PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 4 DECEMBER 2014
Thank you Madam Speaker – and I begin by wishing you and all those who sit in the big chair a very Merry Christmas and a relaxing break from standing order 94A. I’m deeply conscious there’s still one more Question Time.
At this time of year, our first thoughts are with the Australians who will not be spending Christmas with the people they love.
Our Defence Forces - stationed around the world, our emergency services personnel on duty through the day and night; ambos, firies, nurses, police.
And the heroes who don’t wear a uniform – everyday Australians who are working unsociable hours to make ends meet and to make our society function.
I wish to record my appreciation for the work of all of our Commonwealth Public Servants. We are most fortunate with the quality and calibre of the Commonwealth Public Service.
I also want to mention Peter Greste who is – most unjustly – spending this Christmas in his Cairo prison cell.
Australians began this year celebrating an Ashes whitewash, we approach it’s end mourning the passing of Phillip Hughes.
In between, there was joy and sadness.
In an unknown wheatfield in Ukraine, and somewhere in the remote ocean depths, two Malaysian Airliners met a tragic end – and our world grieved for all those on board.
For their families, this was more than a significant international event, it was a life-changing tragedy – and our thoughts are with them, now and always.
In Iraq and Syria, sectarian hatred and evil threatens the vulnerable – and both sides of this chamber worked together in a co-operative spirit, because the safety of our people and the security of our nation unites us all.
Corporal Cameron Baird, from 2 Commando Regiment, became the 100th Australian to be awarded the VC, sadly, like so many of his brave predecessors – it was posthumous.
We welcomed a new Governor-General and we thanked Her Excellency Quentin Bryce and Michael Bryce for their sterling service to our country – you don’t need to be their son-in-law to recognise their greatness.
Our athletes did us all proud at Sochi, Glasgow and in Brazil.
Richard Flanagan became just the third Australian to win the Man Booker Prize, for his harrowing tale, The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
The Hawks went back-to-back and after 43 long years it was glory, glory for South Sydney – well done Albo on the redevelopment of Heffron Park.
We lost Doc Neeson, an angel who never pretended to be a saint, and the author of one of our unofficial national anthems.
A generation of movie-lovers mourned the loss of Robin Williams and Phillip Seymour Hoffman – and we celebrated no less than three Australian Oscar winners.
Brisbane shone for the G20 and this Parliament hosted a cavalcade of world leaders.
Someone introduced a Budget at some stage, but not to worry – we’ll get another practice run again in a couple of weeks and a re-run in six months.
Madam Speaker, as you well know, managing this house and this Parliament depends upon the work of hundreds of intelligent, dedicated, professional people - and none of them are politicians.
To the Clerks, the Sergeant-at-Arms and their office, the Tabling Office, the Parliamentary Library and Hansard as well as all the attendants in this chamber— this place runs on your patience, your skill and your goodwill. Is there really a Facebook page for Luch.
And this building, our home for 20 weeks of the year, could not operate without the people who come to work here every day.
The security guards, plumbers, printers, switchboard operators, gym staff, nurses and IT support team.
To the Australian Federal Police who look after MPs and Senators – and on occasion our families, thank you for your dedication.
And a special thank you to the officers who keep an eye on the Melbourne CPO.
I want to thank all the Parliament House cleaners, especially Joy, Maria, Anna and Lucia – and I wish them well in their campaign for a modest 85 cent per hour pay rise.
And of course, Dom and his most excellent friendly crew at Aussies who keep the caffeine flowing as the week goes on.
In a building sometimes more known for melodrama and squabbling over the limelight – or indeed problems with the skylight - all of you work backstage to make sure the show goes on we are grateful.
In the same way, I want to thank all the Comcar drivers.
A special mention for my drivers in Melbourne: Steve Smith, Peter Taylor and formerly Bill Foster.
They’re both always willing to listen to my new ideas for short-cuts and navigation, who needs a Navman, or, when the kids are on board, the ‘Frozen’ soundtrack on repeat.
And although Steve was on the wrong end of about five dud tips for this year’s spring racing carnival, he’s kept his sense of humour.
