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Thursday, 26 November 2009
Page: 13098

Ms HALL (5:36 PM) —I must say that the member for Werriwa’s speech is a hard one to follow. It was an outstanding speech. At the risk of covering ground that he has already covered, I would like to place a few comments on the record. Firstly, I would like to start where he finished. I feel extremely privileged to be a member of this parliament and I feel extremely privileged to represent the people of the Shortland electorate. I believe one of the greatest honours that can be bestowed on a person is to be elected to this House. People can be quite cynical about members of parliament but I say unreservedly that to be elected to the parliament gives a person a unique opportunity to make a difference and a unique opportunity to serve their community. In accord with the member for Werriwa, I believe that all members in this House, whether I agree or disagree with them, are committed to their electorate, the country and this parliament. So the first thing I would especially like to put on the record is my thanks to the people of Shortland. I give them an undertaking that I will continue to work as hard as I possibly can so that their voice is heard in this parliament and their interests are taken care of.

This is an important time to recognise the enormous contribution of Ian Harris. Ian, you are respected by both sides of parliament. Your contribution to this place has been enormous. You have left your mark on this parliament. When you leave, this parliament will be a different place to the one it was when you came to it. You will be missed by all members of this House. I wish you and Erika a wonderful time together. I am sure you will enjoy retirement but I also suspect that retirement will not be about doing nothing. I have a sneaking suspicion that you may be up my way every so often, considering that you have family living in Wallsend. That is not far from the Shortland electorate—and I see the member for Charlton at the table gesturing, rightly, that it is in his electorate.

Mr Combet —It is well looked after!

Ms HALL —I know that he is very pleased to have Ian’s family living in his electorate. It is always true to say, ‘Once a Novocastrian, always a Novocastrian.’ We up in the Hunter always stay true to our area and I know that Ian, as a graduate of Newcastle University and as a person that grew up in our area, will always hold it in that very special place in his heart. So, Ian, you will be missed. I know that Bernard will do a good job once you have gone. He will move into the job and then seek to make his mark on it in the same way that you have. He has learnt a lot from you and now it will be his time to see if he can make a difference within this parliament. But please accept my good wishes, and I would like you to pass them on to Erika as well.

There are a number of people I need to thank. I could not do my job here in this parliament, or back in my electorate, without the assistance of these people. I am always reluctant to thank people because when you do so there is always someone you forget. So if I do forget anyone—please, you are incorporated into my thanks. To all the clerks and everyone who works in the committees, I give you my thanks for the assistance that you have given me and my staff. I also thank the attendants, who look after us so well. Lupco always asks me how I am going by saying, ‘Kako si,’ and I come back with my ‘dobro’. I think he has taught every member of this parliament to answer in that fashion. The way they look after us is amazing. They seem to anticipate our needs every time before we actually ask for anything. I thank, too, the Comcar drivers who provide us with transport here in Canberra, and the security staff. We must also not forget the cleaners. When I leave my office it can be less than tidy with a lot of papers in the garbage, but when I come back each day it is clean and tidy and we are ready to start another day.

Without the assistance of the library, and those that work in the library, I think each and every member of this House would find it a lot harder to do their job. The research that is available through this library is second to none. The Bills Digest that we receive when we are researching to speak on legislation is outstanding. And if you need a little extra information, the staff in the library will always be there to help you. I also thank the sergeant’s office. Being a whip, we have to work with the sergeant’s office. When I say ‘have to’, I have to say that we rather enjoy it because they are very easy to work with.

I would like now to move to the subject of the Main Committee. I see that the Deputy Speaker is present here in the chamber as I am making this speech and I really need to put on the record my thanks to her. Anna Burke is responsible for making sure that the Main Committee runs. Her staff and my staff communicate a lot, and I might say that Anna does not just leave it to her staff to communicate with my office. She always comes around and talks to those in my office and does not leave it to someone else to let them know what she wants. She is a real leader in that Main Committee and she has done a great job. She has put her own touch on the way the Main Committee operates. It is different to the main chamber of the parliament I am in now, the House of Representatives. It is a chamber where some different and innovative things are done. When a member is making a speech, another member can ask them a question and they have to answer that question whilst they are speaking. It is called an intervention. It is something that is very different and something that really tests whether or not a member knows the topic that they are speaking on.

