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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 230


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (20:29): This is a special occasion. The former Prime Minister, the member for Griffith, who has just addressed us, has been a very significant part of this parliament for the best part of two decades. Whether we are on his side of the parliament or the other side of the parliament, whether we have been his friends or his foes, or at times both, this is a significant moment in the life of this parliament—to lose someone who has been one of the big figures in this parliament and one of the big figures in the public life of our country over the best part of two decades. As a political opponent, but as someone who has known the member for Griffith quite well for a long time, I salute him and I wish him and his family all the best for the future. I express my confidence that, one way or another, he will continue to serve our country and his party and that he will continue to support the causes he believes in, many of which are causes which all of us right around this chamber and right around our country support as well.

The member for Griffith has just said, rightly, that we are an extraordinary country. We are an extraordinary country, and I hope, Madam Speaker, you will forgive me if I say, in reference to the member for Griffith, that it does take an extraordinary person to lead an extraordinary country. The member for Griffith won an election which pitted him against the person whom I believe to have been the most successful prime minister in modern Australian times. It takes extraordinary ability, insight, guts and focus to win such a contest. He did not just win that contest in 2007, he triumphed. He absolutely triumphed in that contest. We must pay tribute to someone of such stature who was able to vanquish, in fair political fight, someone of at least equal stature. I pay tribute to the member for Griffith tonight for his capacity, for his achievements, for his ability and for his commitment, because a man of his ability—a person of his ability—could do many things in this life, but he chose to serve our country as a public servant in Queensland, as a member of this parliament, as a frontbencher, and eventually as a party leader and as a prime minister. We salute that service.

Sooner or later everyone outlives their usefulness. It does not matter how well they have done. It does not matter how important the cause is that they are serving. Sooner or later everyone outlives his or her usefulness. It will come to every single member of this House that, at some point in time, we will have outlived our usefulness, and the wisdom is to know—

An honourable member interjecting

Mr ABBOTT: Yes, fair enough, I suppose I invited that observation, but it is the essence of wisdom to know when the time has come to serve one's country and to serve one's ideals in a different capacity. Again, I salute the member for Griffith for appreciating that although there are good things that he could have continued to do in this parliament for his party, for our people and for his constituents, he can do better things for all of those important causes elsewhere.

It remains only to observe that, whatever disagreements the member for Griffith and people on this side of the chamber have had, there were many things to celebrate in his prime ministership. Certainly, that which I celebrate most of all, and which I am sure every single member of this House celebrates, is that extraordinary apology on the first day of the parliamentary sitting in 2008. Ancient wrongs were addressed. Ancient injustices were, at least in part, atoned for, and our country had a unifying and healing moment the like of which we very, very rarely see. It was a great moment in our history. To the credit of the member the Griffith, it happened because of him.

Much as I admire, appreciate and put on a huge pedestal his immediate predecessor, in this respect at least, his immediate predecessor had lacked the imagination to grasp that opportunity, and the member for Griffith, Kevin, had the decency to see that here was something that needed to be done. He did it with aplomb, with courage and with decency, compassion and magnanimity. That alone is an extraordinary achievement. That alone is something to crown an amazing public life.

We thank you and we salute you.