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Friday, 1 December 1995
Page: 4341

Mr KEATING (Prime Minister) —I move:

  That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 13 February 1996, at 12.30 p.m., unless otherwise called together by the Speaker or, in the event of the Speaker being unavailable, by the Deputy Speaker.

Once a year I and others enjoy the chance to take a break from our regular business in the House to formally express our gratitude to those in the chamber and throughout this building for their hard work—to those whom we depend upon here and those without whom we would not be able to do our work.

  As ever, it is a genuine pleasure to acknowledge the high professional standards of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, Lyn Barlin, the Deputy Clerk, Ian Harris, and their colleagues. Lyn was here when I came here 26 years ago. We were both immeasurably younger then, but we are still here. We certainly thank him for his patience and attention to detail and for the air of calm competence he brings to our deliberations, and we thank his deputy and his office.

  Equally important to the running of this place is the Serjeant-at-Arms, David Elder, and those who work in the serjeant's office. I acknowledge their work and thank them for it. Complementing the work of the officers of this place are the Parliamentary Liaison Officer, Jeannie Hall, and her staff, Ann-Marie Hodgson, Lindsay Youman and Del Ford. They do a great job in programming the government's business, making sure legislation is passed in the correct form, letting us all know what is going on in the chamber and generally ensuring that ministers and others are in the chamber when required.

  With an even more onerous task in ensuring that government members are all present and accounted for is the Chief Government Whip, Leo McLeay, and his ever reliable deputies, Ted Grace and Rod Sawford. I thank them. I also thank the staff in the whips office, Joan Conner and Karen Wilson, who also assist in the mustering.

  When it comes to organising the chamber we have come to depend on the Leader of the House and my deputy, Kim Beazley, who combines a considerable portfolio load as Minister for Finance, the responsibilities of the deputy prime ministership and the leadership of the House, which he rolls into one mighty package. We thank him for that. I could not ask for a better Leader of the House. I think I can say that everyone in the chamber appreciates his work.

  He works well with the member for Flinders (Mr Reith). They work well together. The member for Flinders and he, I think, have got a nice consistent drum beat going through the place. I thank the member for Flinders for assisting the Leader of the House in the management of this place. They get through their business with a lot of efficiency and a deal of good humour for which we thank them.

  Controlling all of us of course is you, Mr Speaker, the deputy speaker and the second deputy speaker, Harry Jenkins and Allan Rocher. I would like to thank you for your forbearance over the course of the year. The Speaker is always in the hot seat in a parliamentary chamber which is this combative. You are often put on the spot in the thankless task of adjudicating debates. We appreciate your work and that of the deputy and second deputy and the Speaker's panel. Parliament, like this country and society, is changing. It is never easy being at the front of the changes. Nevertheless, you have done it with, I believe, impartiality and decency, and we thank you for it.

  The new procedures adopted last year continued to work effectively this year. I am more than happy to acknowledge the work of the Procedure Committee, chaired by the member for Charlton, Bob Brown, for continuing to improve the practices of the House. There are others who should be recognised for making this place work, but I think this has been a very useful innovation and we thank him for it.

  I would also like to thank the Hansard staff who faithfully record our words of wisdom and are sometimes even required to make sense of them. The sound and vision people who deliver our words and images throughout the building and across the broadcasting stations, we thank them. No doubt they are very important people to the producers of evening news for whom they package the shots.

Mr Kerr —From the front.

Mr KEATING —From the front, yes. I am sure they thank them, too. The staff of the Parliamentary Library who often supply the information contained in our speeches—all these people have developed and maintained considerable expertise—I thank them all. I would like to particularly thank the switchboard staff—Marlene and her co-workers Margaret, Pam and Gaylene and the four extra staff who assist them when the parliament is in session. You always get courtesy from the telephonists. I think all of us know that number. You can ring and get any office and you always get it quickly and nicely.

  To keep a building like this running requires a lot of people doing essential work here to maintain the surroundings, which they again do very nicely—the gardeners, the cleaners, the painters and the maintenance staff. We tend to see less of them during business hours but they are there at other times. Their work goes on. I think their efforts are delivered at an exceptional standard.

  No doubt there are many others who should be mentioned, not least of which are those who guard us, feed us and keep us travelling. Let me say thank you to all of you. The transport officers who have to move members around continually—I know every member has always appreciated their courtesy and their interest. I would like to thank all the people I have mentioned, Mr Speaker, you included, for the effort over the course of the last year and to take the opportunity of wishing everyone a happy Christmas.

