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Thursday, 4 December 2003
Page: 23879

Ms MACKLIN (5:18 PM) —I want to start by recognising that this has been a very significant year. It was a year in which our young men and women went to war in Iraq. Of course, nothing can be more significant than that. It was not only a major decision for our troops to be sent to Iraq; it generated enormous debate in our community. Once again we saw the emergence of peace marches and considerable opposition not only from us but from many people in our country. To that end, I want to recognise again one of the most significant Labor leaders, who passed away this year, Jim Cairns. In a year when we went to war, we should remember what a great campaigner he was against the war in Vietnam and, even towards the end of his life, the war in Iraq.

We remember the shocking terrorist events that occurred in many parts of world. We had a commemoration here in the House after the terrible bombing in Baghdad when members of the United Nations were killed. Especially, we think of Sergio Vieira de Mello and his family as we come towards Christmas. Across the chamber, we supported our troops going to the Solomon Islands to do everything that we possibly could as Australians to help them find peace. We certainly owe them a debt of thanks. To the peacekeeping forces and their families, we hope that you are able to have a very well-earned break over the festive season.

A very significant event was the Bali memorial service. Once again our country came together to remember those horrific events and also to provide whatever solace we possibly could to the people who lost friends and members of their families. We say to them again: we are thinking of you. The fight against terror and the fear that dominates so many people's minds will be with them this Christmas and over the holiday season. We should take a little time to think about how we should do everything possible in the world and in our country to struggle for peace rather than war. It is very important that we try as hard as possible to do that. The people here in Canberra are going to have a pretty tough time over the holiday period as they recall what they went through last January with the terrible bushfires.

We have had some extraordinary public figures retire, especially in the sporting field—Cathy Freeman and Steve Waugh. They are going to have a very restful Christmas—much more restful than they may otherwise have had. We have also had some extraordinary sporting victories, most recently of course the Davis Cup. Most people from Victoria find rugby union a little hard to follow, to put it mildly, but we came second in the Rugby World Cup. Of course, much more easily for us we were able to get involved in the Brisbane Lions winning the AFL premiership. Another game I certainly do not understand is rugby league, but I congratulate the Panthers. On one minor political note, I am thrilled they have come out in support of the University of Western Sydney. Mr Speaker, you would remember we were also joined by the Canberra Capitals in our effort to raise money for the drought. To the Canberra Capitals, congratulations on winning the national women's basketball competition. I can tell you we would not even have been able to play the game if they had not helped us to make sure that we scored some goals and raised some money for those families that did do it very hard in the drought.

I want to pay a special tribute to Simon Crean, who has led the Labor Party over the last two years. There is noone who has been a more gutsy and hardworking leader for the Labor Party, and I do wish him all the very best. I think we have seen, by his willingness to come back to the front bench of the Labor Party, a continuation of his lifelong commitment to our party, and we thank him wholeheartedly for that. I am very pleased to be able to add my congratulations here in this House to our new leader, Mark Latham. I say to Mark and his family: there are going to be a lot of nights away for him as he takes on this enormous responsibility. We all know that he will do it extraordinarily well. We look forward to his leadership, and he certainly has decided to only move forward, as we heard so much about today.

We have had a few managers of opposition business—Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and Mark Latham in his previous role. I know they have all had varying relationships with the Leader of the House, but I say to all of them that I think it is a very stressful job, so we thank them for all of their efforts. To the whips—especially Janice and her staff, particularly Joan—I say that we know the place would not operate without them. Janice winds us up on a regular basis. If we do anything right in here, it is very largely to her credit.

Of course, none of us would be able to do the job we do here without outstanding staff. I thank all of my staff. My staff who come to Canberra serve me wonderfully in my job as deputy leader, with my shadow ministerial responsibilities. I want to pay a special tribute to one of my staff, Joanna Brent, who is about to have a baby—it was actually due last week. We hope she might have the 20,000,000th baby, and we wish her very well. When you have the responsibilities that we have, a lot of work falls on the shoulders of our electorate staff, so I thank my electorate staff very much.

This year, the National Secretary of the Australian Labor Party, Geoff Walsh, resigned. He is a wonderful human being. I do not know whether you know him, Mr Speaker, but he has an extraordinary wit. I must say that things are not the same without his dry humour. He made a great contribution to the Australian Labor Party, not only as our national secretary but also in many other ways, and he will be sorely missed. Tim Gartrell, our new national secretary is an absolute bundle of energy and, like Mark Latham, he is definitely part of a new generation. I thank all the other staff at the national secretariat, who are right now extremely busy organising our national conference for early next year.

All of our shadow ministers do an extraordinary task. I thank them personally—especially those who put so much effort into very productive policy making through the year. Many of them have made a terrific contribution to the ideas that have been put forward as part of our pitch to the Australian people to show that we have a better way of going forward. I thank them very much. The backbench are there to make sure we never lose touch with reality, and, boy, do they do that well. Then there are our families. As the Treasurer, Peter Costello, just said, our families carry so much. I thought it was extraordinary when I rang home the other day after our ballot and my 15yearold said, `4745.' I thought, `Boy, are they paying attention.' They may get some benefits by understanding what happens in this place.

Best wishes to all the members of the government, the Prime Minister and my equal, Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, who, as I have said before, often quietly gives me some wise advice, which I appreciate. Best wishes to you, Mr Speaker, and all of the other people on the panel. I understand there is a secret club and you all look after each other. Of course, you are the leader of that, and we do thank you. I know I can be a bit noisy at times, but I think you understand that it is all in the best interests of democracy. Equally, we respect you and wish you and your family all the very best.

To the clerks, we know that, frankly, nothing much would happen if you were not here—nothing would happen in an orderly fashion, that is for sure. To all the staff right through the parliament, we thank you for making this such a great place to work, as well as being the home to democracy. There are the people who look after us coming and going, the Comcar drivers, and all of the staff who do all the work that is never seen—such as the cleaning staff and the maintenance staff—and who really make this place tick. We thank you. To those who make sure we get to and from here and everywhere else—those at Synergi Travel and in the transport office—we know that you do your jobs well.

It is the case, as I mentioned before, that there are people who will not be home this Christmas. Mostly we want to make sure that they know we are thinking of them. Many people from the Australian defence forces are deployed right around the world—in Iraq, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Egypt. In all of these places around the world there are Australian defence personnel, and other people are working with them as peacekeepers. We think of them. Our thoughts also go to their families, as they are without a family member, someone close to them, at times when we do like to get together and celebrate our family lives and friendship. These are the people of whom we are thinking right now.

I do want to thank a couple of others. One thing I am sure our new Manager of Opposition Business will recognise is the terrific work done by the staff who organise question time. We have had two people who have done that particularly over the last year: Courtney Hogan and Phillippe Allen. I just want to mention them especially. They have an insane life every morning and I think they have made a very special contribution to the smooth running of question time.

Once again, I wish everyone in the House a very happy holiday and a safe one. I can tell you: I will be trying to catch a few waves—and making sure that we come back refreshed and ready for the political battle again next year. Happy Christmas.