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Thursday, 10 May 2007
Page: 91

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (3:16 PM) —I say, in taking note of answers, that what the Australian Labor Party needs to understand is that, yes, the minerals, gas and oil industries in Australia have never been in better shape, and they need to be in much better shape if we are to continue the prosperity that has been built in Australia since I made my first speech in this place back in May 1990, almost to the day.

In speaking of the minerals export industry and the development industry that is built around it, the prosperity that we see particularly in Western Australia and in states like Queensland—but all across Australia—has occurred because we have as a government since 1996 focused on policies that mean that we can develop those resources in a world-competitive manner. Taking away the Native Title Act restrictions that were put in place by Labor was a big part of that; reforming the Corporations Law, so that you can raise capital, and the takeovers laws were a big part of that; bringing into place environmental laws that ensured that you could get approvals through more quickly are a part of that; and of course industrial relations reforms were vital to that.

The Labor Party cannot become the friend of mining 10 days after it put through its national conference an industrial relations platform that would take Australia back to the 1950s. The north-west of Western Australia and the goldfields of Western Australia have been transformed by AWAs, which allow individuals to negotiate with their employers to create flexibility. That is a phenomenally important thing.

In this my last speech to the Senate I remind Australians that Australia is a much better place than it was in May 1990, when I came here. We did have a lot of leadership shown by the former Labor government—under Paul Keating’s leadership, particularly when he was the Treasurer—to open up the Australian economy, to float the Australian dollar and to allow more financial institutions in. We saw some phenomenal reforms, particularly under Peter Walsh when he was the Minister for Finance, to bring back the fiscal train wreck that was occurring. Labor did do some very good economic policy, and it had an opposition sitting over there that waved it through and encouraged it, as opposed to the opposition we have now that has sought to stop most of the economic reforms of the Howard-Costello era.

There are two points I would like to make in the short time I have; I have chosen to make it short because I think after 17 years in politics it is a bit hard to whinge about things that have not occurred—if you cannot do it then, you should get off and leave it to other people, which is what I will do. One thing that annoys the hell out of me, Mr President, is that in the Senate we totally ignore the standing order about reading speeches. I read my first speech when I was sitting behind where Robert Ray is, but I hated reading it. I found it so boring and so painful. I chose that day not to read another speech and I have virtually stuck to that. I would recommend, particularly to the new senators who have joined us but also to all of you, that you learn how to make a speech without copious notes and without having to read it. Do your research, write it out if you want, learn it and then just give it off the cuff. It is a wonderful skill. I am far from perfect and in fact I am hopeless at reading speeches now. I think it is an incredibly important skill that only the Senate would uphold. They will not do it over the other side; they are not made of the right sort of stuff. It is a wonderful skill to learn. The Prime Minister is probably the greatest practitioner of giving an extempore speech—certainly in this country and possibly in the free world. He is a master at it. A lot of new members and senators, but particularly senators, should learn to do that. Throw away your copious notes, throw away those typed out speeches and the little lecterns that people are using, and learn to make a speech.

In terms of policy, Australia has changed a lot in the years since 1990. We are a much more open place and we have fiscal responsibility, which is building prosperity. It is wonderful to have been a part of a government that has brought in voluntary student unionism, for example, so that we have freedom on campus; I can leave this place knowing we have finally got that policy through. We had the waterfront reforms and the environment reforms—all these reforms are important.

The huge challenge, and it is becoming a cliche to say it, is to get climate change policy right. We have had a lot more realism brought into debate over the past few months. The time for the sort of lazy policy we see from some parts of the polity in Australia is changing. You do need a mix of heavy investment in new technologies and you do need market mechanisms. We need to find a market mechanism that suits Australia’s economy. We cannot just borrow a policy from Great Britain and say, ‘We will take a 60 per cent cut in 30 years.’ That is something that suits the islands of Great Britain, but a target that might suit them is very unlikely to suit the economic circumstances of Australia in the middle of the Asia-Pacific. We need to work with China. I want to thank my friend Zhang Xiaoqiang, the Vice-Chairman of the NDRC in China. He and I made a joke last year in China about the fact that I think I have had more meals with Zhang than I have even had with my wife, Brenda, and our children over recent years. (Extension of time granted) I think that engagement with China in particular is something that Australia can do really well, developing market mechanisms and technology exchanges. The AP6, the Asia-Pacific partnership, is a wonderful way to pursue that.

I will just mention a few thankyous, firstly to Brenda and my family. They are in the gallery today. Thank you very much for putting up with what is an absurd lifestyle. We have had a wonderful journey as a couple and as a family. None of us can come here and change Australia and contribute to policy unless we have the support of a family. All of us have that, and I have been very lucky to have you, Brenda, supporting me and the kids.

I thank the many good friends I have made in this place, some lifelong. Choofer, on the front bench: we have been together since November 1980, from the Nedlands/Dalkeith Young Liberal days. It is an amazing friendship; I do not think we have ever had an argument. We have probably disagreed from time to time over some preselections, but we always get there in the end. Mate, thanks for being there. Thanks for being a friend.

To friends and colleagues on both sides of the chamber, I have very much enjoyed making friendships and working with you. We all come here to improve Australia. Australia is a better place than it was back in May 1990, when I read that first speech. That is the result of a commitment from people in all political parties. We all come here to make it a better place.

I conclude by thanking the staff of the parliament: the clerks, the deputy clerks, the attendants Lorna and Kathy and everybody else, the Hansard staff and the Comcar staff. You all are an amazing team that contributes to making a big difference. I also thank the volunteers in the Liberal Party back in Western Australia, a much-maligned party. There are thousands of people; on both sides of the chamber we have volunteers who ensure that we are here and given the privilege to serve. So I thank all those thousands of people in the Liberal Party back in WA.

I conclude by saying that what is very, very special about serving in parliament is that we are part of a democratic institution. It is so phenomenally important. We take it for granted in a country like Australia. We had delegates from around the Pacific and around our region who are just learning how to create democracies at the moment and who are struggling, and it is only a few hundred years ago that men and women in the British Isles and in the United States—or America as it was then, before it became united—spilt gallons of blood on the battlefields before they created the parliament at Westminster and then ultimately the Congress in Washington. It is a very special thing to have a parliamentary democracy. Ours is based on the traditions of Westminster and Washington. They are phenomenally important institutions. Getting to serve in them is an enormous privilege. Recognising the special thing we have built here in Australia is phenomenally important, and the quality of the government that that delivers is important.

It has been a privilege to serve. I will watch you all and I wish you all well for the years ahead. Thank you.