Mr CARL SCULLY (Smithfield—Minister for Roads, and Minister for Housing) [4.56 p.m.]: I move:
That the House take note of Christmas felicitations.
I take this opportunity to thank everyone with whom I have been involved in my role as Leader of the House. Most importantly, I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the working relationship we have developed through the year. I thank the two Whips, Gerard Martin and Alan Ashton, who have done a terrific job in ensuring that the Government has the numbers. I have emphasised to the Whips, and to my colleagues opposite, that it is always important to win the argument. However, if we do not, I want the Whips to have the numbers. They have done a sensational job in ensuring that on those very rare occasions—perhaps when the honourable member for Wakehurst is here, because it is very difficult to win an argument against him—we have the numbers.
Andrew Tink is one of the best actors in the House. In fact, his acting prowess is second only to that of Barry O'Farrell. Christmas must be getting close for me to say something nice about him. Andrew is entertaining and I enjoy working with him. I look forward to the continuation of his National Institute of Dramatic Arts performances and I will miss them during the recess. I send my regards to Barry O'Farrell, who might have a few lessons for Andrew Tink because he is a little bit better as an actor. His feigning of indignation is almost perfect. I am certainly impressed by it. I have enjoyed working with him, Thomas George and Daryl Maguire. They are three good blokes, even though they are Liberals and Nationals. On a personal level they are good. They have been fair dinkum, honest and upfront in their dealings with me and being able to manage the House in a bipartisan manner has been possible because of that.
It must be acknowledged that 95 per cent of what we do is supported by both sides of the House. In fact, I sometimes wonder whether the community realises the level of co-operation in this place. I know that people watch the television news or hear press conferences held by the Leader of the Opposition or the Premier and they get the impression that we are always fighting. That is certainly not the case; this place works well. Only a night or two ago we dealt with 10 bills. I thank the Opposition for that co-operation because this place would not work without that bipartisanship. This is almost making me feel ill.
I also take this opportunity to thank the Hansard staff. I do not think they are paid enough. We appreciate their hard work. I apologise for working through dinner the other night, but we had no choice. I also thank David Draper and the dining room staff, the Parliamentary Library staff, the administration and building services staff and the attendants. They have done an absolutely fantastic job. I understand that Mary Jo Grimaldi, an attendant, is retiring on 17 December. She has been here for 14 years and has done a terrific job. On behalf of everyone, I wish her the very best in retirement. She is very well liked and has displayed great professionalism for a long time.
I also acknowledge the work of the Cabinet Office staff—Leigh Sanderson, Roger Wilkins and Don Colaguiri—who I am sure all honourable members know. I assume that honourable members opposite have access to Parliamentary Counsel; we did when we were in opposition. They protect confidentiality so effectively that the Government has no idea what is being drafted for anyone else. I certainly do not. When we were in Opposition we were very confident that the Government of the day did not know what we were having drafted. It is an honourable group of officers and they work hard. The Government pushes through an enormous amount of legislation and Don Colaguiri and his team in the Parliamentary Counsel's office deserve all the credit we give them. I also thank Graeme Wedderburn, the Premier's Chief of Staff, and Davina Langton. How could I forget Walt Secord and Amanda Lampe? I know honourable members opposite will join me in wishing them all the very best for Christmas.
Mr Milton Orkopoulos: What about Walt, Michael Salmon and Tim?
Mr CARL SCULLY: I have mentioned Walt. They are much loved.
Ms Virginia Judge: What about Carl?
Mr CARL SCULLY: I am happy to acknowledge another Carl. I remind honourable members that this is my speech. I also acknowledge the work done by Russell Grove, Mark Swinson, Les Gönye, Ronda Miller and Greg Kelly and their colleagues. I work closely with them. I must also acknowledge some of my own staff. Chris Bowen is now the Federal member for Prospect. He was one of the most sensational chiefs of staff ever to walk through the doors of this building. Mr Speaker, your former chief of staff, Leanne Shedden—very well trained by your good self—has now moved on to warmer climes in my office as a senior adviser.
Mr Milton Orkopoulos: Is it hot in your office?
Mr CARL SCULLY: It is sometimes given all the problems we face. Michael Galderisi is at the back of the Chamber. He will be embarrassed if I mention him in the House, but I must say that he has been terrific.
Mr Andrew Fraser: He is far too good for you!
Mr CARL SCULLY: I have been privileged to have two great staff—Michael and his predecessor, Chris Minns—assisting me in running the House this year. Chris was absolutely terrific and was well regarded and very professional. I thought that Michael had big shoes to fill in taking over his position, but he has done so with aplomb. I thank him for his hard work. I also wish to place on the record my appreciation for the dedication, commitment and hard work of my loyal and highly esteemed driver, Joel Donaghey, whom I could not do without. I wish everyone the very best for the season. We have all worked hard for the benefit of the people of this State as Independents, Opposition members and Government members and I think we all deserve a good break. I hope everyone enjoys their time with friends, family and loved ones, and comes back refreshed to do battle next year on 22 February. I wish you all the very best and Merry Christmas to you all.
