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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13845

Mr WINDSOR (New England) (16:55): Mr Speaker, I will speak briefly. Firstly, I congratulate you on your appointment and wish you well in the job. I also extend, on behalf of the crossbenches, my congratulations to the former Speaker, Harry Jenkins. I think he did an extraordinary job in difficult circumstances during this year, but also an extraordinary job in the previous parliament. I thank him for the way in which he conducted his work within the parliament and for the affable manner in which he has conducted himself. I wish him well on the backbench. We might be blessed to have him as a guiding light near the Independent benches, although he seems to have slipped away a bit during the day. At the risk of testing your indulgence, Mr Speaker—because I think you might be a fairly tough nut to crack in some senses—I would like to express in my traditional numbers form my estimation of the former Speaker and issue him a 10. I congratulate him on his work.

This year has been a very interesting year, and obviously the crossbench have been very much a part of that. I thank all of those that we have had contact with through the year, from both sides of the parliament, particularly people from both sides that were involved in the Murray-Darling committee. I thought the people—including the member for Riverina, who is here at the moment—did a sterling job in trying to come up with a consensus on that particular issue, and hopefully in the weeks to come a consensus attitude will be maintained in trying to come to grips with a very difficult issue.

I thank my staff particularly. I will not name them all, but we have had a very, very interesting year. We are very good friends, as I think we all are with our staff. I thank the electoral staff and the staff that come to Canberra with me for the work that they do. All of our families obviously need to be thanked, and I join with others that have thanked the parliamentary staff, from the clerks, who are outstanding individuals as well as guiding lights in terms of the operations of the building, right through all of the internal staff in the building, including the security people. I think it makes us much better members of parliament to see the way in which they conduct themselves in the building and the way they express themselves to the community. It makes me very proud. I have seen the deterioration in the New South Wales parliament over the years as to the regard that the staff are held in, and I think the staff are held in very high regard in this building. It is something we should maintain, because I think it says a lot about the work that comes out of the building if our staff are respected and they respect us.

The year has been an extraordinary year. I congratulate the government on their performance in what has been a difficult year. I have been in a hung parliament before. I have some idea of what it is like as a participant, but I also have some idea of what it is like for the leader within a hung parliament: not easy. I particularly thank and congratulate the Prime Minister for the way in which she has conducted herself in the many negotiations. She must get sick of it from time to time. But I have never seen an occasion where she has become rattled or rushed or irritated in any sense in terms of her conduct towards me as a crossbencher or others in any meetings I have been in. I am sure in other private meetings she has a similar demeanour.

The other issue that I would raise, Mr Speaker, is one that I hope becomes part of your demeanour next year, as the year progresses, both in this chamber and outside it. I also make this call to the press. I think, if we have learnt something from this year, it is that we need to respect one another to a far greater degree than we have. The way in which the press conduct themselves, and they are taking their lead from some of us in this building, such as the lack of respect that has been shown to the leaders of various parts of this parliament is something that we really do need to look at as individuals. And I would urge you, Mr Speaker, in your capacity, to try and lead the charge in relation to that. I think it is something that all of us should have regard to. We all talk to our schools, at times, about how precious democracy is. But it is built on mutual regard and respect. Even though the numbers are tight in this parliament—and the rough-and-tumble will always be there, irrespective of the numbers—I think it is time that we reigned in the vitriol a little bit in terms of the way in which many of us conduct ourselves, including some of those in the press. We all should play a greater role in gaining greater regard and respect for others who might have different views from us within the community. It is paramount to our democracy that we do so.

In conclusion, I thank all of those who have been involved in the year and wish all of you a very happy Christmas and a restive time. No doubt, we will back here to do battle again next year—hopefully, in a slightly different spirit. Thank you.