Aug 1, 2019

Motion – Clerk of the House of Representatives – Thursday, 1 August 2019

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the Opposition) (15:23): I join with the Prime Minister in supporting this resolution acknowledging David Elder’s quite extraordinary contribution as a public servant. The key is that second word—servant. It is an honourable profession and we, in Labor, honour you as one of the best. You’ve spent 41 years in the service of the Commonwealth, 38 of which were in the Department of the House of Representatives. You’ve been the Serjeant-at-Arms twice, Deputy Clerk and, of course, Clerk since 2014. On a personal level, I’ve had a fair bit to do with you as the Leader of the House and as the Manager of Opposition Business, before my current role.

Just like your immediate predecessor—and unlike the overwhelming majority of the 16 clerks of this House—you’ve known what it was like to have that role in a minority parliament for a brief period of time. That changes the dynamic in this place, and it means that your role is elevated in importance by many multiples. Many of us on both sides over many years have benefited from your advice. You deal with us calmly, in a considered way. You are always courteous, always impartial and—perhaps most remarkably, and I reflect on myself, on the Prime Minister and on most of us, I think!—always patient, which does take a fair bit of character from you.

One of your roles is to edit Practice and this is your work—the seventh edition. It reminds us that the office of Clerk has its origins in the 13th century. And I say to new members, read Practice. It will serve you well if you do because one of the things it outlines is where the tradition of the Clerk reading bills—first readings, second readings et cetera—comes from. It’s because of literacy levels. Many members literally couldn’t read the documents that were before them, and, in order to save embarrassment, this tradition came about of the Clerk playing that role. And Practice outlines that great history and how our democracy has evolved.

Your life as well extends to service outside of this place. I wasn’t aware until we did a bit of research that, for two decades, you’ve been involved in the Model United Nations Assembly for senior high-school students that is held in the Old Parliament House.

We thank you for your dedicated service to this parliament and the nation. We wish you and Louise and all of your family all the best for the future.