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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13839

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (16:30): I was speaking about how well the parliament was working. Now that the Leader of the House is here I will leave further commentary on that to him except to make the point that this year our budget went through in record time. That was very important, particularly given a number of initiatives in mental health and skills and training that are important to get into operation to further strengthen our economy.

I would like to say a few things about the parties in the House. I would like to pay tribute to the Independents and minor party members in the House. They have been constructive. They have worked hard. These have been difficult circumstances, but I and the government appreciate not just their attention to detail but the spirit they bring to making good public policy in this House. They prove that we can all work together in the national interest if we have got the will and if we have got the faith to work together. I think they have, through their participation here, made a very significant contribution not just to the workings of the House but also to the quality of our democracy and the strength of our economy.

I would like to acknowledge the opposition. They have certainly lived up to their name over the past year. Politics is a battle of ideas and this year was a very long and tough battle. I certainly have enjoyed the debates in the House. I have enjoyed the MRRT debate in the House over the past few days. These are big and important decisions for our country. The battle of ideas happens here. Whether it is in the afternoon or whether it is three in the morning, it is important that we see these issues through in the parliament. Future generations will judge us all by the decisions we have taken in these big debates—the decisions to price carbon pollution and to put in place a resource rent tax. There are great differences between both sides of the House; nevertheless, the debate has been held here. I wish all opposition members a very happy Christmas. Don't rest too much because we will be ready for you in the new year.

I pay tribute to the Prime Minister. This has been a year of delivery and the Prime Minister has delivered. She is as tough as nails and we have passed some of the most important legislation that this parliament has considered in many years. I said that she is as tough as nails, but I think she is actually tougher than that. She is as tough as diamonds. She has proved that time and again. Her resilience, her courage and her determination are extraordinary, but she also has the good humour and good nature that comes with it. That has been on display not just in the House but out there in the wider community. From our point of view, all of those on this side of the House with Labor conviction very much support and pay tribute to the role that she has played over the past 12 months.

I want to say a few things about my cabinet colleagues and the caucus. I pay tribute to my Treasury colleagues, Bill Shorten and David Bradbury. I also thank Penny Wong for the extraordinary work she does as Minister for Finance and Deregulation. It has been a tough year in the economy and it will be another tough year next year, given what is going on in the global economy, but we have a dedicated team working very hard to ensure we put forward the best possible policy.

I also thank the Leader of the House for the extraordinary role he has played in the parliament in the past year. The speech that he gave about the Leader of the Opposition yesterday was a cracker. It will go down as one of the great parliamentary speeches. I was very familiar with the late Mick Young, who was also a great enthusiast for the House and particularly enjoyed the role that he played as Leader of the House. I can say to you, Albo, that speech was up there with all of the great speeches, including those from the late Mick Young. It is something you should be very proud of.

I also thank all of the staff of the parliament, from the Comcar drivers through to the attendants and everybody who cleans our offices, for all of their commitment to making our parliament a better place. I particularly thank all of the electorate office staff in my Brisbane office and also all of my staff here in Canberra. In particular, I would like to thank Amanda Sayegh, who has been with us for over five years, who worked for us in opposition, who has been here right through government and who is going back to the Treasury but who has put in an extraordinary amount of work. She has worked night and day for over five years and we will all certainly miss her. I would also like to mention Hamish McDonald, who has also gone back to Treasury but who is someone who has served our country very well over the past 12 months. I would like to thank all of the hardworking Treasury officials who do so much for our country. Their professionalism is very important to the future of our country. We should value their work and we should honour it all the time.

Lastly, I would like to thank my family. We all know that the lot of a politician's family is not an easy one. I have always had the enthusiastic support of my wife, Kim, and my kids, Erin, Libby and Matt. I thank them for all of their understanding. I also thank them for their advice—they are pretty good as political advisers actually. Our families bring us back to the grassroots in much of the advice they give us about what is going on out there in the wider community, and I thank them for that.

For the year ahead, I am so confident about the future of our country. As I said before, storm clouds are gathering again in the international economy. We are not seeing the progress we would like to see in Europe. We are not necessarily seeing the progress we would like to see in the United States, in terms of the United States dealing with their long-term financial challenges. But the one thing we can be confident of is that we are located in the right part of the world at precisely the right time. We are not, in this region, immune from the fallout of events in Europe or in the United States but, because of decisions that were taken over the past four years here in Australia in terms of our response to the global financial crisis and the global recession, we are in the best possible position to handle the fallout from these events. And so are many other countries in our region. The Asia-Pacific is the hope of the global economy. It does have the capacity to continue to grow and to harvest enormous productivity improvements. For the year ahead there are challenges, but I think we can all be confident, as we go through to Christmas, that we have a country which is in good shape and which has the capacity to respond to the challenges of the future.