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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 14667

Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (12:55): At this time of year we often find ourselves remembering those who are no longer with us. As I look across the chamber, I remember, as his friends on both sides of the chamber do, Don Randall. When someone we see every day in this workplace is suddenly gone, I hope that it reminds us to be perhaps a little kinder to one another—not gentler, necessarily, because politics is about things that matter, and it is important to be fierce in our arguments, to debate fully and forcefully, but perhaps a little personally kinder, a little more conscious that those sitting opposite are, as Gough Whitlam used to insist, our opponents but not our enemies.

Last year we lost Gough. This year we lost his great opponent, Malcolm Fraser, a tireless and outspoken advocate for human rights, among his many other achievements. We also farewelled three of Gough's ministers. We lost my dear friend and very generous mentor, Tom Uren, and Kep Enderby, former Attorney-General, another friend of mine and a branch member of mine, as Tom was. Kep spent his later years working hard on a number of issues that were very important to him, including voluntary euthanasia, something that he was passionately committed to. And we lost Les Johnson, a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the local member in my seat when I was growing up—a wonderful man. All three of them were wonderful men and part of the great enterprise of the Whitlam government. All three of them left legacies that continue to shape Australia today.

Les, as I said, was my local member when I was growing up—the member for Hughes. It was a sign of just how much he was loved by the local community he represented that, when I went to his funeral earlier this year at the Sutherland Entertainment Centre, it was full of people whom he had represented—branch members, of course, and community members but also ordinary people who remembered him as a very hardworking, very dedicated local member. Despite the fact that he had left politics in 1983, the funeral, as I said, was very well attended by his former constituents.

1983 was also the year that the then member for my seat of Sydney, Les McMahon, left politics. This year Les also passed away, leaving a great record of devotion in the seat that I now represent—his home and his constituency. He stayed interested and involved in his local community, including in the Labor Party locally, throughout his life and long after he left parliament. This year too we lost Peter Walsh, the long-serving finance minister of the Hawke government—six years in that portfolio. It is a tough portfolio. Anyone who has done it knows how tough it is. And we lost Alby Schultz, who was elected to the federal parliament in the same year that I was, in 1998, and went on to serve his electorate of Hume until the last election. He gave 15 years of service in the federal parliament after 10 years serving his community in New South Wales Legislative Assembly.

We also lost Joan Kirner. This really was a deep sadness for many of us, men and women, on our side and I think more broadly across the Australian community. Joan was an inspiration. She was a mentor and an encouragement to so many on our side of politics, so many women in particular. She was a great role model for continued political engagement long after leaving parliament. Her work with EMILY's List and for affirmative action made it possible for many women who might not have otherwise got their foot in the door to represent their community. I think Joan's pushing for our affirmative action targets sees us now at about 45 per cent of Labor representatives being female. It is really, truly a remarkable life's work, aside from her many other great political achievements. I think all of us here, whether in the House of Representatives or in that other place, got involved in politics for a pretty simple reason: to make Australia a better place. And when I look around the benches on this side of the House and see a party that looks like the community I know that Joan is one person who could honestly say that she succeeded.

On the international stage, the founding father of independent Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, died this year too, and I was pleased to be able to offer my condolences in person on a visit to Singapore. His role in steering his nation and developing the institutional architecture of our region remade the Asia-Pacific. His achievements were extraordinary.

We saw two Labor senators leaving this year for very well earned retirement—Senators John Faulkner and Kate Lundy. Of course, we miss both John and Kate—very much. We miss them tremendously, and we sent them off with our very best wishes for a post-political life that is full, rich and enjoyable. These two much-loved senators have been replaced by two wonderful new additions to our senate team, Senators Katy Gallagher and Jenny McAllister, who bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to their positions. We know they will make an enormous contribution in coming years—indeed, they have already.

Three Labor MPs and one Labor senator have announced that they will not contest the next election: the member for Bruce, the member for Oxley, the member for Wills and Senator Jan McLucas. Each of them has made an enormous and important contribution not only to the Australian Labor Party and to the Australian parliament but, most importantly and most particularly, to their constituents, the people who put them into the House of Representatives or into the Senate in the first place. We look forward to working with their replacements after the next election.

On the other side, I want to make a particular mention of the member for Maranoa, a wonderful gentleman who I am sure will be missed not just by his own colleagues but indeed by many of us on this side too.

Mr McCormack: Got a soft spot for him!

Ms PLIBERSEK: I will take that interjection. It is very true: I do have a soft spot for him. He will be very much missed, and I am hoping I will get an invitation to the farewell party.

Mr McCormack: Consider it done.

Ms PLIBERSEK: Excellent. In happier news, I think it is important to note that it has been a year not just of farewells but of welcomes, too. We are happy to congratulate the member for Watson on his upcoming wedding and the member for Adelaide, the member for Kingston, the member for Rankin, the member for Higgins and Senator Penny Wong on the new additions to their families. It is a great opportunity for us to remember our humanity when these beautiful new little babies come into the world and, when we are very lucky, come into the caucus room for a bit of a cuddle.

Internationally a number of incidents this year have been deeply troubling. We have seen terrorist attacks, including large-scale terrorist attacks, in places as far apart as Kenya, Paris, Ankara and Tunisia. In Australia, of course, we remember the Martin Place siege and the murder of Curtis Cheng. This will be the first Christmas that Curtis Cheng's family spends without him. We remember his family and the families of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson particularly at this time of year. No doubt they carry a very heavy burden every day, but at this time of year in particular, when families are drawn together from all corners of the world, we miss the people who are missing.