  This is the last Christmas in parliament for many in the chamber. For those who are retiring at the end of this parliament it will mean that this is the last appearance at the, if you like, pre-Christmas valedictories we have in talking about people's lives here. Many members are retiring. I will mention them. Members of the government are: Brian Howe, the member for Batman; Michael Duffy, the member for Holt; Jeannette McHugh, the member for Grayndler; Peter Staples, the member for Jagajaga; Wendy Fatin, the member for Brand; Ben Humphreys, the member for Griffith; David Simmons, the member for Calare; Alan Griffiths, the member for Maribyrnong; Eric Fitzgibbon, the member for Hunter; Russ Gorman, the member for Greenway; and Chris Haviland, the member for Macarthur. Members of the Liberal Party are: Don Dobie, the member for Cook; David Connolly, the member for Bradfield; Steele Hall, the member for Boothby; and Ken Aldred, the member for Deakin. Members of the National Party are: Bruce Lloyd, the member for Murray; Ray Braithwaite, the member for Dawson; and our Independent member, Ted Mack, who was elected in 1990.

  It means a very great turnover in the parliament. People make a very big contribution to public life. All the people mentioned have all made a long contribution to public life over a very long period of time. I would like to say a couple of things about them. While we capture the mood before Christmas to reflect upon the parliament and those who work in it and serve it, I would like to mention a few of the people who have been longstanding ministers.

  Brian Howe, who was elected in 1977, became a minister in 1983, as did Michael Duffy who was elected in 1980. Jeannette McHugh was elected in 1983. Peter Staples and Wendy Fatin were elected the same year. All three have been ministers. Ben Humphreys came earlier in 1977 and became Minister for Veterans' Affairs. David Simmons came in 1983 and Alan Griffiths came in 1983. For the bulk of that group it is 12 years and for Brian Howe and Ben Humphreys it is 18 years, which is a long part of your life.

  I think we all feel honoured to serve in this place. All sorts of things draw us to public life. There is no particular way you are introduced to public life, no particular schooling, no particular vocational education for public life. You tend to grow into it along the way. I would like to take this opportunity just to mention Brian Howe, my former Deputy Prime Minister.

  I would like to record how much I have appreciated the time I have had with him here in the parliament during the period when we were members of the Expenditure Review Committee in the 1980s, when he was Minister for Social Security and Minister for Health. A lot of the matrix of the social programs of the Commonwealth came from those years. Brian always worked indefatigably—I underline the word `indefatigably'—and creatively to look at the priorities of the government, even the former government, and to re-sort them and to do it in a way which gave working Australians a fairer share of the national cake.

  Many great changes were made, some very radical ones—things like the family allowance supplement and the Child Support Agency, which is innovative in world terms. Of course he has gone on more latterly to be involved in the Commonwealth's involvement in cities with better cities, which has improved the way in which the country has functioned—the Commonwealth's relationship with the states and doing some things in the major cities and provincial cities that might not otherwise have been done.

  I said at the caucus meeting the other day that Brian enjoyed more substantial power than probably anybody in the Left of the Labor Party, or in the Left in Australia, since the war. While we have seen other luminaries on the stage, few have been as effective. I know all of my colleagues think this is so. We wish him well in private life, and we will miss him here.

  Honourable members—Hear, hear!

Mr KEATING —Michael Duffy—the irrepressible Michael Duffy. We miss his entertainment at question time. The droll, pat lines no doubt are part and parcel of his personality. He distinguished himself here as a minister over a very long period of time in the cabinet, in the outer ministry and in significant portfolios, including Minister for Communications.

  In those key years in the trade debate in the Uruguay Round it could all have gone to nothing. Keeping the Uruguay commitment alive; Australia's support for and with the Cairns group; all those hard discussions with all the hard heads of the international trade debate, the Clayton Yuetters and the Carla Hillses and all the others of this world; the interminable night-time meetings, dawn breaks and the rest—all these things were done in the name of Australian trade and often, mostly, in the name of Australian agriculture. Whilst he was succeeded by Neal Blewett and then by Peter Cook and we brought the round to a close, it was, of course, done over seven years and his was a mighty contribution.

  Then, of course, Michael Duffy became Attorney-General and distinguished himself in that portfolio. But, like his colleague I mentioned earlier, Brian Howe, the thing I will remember them both for is their work in the corporate layer of the cabinet as cabinet colleagues. A cabinet minister is not like any other portfolio minister; a cabinet minister is somebody who has to take the responsibilities on in a corporate sense, who has an interest in every issue that comes along, not just their own.

  For that, we could always rely on Michael to understand the broad range of what the government was doing through the sense of earthiness and compassion he has always had and with his sure touch with advice. Upon leaving office and going to the back bench, having been at centre stage and on the front foot for so long, a reasonably deft change of personality was required too, and he did that well. He has represented the people of Holt with great distinction and it has been a great parliamentary and ministerial career. We will miss him.