I also want to acknowledge our friends in the Press Gallery – we all benefit from your hindsight, but our democracy is most certainly improved by your diligence and tenacity, and let me not forget the photographers.
In 2014, our party – and our nation – lost three political giants.
In mourning the death, and celebrating the life of Neville Wran, Gough Whitlam and Wayne Goss, everyone who shares affection for our movement has been reminded of the timeless Labor values that bind us.
To every member of our party, Australia’s most venerable political movement, I say thank you for keeping the light on the hill burning bright.
I especially thank our National Secretary, George Wright, National President Jenny McAllister and their hardworking team for all their help this year.
And I promise every member of the ALP that all of us will give our very best to live up to the progressive, reforming, bold, reforming legacy of those who have gone before us - to make you proud to be Labor.
To my marvellous Deputy Leader, the Member for Sydney and her family, thank you very much.
Tanya, you mean so much to our party – and your support means so much to me, thank you.
To our leadership team in the other place, Penny Wong and Stephen Conroy – thank you for the wonderful work that you have done standing up for Labor values in the upper house.
To our Shadow Treasurer, the member for McMahon and the Manager of Opposition Business, the Member for Watson, I thank you for your good humour, your ready wit and your wisdom.
To all my Shadow Cabinet and Caucus colleagues –I pay tribute to your hard work here and in the community.
2014 was the year Labor stood strong – we stood strong, because we stood together.
Every day in this job I count myself lucky to be surrounded by people of such talent, people of social conscience and I wish you all a relaxing break with the people you love.
And, as we know, behind every good politician is a surprised and relieved staff member.
Working in politics – at any level – is more than a job, it is a vocation.
Our staff make tremendous sacrifices on our behalf and we thank them for that.
I seem to have been provided with several extra paragraphs of praise for my own staff here – time will not permit me, unfortunately I can’t work it all through and name them individually.
I simply offer a heartfelt thank you to everyone from my office and my electorate office for their effort, their energy and their enthusiasm this year.
Even at the most difficult and high-pressure moments, my team can always find a reason to laugh –sometimes it’s not even at my expense – I am especially grateful for that.
In his final speech in this place Kim Beazley said that what our families put up with is the ‘hard secret’ of public life.
Like everyone, I am only here because of my family’s support, their patience, their guidance and their love.
Chloe, Rupert, Georgette and Clementine – I love you, I cannot wait to see you.
Last month, David Cameron remarked that sometimes this is a place where ‘the brickbats fly’.
Yes, ours is a chamber of robust exchange.
It has always been that way, it always should be.
Our democracy depends on upon disagreement, on the contest of ideas, on each of us speaking on behalf of the people who elected us.
But perhaps, in 2015, we can all do better, we can all work harder to separate the personal from the political.
In that spirit, I want to acknowledge the work of the crossbenchers for their work in the House of Representatives and the Senate, very important work.
And in that spirit I wish the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Government and their staff a safe and happy holiday.
Earlier this year I lost my mother, a wonderful woman who taught me and my twin brother, Robert, so much. The Prime Minister sent me a very kind message of condolence.
In one of those unscripted moments in public life, Prince William was ahead of the Prime Minister, Princess Kate behind, the Prime Minister in between and my wife was talking to Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge was talking to Madam Speaker, and there was the Prime Minister and I, within handshake range, as we did.
I thanked him for his thoughtful words and his message to my mother.
I said that every so often, just when I am at the point of complete frustration with the Prime Minister, he does something nice to surprise me.
I think the Prime Minister was sufficiently surprised at this comment, but he paused and said, 'Don't worry. I'm sure I'll find a way to frustrate you soon.'
Prime Minister, thank you for your generosity.
Please send my very best to your remarkable wife, Margie, and your clever and capable daughters.
I am sure that as you savour a shandy or two this summer, pondering your year of achievement, you will miss us, but do not worry, we will be back, we will be here, ready for the political battle in the year ahead, whatever it may bring.
Merry Christmas everyone and a happy New Year.
I thank the House.
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