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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 14617

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (09:53): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your service and the patience which you and all the occupants of the chair offer this parliament. On this final sitting day—a day of tired eyes and possibly, for some, sore heads—as all of us in this place look forward to returning home, we think of those Australians who will not be home this Christmas—the men and women of our Defence Force, serving our nation in the cause of peace around the world. To our emergency services personnel—firefighters, ambos, nurses and police officers—for their sake and for the sake of all Australians, we hope those on duty have a quiet Christmas. And then there are the ordinary hardworking Australians for whom Christmas is another day when they will sacrifice time with their family to help provide for their family. Too often, all of us in this place leave thanking our families to the end of our remarks. They give up so much and take on so much so that we can serve here. To Chloe, Rupert, Georgette and Clementine, thank you for making it possible to do this job. I love you. I am looking forward to seeing you very soon.

When this parliament rose last year, we all knew of the threat posed by the sectarian hatreds in the Middle East and the violent extremism here at home. Since then, two gunmen, one in Martin Place and one in Parramatta, have reminded us of the need for heightened vigilance and stronger cohesion. Attacks in Paris, Lebanon, Turkey and Mali have only emphasised that this is the world's problem to confront and to solve. Just as in the face of bushfires in the West and South and cyclones in the North, Australians have stood strong. Australians summon time and time again the courage to carry on and the compassion to care for those in need. Australia can be proud of this and much more in the year that has been.

We celebrated Australia Day with a wonderful new Australian of the Year and a somewhat surprising new knight. Rosie Batty has helped Australians face up to the national crisis of family violence, and in acknowledging her today we remember the 78 Australian women who have been killed this year. Let us all vow not to rest until that number is zero each and every year. As a parliament and as a nation we commemorated the centenary of a chilly dawn when a group of brave young men clambered out of small boats onto an unfamiliar beach and into history.

For our sports loving country there was much to cherish. On our home soil, our netballers and cricketers both won world cups. In England, the Southern Stars reclaimed the ashes. At Flemington, Michelle Payne made history by half a length and told every bloke whoever doubted any woman to 'get stuffed'. And on the hottest grand final day on record the Hawks barely broke a sweat on their way to a three-peat. And in a script he must have written himself, Johnathan Thurston kicked truly to claim glory for the Cowboys.

There was loss and sadness too. Richie Benaud and Bart Cummings passed away—the voice of our summer and the embodiment of our spring. We farewelled Labor giants Tom Uren and Peter Walsh. In March, the towering presence of Malcolm Fraser left us. His legacy, particularly his contribution to multicultural society that we all celebrate, will live long after him. In this place, we offered our condolences to Don Randall's family. Don Randall was an unstinting, unashamedly parochial advocate of his electorate. We bid farewell to Joan Kirner, a trailblazer and a fearless champion for women, for education and for Victoria, and to Faith Bandler, an activist, a fighter and a warrior, who only ever wielded the weapons of compassion, respect and intelligence.

All of us who speak in this chamber and in the other place are merely visitors here for some 20 weeks a year. We rely on the hard work, good humour and boundless patience of the people who come to work here every day. The smooth running of this place depends on the calm civility of the clerks, the Serjeant-at-Arms and their office, the tabling office, the Parliamentary Library, Hansard and all of the attendants in this chamber. The kilometres of corridors around us house thousands more people without whom there would not be a parliament. I refer, of course, to the guards, the plumbers, the printers, the switchboard operators, the caterers, the physios, the nurses and the IT support. Dom and the cheerful crew at Aussies can always be counted on for a bacon and egg roll and a cup of coffee at a critical moment. And in a place and in a profession that creates a lot of mess, I want to pay a special tribute to all the Parliament House cleaners Joy, Maria, Anna and Lucia. You and your colleagues are stars and you deserve a much better deal.

The Australian Federal Police are expert at fading into the background but we are all grateful for the work they do to keep MPs and senators safe. I can give a special mention to those who work in the Melbourne CPO. I also want to thank my Comcar drivers Steve Smith and Peter Taylor. I know that my youngest daughter appreciates your high standard of eye-spy work, just as I am sure they appreciate my navigation skills and helpful driving tips. On the subject of low-profile people working quietly behind the scenes to make a much appreciated contribution, I want to thank all the members of the press gallery. Your advice is always 'available'.

All of us called to serve in the Labor caucus are only the tip of the spear. We stand here as representatives of Australia's oldest continuous political movement proud of our past but, as ever, looking forward. We are a great, generous, sprawling, diverse, feuding and loving family. I am grateful every day to every member of every branch of the Labor Party for their dedication, energy and passion. I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary contribution of our national secretary, George Wright, and our national president, Mark Butler, particularly for all their work in preparing for the highly successful national conference.

To my deputy leader, the member for Sydney: Tanya, you are a formidable advocate and a firm friend, and I thank you for your steadfast support. To our leadership team in the other place—Penny Wong and Stephen Conroy: thank you for the way you have worked with the crossbench, through committees and estimates, to stand up for Labor values and hold the government to account. To my shadow Treasurer, the member for McMahon, and my shadow finance minister, the member for Watson: thank you for your counsel and your friendship. In fact, I could name the whole caucus. All of you can be proud of the year that we have had—a year defined by unity of purpose and by more positive plans and policies than any opposition has released in a generation. All of you own a share of this and I thank you for everything that we have done to make it possible.

To make sure that my staff were still listening I decided to thank them last! They know better than anyone how hard they work and how much their hard work means to me. Unfortunately, I cannot read the rest of their handwriting so I will just leave it there!

Predictions and assumptions in politics can be a fraught business. If you had told me in January that by December we would have a new Treasurer, a new Speaker and a new Prime Minister I would have been rapt—but I had an election in mind! There is a long way to go and a lot more to happen in the months ahead of us. With that in mind, I wish the Prime Minister a restful and happy Christmas break with Lucy and the family. As long as the truffles are up to standard, there has never been a more exciting time to be Malcolm Turnbull!

I want to extend to all members of the government and the crossbench, and their families and staff, my wishes for a safe and restful break. Serving in this place is an honour known to very few. Regardless of allegiance or ideals it is the privilege of service that binds us all. The greatest loyalty we owe is not to ourselves or to our party but to the people and the nation we have been honoured to represent. Let's remember this and live up to it next year and always. Merry Christmas, everyone, and a happy New Year. I thank the House.