  Honourable members—Hear, hear!

Mr KEATING —As for my colleague Jeannette McHugh, I never thought Jeannette and I would have all that much in common after our years in the Left in New South Wales, but she likes me and I like her. She is such a sweetie you cannot help but like her. She always has a cheerful view of the world, and I was pleased to see her have the opportunity—as I have always been pleased in this place to see women break through into the parliamentary parties, into the caucus and into the cabinet—to make contributions, as we have also seen from Wendy Fatin, who was elected in Brand in 1983 and who is also retiring on this occasion.

  One may say that parliamentary politics is, by the sheer evidence of it, a difficult ring to break through for women, but they have done so and they have been the trailblazers for many others, I hope, into the future. I always take the view that, when a greater proportion of that half of the population that has never been as well represented here as it might takes a greater and more leading role in the conduct and affairs of the government and in the business of the parliament, we will all be the better and the stronger for it.

  Honourable members—Hear, hear!

Mr KEATING —We thank them both for their contribution to Labor politics, to the cabinet, to the ministry and for holding up their end for Australian women.

  I have got other colleagues who have been members of the ministry—Peter Staples, Ben Humphreys, David Simmons and Alan Griffiths. Ben came in 1977, again, almost uniquely qualified for politics. He has done just about everything, from running a garage in Queensland to doing a bit of hawking and canvassing on occasions, which he turned to hawking and canvassing for votes and policy. He has been effective in everything he has touched.

  I know that Ben has a special place out there with the veterans community who warmed to him when he was Minister for Veterans' Affairs. We have had a succession of veterans' affairs ministers in Ben's time, but I think Ben, in a sense, made a new mould in that relationship. I know that all of us in the government have appreciated it, but more than that we have always appreciated his commonsense, decency and sense of fun. We will miss him from the place.

  Honourable members—Hear, hear!

Mr KEATING —When Peter Staples was minister for community services he broke a lot of important new ground and was most highly appreciated by the community in aged care, child care and other areas of the community support area. He really did add something to the stock of our work here. He will go knowing that that is so, and we understand that it is so as well.

   David Simmons, who came here as the member for Calare in 1983, has had a distinguished time in a number of portfolios. It has always been important for us as a party to have the views of someone from a rural constituency to understand the problems of provincial cities and their communities, particularly agricultural communities, and to represent them here creatively in a number of important portfolio responsibilities. He was, for a time, minister for the arts and the arts community warmed to him. I think many appreciated the work that he did at that time, as well as in other portfolios. We wish David well in private life.

   Alan Griffiths came here in 1983 and rose to be Minister for Industry, Technology and Regional Development in the cabinet, which is one of the senior portfolios of the government. He was also Minister for Resources, where he distinguished himself with a lot of innovative policy which made a great difference to the way the country functions. This included removing the excise system and putting the resource rent tax into Bass Strait and seeing that we were efficiently able to continue the prolongation of that development. In a number of other areas in the resources field, including in water and forestry, he made very important contributions. He then became Minister for Industry, Technology and Regional Development.

  When he stood down from the ministry and the cabinet on a private matter, I made it clear at the time that we in the caucus would welcome him back to the government. I would like to take this occasion to reiterate that. Of course, were he to have chosen to remain in parliament, I am sure that he would be re-elected to the ministry and the cabinet by the caucus. So, Alan, we wish you well.

  Honourable members—Hear, hear!

Mr KEATING —There are many members of the caucus who are retiring who have meant a lot to us but who have not held cabinet—Eric Fitzgibbon, Russ Gorman and Chris Haviland. Chris was elected in 1993. He has not been here as long as the others. Russ came in 1983 and Eric Fitzgibbon in 1984. Eric and Russ are both characters and we will miss them. They are part of the earthiness that the Labor Party is always able to attract and enables it to keep its feet on the ground. They are people who can cut through the nonsense of an argument. We have warned them against cutting through it too many times. I think we have appreciated them as members of the caucus, as we have Chris. We wish Chris well in the future.

   Don Dobie was here when I came here. He came here in 1966; I came here in 1969. He has been returned I think on every occasion bar one since. It is 29 years ago. His career has always been marked out by his personal decency, general kindness towards people and by the fact that he always made substantial contributions to the parliamentary process in and out of office. He served with a number of coalition governments over the period where he had portfolio responsibilities.

  I have always thought that Don was one of the people that kept the link between the parliament as it is in a more contemporary guise and how it used to be when he and I first came here. At that time the executive government played less of a role in the management of Australia, and the cabinet and the ministry also had less of a role in the management of the Commonwealth. It was in the days when the bureaucracy played a greater role than it does today in policy development and when the parliament had a more discursive role than perhaps it does in this contemporary setting.

