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Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Page: 3247


Senator CONROY (VictoriaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (17:22): I thank you, Trish, for that contribution. It was moving. Trish, you are leaving on exactly the same terms on which you arrived. You joined the Senate in June 1998, representing the Northern Territory. As you mentioned, you were re-elected in five subsequent general elections. You joined the Senate with a background in work in education in the community on the Gove Peninsula and as an active union member.

Over the years, Trish has extended her connections with Indigenous communities and presented their perspective and expertise in this chamber as uniquely as she just has again. This has brought an invaluable understanding to discussions on how legislation will operate on the ground and this has been particularly important for her work in committees.

The area that comes to my mind—and, Trish, you touched on this a number of times already—is your work on the Northern Territory intervention, on the various committees monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of the intervention. It has been extensive and highly valued over many years. In many respects, there is no more complex domestic issue for the government, and your input and the specialised knowledge that you have brought to those hearings and committee reports could not have made your family and your community prouder. I take this opportunity to say that your contribution has been greatly appreciated and your dedication to improving the lives of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory is widely acknowledged.

In the last few years you have also chaired the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, and your work here again has been thorough, thoughtful and invaluable. Just to mention one recent inquiry conducted by this committee, the review of the human rights and anti-discrimination legislation was a major task and has added greatly to how the legislation will operate in the future. Your committee work has been detailed and well grounded. I cannot believe the number of hours you described. That probably includes estimates as well. It is just incredible. You have developed, as shown by the response in the chamber here, cross-party relationships that at their best have made the Senate scrutiny of legislation and policy constructive and brought the chamber together.

As I said, you began your career in the Senate with a bang. I did go back and have a look at your first speech to get the flavour and a reminder of what happened at the time. You mentioned that your speech was notable for the thankyous given, as you have just done today, in an Indigenous language. It was also notable because, as you said, you pulled no punches—as you pulled none today—and you did draw a bit of a response at the time. You included a detailed critique of the cuts that were made to services in the Northern Territory by the then still relatively new Howard government. Your criticism drew a response from former Senator Vanstone, as has been mentioned, that resulted in your whole speech not being delivered and your last paragraphs being incorporated into Hansard. You have continued your fine tradition of pulling no punches.

You do tragically support the Essendon Football Club. I know that Mark is possibly not looking forward to discussing football with you as much as you are now planning on discussing it with him. I was not going to mention this, but now that you have mentioned it, yes, you did beat Carlton just a few weeks ago! I know that you like to remind him of that regularly.

I have joined you on a number of occasions campaigning for the National Broadband Network. You joined me pulling fibre. It is fitting that just this week we have turned on the very first live services of the National Broadband Network in Darwin. I know you will take great pride in that because the naysayers have continued to campaign against it but you have championed it in the Northern Territory every single day.

I also want to take the opportunity to acknowledge and thank your family for the support that they have provided to you over the years. It is a staggering number of hours that you have been on Qantas planes. I have always said to my friends and colleagues that it is tough enough living in the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane triangle, but to be a senator from Western Australia, the Northern Territory or Far North Queensland is an extraordinary commitment. That is something that you have shouldered absolutely brilliantly. It is great to see so many of your family here today. Mark, your husband, is, as you said, a Carlton fan. He may want some sympathy for having to listen to you more often, but, frankly, he is not going to get it from a Collingwood fan! Do not call me to say, 'Please, will you tell her to stop reminding me that we lost.' Also here are your son, Paul, and your daughters Melinda and Amanda, with baby Kobe and Kate. It is also great to see so many of your staffers and former staffers here—the other group that each one of us knows we cannot survive in this job without. They make us look great and we could not do this job without them and their behind-the-scenes support and hard work.

I give you one final promise, Trish. I will personally collect that 50 bucks from Dom because one should always take money off a Carlton fan if one gets the chance. I will make sure he hands it over at the end of the year. I want to congratulate you on 15 fantastic years. I look forward to seeing you up in the Northern Territory and possibly even Skyping you on the NBN when it is going.