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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13836

Mr TRUSS (Wide BayLeader of The Nationals) (16:18): I am happy to join the Prime Minister in extending good wishes at this Christmas time to everyone who works in this parliament to support our day-to-day activities. The Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, will join us shortly and I am sure he will add to my remarks. As are all parliamentary years, it has been a long and trying year. There have been difficult moments, testy moments. We have perhaps had the noisiest parliament that we have had for a very long time. There are always surprises, and I guess today has been one of those.

We do depend upon a large number of people, thousands of people, to make this parliament work and work well. All of us are personally dependent upon our own staff and the people who work with us, and those who support us in our own communities both at a party organisational level and within our work as members of parliament. We pause today to say thank you to all of those. There are so many good things that they do for us and perhaps we do not always say thanks at the time, but they are appreciated and at the end of the year, as we start to enjoy the Christmas celebrations, this is the time to say thank you.

I thank the staff in this parliament, the clerks and all their team, the parliamentary staff, the library people—the Prime Minister has gone through a long list including Comcar drivers and the people who work in the travel office et cetera. I thank the IT people. Occasionally the system seems to work but not always; we are grateful when it does and we realise how dependent we are on their work when it does not. To all those and to those who look after us in the dining rooms and all other places, we certainly say thank you. I know there are often comments after these valedictories that somebody has been left out of the thankyous. That is why I have not attempted a long list. I know there are many, many, many people who make this parliament work and make it work well. We are grateful to them and their contribution even though they may not be mentioned by name.

From my own perspective, now that Leader of the Opposition is here and will make some more general comments on behalf of the opposition, I thank the Leader of the Opposition, Julie Bishop and our coalition colleagues and the whole shadow ministry team. They have been great to work with. We have dealt with a lot of policy issues and difficult organisational matters and it has always been done in a very good spirit. I especially thank the Manager of Opposition Business, Chris Pyne, who never lets us get our questions up and all that sort of thing, but nonetheless the day seems to be well managed and the objectives are achieved. I very much appreciate the support and assistance of my own parliamentary team and colleagues, and I acknowledge especially Nigel Scullion, my deputy, and Senators Joyce and Nash in the other place and those who contribute so much to make our organisation work well—Brad Henderson and the team in The Nationals Secretariat—and the wonderful and cooperative relationship we have with Brian Loughnane and the Liberal Party Secretariat. We do work very well as a team. We have very limited resources between us and we therefore need to get maximum value out of every person and every dollar that we have available.

In my own Canberra office, I have David Witrow and his team. In my electorate office I have been so fortunate that in my time in parliament, over 20 years now, I still have two of my original electorate staff and the 'newcomer' has already been there about 15 years. They are a wonderfully stable and supportive group and that means an enormous amount to me.

Christmas is a very special time of the year. It is an occasion when families can get together. Members of parliament who spend so much time away from their families especially treasure the opportunity to be in the company of their families when politics can be switched off for a while. We love to have our family and friends around, and the celebrations and the decorations and the lights of Christmas make this a very special time for us all.

It is also a time, though, when we need to think of those less fortunate, those people who do not have family and friends with them, who have troubles to deal with. This is the disaster season for our country, and I pray that the two months or so that we will be away from this place are not like the two months last year when there were so many events particularly flooding in my own area and cyclones which caused so much damage. We want good rain and we want good seasonal conditions, but I hope that they will come in moderation and at the right time so that this will be a peaceful season especially for our disaster coordinators and those that we rely upon to provide assistance in those times.

I appeal to all Australians to travel safely on the road. There are so many extra vehicles at that time and people who perhaps do not drive so much on the road at other times, and we all need to be careful and observant to make sure that we get to our destinations safely.

Then there are all those people who have to work over Christmas, because we still need to keep the hospitals and the aged-care facilities open, and we need to make sure that we have available the basic services, even the shops these days that seem to be open for much of the Christmas period. We do appreciate the special effort that these people make.

In talking about people who are working, often in hazardous conditions, I also concur with the Prime Minister's remarks and acknowledge the role of the Australian troops who will be in Afghanistan this Christmas away from family and friends and facing the added danger of that conflict. During the last couple of weeks I have attended two of the funerals of Australians who were killed in the especially tragic recent events. You appreciate how much of a loss it is to our nation when these talented, athletic, skilful young Australians have their lives cut short. I guess my overarching thought after leaving both of those events was the view that we owe it to those people to finish the task in Afghanistan. We owe it to those who have given their lives to make sure that we continue at the task even over Christmas and make sure that we bring peace and stability to the world just as quickly as we can.

It has been an exciting year in the parliament, as it always is. There is a lot more ahead of us, no doubt, in the year ahead. I hope that all members will enjoy a wonderful Christmas season and a pleasant break, and will come back refreshed, ready to do business again. I hope that those who support us, and their families and friends, will also enjoy a pleasant Christmas holiday, when the real message of Christmas rings in their hearts, and that we all express our appreciation and goodwill to our fellow Australians to enjoy this season and to plan for the next year in the hope that it will be both safe and prosperous for us all.