Non-state actors continue to be a significant security challenge. We very much thank our security personnel, our intelligence agencies and our defence personnel overseas who are working so hard and so effectively to keep Australians safe. Our defence personnel, particularly those who are away at this time of year, will no doubt be missing their families very much, but they follow in a fine tradition of brave and effective personnel, and on this 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings we particularly remember that.

We continue to see the desperate plight of refugees from the Syrian conflict and from Iraq worsening. I talked about that at this time last year, and, sadly, we have made little real progress and in fact the humanitarian situation is even more acute now than it was then. We are seeing mass movements of people seeking safety and security that sometimes have the most tragic consequences. The photo of little Aylan Kurdi brought home those tragic consequences in such a direct and human way for so many people.

But it has also been a year of hope. It seems that discussions about a political solution in Syria are minutely closer than perhaps they were at this time last year. Peshmerga fighters have liberated Sinjar, which had been held by Daesh for more than a year. So, a little bit of good news there, and a little bit of good news in Myanmar: the first free and fair elections in many years. In fact, I talked about free and fair elections in Myanmar in my first speech, when I was elected to the parliament—about working for and wishing for that outcome. This is the first openly contested election since 1990 and the first to determine the government since 1960. I want to congratulate Australians who were involved in this, including our fantastic Australian Electoral Commission, which has provided training and support for many of the Burmese staff who were involved in the elections. The fact that the election went so smoothly is a credit to the locals who worked so hard in the first instance to argue for the election and to win the right to vote and who worked on the polling booths. But I think it is also a credit to the assistance that our Australian Electoral Commission and other Australians were able to provide. We all wish the people of Myanmar well in this transitional time. We join our hopes to theirs that this will be a government where the rights of all the people of Myanmar are respected and protected.

This year, globally, we saw the adoption of the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development, following on from the Millennium Development Goals. Guided by the Millennium Development Goals, more than a billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. The number of children not in school has almost halved.

At times the scenes of conflict and suffering on the news can be overwhelming so it is important to remember that at the same time the work of digging latrines, teaching in schools and training in health care and agricultural techniques is going on every day and succeeding. Every day incremental advances are made that over years and decades add up to extraordinary results.

Domestically, we have seen some turbulence this year. We saw the election of a new Labor government in Queensland, after just one term in opposition. We congratulate and welcome the election of Annastacia Palaszczuk and her team. Federally, I know that events will have left some members opposite a little bruised. I remember what that feels like. We always say that politics is not personal, but politicians are people. When people go through a leadership change in the way that those opposite have it can leave them feeling a little dented, and certainly we think of the families of those who have lost their leadership roles. However hard we take it ourselves, I think our families really feel the slings and arrows of our profession more than we do. I hope everyone in the chamber on both sides, but especially those who have experienced setbacks this year, have the chance to rest and recuperate and heal over the summer.

Our jobs take a lot of our time and our attention, and we do not often have the chance to set them aside and spend time with our friends and our families. I like to think that our friends and families miss us a little bit—it could be that they are delighted we are not around so much! Our families make enormous sacrifices to allow us to do the work that we do. I feel particularly fortunate to have married a man who has never made it difficult for me to be away from home half the year and to pursue the career that I feel so passionately committed to. I feel so very lucky to have three healthy children who welcome me home with such enthusiasm when I get there.

I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Maribyrnong, for his leadership and his vision this year. Being the Leader of the Opposition is probably the hardest job in federal politics, and this year we finish with a Leader of the Opposition who has brought down a Prime Minister, brought down a Treasurer and seen well over 40 new policies announced—more than during any other opposition at this stage of the electoral cycle that I can remember. It is down to our leader's focus on the future, his determination and his positivity. I thank Bill for the work that he has done in leading us this year. Our achievements are also down to the work of my colleagues on the front bench. We are very lucky to have one of our key frontbenchers here, our shadow Treasurer. To all of my colleagues on the front bench and also the back bench, I thank them for their extraordinarily hard work this year, for their camaraderie and their friendship. I also thank our staff, and my own, for the work that they do: Bronwyn, Dan, Ashley, Nina, Marty, Laura, Michael—who has left but we hope to lure him back one of these days—Ruth, Christine, Hannah and Rachael; all of the staff who have worked so hard to assist me this year. I know members on both sides feel the same way about their staff—we could not do what we do without the enormous support that we get.

That is true of all the people who look after us here in the parliament. They have been listed, and I have to add my own thanks to those of previous speakers. To the chamber attendants, whose jobs require them to be unobtrusive but who are always there when we need them, especially 'Luch'; the Hansard staff, who set down everything for posterity and make sure our constituents know how we represent them here in this chamber; the clerks; the Library staff; the staff at Aussies and the cafeteria, and of course the dining rooms, especially Tim; and the cleaners. I want to make particular mention of Joy, who is the cleaner who looks after us in our office and takes such good care of us every day. To Joy and the other cleaners, I want to say that we support you in your fight to get a decent day's pay for a decent day's work. I thank the serjeant's office, too, who do such a remarkable job particularly in the more demanding security environment that we have been operating in in more recent times. It is impossible to name all of the people who keep us going here in this building, from the basement to the flagpole—every one of them does valuable work and we thank them at this time of the year.

There are also the Comcar drivers—it is incredible, the friendships that develop over the years with the Comcar drivers, and I am sad that this year a number of them are retiring. We wish them all the very best in their retirement. We would not get anywhere without them and without our friends who do the travel bookings. We know there is a degree of focus that comes on us as the principals, but we could do nothing without this army of people who help us each day. Thank you to all of those in the building and in our electorate offices who help us each day. I wish them and my colleagues on both sides of the chamber a very happy Christmas.