it right time after time. To the Parliamentary Library, Hansard staff, Table Office staff, Parliamentary Relations Office and the guides who take people through on tours, thank you for everything that you do. The cooks, the switchboard operators, the computer personnel, security, gardeners and everybody who keeps things ticking over have done a magnificent job this year not only in their daily work but in hosting huge-profile visits like those of the Queen and President Obama. A big thank you to them and to the cleaning staff, often unseen and unthanked, but not in my office. I would like to say to Anna and Lucia: thank you for everything you do. Thank you to all of the cleaning staff in Parliament House.

To Aussies, I do not get there personally much any more, but I recognise the cardboard cup when it comes and I clutch for it with a certain sense of relief. Where would we be without those who do the child care, the travel agents, and the Comcar drivers? To the Broadcasting staff, thank you for everything that you do. To the parliamentary press gallery, I am not sure thanks is the right word, but I will be shouting them a drink tonight so we will have time for some reflections then. To the secretary of my department, Dr Watt, Watty, and to the great Australian Public Service, thank you for what you do. On behalf of the Labor Party, thank you to George Wright and the ALP national organisation. To all of our volunteers and members, thank you for keeping the faith.

To my own staff, my Chief of Staff, Ben Hubbard, and everybody who works alongside me—they are magnificent—thank you, thank you, thank you. My electorate staff who keep those home fires burning for me are a wonderful team and I want to thank them too. To the Australian Federal Police I see so much of, thank you for keeping me safe and for your good humour as you do it.

Of course, I would like to say something to my colleagues on this side of the House, my parliamentary colleagues one and all. It has been a very big year. It has been a year in which we have worked with others of goodwill in this parliament to achieve remarkable results for our country, when we have not been afraid of the tough debates, when we have not been afraid of working with crossbenchers to help this nation seize the opportunities of the future. I want to thank my colleagues in this parliament for that. In my Labor team I particularly want to thank the Deputy Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the world's greatest treasurer according to Euromoney. Thank you very much for your contribution to the nation and your personal support for me. It is very much appreciated. We have been through some times together, but I would not have it any other way.

You have to love a man who loves his job and the Leader of the House, Albo, does—there is no doubt about that. He loves his job here, loves his job in cabinet and has found a love of country music as well—who'd have thought? To my ministry and parliamentary secretaries, thank you for playing your role in leading us to a future in this country for working Australians, a future of opportunity. To the Senate leadership, Senators Evans and Conroy, thank you. We have learned some tolerance in this place now knowing what you have gone through over many long years. To the team of whips, the Chief Government Whip and his team, thank you very much indeed for everything that you do.

I would like to very specifically say to the Labor team, as the year comes to an end, something I picked up from Ed Husic, the member for Greenway—

A government member: Chifley.

Ms GILLARD: the member for Chifley—I am tired—when he did his maiden speech in this parliament. He said something that always struck me and so I am going to use these words to my Labor colleagues in conclusion. This is a saying in his original language translated into English: 'From my heart to yours, I can't thank you enough.' Thank you.