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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8146

Senator BROWN (7:22 AM) —I thank Senator Harris and preceding speakers for their Christmas wishes. I want to reflect on the past 24 hours we have all contributed to, because it has been a very big work day for the representatives of Australia in both houses of parliament. In the other place at the moment, the ASIO bill is still being debated. A lot of people will read or hear about that today and think, `What were they doing all that time?' But those of us who were here know that there have been very complex legal, social and ethical issues involved in this debate which will affect real lives. There is a big clash between the need to protect our country from terrorists and terrorism, while recognising the need to protect freedoms and liberties from the measures that need to be taken in that pursuit. So the debate still goes on. I think we should stop and reflect on that and on this remarkable democracy of ours. Without exception, there has been a willingness and the ability of people in both houses of this place to contribute to the debate and to keep going to try and find solutions when there is such a clash of different needs built into an important piece of legislation like that. I congratulate all my colleagues in this place.

I also want to say a short word about my two new colleagues—Michael Organ, the member for Cunningham in the House of Representatives and Kerry Nettle, the new Greens senator in this place. At this time last year there was just me; now there are three of us. It is an interesting minor change but it is a big change for the Greens. In terms of politics, we have had a great year. I thank all the people out there in voter land who have given the support that has made that change.

But I have a particular word here for the 20 million Australians who we represent. A lot is said against politics and politicians, but, when you dig a little deeper, they are intensely defensive of the democracy and the freedoms that this house—this great bubble on the hill—represents. Politicians are very proud of the Australian institutions which represent democracy and freedom, and we are lucky enough to be present in one of the greatest of them at the moment.

That said, I wish everybody a great break, a wonderful summer, a happy Christmas, a bountiful New Year, and safety and security. I hope that we will not be at war in the next couple of months. I hope that the impending cataclysm in Iraq will be avoided. I hope that those who have the impulse for war will be able to restrain that impulse for the sake of all humanity, not just the people of Iraq and those who might be engaged in conflict there.

There are some dozens of other conflicts going on around the world at the moment— in the Ivory Coast, Tibet, West Papua and Colombia, to name just a few. I hope the coming year finds peace and some resolution of the fear and utter hopelessness that so many people on the planet are faced with, which many of us in Australia do not comprehend and do not come close to in our daily lives. I hope that we as a great nation will be able to extend a little bit more of our bounty to the hapless elsewhere on the planet in the coming year so that in the future they can enjoy some of the hope that is in big measure in this country. I reiterate the season's wishes of those who have preceded me to everybody who works in this wonderful place and gives us the support that we need and get, so willingly and always with a smile, to enable us to represent the people of Australia.