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Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

Statement on the retirements of Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Warren Truss MP and Minister for Trade and Investment, the Hon Andrew Robb AO MP

12 February 2016

Parliament House, Canberra

Prime Minister

E&OE

Mr Speaker, two remarkable men who have made such a difference for Australia. Who have played such an enormous part in creating the nation we are today.

All of us are a little sad that they have announced that they are not going to run again. We are all a little sad and they’ve have explained why. The fact that John Howard used to talk about anno domini, or as Warren reminded us, there is a point - you start off in your life as the youngest person in the room, wondering why all these grown-ups are listening to you and before you know it you're the oldest person in the room and it's time to give somebody else a go.

So, this is a watershed. Each of these men, Warren and Andrew, were farmer's sons - they grew up on the land. With very, very deep roots in agriculture, understanding the very basic, the most basic fundamental human industry, growing food and fibre.

Each of them have long strong marriages. They were able to do the things they did for Australia, because of Warren's Lyn and Andrew's Maureen.

And as my predecessor, Tony Abbott, would often say, and he spoke so truly when he said all of us are volunteers, it's our families that are conscripts. It is so important that we acknowledge them as they have done today.

Warren's passion, of course, as has always been, as he said, infrastructure, as he said. And, indeed, many ministers in his position have had a bridge named after them. Warren, of course, actually has thousands and thousands of bridges named after him.

The Warren Truss, which is a very standard form of steel structured bridge, designed in 1848 by James Warren, as seen all over the country, in fact, it's all over every country. The Warren Truss bridge is everywhere, and I have got no doubt that as Minister, you have opened many of them in your name, bearing your design.

Andrew, of course, has had a remarkable contribution in politics, all his life. He started off - I first met Andrew over 30 years ago, in the company of another great Australian, great in every respect, Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer, when Andrew came to see us, when he was running the National Farmers' Federation, and we have known each other all those years since.

He is a formidable advocate for the rural industry, for the Cattlemen's Union, in fact originally, and then Farmers', and then of course as Federal Director of the Liberal Party.

And he's played a very powerful role in this House, in this Parliament, as a Minister and Shadow Minister.

But Andrew Robb, Mr Speaker, has, without question, in his two and a half years as Trade Minister, been the most successful Trade Minister in our history.

Members: Hear, hear.

He has put in place some of the most important building blocks for our future, and he's brought to that, brought to that work, his extraordinary commercial experience, which spans politics, as I said, but also a long period working in the private sector.

His negotiating skills and his understanding of every aspect of Australian industry - whether it's the digital industries that are benefitting so much from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, whether it's  primary industries that have benefitted, particularly agriculture that have benefitted so much from the free-trade agreements in east Asia, particularly, of course, the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, the benefits of which are in many parts of Australia quite transformative.

Warren's leadership of the National Party has been a source of great wisdom, I’m sure the Member for Warringah would agree, great wisdom for the leaders of the Liberal Party, great stability, great generosity. He is absolutely committed – has always been committed to the strength of the Coalition.

He understands the importance of the National Party’s distinct identity, but the reality that we are so much stronger when we are working closely together.

He's been a formidable advocate, as he said, for his local area, for his electorate, and it was interesting, Andrew reflected on the same – made the same point about the real satisfaction, that I think each and every one of us derives from sorting out problems, simple problems, basic problems often, for our local constituents. Ultimately that is our primary obligation to the people, to the people who actually put a number against our name on the ballot paper, the citizens of our electorate.

Can I say, Mr Speaker, the generosity of both men were shown in the warmth in their remarks, particularly to their counterparts on the other side. Andrew Robb, of course, spoke of Gary Gray who has been his counterpart in the Labor Party for many years and Warren of course, spoke fondly of Albo, and of course they agreed on most things. Warren and Albo agreed on the value, the transformational impact of so many big elements of infrastructure in Australia. They just disagreed on who should get the credit for it.

As for Gary and Andrew, they came to a landing on just about every element of electoral practice, electoral law, and electoral reform. They just had to have a final disagreement on who should win the election, but beyond that, as professionals they were completely united.

Mr Speaker, the most important thing for all of us to say to these men is thank you. They have made Australia different. They've made Australia better. They've shaped Australia. They've shaped our future, whether it is in trade or it is in infrastructure or in their example of clear, warm, humane patriotism, a love of country.

Warren said in his maiden speech, in 1990, "It's often been said that Australia is the lucky country, but it's not been all luck. Australia became a great nation because there were people who were prepared to put in the effort, and endure hardship whenever it was needed. The explorers who sought out the land, the pioneers who opened it up, the engineers who built our cities and bridges, the women who cared for their families and the soldiers who fought to protect it."

Mr Speaker, we are all proud to say that because of Warren's service, because of Andrew's service, Australia has become a much luckier country, but they have helped make that luck more prosperous, more secure, greater opportunities for our children and grandchildren.

Thank you, Warren and Andrew.