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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 231

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (20:35): Tonight we have heard the news that the member for Griffith will be resigning. He has cast a large presence across the national political stage for an extended period of time. He can leave this place with his head held up. As the member for Griffith he has been a very active local member, and amongst the many things he has done he has strongly campaigned to represent his residents in their quality of life in terms of Brisbane Airport.

As Prime Minister his most significant achievements will be recorded—the apology; helping steward the nation through the global financial crisis with Treasurer Wayne Swan; putting climate change as a national political issue in the mainstream debate; championing the National Broadband Network; and before entering parliament and during his time as Prime Minister—and, indeed, as foreign affairs minister—representing Australia with distinction. In large part our presence on the United Nations Security Council was due to his vision for that post and for Australia's role in the world.

He has been the Leader of the Labor Party during difficult circumstances for the party. He has been part of tumultuous debates within our party over the last few years. I do think that most fair minded people will recognise that, when he returned to the task of Prime Minister in those weeks before the last election, his contribution helped improve the quality of Australian democracy. Although Labor was unsuccessful at the election, I believe that his contribution in improving Labor's electoral fortunes in a range of seats meant, even though the majority of Australian people selected the coalition to form the government, that they were well served by having a relatively strong opposition in numbers able to help hold the government to account.

This is a tumultuous era in Labor and with the member for Griffith's resignation tonight part of it comes to a close. I do not believe that we will see his like again in the Australian parliament. Even his harshest critics—of which there are some—would say that he does have a special relationship with the Australian people. You can go to any shopping centre in Australia—most politicians will achieve some degree of above-politics celebrity—and see that people like him.

He has, for better or for worse in the digital era, popularised selfies. Even more importantly than that, what he said tonight reminds us of something which we all in this place hold dear. He is putting his family first. His family have lent us Kevin Rudd for the last number of years. In the harsh battles of politics, in the harsh public analysis, I can only but wonder about his children, their partners and his wife. They have to read the unkind things that get said as well as the kind things. In many ways they have no shield against the unkindness. What we have seen tonight in the words of Kevin Rudd is that enough is enough and it is now time for him to be there for those who have given so much to him. I wish to thank Therese and his family because they have supported Kevin Rudd in good times and in bad, and now they get their husband, their father, their father-in-law and their grandfather back.

In conclusion, regardless of one's politics, the propositions put by Kevin Rudd in his first speech and which he again articulated tonight are good guides for all of us. They are that the political debate should be about hope, not fear; it should be about the future, not the past; and it should be about an inclusive Australia. As Leader of the Opposition, I wish the member for Griffith and his family all the best in the future. Thank you very much.