House of Representatives
Tuesday 26 August 2022
I thank the Leader of the Greens. I seek the indulgence of the House to respond to the gracious remarks made by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and other members of the House.
I start by thanking the House for the enormous privilege in taking this office. Today I become the 32nd Speaker of the House, following my friend the member for Fisher and also former Speaker Tony Smith, who is in the building today. It is a day that they know I'll never forget.
Speakers are supposed to be dragged to the chair due to fear. It's a tradition I understand—I'm feeling quite a bit of fear right now—but when you are dragged to the chair by people of the calibre of the members for Macquarie and Bendigo, two of the strongest women I have met in my life, fear is the last thing I think of when I think of them. The member for Macquarie is a woman of warmth, strength, resilience and integrity, and particularly today she has shown strength in nominating me. The member for Bendigo is a warrior—fiercely loyal, always protesting and always standing up for what she believes in. I don't just thank them for nominating me today with their words; I thank them for their friendship, kindness and belief in me.
I have many friends in this place, literally all over the chamber. Some might say too many on the Left; some might say too many on the Right. I want to recognise people like the member for Bonner, who is an old family friend, and the members for Capricornia and Wright. Alongside my old mates the Treasurer, the Minister for Aged Care and the member for Blair, with the Leader of the Opposition, it's a Queensland unity ticket—well, at least for three nights of the year when the Origin is on. Sorry, PM!
To the Prime Minister: thank you for your friendship and support. The Prime Minister has never wavered in his belief in this house and its power to make the lives of ordinary Australians better. These are the values that I know every member of the House will strive to uphold. This morning I learned something that we share in common: our late mums both believed in good manners.
To the Leader of the Opposition and to the Manager of Opposition Business: I congratulate you on your new roles. You have my respect and I know you will give it your best. I wish you well.
To the Deputy Prime Minister: through good and bad you've stood there, always encouraging me. I value your counsel and friendship.
And to the Leader of the House: I met you around 30 years ago—that's correct. I always knew you would be a leader in this place, though I never thought I'd be sitting in this place, let alone in this high office. Your encouragement and belief in me to enter this House in 2016 is something I will cherish and never forget, but don't expect an easy ride.
To the member for Kennedy: I appreciate your very kind words and your acknowledgement of our hometown connection. I look forward—I think!—to your robust contributions to this House.
But, at a time like today, it is a time for reflection. In reflecting on my own life and my own family, I reflect on my great-grandparents. They came with nothing but their faith and their belief in their children succeeding if they got a fair go. They came out from Scotland in the 1860s. Some of the descendants of my great-grandfather Joseph Park Allen are in the chamber today. They are my sister and some of my cousins—all strong, fearless women. In his memoir, JP Allen talks about leaving Scotland to come to Australia. He says, 'Needless to say, we were all very excited having at last made a start for this wonderful country we had heard so much about.' When he arrived in Queensland he reflected on his experience, saying, 'I've often wondered since how we withstood such a severe test—two lads, just 10 and 12, just fresh from a cold climate, dumped into the hottest part of a North Queensland summer, travelling through the mountain ranges and dense scrub from Port Douglas to Charters Towers.' They often say they breed them tough in Queensland, and that's my background.
Unfortunately, my brother cannot be here today as his obligations are with another house—more specifically the Queensland budget estimates process, which he is loving at the moment! I am enormously proud of him but even prouder of my sister, Susan, in the gallery—a teacher for over 34 years and someone who passionately believes in the transformational nature of education. That's my story, and we all have a story about why we're here and what we want to achieve.
But this chamber should be a place of ideas and energy, and I want to allow debate to flow and the very best ideas to be exchanged in a respectful manner. It's probably fair to say every Speaker has said these words in some way or another over the years, but the difference is the people of Australia have sent a very clear message on how they expect politics to be conducted. They want something different. I am keen to work with every member to see that change, but I need every member to commit to that change to make it work.
I also want to improve on civics education and awareness in this country. Every school across the country should be able to participate in a schools and parliament program, and I want to help make sure that this parliament is more inclusive and open to Australians of all walks of life.
Of course, one of the most pressing matters before this parliament is making sure that this place and building is a safe workplace and every person who works here feels safe and is safe. In the last parliament we saw the Jenkins review highlight the ways that this building has failed to keep its occupants safe. However, it also presented a road map to ensure that we protect the people that we are responsible for. I take my responsibilities as a Presiding Officer in implementing the recommendations of this report very seriously. I look forward to working with the Senate President, the incoming Deputy Speaker and all members to address this and other matters.
I want to welcome the 35 new members of this House. As you know, you are one of only about 1,200 people ever to have been elected. One bit of advice: cherish every moment; make every day count. To the crossbench: I am looking forward to working with you. No member of this House is simply red, blue, green or a mixture of blue and green. Some of you belong to parties; some of you are Independent. But to me, as Speaker, you are all members of the House of Representatives, elected by your constituents to represent their interests. My message to every member in this place is simple: my door is open. I have indicated I will be stepping away and not attending ALP caucus meetings, an important step that befits my role and the importance of impartiality in this chair.
In conclusion, I briefly thank the many people who assisted me to become Speaker. To the utterly professional staff in the department, including clerks and table officers: I thank you and look forward to working with you. To my many friends and family who can't be here and to my wonderful electorate staff, who have been such a support for me for many years: I thank you for your service to me and to the people of Oxley. To my dearest and oldest friends, the ministers for communication and social services: you've literally been by my side my whole life, and I can't wait to give you a hard time!
Honourable members, we are privileged to be elected to this chamber. I resolve to do everything I can to fairly uphold the standing orders. I want to make sure your voice is heard loudly, clearly and, at all times, fairly—with respect being shown through you to the people who have elected you without fear or favour. I thank the House.