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Thursday, 1 August 2019
Page: 1845


Mr PORTER (PearceAttorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Leader of the House) (15:26): As Leader of the House, it's a great delight to speak to the motion. As has been noted, David Elder has devoted essentially his entire working life—38 years—to this parliament. To give all of the members present a sense of the scale and depth of this commitment to our public service, by my rough calculations, 38 years means that David has spent 1.7 per cent of his working life listening to Phillip Ruddock's valedictory speech.

I hope I can add a celebratory tone to this motion, by noting that, since 1981, David must have seen political slogans pass by him with the repetition of scenes, like those outside HG Wells's time machine. Since 1981, David has seen off new leadership, proven leadership, and the very catchy 1996 slogan of just plain old leadership. He has seen this parliament choose real change, go for growth, and strive for hope, reward and opportunity. He knows when Australia deserves better and when we're heading in the right direction, and he's seen a new way for Australia's future for all of us. He knows about moving forward, not standing still, standing up, standing up for Australia, standing up for your family and standing up for real action, and he's seen good government starting now. He is well-schooled in easing the squeeze, keeping Australia safe, keeping Australia in safe hands and building Australia's future.

To end your very significant service as you have, David, means that you're a very significant individual part of the office of the Clerk of the Commonwealth parliament. That, as the Leader of the Opposition has noted, is a wonderful history, and if Marvel were to do an origin story for parliament itself, then the Clerk would feature in the very earliest scenes. The Leader of the Opposition has noted those early scenes, but some people date the first official appointment of a Clerk to 1863, and some historians point to that as the actual origins of modern parliament. So the role of the Clerk has been indissolubly important to parliament and you have proven yourself individually to be indissolubly important to this parliament.

I might just add, finally, that you've also made a very significant contribution to the future of our region, in a very subtle way. Historians writing in the golden age of parliamentary statute express that the very essence of English history might be conceived of as the birth and evolution of the constitutional form, and above all, parliament. I think it's very clear today that the history of parliaments and of democracies is inseparable, but that that history has not yet been finished in its writing. Right now, there are younger and smaller but critically important parliaments in our region and beyond that are evolving and learning and underpinning stronger democracies, and you have made a very significant quiet contribution to those parliaments, which might be more important than all foreign policy contributions of any government from either side. Thank you for your service.