Feb 11, 2016

Parliamentary representation – Valedictory

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:44): on indulgence—I am very pleased to be able to take the opportunity to pay tribute to Andrew Robb and Warren Truss on the day of their announcement that they will leave parliament at the next election. To Andrew Robb and to Maureen, I wish you all the best for your future and I, in particular, join with others in paying tribute to the courage that you showed with regard to the mental health issues which you confronted after such a long period of time. Importantly, the way that you dealt with them has made a practical difference to so many lives now and in the future. We need to have the courage to be able to talk about these issues, and your courage has helped others. I pay tribute to you.

I particularly want to say a little bit more about Warren Truss. Between us, in either capacity, we have shadowed each other for a very long time. One of the things that struck me about your contribution here that says so much about you as a person is the fact that you have had two chiefs of staff. That is remarkable. This is a place of revolving doors, where people come in for a short period of time, there is a lot of pressure on in these jobs and people leave. I do not know your first chief of staff, but I certainly know David Whitrow very well. He has been loyal; he clearly loves you as a mate as well as his employer. What that says to me is a lot about your character under pressure. As Deputy Prime Minister and infrastructure minister, the two positions that I held before the last election, I know the pressures that are on. You have had that loyalty from your staff, and I know from the department that your dealings with them as well are professional, courteous, gracious and in the interests of the nation.

We might disagree with each other. We have on many things. The fact that you have continued most of the Labor projects that we began has meant that it has been easier for you to agree with the agenda that we had in place. You were the minister who finally determined—we did a lot of the lead-up work, but it was your decision—the site of the second airport at Badgerys Creek. That is one decision you can be very proud of. This is a tough issue. You cannot have a region with a population of above two million which does not have access to aviation services. It is not about Kingsford Smith. It is about Western Sydney, it is about jobs and it is about our national economy. You can be proud of the work you have done there and on the roads package around the Western Sydney Airport. We do need to do something about the rail, but the roads package is a very good package and one that I am sure you had to push through the cabinet processes.

In general, I think you are a loss to the parliament because—even though I disagree with your perspective, I have always respected it in the discussions that we have had—you are old-school National Party. That is, you have that sense of the national interest and that there is a role for government in protecting that national interest. In your first speech back in 1990, which I read earlier today, you referred to that in terms of the trade issues and the importance of buying Australian goods and products, whether it be from the farm or Australian manufacturing. That is critical as well.

Whilst people see the disagreement at question time, what they often do not see is the agreement that is there. A lot of the issues in the portfolio that you have held more recently—along with other portfolios that you had earlier—and in our dealings, issues of transport security, are not ones best dealt with in public. Some of these things are best done between adults, looking after the national interest. I thank you for what you did while I was the Infrastructure and Transport Minister. We had some really difficult issues to deal with: the incident on the flight in the United States and the issues over Europe with regard to cargo transport. On all of those issues, I was completely confident that there would be no politics played.

I hope that I have certainly returned that responsibility and acted in the same manner that you did when it comes to these security issues, because at the end of the day that is a big responsibility that we have. Issues like road safety—so many issues—are just beyond partisan politics and should remain so. In those, whenever I have asked for a briefing, I have received one. I think I have made constructive contributions in your office as well, with no-one to see, about the way that some things should be handled. You did the same with me.

I wish you and Lyn all the very best. You will have a quieter life with much more time for each other. That will be a good thing for you and your family.