2020 Valedictory Statement, House of Representatives Australian Parliament House, ACT

11 Dec 2020
Prime Minister

Prime Minister: Mr. Speaker, as we do this it was I think apt last weekend, I had an opportunity to be out in south western Sydney I was at Buxton with indeed the local member, and we were there on what was both a happy but also very sad occasion at the same time, because we were there to unveil, open a memorial playground in honour of Geoff Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer. And we were there and joined by his, their many friends from the Horsley Park Rural Fire Service, captained by Darren Nation, a great Australian, but importantly, most importantly, by Melissa and Jess, their partners, and of course, Charlotte and Harvey, their son, and their daughter.

And Mr Speaker, it reminded us of the journey we have been on, and on the 19th of December it will be one year since we lost Geoff and Andrew and we lost many more over the course of the year that followed, 2020.

We've lost those to COVID, we've lost those in bushfires. It has been a year of great loss for Australians. Terrible loss.

Losses that will leave deep scars on Australians and on our country. They are deep and they will take a long time to heal.

That healing process, Mr Speaker will come and will flourish from the care and compassion and the love and affection that is provided by their fellow Australians.

We will see the visible evidence. We will see the superficial evidence of things improving, Mr Speaker. But we know for many years, 2020 will be something that will take Australians many years to get over. Their mental health support in the years ahead, the regrowth of our economy, the restructuring of our economy so it can grow again and realise the lives and livelihoods that Australians aspire to.

And so that is the year we have been through. And so as we come to the end of this parliamentary year and as we look forward to the Christmas period and the New Year period, we do look forward with a sense of hope.

We do look forward with a sense of gratefulness that despite everything that has happened, despite everything that has been lost. That we can look forward and know that things will regrow, that things will rebuild, that lives will be restored and our nation as we come, particularly now to Christmas Mr Deputy Speaker, has come together again as borders have come down and and families will meet again right across the country from coast to coast, from north to south, Australians will come together again over this Christmas period.

And this was an important goal. And I'm so pleased that it is being realised.

There are many people to thank, Mr Speaker, as we come together. I particularly want to thank all the members of this place as I start. All the members of this place. We have all in our way, carried leadership responsibilities this year. Whether in our local communities and the many other ways we serve and our families and in our roles here as members of this parliament and those in the other place.

We have been supported by so many in those jobs and we have sought to support so many in the great works that they have been doing in our community, whether it is the many that were referred to and thanked in Question Time today in our defence forces, our frontline health workers, our teachers, our businesses, our employees, those who have taken great risks, those who have helped out and reached out to others in times of need, we will need them all.

And as we go into this holiday season, let's hope it is a good one, there will be many who will continue that job over that break. Lifeline and other services, and volunteers, those who'll be preparing things for Christmas Day, food and shelter and comfort, help and support or simply company.

The doctors and nurses and medical staff who will be on call, the police and the paramedics and the ambos, the surf lifesavers, which will be on our beaches, and the Rural Fire Service volunteers who will be ready to go again on call, ready to go, and indeed, in so many places already, even in this season, have already been called out.

Those looking for looking after elderly Australians, many of whom, completely alone and isolated, and will know the loving touch and care of those who work in our aged care facilities.

Our defence forces who continue in Operation COVID-19 assist, the 1,500 Defence Force personnel who continue on operations all around the world. We thank you for your service and we are proud of you and your service.

I also want to acknowledge the incredible support and actions, taking on the commendation of the Member for Lingiari to our Australian public service. They have had, I believe, their finest year during the course of this COVID-19 pandemic, never before, and certainly in my experience in this place and I think for many generations, have we called upon our Australian public service to do more in the interests of Australians than we have in this past year. To work promptly, carefully, effectively. To advise. To assist. To support. To implement. To deliver. To be candid and to ensure that as a government, we could stand with Australians at their time of greatest need and as a parliament we could do the same.

The Australian Public Service have had their finest hour in so many that we can remember, and I'm deeply grateful to them. And I don't want to single any of them out, Mr. Speaker, because it is a shared commendation for them, they have all from the quietest service to those that I would meet with on a regular basis in my office, or the many Ministers here.

