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Thursday, 9 December 2004
Page: 124

The PRESIDENT (4:58 PM) —I think it is rather appropriate that the President have the last word, as always. At this stage of the 2004 sittings I also would like to thank the officers of the parliament for their assistance to me and to the Senate during the year. I particularly thank the Clerk and the other clerks at the table, the Usher of the Black Rod and all the other staff in the Senate department for their wonderful work during the year.

This year, on 1 February, saw the creation of the new Department of Parliamentary Services. It is a tribute to all the staff of the three former departments affected by the amalgamation that the new department has been established smoothly. I particularly record my appreciation to Hilary Penfold, the secretary to the department, who has worked hard and diligently with her staff to make the transition so successful.

When visitors come into this building from overseas or from other parts of Australia they are amazed to see that this is really a small village. I always remind people of how much goes on behind the scenes—underground, in the gardens and out of the public gaze—to make Australia's parliament function. I thank all those parliamentary staff who are essential to this institution. I would particularly like to thank the Deputy President, Senator Hogg, who has characteristically provided very loyal support to me in the administration of the chair. I thank him and the panel of temporary chairmen of committees for their service during the year. I think we would all agree, too, that the managers of business and the whips deserve a special mention for getting us out of here at five o'clock on a Thursday night, which has not happened for a long time, as I recall, given the heavy load of business on the agenda this week.

It has been a disrupted year for the Senate because of the election. I think the Christmas break affords us all an opportunity to recharge our batteries and to take a moment to reflect that we are very fortunate to live in Australia, a country that is governed by a robust, as we heard this afternoon, open and scrutinised democracy. I wish all honourable senators and their families a very happy Christmas and a very prosperous new year.