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Wednesday, 10 December 1986
Page: 3763

The PRESIDENT —Order! As has been rumoured in the Parliament for some time, this is expected to be the last night that I will occupy the chair of the presidency of the Senate. Therefore, I seek the indulgence of the Senate to make one or two passing remarks. It was 25 years ago yesterday, namely on 9 December 1961, that I was first elected as a senator for New South Wales. It is said that a week is a long time in politics. Honourable senators will realise that the political timespan involved in a quarter of a century is much longer than a week. But I must say that, despite the 18 long years that I served in opposition, my total period of 25 years in the Parliament has provided me with magnificent memories of many wonderful people and an enormous wealth of stories that could probably fill a couple of volumes.

I have been most fortunate to have made many friends in all political parties in the Parliament, in my own State of New South Wales, throughout Australia and internationally, and I am grateful to the Labor movement and to my fellow New South Welshmen for having given me the opportunity to serve them for so long. I have enjoyed my period of service as a Minister of the Crown in the two portfolios I occupied between 1972 and 1975 and I was particularly honoured to have been chosen to serve as President of the Senate from 1983 to now. It is the highest honour that can be conferred on any member of the Senate and I have always consciously tried to keep that fact in mind. I am privileged to have occupied this chair.

I am indebted to my present and erstwhile colleagues of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party for the support they have given me over the years. They have been great friends and great mates and I shall cherish the memories I shall always have of the historic times we have gone through together and also the very happy and convivial evenings we have had from time to time. I thank the Leader of the Opposition and all members of the coalition for the co-operation I have received from them in the maintaining of order in the Senate. I am most grateful to them for having invited me and my wife to their Christmas function last Thursday night.

Senator Kilgariff-With some of your friends.

The PRESIDENT —With some of my friends too. As I told the members of the coalition, when I first entered Parliament one of the old Labor stalwarts at the time advised me to make sure that I made friends across the whole of the Parliament, not merely on one side. I must say that that was some of the best advice I have ever received. I also thank the Australian Democrats and the independents for the warmth of their personal friendship and the co-operation they have extended to me.

I pay tribute to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs Joan Child, for her ready willingness to review the overall administration of the Parliament. She has been a great help. I also thank her predecessor, Dr Jenkins, for his co-operation during the time we jointly served as Presiding Officers. I pay tribute to the Clerk of the Senate, his various Clerks Assistant and to all officers of the Senate, especially to my friend the Usher of the Black Rod, and to the Deputy Usher of the Black Rod, who personally have looked after me so well. To the Clerk of the House of Representatives, the Parliamentary Librarian, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, the Secretary of the Joint House Department and all their officers, I say thank you for a job well done in difficult and trying conditions. The time is now not far off when Parliament will go to another building and the present acute accommodation arrangements will be considerably eased.

I express my great appreciation to the members of my present and past personal staff, including my electorate staff, for their long, patient, untiring and dedicated service. All of them have been wonderful. I should also say that I am indebted to my football club, the great St George Rugby League Club, for having honoured me by awarding me its No. 1 supporters badge. I am so proud to have had that tremendous honour bestowed upon me.

I thank the members of the Press Gallery and especially the members of the Press Gallery committee for the constructive discussions they have had with me and the Speaker from time to time concerning their difficulties in reporting the Parliament. I trust that I have not left anyone out. Everyone I have mentioned has played a great part in making my life satisfying and rewarding, and I am most grateful.

I particularly thank my wife Lorna for her constant devotion. I could not have had a better minder. Had Arthur met her he would have sacked Terry. She has been terrific. Few people outside politics realise the strains and demands that politics makes on the lives of spouses. My wife has been tolerant and understanding at all times, even understanding those happy and convivial parties that we have had. As with the wives of most members of parliament, she literally reared our three children by herself while she was in Sydney and I was in Canberra. She has been a devoted wife and mother and, to ensure that I kept my feet firmly planted on mother earth at all times, she has been my most constructive critic.

As I said at the outset, there is a rumour around that next year the Government is contemplating another job for me. I hope the rumour is true because while we still enjoy good health Lorna and I would both very much like to serve Australia in another important capacity before we retire. If it is true, I trust I will get as much satisfaction from that job as I have obtained from this one. Again, if it is true, I am positive that I will continue to see many of my parliamentary colleagues. I take this opportunity to thank His Excellency the Governor-General and Lady Stephen for the many courtesies they have always extended to me and my wife and for the warmth and generosity of their hospitality. I am also grateful to the various high commissioners and ambassadors for the co-operation and assistance they have extended to me.

The Australian Parliament is a great institution. There is no better political system. I hope that posterity will hold that in the time I have been here I have been able to contribute something to the enhancement of our system. I think it is fair to say that over the last two weeks I have had more farewells than Dame Nellie Melba. I thank everyone involved for going to so much trouble. I guess I am one of the few lucky ones who have been able to choose their own time of exit from the political life of Australia. I have chosen to go out while I am on top and I know that I leave the Parliament in good and capable hands. It has been a great honour for me to have been chosen to serve the Parliament and the people of Australia as President of the Senate. I am indebted to everyone for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the political life of our nation. I wish all honourable senators the best in their future deliberations, which really are all about the future of Australia and the welfare of our fellow Australians. I say to all of you goodbye and good luck.