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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13846

Mr FITZGIBBON (HunterChief Government Whip) (17:02): I am conscious of the time and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition's keenness to make a contribution, so I will be very brief, much briefer than the Government Whip should be. But I do thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for deferring to me. I think it may have been her turn; I am not sure. It gets a bit confusing with the crossbenchers.

I want to begin by reflecting on those who are serving Australia in overseas defence operations. We should all be thinking of them and their families at this time of the year, particularly of course the families who have lost their sons and those who have had their children wounded in the theatre of war. Christmas will be a challenging time for them.

It has been mentioned many times that this has been a very busy year. It certainly has been. I would suggest that this has been a busier year for MPs and indeed the staff that support us than any other year in the history of our Federation. I could be wrong. Obviously, I cannot provide evidence of that! But I think it is stating the obvious.

It has also been a successful year for both the parliament and the government. I was just asked on ABC 24 whether I believed the parliament was serving the Australian people well. I said, yes, it is, because we are progressing through this chamber and, indeed, the other place the government's positive and progressive agenda. If this House is doing that, then it is serving the Australian people well.

I want to reflect very quickly on the former Speaker, Mr Jenkins, someone I consider a very, very close friend, someone who is liked very much by all in this place and someone who did an absolutely wonderful job as Speaker of the House of Representatives. I look forward to not only having dinner with him tonight but also observing him make a significant contribution in this place in other ways in the future. To you, Mr Speaker: congratulations. You are undoubtedly qualified to undertake the task you have been elected to do. I look forward to working with you and I wish you the very best in those endeavours.

I must say some thankyous. My staff gave me a two-page list of people I need to thank. I will put everybody in this room at the moment out of their misery and not read that list; I am just going to talk about four or five groups. Of course, I want to thank all those in the government that I have worked with—the Prime Minister, ministers, the Leader of the House and, maybe most important of all, my backbench colleagues, who have without doubt worked harder than any backbench in the almost 16 years I have been here. I note the Deputy Speaker is in the room; I take the opportunity to congratulate her on her election today as well. I look forward to working with her.

I also thank the opposition to the extent to which we have had cooperation. Certainly, I have good cooperation with the Opposition Whip's office. We have our moments, particularly on the Selection Committee, as you know only too well, Mr Speaker—and you are no doubt looking forward to chairing that committee on a regular basis! I wish you the best, Mr Speaker; you will need a degree of luck.

The SPEAKER: I think I might need that assistance!

Mr FITZGIBBON: I thank the crossbenchers for their cooperation on a range of issues, both machinery and policy, and their contribution to the Selection Committee.

I thank my staff. I am blessed with wonderful staff. I know it is easy to say that, and most people in this place do, but I say it from the bottom of my heart. Most of the good work done in the Chief Government Whip's office is done by my staff: Anna George, Natasa Sikman and Jay Suvaal. I am very lucky to have them, and I thank them. I also have wonderful staff in my electorate office. They give me enormous support in the job here as well.

I also thank staff in this building more broadly, all the way from the clerks, who do a wonderful job, right through to the cleaners, the gardeners and the other people who do the practical things that make life more comfortable for us here.

Finally, I thank my wife and my children, who have given me enormous support in this role and in this job as a member of parliament over the last almost 16 years. All of us here know that we cannot do it without their support. We, in a way, get to do the interesting things; the wives, the partners and, in some cases, the husbands keep the home fires going and do the tougher stuff, for which they get very little credit. But I certainly appreciate it, as I know other members do. Then, of course, there are our children. I have been almost 16 years in this place. My children have seen nowhere near as much of me as I would have liked and I am sure they would have liked—I am confident they would have liked!—and they have made sacrifices as well. I thank them.

Finally, Mr Speaker, I congratulate you again and I wish all colleagues on all sides of the chamber all the very best for a wonderful Christmas and more quality time with those they love most.

The SPEAKER: I thank the Chief Government Whip.