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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 2205

Mr PEACOCK (Leader of the Opposition) —As this House rises very shortly and honourable members will be dispersed across the nation in an election campaign, this probably will be the only occasion on which there will be the expression of not only genuine but also warm wishes in a bipartisan manner to so many people who play a role in this very great symbol and, beyond that symbol, function of democracy. I wish to associate myself fully with the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), perhaps with the singular exception of the slight references to the success of those honourable members on the other side in the election. He will excuse me for doing that. I think the Prime Minister traversed the field extraordinarily well in mentioning all those who have contributed, during the life of the Thirty-third Parliament, to allowing this great institution to function, and function well. He properly drew attention to those members who we are aware will not be returning, who have taken the decision to retire. Ken Fry is overseas. I wish him well. I know all members of the Opposition wish him well. I developed a very great respect for him during my period as Minister for Foreign Affairs. He frequently disagreed with me and with Government policies. He let us know in firm and unequivocal terms but with a sincerity that knew very great depths. I wish him well in his retirement.

So, too, Doug Everingham, who has been in this Parliament for a lengthy period. I recall Doug as a Minister; I recall his seeking to change to phonetic spelling of the English language. I always regret that I never wrote to him thanking him for his contribution in terms of 'Dear Dug'-spelt D-u-g. Doug is a very sincere man who holds views very different from mine on many issues-and not just those that came before the Parliament. He is a man for whom we developed a great deal of affection and I join everyone in the House in wishing him and his family well .

I refer now to retiring Opposition members. Frank O'Keefe served in State Parliament and, like a number of members of both sides of the House who have come from State Houses, he has continued the sort of contribution that we knew of him in the New South Wales Parliament. I am sure that the Manager of Opposition Business and Leader of the National Party of Australia (Mr Sinclair) would wish to speak at greater length about Frank. He is a warm and generous- hearted man, and we will miss him greatly. I am sorry, as I glance to my left, that that glance will not be balanced after the next election by glancing to my right and seeing you there, Frank.

Kevin Newman, the honourable member for Bass, like Ken Fry, is on a trip overseas. We have spoken before of the contribution Kevin made with his election success in the by-election of 1975. Kevin led a battalion in Vietnam. He showed great courage there and throughout his period in the Parliament he showed very great courage indeed. I think of particular debates that former members of the Cabinet will recall when it would have been much easier for him to have remained silent but he gave himself a very difficult time in relation to matters concerning not only his portfolio but also his State. All of us will miss Kevin. He has not been well and I trust that on his visit overseas he is recovering to a greater extent than was evident in the months before his decision to retire.

To Ray Groom, who carried Barrassi's No. 31 at the club of Melbourne in the Victorian Football League, I say that we on this side of the House will miss him as a straightforward, driving, admirable colleague. Ray is a fellow who says it as he sees it, as he played with the Melbourne Football Club. In my view Ray was a very good Minister and I was sorry to see him left out of the Ministry following his period of service there. It did not dent his faith in parliamentary service and he stayed on for two parliaments following that period . I wish him and Gill a very happy retirement. They have an extraordinarily large family, which is growing regularly, and I trust that he will involve himself in more than simply developing his family. I wish him every success in his ventures, perhaps through the law, on his retirement. We will miss all those honourable members very much and we wish them all very well.

At the outset of my remarks, I joined in the sentiments so properly and effectively expressed by the Prime Minister in paying tribute to all those people who utilise a wide range of skills and talents to contribute to our contributions in the Parliament, some of them over very lengthy periods, and to make the House and the Senate function smoothly and efficiently. I have mentioned separately the contribution that Jim Roberts has made but I would like again to mention it just briefly in this valedictory speech. After 27 years of service with Hansard he has risen to the pinnacle of his career as Principal Parliamentary Reporter. I endorse in these remarks the expressions of gratitude that I mentioned before. I wish both him and Mrs Roberts well in his retirement.

The Prime Minister properly drew attention to the role of the Clerk and all those who serve under him. They are absolutely indispensable, and unbiased and generous in the advice that they tender to all members of the Parliament. I recall coming into the Parliament in a by-election in the mid-1960s and being advised by the then Clerk, Mr Turner, that I could not be escorted into the Parliament by a member of the Ministry. I rang my then father-in-law who was a member of a Victorian Ministry and said: 'The Clerk tells me that I cannot have a Minister escort me into this Parliament'. He said: 'You had better learn soon, son, that they are second only to JC, and do as you are told'. Since then, Doug, I have developed a capacity to respond responsibly to advice you may tender. I think generally we accept the overwhelming amount of advice that you give to us. We could not operate in the effective way that all members of the Parliament do from time to time without your advice.

