Thirty years ago this year, I was elected to this House. Joel Fitzgibbon’s father, Eric, was there at the time. You can go, Joel. One thing I’ve learned over that time, from 1990 till now—not that I was a continuing member; in fact, I was a ‘oncer’ then, and I was a oncer twice, which is pretty hard to do— but one thing I learnt was that the least person in this House, the least person in this building, is crucial to the operations of the building and the importance of those around us who help us to do the job. So, tonight, I want to pay respect to the Clerk, the Deputy Clerk and all their team for the work that they’ve done, especially around COVID-19. To the Speaker and his team, who had to balance the constitutional requirements of the parliament against the onslaught of the pandemic: I congratulate you for keeping us safe and secure, and for allowing the parliament to run in the best possible manner that it could. I would like to acknowledge my own staff in this whole process because everybody’s had pressure way beyond what they’ve probably experienced in their lives before, because of this crisis. My thanks to Tony, Ashlee, Alex, Julie, Jenny, Vanessa and Tanya.
To my parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the House: you have my utmost respect, my utmost respect. This is a hard place to get into, it’s an easy place to get thrown out of and you have a heavy responsibility for the well-being of the Australian people, and I know that is on the heart of every member who comes into this House.
To my Privileges Committee secretariat, who are a fountain of wisdom and who enabled us to carry on our commitments to the committee in a way that only such knowledge and ability to do their jobs allowed; to the library staff of the parliament; to Warren and the catering staff; to our COMCAR drivers and the Reps transport team; to the cleaners; to the maintenance staff who keep the building going; and to the gardeners who have those golden green thumbs that have turned this place into a work of art in the outside and inside areas. My thanks to the ministerial staff, who have been so great to work with on issues surrounding our constituencies, where our community needs all the help it can get—and they deliver it. I hesitate to nominate one person, but I do want to mention Bronwyn Morris in the Prime Minister’s Office, who has the discernment and the experience to know what’s important and what’s not. To my family, who support the role that I do in every aspect. If I go to the broader community, like the member for Richmond, I’m not going to mention all the front-line workers, but especially to our childcare and aged-care workers who, through this whole process, were considering the most vulnerable and the most needy. My heart goes out to them.
Mr Speaker and Deputy Speaker, I don’t walk into this place at any over the last 30 years I’ve been around this place and not known that it’s a privilege and an honour to serve in this House on behalf of the Australian people. 2020 has probably been one of the most difficult years that a nation could face. But, this nation put its shoulder to the wheel and together 2020 shone the brightest light on our reliance on each other for our personal and national well-being. It was a year like no other — and, God willing, never again.