Bill's Speeches









Thank you Mr Speaker.

It is said about Parliament, that it is hard to get here, but even harder to leave here.

I’d like to add that if you can leave on your own terms,  with the respect of your peers and the love of your family, that’s the hardest accomplishment of them all.

So it’s with the warm wishes of the entire Opposition, that I rise to thank the Deputy Prime Minister and the Member for Goldstein for their service to this Parliament and to our nation.

In preparing words about the Deputy Prime Minister, I found myself drawn back to the speech he gave in tribute to the life of Gough Whitlam in this place in October 2014.

It would have been easy for you, on a day when so many Labor people had so much to say in sadness, to perhaps be impersonal.

To recite the bare biographical facts.

But you were not.

On that day, you reflected on how Gough inspired you to become involved in politics:

“He gave me my first chance to be involved in political activities when he appointed me to the National Rural Advisory Council.

He undoubtedly encouraged me—though he did not wish to do so—to be engaged in the political process.

I joined a political party, but it was not the Labor Party.”

Instead - you joined the mighty Country Party.

You arranged busloads of farmers to come from all over Australia to help educate Gough on the error of his ways!

But the reason why that moment stayed with me is because it spoke for so many of your personal qualities.

Your warmth,  you are dry, you are often self-deprecating.

You’ve got a great sense of humour, and you have an ability to craft a meaningful, empathetic response.

The Prime Minister – and I am sure many of your colleagues – will speak at greater length about your policy and political achievements.

Now we look forward to your successor’s contribution – with some great interest, and no little trepidation.

But in particular I would like to commend you for the dignified way you handled the ongoing, unfolding sadness of MH370.

And I am sure the families of the missing would echo that thanks.

You know, in listening to your words today about your journey I’m reminded of that opening of Heather Ewart’s documentary: A Country Road.

She said:

“There is no other party in the world like the Nationals, its roots are on the land and in the blood.”

You have served that unique tradition – and fulfilled it, with honour.

And I think also you leave this place with a most unique distinction of being the only Australian politician to be mentioned on the US TV show Lost.

There was a character named Sawyer, he is dragged before a detective with an extremely unconvincing Australian accent.

He is told he is being charged with involvement in a bar fight – to which he protests that this is a ‘badge of honour’ in Australia.

At which point the detective leans in to tell him the bad news – and I quote, exactly:

“You head-butted the honourable Warren Truss: Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. One of the most important people…”

Sawyer interrupts: “He head-butted me”.

For some reason, I’m not quite sold on the image of Warren Truss, bar-room brawler.

The man that we know, and pay tribute to today, is a kinder, gentler soul.

Warren, you have been a tireless servant of your constituency, a proud advocate for country people and a strong leader of the party you have always loved.

You have earned a fulfilling, peaceful and healthy retirement with your loving wife Lynn.

We wish you both well for what the future brings you.

Now I turn to the Member for Goldstein.

He leaves this place in the same quietly effective way he has gone about his work.

He has, as has been said, lived a rich and diverse life prior to entering this Parliament.

A proud holder of a diploma in ag science from Dookie – and an economics degree from Latrobe.

He was a distinguished servant to the National Farmers Federation and the Cattle Council - quite the union representative.

And one of the principal architects of John Howard’s 1996 election victory.

Now, not all who rise to such heights within their party, behind the scenes, feel compelled to stand on the national stage in the glare of the unforgiving spotlight of public life.

But you did.

You came to this place, you signed up to the fickle vagaries of electoral fortune, because you believed you had more to offer your party and more importantly your country.

No-one in this place 12 years later can dispute that conclusion.

I want to thank you for be willing to work constructively with Labor on important issues – that will be a skill set perhaps missed when you go.

I am sure many others will pay tribute to the courage you showed in overcoming the ‘cloud’ you fought most mornings.

I would only add that while managing any mental health issue is an act of resilience and resolve and strength, being prepared to discuss it in such a frank and forthright manner, as you did, as a person in elected office, is also incredibly important.

What you did, your example, your honesty has helped break down some of the counterproductive and ill-informed stigma that afflicts so many who suffer in silence.

Because of you, and your honesty, other people will have better lives.

There is not much more that a Member of this Parliament can claim to do.

Now, you’ve flown many miles in the service of your country these past 2 and a half years in particular.

For a strong family man like you, someone who loves his wife Maureen and his children Tom, Joe and Pip very much, I know the time you have spent overseas has not just been hard on you but on them.

We sometimes talk about relationships of people across the political divide.

Perhaps they’re not as frequent as they should be.

But nearly all of us will have experienced the odd glimpse of conversation. A moment of reflection, when in fact we’re not trying to finish each other off but rather just a shared reflection about family.

Moments perhaps when we search for a topic in common, rather than a topic in which we disagree.

I’ve had to opportunity to talk to you at those glimpses here and overseas.

And my wife Chloe who has got to know you, sends you her absolute best.

But one thing I’m not sure families always hear about, is what their parents say. Anyone who knows Andrew Robb, knows how incredibly proud he is of his kids. And they deserve to hear that.

Because in every minute I’m sure that you’ve been away, your love of your children and your wife has been one of the strongest features which have enabled you to be as distinguished as you are.

And they should know how much you love them.

On behalf of my party – and my wife Chloe – I wish you and your family every happiness in the years ahead.