Jul 2, 2019

Parliamentary Office Holders – Speaker – Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Of course, we on this side of the House would have preferred a different result on 18 May, but I’m pleased to see that you’re back in control of the House. You are as fair and impartial a Speaker on either side of politics as I’ve seen in my more than two decades in this House. Indeed, Mr Speaker, you are, for the third time, elected unopposed, having never been opposed. That is the first time that has occurred in more than a century, since the beginning of this parliament, going back to Federation. The fact that you’ve been nominated by the government side and seconded by the opposition side is to your credit, and I think will also be welcomed by Australians who want to see solutions rather than arguments wherever that is possible in this place.

Of course, from time to time it will be the case that there are arguments, but you’ve also always conducted yourself with diligence, grace and good humour, and that has assisted in focusing the attention of members of this House on outcomes, on what unites us rather than what divides us in the legitimate debates and contests over the future direction of this country that will take place. At times we will be passionate—I will be too, you might notice—but what we need to do always is to recognise that the standing orders and the procedures that are in place are here so that those debates are conducted in ways that produce outcomes and really focus on the needs of the Australian people rather than on ourselves. And you have always conducted yourself in that way.

Of course your task is more than just chairing the parliament. As the Prime Minister has said, you also lead the parliament in terms of the officers, the clerks and all who work to make this institution operate on a day-to-day basis, and you do that in a way which has always been consultative, particularly over some difficult issues. National security is a much greater issue today than it was when I and you were elected all those years ago, so it’s important to get that balance between security and the openness of a parliament where people can come along and can hear debates and participate in those national needs.

Your job also is to be the representative of the parliament, of all of us, which is why it’s important that you’ve been elected unopposed. I’ve welcomed you to my electorate on two occasions; you attended Birchgrove Public School and spoke to the young primary school kids there. And I know that you’ve travelled to places like Broken Hill and right around the country to talk to schoolchildren. I think it’s a really good sign, particularly when you’ve been welcomed into electorates not held by government members, that they get to see that what they see on the nightly news, the 30-second grab, isn’t everything that happens in this place, and, indeed, that the institutions of parliament and Westminster democracy are things that we shouldn’t take for granted.

Australians do understand that politics is about a contest of ideas. I’m convinced that Australians do want fewer arguments and more outcomes. You’ve achieved an outcome today, which is a good one for you but also a good one for the parliament. And I say, on behalf of Labor, to the Prime Minister that our nation looks to see what we can deliver for them in the 46th Parliament. I’m up for it, we’re up for it; let’s begin later today.