Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the Opposition) (15:29): There are moments in this place that count, and that was one of them. There are moments we’ll remember, and that was one of them. And there are people who make a difference, and Warren Snowdon is one of them, being in this place since 1987—or in the old chamber. I worked in Old Parliament House, and I first met Warren then and was struck by his passionate commitment to his electorate, to the people of the Northern Territory and particularly to First Nations people. He is passionate, determined, sometimes uncompromising, difficult at times but always focused on the endgame, always focused on the outcome and making a difference each and every day.
He is someone who wasn’t successful in 1996. When the tide goes out, sometimes it takes good people with it—and it did. But I am always in awe of people who hang in there and choose to run again, for unfinished business—and indeed there was unfinished business for Warren Snowdon, serving as a parliamentary secretary in the former Labor government but then coming back and serving as a minister in the Rudd and Gillard governments, in veterans’ affairs; in defence science and personnel and in Indigenous health. His absence will be a big loss to this place. Veterans and serving personnel—men and women who wear our uniform—have such high regard for Warren Snowdon, because they know he is on their side.
He’ll continue to serve in the term. When Warren and I had a private chat a little while ago he was determined to see the people of the Northern Territory maintain two seats—not out of personal interest but because it is in their interest, being such a large geographical area, although it does have a lot of its population in the capital city, so that the people in the regions and people in remote Indigenous communities are not forgotten. These are communities that would struggle to get representation unless there were two seats in the Northern Territory. So, he fought very hard to make sure that was going to happen, even with the knowledge that he had come to his decision. I’ve asked him to continue to serve on the front bench. We’ll have some changes of arrangements; the Prime Minister will have some. But I’ve asked Warren to continue to serve on the front bench, because he will work until the very last day, to the best of his capacity, as he always has.
Warren’s played a mentoring role not to one generation of Labor MPs but, because of the nature of this place, to generations of Labor MPs, as well as connecting with people on the other side of the chamber, as someone of goodwill. His experience counts. His knowledge counts. I’ve been in a couple of ballots in my life, and I’ve never had as quick a conversation as the one I had with Warren. I rang him up and he answered, and I said, ‘Warren, Albo here—’ and straightaway I heard, ‘Yep, I’m voting for you’—bang. That’s what happened on the Monday, I think it was, after the last election. And that’s Warren: what you see is what you get. He tells you what his view is and he puts it forward, regardless. He doesn’t do a calculation of what’s in his interests. He has a view, and he’s prepared to put it and prepared to argue his case. That’s why he is respected by all of us and loved by most of us, including myself. A few of us will gather tonight at the usual place, a gathering that Warren convenes as part of his role as elder statesperson, getting people together to engage in dialogue. I join with him, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, in thanking Elizabeth, who’s made an extraordinary sacrifice. The Prime Minister and I live pretty close to the runways at KSA. To represent such a large electorate, around which you have to travel such distances—travelling on those little planes too—is a major challenge. And Frank, Tom, Tess and Jack, we thank you as well, for sharing your dad with us.
Warren, we will have more to say at events to come, but, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, thank you. Thank you for what you’ve done. Thank you for what you’ll continue to do as the member for Lingiari and as a member of my front bench until the next election. And thank you for what you’ll continue to contribute.
I well recall that, both since 1996, when Warren was elected as a member, and before then, he was a spokesperson for First Nations people. One of the things that has happened in this place since Warren has been here—and we’re better for it, on both sides—is that we actually have representation from First Nations people. That hasn’t happened by accident. That’s happened because people like Warren, very early on, campaigned to make sure that the Australian Labor Party took the decisions that we have to get that representation. Pat Dodson wasn’t doing numbers in the WA branch, I’ve got to tell you!
You have to make those conscious decisions that we need a parliament that reflects Australia, and that means getting First Nations people here. Warren has been absolutely unconditionally determined to advance the interests of First Nations people. It’s fair to say, I think, that it would be difficult to think of anyone since Federation who, over such a period of time, has that as their record in this place. Certainly, no-one would have argued the case—through native title, through land rights, through, now, constitutional recognition—as Warren has. That is a great legacy.
When we recognise First Nations people in the Constitution and give them a voice to this place, as you have argued, Warren, you can feel good about making a difference and making a contribution to that change happening.