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Thursday, 1 August 2019
Page: 1846

Mr BURKE (WatsonManager of Opposition Business) (15:28): As Manager of Opposition Business, I want to join in the comments of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the House, except when the Leader of the Opposition encouraged government members to read Practice. We're in a much stronger position if they don't.

Throughout most of my time as Manager of Opposition Business, David Elder has been the Clerk of the parliament. It's very telling: the truth of that word 'Elder'. It's very much earned in terms of the wisdom that David has brought to the role.

In relation to what the Leader of the Opposition said about when you have a minority parliament, what is really significant is the extent to which the Clerk, and the respect for the Clerk from everybody in the room, becomes basically the linchpin of our democracy, because both sides, whatever we will argue and quibble with on different rulings, know that whoever's in the Speaker's chair is relying very heavily on the advice of the Clerk, and that means there is a consistency in our democracy. It also means the Clerk's in a different position to anyone else in the room, in the sense that the rest of us get to enjoy the fact that we pursue what we want to have happen, whereas the Clerk, who personally always wants order, has to be in a position to answer the question: what do the standing orders allow? There was one Thursday early in the last term when there were different questions that I was asking the Clerk in the early afternoon. David wasn't that happy with the questions I was asking but still gave very honest answers, which resulted in an evening that we thought was wonderful but that David doesn't view as the best in his career. But the professionalism of that was extraordinary—his professionalism in saying, 'Here's the precedent; here are the rules,' and not pursuing what he might want to have happen but pursuing the dignity of the House and the consistency of the rules of the House.

For that principle to now be something that David has helped provide support for, particularly in nations in the Pacific, goes to the heart of the role that Australia can play. It would be difficult to think of a time in our history when it was more important for us that governance in the Pacific be functioning well. In that way, as the Leader of the House said, you have served our nation way beyond the specifics of your role in the parliament. We really do thank you and wish you well.