Tuesday 11 August 2020
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Australian PM - 1 month ago

2019 Valedictory

Mr Morrison: (Cook—Prime Minister and Minister for the Public Service) (16:50): Between this time last year and this time this year, a lot s happened. Of course, we had the general election, and the people of Australia had their opportunity to make the most important decision they make every three years, in terms of who comes into this place and represents them and forms government. Once again, this year, they exercised their judgement. All of us who were returned to this place came back with a great sense of humility and gratefulness for the opportunity we have to serve in this place—first and foremost, as the member for our electorates. Whether in my own in Southern Sydney, the electorate of Cook—taking in the southern parts of St George and Sutherland shire—or elsewhere around this country, our first opportunity, our first privilege, our first duty is to all of those in our electorates, and we say a very grateful thanks to all of them for returning us to this place to represent them and do our very, very best. Since that general election, the government has been hard at work, as I ve mentioned in various responses and statements in this place and others, and I don t intend to go over those matters, because this afternoon is about something very different. I did, however, want to acknowledge the great challenges that Australians have faced, particularly natural disasters. The year began with the devastating bushfires in Tasmania and Victoria, and it went through to the unprecedented flooding in North Queensland. None of us can—and I certainly can t—get out of our heads the image that was displayed of that railway line up in North Queensland, where we saw the water, over a 48-hour period, deluge that part of our continent. But in what must have felt like a heartbeat, in the space of just 24 hours, those wonderful Australians went from the relief and joy of seeing rain fall to tears and devastation as they saw generations of their efforts literally washed away. Of all the things that have happened this year, and there have been so many—we ve walked onto firegrounds and sat with those who have been affected by these terrible fires across the year—it is very hard for me to get out of my mind being up there in North Queensland with those families. We have them still in our thoughts and in our actions today, and we continue to stand with them as they rebuild. In the great natural disasters that we see in this country we always see the greatness of Australians—their resilience, their tenacity, their care and their love for each other. At the worst of times, we see the best of Australians, and we saw that in North Queensland. We have seen one of the worst droughts on record, impacting some 40,000 farming families in rural districts across the country. This fire season alone, six Australians have already, tragically, lost their lives to fires that have torn through millions of hectares across four states and claimed hundreds of homes. These events remind us that, while the lucky country remains the lucky country, it s no passive moniker. It is one that is built and earned by the strength, character and resilience of our fellow Australians. Our first defence in everything is the strength and character of our people, our brave and selfless firefighters, our emergency services personnel. Indeed, today is International Volunteer Day. We reflect on those and we thank them very much for their wonderful service to our country. We think of our service men and women, who also turned up in support of their fellow Australians through all of these disasters, and our communities: the businesses who let their staff go and volunteer. For a business owner in a regional area of the country, in a rural area of the country, it s tough enough, but they re the ones also who have to carry the burden, carry the weight and enable their staff to go and be there for their community, and they are equal in their service for providing for that. We have seen neighbours coming together—strangers coming together and acting as neighbours—and now they count each other as friends, as they ve come through fire and flood and drought. Everyone has played their part. As well, with Christmas almost upon us, we remember those who, for whatever reason, are doing it tough. The Leader of the Opposition and I were at the Kmart Salvos event just outside my office recently, and the Leader of the Opposition, rightly, referred to those who are going through terribly difficult times for economic reasons, or those who are affected by homelessness, or those who are affected by domestic violence. Any number of reasons will mean that, as we go into this Christmas season, once again, there are many Australians for whom this will be a very difficult time. Again, it ll be those fellow Australians who reach out to them and seek to provide them with support as they work through their terrible difficulties. There ll be those who ll be alone or will be bereaved. There ll be those for whom there will be a missing place at the table, and that will be tough. They will reflect on wonderful memories, hopefully, of those times that they were able to share together. That s what families and friends do: they help each other deal with the challenges of life. There will be those who will be confined to hospital, those struggling on farms, those who battle difficulties that are insurmountable, it would seem. I ask every one of us—and it s an appeal I make to all of us—to look out for those who are less fortunate and to look out for one another, particularly over this summer season, and to keep safe on the roads, to exercise patience and care. You don t need to get there as quickly as you often think you do. We can get very busy at these times, and we know what can occur on our roads and the terrible tragedies that can unfold. So, I would ask everyone, as we go about what hopefully is a very happy time and one of reunion with many family and friends, that we all make sure that we turn up safely and enjoy that experience. To Lifeline and all our other great services and volunteers who know they ll be reaching out on