All of you in the public service, whether serving here in Canberra or or elsewhere around the country, thank you. Thank you. Thank you, on behalf of a very grateful nation.

Mr Speaker, here in the parliament in particular, can I thank all of those who have worked so hard in what has been an extraordinarily strange year for us to gather.

To you and the president of the Senate, these are not things that I'm sure there was a guidebook for you to deal with, as we sought to work through this year and keep our parliament functioning in the way it has. And I thank the opposition for their support in ensuring that that was made possible. Particularly, I want to thank, of course, the Clerk of the House. Thank you very much. The deputy Clerk and the clerk's assistants. So to Clarissa and Catherine and Stuart Woodley, Jerome Brown and Peter Banson thank you for your tremendous work this year. To James Catchpole, the Sergeant at Arms. Thank you for your tremendous work that you have done to ensure that we've been able to continue to function in a parliament over the course of this most difficult year in the way that we have and to do it in as normal as a way as we possibly could. Thank all of the attendants in particular to Luch and the whole crew, Luch we know well but we know them all and we thank them all for the great job they do, looking after us in all sorts of ways this year. And they've gone above and beyond the call of duty I think this year and looked after us tremendously well. The new innovations here, the video link, which I even got to appreciate, looking over the chamber from back there and observing Question Time for the first time in a very long time Mr Speaker, rather than being here in the chamber to participate. So thank you to all the technicians and all of those who made that possible this year, not just for how things worked in this chamber, so particularly for our members and senators in Victoria, especially, who were unable to be here in this parliament, that they are able to participate with questions and through other contributions and also through the committee work that is so important and to that committee work to continue during the course of COVID. So thank you to all of those who are involved in that.

Mr Speaker, can I thank our own Whips, led, of course, by the Member for Forde. Bert, you've done a tremendous job. He's doing that job right now outside as he always is, making sure that under what are quite extraordinary arrangements and I'm sure the Chief Opposition Whip who sadly can't be with us and we understand why and we wish him again all the best. But having to arrange the changed seating arrangements and all of those issues, Mr Speaker, added additional challenge and complexity. And I want to thank the members for Boothby, Grey, and Nicholls and Flynn as well, also for your great teamwork, our Whips, our Whip’s- here he is, thanks Chief Whip, our Whips either on the government or the opposition, though, just don’t ensure that this parliament moves as smoothly as it possibly can, as I'm sure the Leader of the Opposition would agree, our whips provide a great pastoral support to members in this place. The whips office is a safe space where you can go and you can speak to colleagues, you can get the support you need, you can share things and stresses that may be pressing upon your service here in this place. And it is as true on the opposition side as it is on the government side. And we thank the whips and the staff in the whips offices as well, providing that comfort and that support to all of us.

Mr Speaker, can I wish the Leader of the Opposition and his family all the very best for the Christmas period, whether either of us get a break over the summer, well, we'll see. Where we're needed to be, we will be. But I do hope to you, Anthony, and your family, that you'll be able to enjoy some good time together and have a break. And we can all return for what will be another very busy and very full year over the course of 2021.

We're looking forward to a very happy 2021. When we say Happy New Year to each other as we come to a close of this year, there's going to be a special meaning I think this year, we're going to really mean we're wishing for a very happy new year in 2021, something incredibly different from what we've experienced during this year.

I also need to acknowledge Mr Speaker, Stephen Boyd, who is retiring from the Department of House of Representatives early this year after 26 years of service. I remember sitting on the House Economics Committee many, many years ago in opposition. He was the chair- he was the secretary to that committee at the time. And he has served in many in many, many committees.

Mr Speaker, can I thank the manager for opposition business and all opposition members and their staff.

Can I thank, Mr Speaker, my team, who I've had the opportunity this week to thank and to get around to say thank you to you. Can I particularly thank the Deputy Prime Minister. Liberal and Nationals have been together for a very long time. 75 years Mr Speaker. And we always served together and we always bring our perspectives to the table together and we're always strongest when we're together. And that has particularly been on display this year. And I want to thank all of my Liberal team and through the Deputy Prime Minister, all of the Nationals team for the way we have come together for the nation over the course, particularly of this past year.