I pay tribute to the staff of the Parliamentary Library, to our personal staff, and to the media. The Prime Minister mentioned the Parliamentary Press Gallery. It is very easy to talk of separating the wheat from the chaff and printing only the chaff, but the fact is that although this has the appearance of being an incestuous relationship with some in this place, we could not inform the people adequately without the work of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. The Prime Minister correctly drew attention to the work constantly done and the long hours worked by the police, the attendants, the Joint House staff, the dining room staff, the transport officials-all of whom play an essential role in the functioning of the Parliament.

I have not had to utilise the transport staff for a while. I am told that they are carrying on with great effect the traditions set by Gordon Pike by which so many members were looked after. I know I speak on behalf of others who are constantly in touch with the Transport Office when I say that the arrangements are still the same. If one wants to get on the Trans-Siberian railway next week, within a flash one is told: 'You cannot have a seat by the window, but you have a seat'. It is done and the matter is attended to without delay. They are extraordinary people who have to tolerate the misgivings and the temperaments of so many people in this Parliament. They do their job very well and we thank them all. That includes the Parliamentary Counsel and the Public Service who lend invaluable support to honourable members.

The Prime Minister paid a tribute to the Leader of the House (Mr Young) and the Manager of Opposition Business (Mr Sinclair). I see a great deal more of the Manager of Opposition Business than I do of the Leader of the House. He has been of enormous help to us but so, too, has the Leader of the House. He gags us, he abuses us, he is on occasion intolerant, but he is always tolerant in explaining and he has never broken his word to me on the matter of parliamentary business. It is of the utmost importance that the parties have people managing the business of this Parliament to whom they can talk with confidence and give undertakings for their parties. We may criticise the Leader of the House on other factors, and I do so trenchantly-I singularly except that element upon which I have touched-but we could not function unless we had people who are good at the game of running this Parliament. Certainly the Leader of the House and the Manager of Opposition Business do that. Ian Sinclair has been described by Mick Young as probably the finest Leader of the House since Federation.

Mr Young —He knows a few tricks.

Mr PEACOCK —Well, he will be back in that job very soon. I hope that the rapport in the relationship between the two of you as you swap roles will be as good as it has ever been.

In concluding my remarks, Mr Speaker, I wish to recognise not only the role played by your office but that which you yourself have played. You know that we cannot agree with you on every point, nor should we, but we respect your judgments, often made in very difficult circumstances. We respect you and we respect your office. I am pleased to reflect on the occasion how you were elected without opposition from us. I trust that you will ensure the same is done for our nominee when we return to government next time. We have respected the times through the difficult periods where sometimes we have been in the short term trenchant in our criticism, I trust privately, of certain decisions. Indeed, on one occasion I moved dissent from your ruling. You have a job, the difficulty of which is not always appreciated outside the realms of this Parliament. We have spoken about others without whom the Parliament could not function successfully. Order and, therefore, the proper functioning of this Parliament could not occur without you. You have performed your task as well as any in that role and I thank you, not only for myself, but also on behalf of members on this side of the House.

I thank also the honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child) although we opposed her election. The Prime Minister rightly drew attention to the significance of her election to the position of Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees when the Labor Party nominated her. We applaud you, Joan, for the work you have done. You are the least co-operative person at election time so far as I am concerned. I respect that, but I also respect the great degree of co-operation you have given us from the Chair. I stop short of wishing you well, but I thank you for what you have done. Mrs Simons and Miss Anne Lynch were mentioned by the Prime Minister. I would think that their appointments have owed a little to the focusing on your role in this Parliament. We are all the better for that.

We face another election campaign. As we wind down, I would like to recall the words of the present Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Lionel Bowen) when he spoke in the valedictory debate on 18 September 1980. He said:

Frequent elections create all sorts of side issues and they certainly create instability.

I support those sentiments of the Deputy Prime Minister, expressed some four years ago. They are as relevant today as they were in 1980. It is as well for us to remember that parliaments and governments are elected to serve the people of this nation and not vice versa. There have been occasions on which the Opposition has felt that the Government has strayed from that view. This is not the occasion to develop that. The Prime Minister was good enough to extend his greetings to all members of the Parliament, Government and Opposition, and to their families for the period beyond the election, the festive season. I warmly reciprocate, but there will be occasions over the next few weeks when remarks will be very blunt and to the point. Some will be regretted by some of us; some will be adhered to. We are participants in a very great body and I was very moved by the Prime Minister's wishes to all of us.

I feel that it is no reflection on the system to say that whilst we leave the Parliament and the tempo of remarks increases as we seek to disagree with one another, it is necessarily a strength in our society. There are all too few nations in which even the sort of discussion we are having today would ever take place, in which those of us who have fundamentally different views nevertheless join with each other to express good wishes beyond an election for a festive season and, indeed, good wishes for the election campaign-that it be fought in a fair and forthright way. I trust that when it is over this nation will be the better for it.