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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8143


Senator BARTLETT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (7:06 AM) —I would like to also add, on behalf of the Australian Democrats, our best wishes for all here to have a pleasant Christmas— including the support staff around the entire parliament, who, as Senator Boswell said, do a magnificent and often unheralded job. Their role, of course, is crucial to the functioning of this place and therefore crucial to the effective operation of our entire system of government. I therefore think that their work needs to be acknowledged, particularly after a night like this one. It is bad enough that we force ourselves to sit through the night, but it is even worse when we force everybody else—the clerks, the attendants, our own staff and the like—to also work through the night.

In terms of specific thanks, I thank the many staff who work for Democrat parliamentarians around the country. They have had a year that, in parts, they would probably prefer not to have had, and they have continued to work effectively throughout all that. The fact that the Democrats have continued to be effective in the Senate, effecting change, effecting legislation and raising the issues, is a big tribute to all of those staff. I know that they very much need a break, and I hope that they have a good one. I am sure that similar things apply to other staffers. I thank all my Democrat colleagues. We have all had an interesting year as well, and I am sure next year will be a better one. But, again, they have all continued to work effectively on their main job, which is to represent the people of Australia and get better outcomes for them.

I think it was at the start of this day that we had a short debate about having more parliamentary sitting days and a few extra sitting weeks. One of the arguments against that was that, if we needed to extend, rather than having extra weeks we could extend the hours a little bit. After a night like this I would like to put my argument again that we not extend the hours a little bit, or a lot, through the night and into the next morning but that we just try and have a few more days, spread over more civilised hours.

It has been a difficult year for all Australians in many ways. Probably a lot of Australians finished the year feeling a little bit more apprehensive than they did at the start because of events such as the tragedy in Bali. I reiterate our and indeed the Senate's condolences to those who have been affected by that, and our and everybody's determination to ensure that the safety of Australians is maximised and that we do continue to maintain our way of life and not become too cowed by apprehension and fear. This is a fabulous country in many ways, as we would all agree, and we need to work to protect what is so good about it.

We are finishing up here and are due to come back in February. I hope our return is not before February, because there is some apprehension around the country that in the intervening time our country may find itself considering whether to engage in or be supportive of a war or a conflict in Iraq. That is obviously a serious issue, and I note the Prime Minister's general comments that in such an eventuality he would have a parliamentary debate. In that sense we hope very much that we are not back here earlier in January considering issues like that. I am sure that we would all hope that such an eventuality does not arise.

Despite the fact we are finishing up here, work continues and the commitment of many Australians who continue to work to make Australia a better place will continue. We will see the enormous amount of charitable work that people do over the Christmas period to assist people who are less well off. Many other people continue to work to address issues they believe are important. Whilst all of us do that work, it is appropriate to note and pay tribute to the work and efforts of many millions of Australians who in their own way—often just in a voluntary capacity—work to do what they can to assist in improving the nation that we live in.

Partly on that note, I seek leave to table a petition that is not in the appropriate form, which I waved in front of Senator Ferris a little while ago. It is from Amnesty International.

Leave granted.


Senator BARTLETT —Many hundreds of Australians are interested in ensuring that Australia upholds and maintains its human rights standards. People like that will continue to pursue those goals, and the Democrats, and I amongst them, will also do the same. I again wish everybody a pleasant break away from here. I am sure it will not be all restful. Many of us will continue to work in various ways. During the Christmas and new year period, especially, all of us will welcome time with families or catching up with people we have not seen for a while. Hopefully, we will come back here regenerated, reinvigorated and ready to engage constructively with each other for the common good that we are all here for.