Christmas Day, because they do it every year: thank you for serving up that Christmas cheer. Thank you also, from all Australians, to the surf lifesavers who ll be on our beaches—looking after not just Australians but also the many visitors who ll be here and are often put at so much risk, unaware and unfamiliar with the dangers that can be in our waters—and to doctors, nurses, the ambos and the emergency and essential services workers who will give up their family time on Christmas Day and beyond to ensure that the rest of us can have a happy and safe holiday period. In particular, as we come together with family, let us also reflect with gratitude on the serving men and women of our defence forces—some 1,500—who are around the world serving in so many different capacities, separated from their loved ones by the call of duty and because of their passion and love for their nation, whether at sea, in the air or on land, in Afghanistan, the Middle East or the many missions in other parts of the world, or keeping our borders safe closer to home, and those serving in our diplomatic service. We thank them, and we wish them a very merry Christmas. We stand by our veterans community, also, remembering the depth of their sacrifice and responding to it with respect and strong and ongoing support. It is also fitting at this time of year to extend to the Leader of the Opposition and his family my very best wishes for Christmas and the holiday season, whether he ll be watching re-runs of old footy games and things like that—who knows, but I do hope he has a wonderful Christmas and holiday period with his family and a bit of time of rest. We ll all be back here again next year and ready to serve our constituents and play and perform the important roles that we do in this place. So, I hope he has a great break. I also want to acknowledge his predecessor, the previous Leader of the Opposition, the member for Maribyrnong, who served in that role. I wish him, Chloe and all of their family a very happy Christmas and a safe and pleasant new year. Menzies would often say of Curtin and Chifley, opponents but not enemies , and I believe this is true. That is the spirit in which these messages are sent. To all the members of the opposition: I wish you all the best for a happy and successful break. To my own team: when you leave this place and go home to your families, you can be immensely proud of everything that you ve achieved this year. You have my grateful thanks. When I took on the role of leadership of the parliamentary Liberal Party and then, together with the Deputy Prime Minister, stood before you, I said, You ve asked me to lead and I ve asked you to follow, and you ve paid me the greatest honour in your decision to follow. Together we have been able to achieve something quite extraordinary, but, as I said on election night, the victory was not the victory was of those Australians who put their great faith in us. My proudest moment, though, was the day after, because it meant we got to get on with the job, and that s what we ll continue to do. I also particularly want to extend my best wishes and appreciation to my Deputy Prime Minister and my coalition partner, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, and his wife, Catherine. They are great friends, and he s not a bad cricketer either—based on his own report! It has been a true joy to be able to lead a government together with a man as decent as Michael, and I wish him and Catherine well. They have been together for such a long time and they re such an example to us all. Indeed, as I look forward to my 30th wedding anniversary in January, I think you and Catherine have been such a wonderful blessing. You are on 33 years, so I don t know if we ll ever catch you, but we ll get close every year! To my tremendous deputy, Josh Frydenberg, deputy leader of the parliamentary Liberal Party and Treasurer: thank you very much, Josh. Bringing down a budget—your first budget—is a very significant thing to do. For all of those who have had the great privilege of standing at this dispatch box to set out the expenditures of the government, its fiscal settings and the things you re able to achieve through strong financial management, it is a great honour. For Josh—the member for Kooyong, I should say, but with some indulgence from you, Mr Speaker. For the Treasurer to be able to come and to do that this year and do it in such fine style, I know he is looking forward to the next one more, having achieved a first surplus and able to announce another one. I know you ll do a tremendous job. To the deputy leader of the National Party, Senator Bridget McKenzie— Mr Frydenberg interjecting— Mr Morrison: There he is. His ears were burning! To the deputy leader of the National Party, Senator McKenzie: I thank you also, Bridget, for the tremendous guidance and support you have given to our leadership team, your passionate support for regional Australia and for ensuring we are always very familiar with the challenges that are being faced in rural and regional Australia. To our newly minted Leader of the House: thank you for saying yes when I asked you to take this job. There he is. We honoured the previous Leader of the House—largely at his own direction!—when we put his picture up on the wall. I haven t checked to see if he is still standing there in front of it admiring it, but he certainly did for some time the other night! And so he should, because he was an adornment to this House. For the new Leader of the House, I also want to thank Christian for the enormous workload he takes on as our Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations. That of itself is an extraordinarily large task and, for backing that up with the incredible work that is required to move the government s business through this place and to ensure we can continue to deliver for Australians, I thank him very much for his great service both to our government and to our parties. I also thank, of course, our leadership team in the Senate, Senator Cormann and Senator Birmingham. Senator Cormann has got quite a high strike rate when it comes to ensuring the passage of the government s legislation, and I thank him for the way that he s engaged with crossbench members