In the Main Committee you are a lot closer to the opposition when you are speaking and there is a lot more interchange. There is a spirit of goodwill that exists within that chamber. So, Anna, thank you for the work you do. Thank you to Mark and Chris in my office for the work that they do in organising the speakers to be up there in time. Thank you to Vicky in Nola Marino’s office, because she works really closely with both Chris and Mark. Also thanks to Mel Ackley in Chris’s office. They are quite a team. They really work together to make sure that that committee functions. So I would like to put on record my thanks to all those people.

Roger Price is the Chief Government Whip. What can I say about Roger Price? I think the first thing I would say is that I really enjoy working with him. He has brought a different perspective to the role of Chief Government Whip. He very much has the interests of all members of this parliament at heart—not only government members but also members of the opposition. He has introduced a number of very different programs and approaches that all members of this House can access. He works very closely with the Chief Opposition Whip, Alex Somlyay. Roger is a person I respect and somebody I enjoy working with.

I would like to say a few words about Alex Somlyay. Alex was chair of the health and ageing committee in the last parliament and I was deputy chair of that committee. We developed a really close relationship and I was pleased when he was selected as the Chief Opposition Whip because I knew I would continue to have a relationship with him even into this parliament. He and Roger really have a very strong relationship. Both of them tell me that their word is their bond, and that is very important in that job. Alex is a person who has been committed to this parliament as a member of this parliament for a long time. He is a former minister and now Chief Opposition Whip. Alex has recently had rather a nasty health scare. He has been in hospital. He has to have some ongoing treatment after this parliament rises, and I know that it is going to be quiet a trial. He will need the support of his family. He will have a very different Christmas to the Christmas that he usually has. But I am quite sure that he will be able to overcome his illness and that he will be back here fighting fit next year. I really do look forward to continuing to work with Alex. I have also enjoyed working with Nola Marino and Michael Johnson, particularly Nola because she is responsible for the Main Committee and, as I said, there is a close relationship between our two offices.

I would like to thank my staff back in the electorate office. I have wonderful staff who truly care about the constituents in the Shortland electorate, staff who will go right out of their way to make sure that the needs of the constituents in Shortland are taken care of. They care about each person who comes into the electorate office—the constituent’s problem is their problem. In my electorate office I have Kay, Cathy, Jan, Vicky and Melanie. Some of them work part-time. Each of them is dedicated to serving the people of the Shortland electorate. I would like to thank them very much for all the long hours they put in, for putting up with my unreasonable requests and for not walking out every time I walk into the office and say, ‘I have an idea.’ I know that they know that when I have an idea it usually means that there will be extra work for them. So thank you very much. You are a really good team and I appreciate everything that you do for me and the people of the Shortland electorate.

Finally I would like to thank my family, particularly my husband Lindsay. Lindsay stays home while I am down here in Canberra. We have two dogs. Over the time I have been a member of parliament our children have grown up and left home. Lindsay is the last person remaining in the house besides me. He often tells people that, as people are gradually walking out of the house and leaving, there is only him and the dogs left; and his main worry is that those dogs will get up and leave as well! So, Lindsay, thank you very much for all the support you give me. I could not do it without you.

Mr Speaker, I would also like to give one final thankyou, and this is to a very special person who gives me a really hard time—that is you, Mr Speaker. If there is anyone who is going to take the micky out of me or give me a little bit of cheek then it is always you. You can always bring me right back down to earth. I thank you for that. I appreciate your friendship, as I do the friendship of all my colleagues in this parliament. I wish everybody all the best for Christmas. I know that members of the opposition are going through a hard time at the moment. Once they leave here, I recommend to them that they have a nice relaxing family Christmas, as will we. There is life away from parliament and it is important that all members of this parliament have a good break and come back refreshed next year.