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Thursday, 26 November 2009
Page: 13086

Mr PRICE (4:38 PM) —Madam Deputy Speaker, on indulgence: thank you very much for the opportunity to speak on the valedictory, and forgive me for starting with the retirement of the Clerk of the House, Ian Harris, who served many years in this place. I have reflected on my relationship with the Clerk and I regret to say that I have probably caused him more headaches than anything else. I recall a number of intense discussions about standing orders, none of which I really ever won. He was most helpful when I first became Chief Opposition Whip and we worked together to develop a greater understanding amongst the opposition of standing orders. To Ian and Erika: I sincerely wish you all the best in your retirement. Clerks are held in high esteem and I am sure you will be reassured by the fact that Bernard Wright is taking over your role.

I will make a couple of observations about whips. We depend on the goodwill, cooperation and assistance of our members, and I must say I have always received that in abundance. On my side, I have worked together for a very long time with Jill Hall and I very much value her contribution to the whips team. I suppose in the spirit of Christmas I could say some people might remark that someone who is really soft Right should get on with someone who is so effectively hard Left, and perhaps that is the magic of the combination. But, truly, she does play a very important role and, together with Chris Hayes, is responsible for the whips’ aspects of the Main Committee.

I am under no illusions in respect of my own office, of course—and that is that there is just one undisputed boss, Anna George, much beloved by everyone. Like everyone else, I try to conform and comply as much as I can. I would like to thank Anna, Joy Brogan and Matthew Tredwell and David Field in my staff and Mark and Chris, in Jill’s office, who provide support to members. We have a lot to do with the PLOs from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet who have the tiniest of offices in the parliament but nevertheless do sterling work. I would particularly like to thank Henry Thomson, Alison and Tim for all the good work they do and the assistance and cooperation they provide.

Whips are required to work closely with the Leader of the House, Anthony Albanese, who takes his role very, very seriously but who, I must confess, has an enormous portfolio to administer as well. With no reflection on Anthony whatsoever, it is Jo Haylen who makes it all work. Jo is one of those outstanding women in the building who makes a tremendous contribution or, as blokes would say, punches well above her weight. I thank Anthony for all his work and leadership in the past 12 months and I thank his team.

I have to say some nice words about my counterpart the Chief Opposition Whip, the honourable member for Fairfax. I put on the record I am not compelled to, so this is voluntary. Can I personally say to Alex that we are all hoping the next few days and weeks are going to go very well for him. Chief whips make handshake agreements all the time and only have their honour as an insurance policy, so I thank Alex for his great cooperation and the way we are able to work together in the best interests of our sides. I would also like to thank his staff.

In this parliament we changed the way private members’ business was selected. We got rid of the selection committee and, strictly speaking, the authority for selection of private members’ business rests with the Chief Opposition Whip and me. That can sound very draconian and almost as though the House is moving backwards rather than forwards. However, all whips are invited to attend, and they do. So Kay Hull from the Nationals is there and Chris and Jill when they can, and Nola and Michael are invited to attend as well. One of the things I am very pleased about and that I could not have done without Alex’s cooperation is including the Independents, so they too have a seat at the table and a voice. It operates through the good offices of James Rees and is very informal: we do not have minutes or have masses of papers before the meeting, but we do get through our business in a very cooperative way.

Some people have mentioned the fact that it is Daryl Melham’s birthday. I can confirm that it is Daryl Melham’s birthday. He is of course chair of the caucus. Daryl and I work closely together on a range of matters and I am always very, very careful to ensure that Daryl is properly consulted. I must say that there was one instance last week where I did not; I was a bit frazzled. He gently reminded me of my lack of consultation in the nicest possible way. Again, I think these things are very important.

Last but not least, as chief whips we have occasion to visit the Prime Minister’s office. I would very much like to thank his staff for their assistance and cooperation.

I am very conscious that members put in time here. We squeeze in a lot of activity. Most Australians do not know that we have two chambers operating simultaneously most of the time. Members are not only making speeches but working on parliamentary committees, caucus committees and doing a whole variety of other things here. But, unfortunately, all too often the people from the electorate just do not have a real grasp of what has been going on. Members are under tremendous pressure during their time here in parliament, so I want to congratulate them all and acknowledge this pressure on both sides. I do hope all members will be able to spend some time with their families back in their electorate and get fired up for the ensuing year, which of course will be an election year.

We are not unique, as others have said, in spending a lot of time away from our families. My wife, for the record, says that the strength of our marriage rests on two factors. The first is that I am only there half the time and the second is that the one who wants to leave should have to take the children with them, so we have stuck together. But being a member of parliament does put a lot of pressure on families. I do hope that we will be able to spend time with them. I am certainly looking forward to spending time with my family and the added pleasure of having some grandkids come down from Brisbane.

I should acknowledge all the other workers in this place, particularly the humble workers whom we utterly depend on, like the cleaners, the Comcar drivers and the attendants, who do such a wonderful job. I wish everyone a very happy and holy Christmas and everything that they may wish for themselves and their families.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—Before I call the Chief Opposition Whip, I would also like to confirm on the record that it is the Chief Government Whip’s birthday today. On behalf of the House, we would all like to wish him a happy birthday.