Bill's Speeches

VALEDICTORY 2018 - CANBERRA - THURSDAY, 6 DECEMBER 2018

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Thank you, Mr Speaker.
 
And I congratulate the Prime Minister on his valedictory speech just then.
 
And when I say thank you, first of all to you Mr Speaker, I mean it. After all, being Speaker of the House and a Carlton supporter is enough to test the patience of a saint.
 
So it's a great credit to you that you’ve kept order in the chamber and held onto your sense of humour as well.
 
Now, last week I’m pretty sure the Prime Minister effectively announced the election could be on either May 11th or May 18th.
 
What may be of greater interest to some in the House is to learn that the Prime Minister's birthday is May 13th and mine is May 12th.
 
So it’s fair to say that both of us are probably hoping the other one doesn’t have the world's happiest birthday next year. But I think it makes it all the more important for me to wish the Prime Minister a Merry Christmas.
 
Chloe and I wish you and Jenny and your precious daughters a safe and happy time together over the summer.
 
And despite everything that they say about me, my best wishes to the government members. They did me the compliment this year of mentioning me, personally, 1260 times in Question Time. That's about every three and a half minutes - and that includes our questions. 
 
It makes me wonder what on earth the government would do without me.
 
I should also, I think, just briefly acknowledge former Prime Minister Turnbull and Lucy Turnbull. They served and led this country up to August of this year.
 
And I also should acknowledge the Member for Curtin, who served with distinction as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Foreign Minister, not only for much of this year but for indeed, her time in Government. 
 
I also should say Merry Christmas as well to the fastest-growing group in the chamber, the crossbench, Merry Christmas. 
 
And, Mr Speaker, having acknowledged the people who serve in the Parliament, I think it's appropriate to think this Christmas, of the men and women of our defence force serving overseas and in Australia and their families, who also serve.
 
We pay tribute to the Australian Federal Police and our security agencies who calmly and professionally keep us safe.
 
We acknowledge the men and women who have already begun another long hot summer of fighting fires and saving lives and communities.
 
At Christmas we think of our police and ambos, our nurses and emergency services, the people who come face-to-face with the tragic human consequences and stresses and strains of this time of year.
 
Let us also spare a thought for those who are going without, people battling everything from poverty to addiction, to homelessness, to just simple loneliness.
 
We give thanks to their allies in this fight, those remarkable souls in charity organisations who do everything they can to bring some Christmas cheer to those who really do deserve it the most.
 
I also want to salute all the Australians who will be working through Christmas giving up their time with the people they love, to make sure that there's food on the table, the bills are paid and the rest of us can enjoy our Christmas.
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In 2018, around the nation, Australia was tested by fire and floodwaters, by drought and hardship, by terror and tragedy.
 
But in the face of disaster our people stand strong.
 
In the shadow of evil our communities come together.
 
And when times are toughest, neighbours and strangers could always count on each other.
 
As ever, the greatness of our country revealed itself not just in the high places of power and privilege but in the hearts of our citizens.
 
As always, we find remarkable inspiration in the character and courage of everyday Australians.
 
Especially, our resilient farmers battling drought, who put the food on the table for the nation.
 
Mr Speaker
 
Only twice in the history of football has a side kicked the first five goals of the Grand Final and lost and on both occasions, it was Collingwood.
 
So congratulations to West Australians and Eagles supporters and in the league, the Roosters.

On the Gold Coast this year our athletes starred, none I would suggest more inspirational or impressive, than the amazing, inspirational, legendary Kurt Fearnley.
 
At beautiful Moonee Valley, in my electorate, the mighty mare won her fourth Cox Plate.
 
And speaking of winning with a leg in the air, congratulations to Premier Daniel Andrews.
 
In the Caribbean, the Southern Stars clinched another World Cup.
 
And as women’s sporting codes around our nation continue to grow and thrive and inspire, let us do more to see these athletes be paid like the elite professionals they are.
 
Mr Speaker.
 
None of us would be here without the sacrifices, patience and support of our family.
 
I thank Chloe for her love, advice, her policy passion and for basically raising our kids, largely on her own, as so many of our partners do. 
 
Last night I missed our youngest daughter’s concert. But we all miss a lot in these jobs, big moments and little everyday treasures.
 
So to my son Rupert, congratulations on finishing Year 12.
 
To Georgette, I’m sorry that I mentioned your boyfriend on radio before you were ‘Facebook official’.
 
And to Clementine, I’m pleased to say that I kept my promise and made it through the year without dabbing in public. Please lift the fatwa.
 
Speaking of families who have put up with a lot, I’d like to thank my Caucus colleagues.
 
Beginning, of course, with the Member for Sydney. 
 
Tanya, the greatest gift - not that there are many from being Leader of the Opposition for five years - is to develop the friendship I have with you.
 
In the other place we are fortunate to be led by Senators Penny Wong and Don Farrell. Perhaps the most unlikely, iconic and beloved combination to come out of South Australia since the pie floater.
 
To the Member for McMahon, thank you for your belief in Labor as a party of ideas and initiative and everything you do to advance our cause as an alternative government, not just a strong opposition. 
 
To our Manager of Opposition Business, the Member for Watson, we need only to look at next year’s sitting calendar to show how effective you are your job.
 