Can I think the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and the Treasurer, it's pretty tough coming into a job which your boss used to have. He's always got plenty of suggestions and always a very unique perspective on it. But I really want to congratulate you, Treasurer, not just on the extraordinary work you did on the economic recovery plan this year. But I particularly want to thank you because as so many other Victorian members of this place. And I acknowledge the Minister for Health also in a similar way. That you had to be so often away from Amie and the kids and to be here well beyond parliamentary sittings, but to be here constantly isolating on a couple occasions, I think it ultimately was, and to be there in a way, I know how much that was impacting on you, but you kept your focus. You kept your commitment, you kept your discipline, and you stayed on the task. And to Amie and the kids, we thank you and we hope you'll enjoy some good weeks with them over the break.

I particularly also want to acknowledge the Minister for Health very similarly. These were the, these were the portfolios that were really drawn upon this year. And people had to stand up. And he's not that tall a fella, but he stood very tall this year. He was a giant, almost as tall as the member for Groom, who we welcome to the House.

Mr. Speaker, can I thank the former leader of the government in the Senate, Mathias Cormann, for the great work he did this year. He's now engaged in another great enterprise. I heard from again this morning. But can I thank the new leader of the government in the Senate, Senator Birmingham.

Can I thank also his new deputy leader, Senator Cash, for getting off to such a great start. And after a particularly busy night last night and making sure that the chambers are working effectively and working together with their team.

I want to thank again all the Coalition member’s staff, I had the opportunity to do that this week in a special phone hook up- a very large number. And I'm so pleased we're able to do that. And I hope they will get some peace and some downtime over the course of the break as well.

Can I also add my thanks to my own staff and led by, of course, by Dr. Kunkel, by John Kunkel, I thank him for the tremendous work he does in driving our government, working, of course, with the Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Phil Gaetjens and all the team there.

It's been an interesting year in our office this year. There have been many prodigious contributions, but that has also included 7 children born to my staff over the course of this year. We've got baby girls, Evelyn, Evie, Vera and Matilda, and we've got boys Xavier, Anthony and Hugo. I think even Hugo might be in the chamber, he was a little earlier, and two more are arriving very, very soon. Here he goes- Hugo’s up there with Sonia. So that's absolutely tremendous.

To the Leader of the Government in the House, to the Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations. This is not a job, I can assure you, that he craves. It's not one that he seeks, but it is one that is clearly done with a sense of duty and responding to the call to service. And he does it in his absolutely impeccable way. And I want to thank you, Christian, for the tremendous job which you continue to do even as we speak, and making sure that the parliament has worked so well this year.

So whether it's the federal police who look after me and my family, or the Minister for Home Affairs and his family, or the Treasurer and his, or others who look after us from time to time, thanks very much for your efforts this year.

To all the security in this building, to all the caterers, to the library, Hansard and support staff, even to the media in the building, which has been a very strange year for you, too. And we thank you for the jobs that we all do to make this place what it is.

To the cleaners around the building and particularly those in my office, Anna and Maria, they are, they are sisters and Luzia, all have clocked up some 30 years in this building. They've been cleaning up a lot of mess for a long time, Mr Speaker. And I suspect they will continue to for some time still to come. And we thank them for their great smiles, which greet me every single day.

Mr Speaker, let me conclude by saying there are a couple of things we missed in this building this year. One of those was the school groups I'm sure, it was great to wave to them across the glass here today. But to see those schools coming back to our parliament, it's a bit like the birds that return after a storm Mr Speaker, we're passing through that storm as a country. The signs, the signs are there.

And I think as we go into this time of Christmas, Mr Speaker, it gives us the time to reflect on the renewal that will take place. And it will take place, Mr Speaker, it will give us encouragement as we go forward into the future.

Australians, my prayers for you and your family this Christmas is that you will find that peace in a year where there has been little, and that you will find the hope and you can cleave to that hope as you go into 2021.

God bless you, Australia, and thank you very much. And Merry Christmas and a very happy 2021.