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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13851

Mrs GASH ( Gilmore ) ( 09:31 ): Before I start my three-minute speech, I place on the record that here in the House I have not seen a S peaker resign before. I would like to place on record my admiration and respect for Speaker Harry Jenkins and wish him well in his future career.

I need to quote the words of Brydan Toner. Last week during President Obama's visit to our great nation, a 16-year-old was provided with the incredible opportunity of taking part in the parliamentary celebrations and witnessing the President's address to a joint sitting of parliament. Brydan said:

I, Brydan Toner, am writing to say that I was that extremely fortunate teenager, and I am eternally grateful to my Federal Member, Joanna Gash, for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime chance.

The friendship between the Commonwealth of Australia and the United States of America is one that is second to none. As the visit coincided with the marking of a 60 year long alliance, it was a great pleasure to see that the bond between our two nations is stronger than ever before. The announcement of the joint training and exercises, planned for Darwin, between our two defence forces is a testament to our nation's leaders.

As the current school captain of Nowra High School, it was a great honour to be able to witness this historical moment in our nation's history.

From meeting with various MPs, to dining with a doctor who often works in Antarctica, from having a conversation with former Prime Minister John Howard, to shaking the hand of the President of the United States of America, the experience is one that I will never forget, and one that I have gained a great deal from. I am hoping that from this, I will be able to give something back to the community that allowed me to represent them during the course of the Presidential visit.

Being someone who has a keen interest in politics, and someone who is hoping to represent my electorate one day in federal parliament, words cannot describe what the experience meant to me. I was able to gain a brief insight into the working lives of various politicians, and even had the chance to converse with various representatives on a matter of issues, and on the workings of the Australian parliament.

As I stated to my federal member, Joanna Gash, 'I can already imagine telling my grandchildren about this one day', and I can honestly say that this is true. Whether it was the fact that I was a guest at an official state dinner hosted by the Prime Minister, the fact that I exchanged a few words with President Barack Obama, or the fact that the Federal Member for Gilmore invited me to be her somewhat excited guest throughout the visit, I know that the experience will be etched into my brain for the remainder of my life.

I would like to take advantage of this opportunity now, to thank Ms. Gash and various other parliamentarians for making my experience even more amazing than one would expect, and for making me feel welcome. It is not often that a high school student takes part in such events and celebrations, and the fact that I, a sixteen year old boy, was able to witness the president of the USA address the Australian Federal Parliament is nothing less than remarkable.

I would like to add that Brydan won a competition from 53 applicants for this trip. Our country is in good hands when we have young people like Brydan, who I am extremely proud of.