To the newest member of our leadership group, Brendan O’Connor, your resilience, your humour, your love of the good fight, and your love of Una, you cheers us all, you make us respect you.
 
To all of my senior colleagues, I won't namecheck you all but you know who you are. To all of my members of the executive, to all of those who serve in the parliamentary Labor Party, thank you very much for your support, for your vision and for your unity.
 
I say thank you to our Chief Whip, Chris Hayes and the Deputy Whips who do everything you can to keep us in line.
 
Indeed, I wish I had the opportunity to acknowledge each of my Caucus colleagues, you are outstanding, you give up a lot, you push your case with fierceness and determination and with idealism and optimism. 
 
On this side of the parliament we carry the Labor banner but we know an army marches at our back.
 
So to our branch members and true believers, thank you for giving our movement such life and purpose.
 
To our National Secretary, Noah Carroll and his team: in the next 162 days and 12 hours, you have a national conference - thank the Government for that - before Christmas, and a federal election campaign to run next year.
 
So please squeeze in a Merry Christmas in between.
 
I do want to thank and acknowledge the trade union movement of Australia.
 
Earlier this year, I travelled up to Sale to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the explosion at the Longford Gas Plant.
 
I’ll never forget being at the site that afternoon as a younger official - when they showed us the security footage. Footage of the explosions which took two lives and badly burned two others. 
There were nine explosions, nine fireballs, it looked like film of an air force bombing raid as the gas explosions occurred.  In the foreground, sensibly, you could see a lot people running from the area of the explosion to safety.
 
But every single person in the orange overalls, the operators and in-house maintenance, they were running towards the danger, going to their mates.
 
Twenty years ago, these were the people that this large multinational company tried to blame for the disaster, the people who ran towards the peril. 
Their union stood up for them then, defended them and protected them. In the end, these workers got bravery medals. 
But even now, at ESSO, the union movement is still fighting for maintenance workers who were unceremoniously sacked over 500 days ago. Only to be told that if they wanted their jobs back that they’d had, in some cases for decades, they had to accept a 30 per cent pay cut from one of the richest companies in the world.  
 
The fight for fairness is a job that never stops but it’s where some of the most rewarding work can be. 
 
It is why I’m proud, every day, to be a member of an Australian trade union. 
 
Mr Speaker, speaking of powerful and important collectives, I acknowledge the Press Gallery.
 
I say to those of you who located our free drinks on Tuesday night – which was a healthy majority, and I think they all attended the Prime Minister's beforehand too – you genuinely perform a public service, our democracy is better for it.
 
And talking of what makes our system better, it brings me to the people who do the listening in this place: the Hansard reporters, the clerks and chamber attendants, the tabling and drafting officers, and all the other quietly-turning cogs who keep the machinery of our Parliament and our democracy turning over.
 
To everyone who plays a part: the caterers, 2020, broadcast, the landscapers, librarians, gym staff and security guards, thank you for what you do in the service of our democracy.
In particular, we must always acknowledge one of the more remarkable monopolies in this place, so I acknowledge Dom and the team at Aussies. They’ve probably got the soccer on right now but they can read about this later.
 
I do too want to thank our cleaners, especially in my office, the aptly-named and ever-cheerful Joy. 
 
We all spend our lives in a tearing hurry and I would say in Melbourne, without my Comcar drivers Peter Taylor and Steve Smith and Dave ‘Smokey’ Keylie -  I would miss a lot of flights and be even later to some of my press conferences.  
 
Mr Speaker
 
As usual, this section of my speech is both highlighted and in bold: I would like to thank my staff, both in my electorate office in Moonee Ponds and my personal staff.
 
Many staff come here dreaming of The West Wing, these days my staff console themselves by watching Veep.
 
It’s been a long road – not just the 1602km I’ve run so far this year, I've recorded this - but I've been glad to have you with me on the journey.
 
Mr Speaker
 
There are issues and questions which divide this place, from the momentous to the trivial, but a big truth unites us all.
 
We are drawn here because we believe that politics is more than a career. It is a vocation, it is a call to service.
 
Service, not just in the name of the people who voted for us - but for the next generation, for the future of all Australians.
 
The best day this parliament has had this year, in 2018, was the apology to the survivors and victims of institutional child sexual abuse.
 
It was a day full of hard truths and raw emotions: re-awakened pain for those who came to hear the apology, grief for those who did not live long enough to hear it being given.
 
And amidst the remarkable privilege we all had of meeting with survivors and advocates and warriors who fought for that day, two things shone through to me.
 
One: the unselfishness that drove them.
 
They sought the apology not because of what it would mean for them but because they believed it was the best and surest way to prevent this happening again to another generation. To protect the next generation so  that what happened to the survivors would not happen again.
 
But the second thing which shone through to me is that: there are many Australians who have reasons to distrust this place, there are many Australians who are cynical about politics, these Australians in particular had every reason to distrust this place and despise politicians.
 
But they still found it in themselves to include the Parliament in the nation’s healing.
 
So remarkably, after all the betrayals they’d endured, they gave us a gift.
 
They reminded us of the privilege that we have in this place and the power we have, to speak for our nation and to serve it.
 
So, in the new year, let us all work harder to make redress real.  
 
Let all of us do more to remember the gift they gave us.
 
To honour their example and live up to it in 2019.
 
Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, happy Diwali, I thank the house.


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