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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 14027

Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (19:35): On indulgence: as a bruising parliamentary year draws to a close, we should reflect on the fact that Australia is a nation where robust parliamentary debate is conducted as part of our great democratic process, conducted free from any threat of violence. In so many nations around the world people cannot take for granted the right to engage in the battle of ideas, the war of words, without fear that it will spill over into physical battle. With that privilege comes great responsibility. When we walk into this chamber, we must always remember that we never walk alone—with apologies to Gerry and the Pacemakers.

We each represent about 100,000 people who live in our electorates, and one of the great balancing acts with which we all deal is to both represent their concerns and also make decisions in the national interest, based on the evidence and knowledge that we are expected to have. It is the age-old challenge of leadership. As we return to our electorates, we will return to the issues that worry many people, and they can be other than the issues that dominate the daily national news—matters like the rising cost of electricity, the increasing cost of food and health care and a range of state and local government issues. As their federal representatives, we listen to their concerns and we strive to deal with them, even though some issues may not be within our actual sphere of responsibility as federal members.

We must also remember at this time that many Australians will not be able to be with their families this Christmas, for many reasons. Our soldiers serving overseas will continue to perform their important roles and our hearts go out to their families at this time. Many members of the diplomatic corps remain on duty overseas, often providing consular support to Australians as they travel the world during the holiday period.

Next year, as we all know, will be an election year. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I have been inspired by the many outstanding people who won seats for the coalition at the last election and the candidates who have declared proudly that they want to be part of a future coalition government. People from across all sections of society join the Liberal and National parties because they share a fundamental belief and values system.

The many outstanding staff who support our work are also a vital part of the coalition family. We aspire to uphold the founding principles of the party, as articulated by our great founder, Sir Robert Menzies, which are as relevant today as they were in the 1940s. Our belief in freedom of the individual, choice, self-reliance and personal responsibility, and our belief in the initiative and creativity of enterprising Australians being at the heart of our economy, not government, and families and communities being at the heart of our society, not government—it is these values that guide the development of the policies that we will take to the Australian people as an appealing and responsible alternative government.

I want to thank all those who make this great institution function—the Parliament House staff, the Hansard reporters, the attendants, cleaners, caterers, travel agents, Comcar drivers, Parliamentary Library staff, security, gardeners, and guides that host visiting groups. I make mention of Peter Rose, the parliamentary chaplain. I thank all our friends in the press gallery—they know who they are. I thank our leader, Tony Abbott, and particularly I thank him for the support that he has given me personally. We have become close friends over the years and I admire his drive and his tenacity. He truly is a team leader who inspires our coalition to remain focused and committed to our cause. I hope that Tony, Margie and their three beautiful girls have a break over Christmas.

Warren Truss, the Leader of the Nationals, is a gentleman—a truly wonderful and principled person. Our leadership team is a tight-knit group: Joe Hockey, Chris Pyne, Eric Abetz, George Brandis, Nigel Scullion and Barnaby Joyce join me, Warren and Tony.

To my colleagues: they are a great group of people and a cohesive team. I enjoy their company, I am proud of them and I have been very touched this year by their support. And I want to make mention of my Western Australian colleagues. We have a special bond, travelling as we do so often across that great Nullarbor Plain.

I want to thank all coalition staff, who work so tirelessly and cheerfully, undertaking whatever is asked of them. And I make special mention of my personal staff in Canberra, Murray, Peter and Sam, who have provided exemplary support again this year. Back in Perth, my electorate staff during the year are Kirsten, Sue, Judy, Georgina, Josie, Gabrielle, Mandy and my wonderful volunteer, Alison. My electorate office runs exceedingly efficiently and I could not do what I do without Kirsten and the girls.

I also wish a happy and healthy Christmas to our political opponents in the Labor Party, the Independents and the Greens and their families. We are a diverse parliament, representing a diverse nation, but, as John Howard always used to say, the things that bind us are stronger than the things that divide us. And, although Madam Speaker has departed the chair, I want to place on record that she has had a challenging year and she has risen to the occasion, as she came into this high office, for the betterment of the House of Representatives.

Let us hope that 2013 is a peaceful one for all Australians in this great land of ours.