  In those days, second reading speeches were reported in the press often and widely. If a member made the effort to give a quality second reading contribution, it would be reported. Much of that has changed with radio and television, and with the focus on question time a lot of the more thoughtful contributions of members are basically ignored by the media—I think more is the pity. The second reading debate is a time when people on the back bench can actually say something in the parliament of note and have it noticed. At the same time they can mark their own career path as their fellow members of the caucus and parliamentary parties can make judgments about them.

  At any rate, there are not many people who have been here longer—I think only Ian Sinclair has been here longer—than Don. I think I am the last one from the 1969 group, which was a very large group of members. So it is with some sadness and nostalgia that we will see him go. We wish him well, as I am sure his own party will.

  Honourable members—Hear, hear!

Mr KEATING —David Connolly came in 1974 as the member for Bradfield from a distinguished career in the Public Service in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He has been on the front bench in substantial positions and remains with the shadow responsibility for retirement incomes and superannuation. He has made a substantial contribution around here and will now leave to go to private life. I hope that the years he has spent here are years that qualify him for this change of his own life to another interesting phase of his life and that he will take from here happy memories.

   Steele Hall was elected as a senator in 1974 and then in 1981 was elected as the member for Boothby in the House of Representatives. He came from a controversial background in the conservative parties of South Australia where, for a number of reasons, he was a figure of controversy surrounding the redistribution policies of that state. We on this side of the House—and probably most people everywhere—now think that made South Australia a fairer place to work and a better political system. The integrity that Steele showed at the time is not forgotten by members on this side of the House. He was the Premier in South Australia but never rose to become a minister here—but well might have—and we wish him well.

  Ken Aldred came in 1975 and he leaves 20 years later. It is a relatively long innings, but not too long at his age to make another life and another career, and we wish him well.

  Bruce Lloyd came as the member for Murray in 1971. Bruce was in that group of people who came a bit late to get his position standing for the Fraser ministry in 1976. He missed a period as a minister during that time. The coalition went into opposition in 1983. From that time his ministerial opportunities were more than severely curtailed. We on this side of the House have always admired the work he did. He has been more than a little unlucky in not seeing ministerial office, which within the National Party he was entitled to see. While he does not leave here having been a minister, but for time and circumstance he would have very well become a minister in the National Party and the coalition government. He has always been cheerful and an absolute workaholic, and the people of Murray could never have elected a more energetic member than him. We thank him for his conscientiousness and his decency and we wish him well.

  Honourable members—Hear, hear!

Mr KEATING —Ray Braithwaite was elected to the seat of Dawson in 1975. Again, I do not think he has held ministerial office, but he has been on the front bench of the opposition in a number of important shadow portfolio responsibilities. Twenty years is a long time in here and he has obviously taken the choice to call it a day and say he has done his bit here, and we wish him well.

  Honourable members—Hear, hear!

Mr KEATING —Ted Mack came in 1990, quite remarkably, to win a House of Representatives seat in North Sydney against the established parties, which is no mean feat. It is testimony to the public standing which he had in the community of North Sydney and for his enduring work in the municipality of North Sydney where he served as mayor and, of course, with distinction in the state parliament of New South Wales. It was on the basis of that public esteem that I am sure his election in North Sydney became possible.

  We wish our colleagues well. Public life is a passing parade. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves. We can only be on the stage for a while, hopefully usefully to be able to do some things. The good thing about the parliamentary system is that we are all first amongst equals. If you rise to cabinet or prime ministerial rank or if you do not, the caucus is where the weight and the responsibility ultimately is—the sense, the touch with the community and picking up the plasma of Australian democracy. That is why, in outlining a sketching of the government's model for a republic, we have always believed that we should keep the representative chamber of the House of Representatives and the power that it gives a prime minister and a cabinet paramount in the representative democracy we have.

  All the people who have served that I have mentioned have been part of that representative democracy. They have constituencies where they have related to people and institutions in their regional areas and localities. This is the essence of representative government where you can join a party that has views and philosophies but where you can make a difference, at the same time keeping touch with the community and making a wider contribution, and then leave. That is the way it should be.

  I wish our colleagues well. I would like to conclude by again thanking you, Mr Speaker, the clerk and his deputies, the other officers of the chamber, the people in the building, those on our staffs who support us consistently, particularly ministerial staff, where the work is hard and laborious, and parliamentary staffs, where often the load is high and the numbers are few, where the work is no less difficult and where the contribution is just as great. We thank them because they are often the unsung heroes who keep the system running. We wish them all a happy Christmas and a good new year.

  Honourable members—Hear, hear!