and wish all of them also the very best, as I do the crossbench members here, for the Christmas season. I thank them for their dedication. To my own team: I thank my chief of staff, John Kunkel. Thank you for your support, John, and the great work that is done by you. Thank you for your leadership of all of my team, which is so important to the running of the government. I want to thank all the hardworking and committed staff of coalition members, and we had the opportunity to thank them all last night. But can I also say to the opposition members and all of their staff that I wish them, also, all the best for Christmas and the holiday period. Can I thank the Chief Government Whip and the deputy whips for ensuring we stay on track, but not just for that. I m sure the Leader of the Opposition would know, from the role of their own whip, that they play such an important part and work closely together between opposition and government to ensure not just the smooth running of this place but the pastoral care that is provided to members of this parliament on both sides of this House. I want to thank the whips and their deputies, both from the government side and from the opposition side, for the great work they do. To the Clerk of the House: congratulations on your appointment. It s wonderful to see our first female clerk here—not just that, but someone of immense capability. We loved those earrings yesterday, and these ones are just as they re right in the Christmas spirit! We wish you, your family, the Deputy Clerk and all the clerks assistants who support them well. To the Serjeant-at-Arms, James Catchpole, our thanks also go to you. From my own department, thank you to David Belgrove, Anne O Connor and Sue Klammer who work in the legislative team and who have been a great help to me and my staff. To the House Parliamentary Liaison Officer, Charlie Higgins, and the rest of the team in the Table Office and the First Parliamentary Counsel, Peter Quiggin PSM and his team, our deep thanks. I d like to make special mention of Debbie Arnold, who is leaving us as the Senate Parliamentary Liaison Officer and has been instrumental in helping my staff and me to program the government s agenda in the other place. Other long-serving staff who retired this year, as we noted, are: David Elder, the former Clerk here for 38 Trish Bicket from the Table Office, 34 Laura Gillies, 34 James Rees, 28 Onu Palm, 23 and Anthony Overs, 17 years. It is clearly a vocation, and one taken very seriously by those who serve this parliament, and we thank you. Thanks also to all the attendants in this place. To Luch and the whole mob: thank you very, very much. You re always a great encouragement and have been over many years. Whichever side of the House you sit on, there s always the great warm smile and friendly attendance that we get from you. We also thank, of course, all the Federal Police, security, those in catering, Library, Hansard and support staff who make the institution run so smoothly. Mr Speaker, we thank them, through you, for their great work. In last year s valedictory, I mentioned Luzia, Ana and Maria, who are the three cleaners from my own office who have been working in this building for a very long time. They really do have a way of just lighting us all up. Ana and Maria are sisters. At this time last year, it was very tough. They had just lost their mum. But recently we were able to share together a much brighter moment—a wonderful morning tea celebration for Luzia s 30th anniversary of service in this building to many Prime Ministers over a long period of time. I know she would have been held in as much affection by my predecessors as by me and my own team. It was lovely to meet Luzia s husband, Marcelo, their children, Marian, Lucia and Isobel, and their grandchildren as well. It was a wonderful day. Next year we will be celebrating Ana s 30th anniversary milestone as well. She s a wonderful personality. She s the only person in the world who I understand called Mr Howard Pumpkin . I want to, again, congratulate all of them and thank them. On a sadder note, this year was a year we lost two of our nation s finest leaders and statesmen. It was a privilege to join with the Monash Foundation in honouring the scholarships that were awarded in their honour. To the late Bob Hawke and to the late Tim Fischer, and to all of their families: we want to acknowledge your great service to our country. Our country is so much better for the extraordinary contribution that they were able to deliver in their service, and they have set a standard for us all to seek to attain. Their passing reminds us of what politics is truly all about—serving honourably and courageously the Australian people. Finally to you, Mr Speaker, Pam and all the family: have a wonderful Christmas. You continue to serve us and keep this show on the road in this parliament with great dignity, and you do it with a wit and a candour and an affection for which I think people around the country have got to know you well over many years now in this role. There have been many great Speakers, Mr Speaker, and I have no doubt you are one of them. I think, over the course of your time as Speaker, you will certainly stand out amongst them, if not above them all. It s a great privilege every time I see you in that chair, because I was so pleased to support you going into that chair and you have not let this House down on one occasion—not on one occasion. We thank you very much for all the work you do to maintain the spirit of this House and its important work. Along with all of those good wishes, Mr Speaker, of course, it has been an adventurous year, it has been a dramatic year, it has been a year of a general election, it has been a year of achievements, it has been a year of disappointments for some, but it has been a year in which the great Australian spirit has showcased itself again: to itself and to the world. This really is the greatest country in the world in which to live, and whatever difficulties are before us or whatever challenges are in front of us, the one thing we can always say with a full heart is: it s great to be an Australian. Merry Christmas, everyone.

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