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Thursday, 11 February 2016
Page: 1410


Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (12:59): on indulgence—These are two remarkable men who have made such a difference for Australia, who have played such an enormous part in creating the nation we are today. All of us are a little sad that they have announced that they are not going to run again. They have explained why. It is a factor that John Howard used to talk about—anno Domini—or, as Warren reminded us, there is a point at which you start in life as the youngest person in the room, wondering why all these grown-ups are listening to you, and then before you know it you are the oldest person in the room and it is time to give somebody else a go. This is a watershed.

Each of these men, Warren and Andrew, were farmers' sons. They grew up on the land with very deep roots in agriculture, understanding the most basic, fundamental human industry—growing food and fibre. Each of them has had long, strong marriages. They were able to do the things they did for Australia because of Warren's Lyn and Andrew's Maureen. As my predecessor, Tony Abbott, would often say—and he spoke so truly when he said it—'All of us are volunteers; it's our families that are conscripts.' It is so important that we acknowledge them as they have been acknowledged today.

Warren's passion is and has always been, as he said, infrastructure. Indeed, many ministers in his position have had a bridge named after them. Warren actually has thousands and thousands of bridges named after him! The 'Warren truss', which is a very standard form of steel structured bridge, designed in 1848 by James Warren, is seen all over the country. In fact, it is all over every country. The Warren truss bridge is everywhere! I have no doubt that as a minister he has opened many of them in his name, bearing that design.

Andrew has made a remarkable contribution to politics all his life. I first met Andrew over 30 years ago in the company of another great Australian—great in every respect—Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer, when Andrew came to see us when he was running the National Farmers' Federation. We have known each other all the years since. He has been a formidable advocate for rural industry—for the Cattlemen's Union originally and then for farmers and then as the Federal Director of the Liberal Party. And he has played a very powerful role in this House as a minister and a shadow minister.

But Andrew Robb has, without question, in his 2½ years as trade minister been the most successful trade minister in our history. He has put in place some of the most important building blocks for our future and he has brought to that work his extraordinary commercial experience—which spans politics, as I said, but also a long period working in the private sector—his negotiating skills and his understanding of every aspect of Australian industry, whether it is the digital industries that are benefiting so much from the Trans-Pacific Partnership or the primary industries, particularly agriculture, which have benefited so much from the free trade agreements in East Asia, particularly the China-Australia free trade agreement, the benefits of which in many parts of Australia are quite transformative.

Warren's leadership of the National Party has been a source of great wisdom—and I am sure the member for Warringah would agree—for the leaders of the Liberal Party, as well as a source of great stability and great generosity. He is absolutely committed, and has always been, to the strength of the coalition. He understands the importance of the National Party's distinct identity but also the reality that we are so much stronger when we are working closely together.

He has been a formidable advocate, as he said, for his local area and electorate. It is interesting that Andrew reflected on the same and made the same point about the real satisfaction that I think each and every one of us derives from sorting out simple and often basic problems for our local constituents. Ultimately, that is our primary obligation to the people who actually put the No. 1 against our name on the ballot paper—the citizens of our electorate.

The generosity of both men was shown in their warmth and their remarks, particularly to their counterparts on the other side. Andrew Robb spoke of Gary Gray, who has been his counterpart in the Labor Party for many years. Warren spoke fondly of Albo. They agreed on most things. Warren and Albo agreed on the value and the transformational impact of so many big elements of infrastructure in Australia. They just disagreed on who should get the credit for them! As for Gary and Andrew, they came to a landing on just about every element of electoral practice, electoral law and electoral reform. They just happened to have a final disagreement on who should win the election! But, beyond that, as professionals they were completely united.

The most important thing for all of us to say to these men is, 'Thank you.' They have made Australia different. They have made Australia better. They have shaped Australia. They have shaped our future, whether it be in trade, infrastructure or their example of clear, warm, humane patriotism and love of country. Warren said in his maiden speech in 1990:

It has often been said that Australia is the lucky country, but it has not been all luck. Australia became a great nation because there were people who were prepared to put in the effort and endure hardship whenever it was needed-the explorers who sought out the land, the pioneers who opened it up, the engineers who built our cities and bridges, the women who cared for their families and the soldiers who fought to protect it.

We are all proud to say that because of Warren's service and because of Andrew's service Australia has become a much luckier country, but they have helped make that luck more prosperous and more secure with greater opportunities for our children and grandchildren. Thank you, Warren and Andrew.