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Tuesday, 30 August 2016
Page: 7

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (11:28): Mr Speaker, congratulations on your re-election to one of the oldest and most important offices in our representative democracy, and congratulations to Pam and your family for the support which they provide you. On behalf of the opposition, can I say how pleased we were to support you for your role. In your time in the chair, you did earn the respect of both sides of the chamber. You have often been firm but always fair. Your efforts to be even-handed have gone a long way, I believe, to improving the accountability, the productivity and the civility of this place. Of course, all of us who speak in this chamber are only part-time residents of the parliament.

The beginning of the 45th Parliament is an appropriate time for us to pay tribute to all of us who call this grand building home: the army of clerks and attendants, the cleaners and the caterers, the librarians, and even the baristas, the security guards and the drafting officers who work tirelessly behind the scenes. As we strut and fret upon this stage they are behind the curtain, keeping the show running smoothly.

Also today, we note the absence of some familiar faces—old friends and colleagues—but we also welcome 37 new members to the House of Representatives who will experience your leadership as Speaker. We congratulate the members for Hindmarsh and Eden-Monaro on their return. Looking out from the dispatch box for the first time in this 45th Parliament, I am pleased that the Labor Party takes up more room than we did before. I am also pleased now that there are more women in the chamber. The member for Barton becomes the first Indigenous woman to sit in the House of Representatives, and the member for Cowan, the first Muslim woman. Indeed, I am proud to say that Labor have more women members and senators than any time in the history of Federation. Improving the mix of experience and backgrounds and faiths in this House can only help make our parliament a more representative and more inclusive place.

On that positive note, I inform honourable members that I have written to the Prime Minister seeking his support for a motion reaffirming this House's commitment to the right of all Australians to enjoy equal rights and be treated with equal respect regardless of race, colour, creed or origin, consistent with the Speaker's values. Prime Minister John Howard and opposition leader Kim Beazley cooperated to support an identical resolution in 1996 and I believe this will be a powerful and bipartisan note to strike at the beginning of this term. Mr Speaker, let this spirit of cooperation, this spirit of diversity and respect, guide us all in the sitting days ahead.

The SPEAKER: I thank the Leader of the Opposition.