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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 14663

Mr TRUSS (Wide BayDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) (12:39): It has been two years since I was able to present a valedictory speech on the last day of parliament. I was ill last year, so I begin with an expression of gratitude for a year of good health. I am pleased to make some remarks on this last day of parliamentary sittings. It is an opportunity to recognise and thank those who have supported me and other members of the parliament throughout the year.

The year 2015 has been a long and at times tumultuous one—a year of many highs and lows. We have seen a number of natural disasters, including bushfires, most recently in South Australia and Western Australia. There were cyclones, such as Cyclone Marcia, which hit parts of Queensland in February, and there has been the ongoing and heartbreaking effect of drought, which is continuing to plague many of our farmers and regional communities.

In January, Rosie Batty was announced as the Australian of the Year and has continued her courageous campaign against the national disgrace of domestic violence. Australia won the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, in January, defeating South Korea. In February, journalist Peter Greste was released from an Egyptian prison. In March, Australia claimed the 2015 Cricket World Cup and in August our amazing Australian netball team, the Diamonds, won the 2015 Netball World Cup. In November, Michelle Payne became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, taking the 2015 prize.

We said goodbye to a number of good friends, including former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, and the previous member for Canning, Don Randall. We have continued the search for flight MH370 in the waters off Western Australia. We have had two prime ministers. Let me acknowledge the cooperation, support and assistance that I have had with both of them. I pay tribute to the previous Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. I would like to thank him for his support and friendship. We will always cherish the relationship my wife, Lyn, and I have with Tony and Margie. They are good friends as well as colleagues. We recognise the enormous contribution they have made to our country. Over the past month or two I have been pleased to work with Malcolm Turnbull. I am sure that the good working relationship we have been able to enjoy with the previous Prime Minister will continue with Malcolm and Lucy. I certainly look forward to continuing the successful and constructive partnership between the Prime Minister and the Liberals and the Nationals over the year ahead.

Perhaps most significantly, 2015 saw us commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign. I believe it is therefore fitting that in my list of thankyous I particularly recognise the brave men and women who continue to sacrifice their lives for our country. Their bravery, professionalism and skill are a credit to them and a source of pride for all Australians. For many, deployment will mean that they are away from family and friends this Christmas, so I particularly want to recognise the many Australian families who are left behind as their loved ones serve overseas. We pray for their safety and we hope that they may have an opportunity to enjoy a Christmas respite.

Deputy Speaker Kelly, I would like to convey my thanks to you and to the entire Speaker's panel. Thank you for all the work that you and your staff do in managing the parliament and in making sure that the parliamentary process works well. In the same vein, I also thank the member for Mackellar for her service as Speaker for the first part of the year.

Furthermore, I would like to make special mention of the Deputy Speaker, my good friend and neighbour, the member for Maranoa, for his service to the parliament. The member for Maranoa will retire at the next election. He will not only be missed by his electorate but by the National Party room, and also, I am sure, for his work as Deputy Speaker. It is a position in which he served with great pride and also with integrity, dignity and devotion to duty.

I would like to express my gratitude for the services of the Clerk and the clerical team, including the attendants and the Serjeant-at-Arms. We certainly appreciate the role of the whole team and the way they serve the House, provide us with advice and help to ensure that the committees of the parliament work well. That is becoming an increasingly heavy load, and it is important that the committees, when asked to look at matters of particular significance, have the capabilities to present a quality and well-argued report to further the debate on key policy issues. I particularly appreciate their courteous attention, their patient advice and the cheerful way in which they go about their duties. We also particularly appreciate the work of the parliamentary attendants, who are always alert to assist members, whenever that might be required.

The Hansard staff, the 2020 staff, COMCAR drivers, Tim and the catering staff, and those in FCm Travel Solutions all deserve our utmost appreciation. Thank you for your hard work, often in difficult circumstances; it is greatly valued. To some of the unsung heroes of the building, the Limro cleaning staff, Maria, Lucia and Anna—who have, I guess, been serving, particularly in the ministerial wing, now for several generations of ministers—thank you very much for your service. We appreciate very much the work that you do.

To my colleagues on each side of the chamber: next year is another election year, which often means extra stress and spending more time away from families as we campaign. I hope you are all able to enjoy some relaxing and restful time with loved ones over this Christmas period. I particularly want to acknowledge my National Party colleagues and my deputy leader, Barnaby Joyce. As usual, Barnaby has been unwavering in his support, despite having to deal with two nuisance dogs through the year. I would back Barnaby in a fight with Mr Depp any day—and, for that matter, with almost anyone else. To the National Party leaders in the Senate, Nigel Scullion and Fiona Nash: thank you both for all your work and assistance over the past year. To our party whips—Mark Coulton, Senator Matt Canavan and Senator Barry O'Sullivan—and their staff: thank you for continuing to organise the affairs of the party for us. To the rest of my party colleagues: we are a team and I am proud of the way that we work together to achieve some amazing things for our electorates, for our country and, in particular, for those living in rural and regional Australia, who will always be the focus of the National Party's care and attention. I look forward to continuing this trend and this cooperation in the year ahead.

I would also like to acknowledge the role that my department plays in putting together the business agenda and helping to deliver on our policy platform. In particular, I acknowledge my departmental secretary, Mike Mrdak, who has been at the head of the department for a very long period of time and who provides so much leadership, guidance and corporate knowledge about transport and regional affairs, ensuring the smooth running and administration of the government's policy programs.

I thank Minister Fletcher and Assistant Minister McCormack for the work they have done across the portfolio in the past couple of months since coming into our team. I particularly also want to acknowledge my previous assistant minister, Mr Briggs, for his work. I acknowledge my ministerial colleagues and cabinet ministers and thank them all for their tireless and often difficult work in serving our country. I think we have an exceptionally talented cabinet—a cabinet that is capable of deliberating on the most difficult of issues in a constructive way, being innovative but also realistic in what it is able to achieve.

We have had to face difficult times. There are challenges economically; there are challenges on the security front; there are challenges in delivering the quality of life and the care for disadvantaged people in our own country that are key priorities and essential responsibilities of government. Those tasks are difficult now, and I fear they are going to get more difficult in the future. So we need to be attracting people into this parliament with the capabilities and skills to deal with those issues and with the capacity to make decisions—good decisions—that are in the interests of our nation.

I also acknowledge the opposition spokesman, Anthony Albanese. He is right when he says that we work reasonably well together. We do not always agree, but he has been supportive in projects like the Western Sydney airport and many of the construction projects. We were not able to reach an agreement on shipping reform—and so that is some space for next year where clearly something has to be done; otherwise the scope of our domestic shipping industry will continue to slide.

The reality is that the big projects that governments are taking on these days invariably cross governments and cross jurisdictions. I acknowledge that some of the projects that this government is building were ideas that we shared with the Labor Party when they were last in office. Some projects which were under construction were finished by this government, just as projects that this government starts will be finished by a future government. An example is the Western Sydney airport. I would love to be minister for transport when the first plane lands in 2025. That would be a wonderful objective, but I suspect that is not going to happen and, once more, I suspect the minister of the day will take the credit for the whole of the construction of Western Sydney airport and my role in getting it to this stage will probably have been well and truly forgotten. That is the nature of the processes of government.

I am very proud of some of the huge infrastructure projects we have in this country at the present time. The fact that, by the end of this decade, we will, for the first time as a nation, have a four-lane highway connecting our three east coast capital cities is, I think, an important national achievement. Perhaps five or seven years later we will have a direct railway line connecting Melbourne and Brisbane. We will be upgrading and flood-proofing the Bruce Highway. Work is being done in Perth and in northern Western Australia to better connect the roads and the regional communities in the west. These sorts of projects are nation building; they do genuinely make a difference to the efficiency of our country and our capabilities to deliver better opportunities for our people.

Finally, I would like to thank the people of our country, Australians who daily entrust us with the great responsibility of managing our nation as parliamentarians. I hope the coalition will continue to be a government that pursues its agenda, that keeps its promises and that continues to deliver a positive plan for the future. I have said many times in this place that when our regions are strong, so is our nation. As Leader of the Nationals, I will continue to resolutely ensure that our regions are not forgotten in decisions that are made for the future of our country.

In this regard also, I acknowledge my own staff: David Whitrow, my Chief of Staff, and the whole team, including my electorate staff, many of whom have been with me for a very long time—in one case, since I first was elected to parliament. Those people help make sure that we are able to achieve the objectives that are set out, arrange the affairs of the day and manage the administration and delivery of government policy and our agenda.

Especially, can I acknowledge my wife, Lyn, who works so hard to help me keep me going. I love her very dearly and greatly appreciate everything that she does for me and, of course, the party.

Christmas is a very special time of the year that presents an opportunity to put aside other commitments and spend time with family and friends. However as we celebrate with families, friends and loved ones it is important to remember, in the true spirit of Christmas, the people in our communities who are less fortunate: the homeless, the jobless, the sick and those people who are spending Christmas alone. The celebrations and the symbols that accompany Christmas remind us of the joyous reason for our festivity—the birth of Jesus Christ, who brought salvation and the message of peace and goodwill to us all. I hope that you all have a safe and happy Christmas break, and please stay safe on the roads if you are travelling over the holidays.

There is one thing I should say as transport minister before I conclude these remarks. With my authority in charge of air safety regulation, I have issued an instruction that air traffic controllers are to give priority to reindeer on 24 December to make sure that they get priority access to all of the airports in Australia. I am going to do something else very brave politically: I am going to suspend all curfews at airports so that the reindeer can operate all through the night on Christmas Eve!