Mr SPEAKER: I take this opportunity, as I did last year, to extend my own Christmas felicitations. I place on record my very deep and sincere appreciation to everyone who helps make this House work. Of course, that applies not only to those who are most visible, the members of Parliament, but also those who work behind the scenes and without whom this House would not function. We do not operate only when Parliament is in session; we operate most days of the year. When honourable members are in their electorate offices there are people in this place working very hard to ensure that they are serviced not only in their electorate offices but also in a very appropriate way within the precincts of the Parliament.
Of course, I echo the comments by the Leader of the House in extending thanks to all the very special people who enable this place to operate in the very efficient way it does. I extend my thanks to the attendants, who work here day in and day out. They work tirelessly, regardless of the lateness of the hour. I mention in particular Mary Josephine Grimaldi, known to all of us as Mary Jo. She has announced her retirement effective from 17 December. If my memory serves me correctly, Mary Jo was the first female appointed as an attendant in the lower House. It was a great honour and she has persevered in it—I use those words advisedly—since April 1990, when she took on the position of Attendant Grade 1 with the Legislative Assembly. Mary Jo, on behalf of everyone, I wish you all the very best in your retirement, but we will miss your smiling face. There was a time when I came into this place through the front door; I now enter through the car park. However, when I did, Mary Jo was always there and she was the first face we saw. I would greet her and her response would be a huge smile. That huge smile and her enormous contribution to this Parliament will always be remembered.
I also express my very sincere thanks to the people with whom I work closely. It is a pleasure to do so. I refer to Russell Grove, Mark Swinson, Les Gönye, Ronda Miller and Greg Kelly. They are all very professional people. Some of them have been here for a long time. Their enthusiasm for their job, their professionalism and their skill and the way in which they take very seriously the concerns of all honourable members on both sides of the House and the procedures and processes of Parliament is a great credit to them, and they are to be commended for that. Greg Kelly is a person for whom I have special regard.
Mr Milton Orkopoulos: He's your bouncer!
Mr SPEAKER: As the honourable member for Swansea has just interjected—yet again—a place like this cannot work without appropriate bouncer. As the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms Greg has been called upon perhaps far too often this year to perform his duties and he has done so with great efficiency.
I also thank those people working behind the scenes. I have said on previous occasions that the Hansard staff have the Midas touch. They take our words and make them sound, for the most part, intelligible. Some honourable members are beyond even their great skills. However, they generally take our words and make us sound intelligent. I am sure we have all been very surprised the following day when we read what we think we said and it sounds so good. On many occasions that is not a great credit to us but to the way they have put it together. I sincerely thank them for that. I also thank all the other people who work so hard in this Parliament. If I try to mention all of them I will leave out someone. However, I must mention the staff of the Parliamentary Library, for whom I have a special and high regard; the catering staff, without whom this place could obviously not function; and the cleaners, who are among the first people we greet each morning. They are always very friendly, and often greet us in all sorts of languages. It is good to be multilingual because they are multicultural group. They are also very efficient and take their jobs very seriously.
I also commend those who are in the works and maintenance staff, the information technology staff and, indeed, everyone working in Parliament, for their very efficient work. I express my thanks not only to the Leader of the House but also to the manager of Opposition business. No matter how heated the debate gets in the Chamber, no matter how difficult the circumstances are, the relationship which exists in enabling us to get on with the job that the people of this State have entrusted us to do is a great credit to both of you gentlemen. From my personal point of view, I thank you sincerely for the way in which you have co-operated, knowing always that you have got to do the best as far as the Government and the Opposition are concerned. But you always do it with the knowledge that the House has to be allowed to function in accordance with the processes, the procedures, and the standing orders of the House.
I also thank the Whips. One of the things I have tried to do is to have in more informal meetings to enable us to agree about processes and procedures without necessarily having to carry out long and protracted debates. The weekly meetings, which I have instituted for Whips and Deputy Whips, have worked. We have been able to raise a lot of issues and the Whips have been able to take matters back to their respective party rooms. We have also had an Independent member there from time to time. I believe these meetings have been of benefit to all members on both sides, and I thank you for your co-operation and assistance in that regard, as well as for the efficiency with which you count the members during divisions.
I want to say thank you to my own staff. I have had some changes of staff during the year, and the Leader of the House has already referred to that. I was very sorry to lose my chief of staff, Leanne Shedden, who was very efficient and performed her tasks with great gusto. That was a great credit to her. She has now taken on another role with the Leader of the House and I wish to all the very best in that role. Hopefully, that role will be yet another stepping stone for her in the continuation of an already illustrious career.
Earlier in the year, my private secretary, Ann Burt, went back to the Department of Education and Training. I want to place on record my appreciation for the work she did for me not only during the time when she was my private secretary but also for the three years she worked for me during my two previous ministries. My executive officer, Nick Davy, started off working as a research assistant and has now been promoted to executive officer. He is doing an outstanding job. I would like to sincerely thank him for the job he is doing. I trust that his talents are recognised by others and that he is recognised for the hard work and the efficient and professional way in which he performs his tasks. No task is too big or too small for Joe Andrade, my personal assistant. He is as enthusiastic today as the very first day I came into this place, when he was already running around trying to help members. Joe, for your enthusiasm and for the degree of dedication and commitment you have given to me personally, I say thank you.
I would like to conclude by wishing all members on both sides of the House all the very best for Christmas and New Year. We have a reasonably long break ahead of us and it will give members time to go back to their electorate offices and their families, and prepare for what I believe may be a very tough year in this place—and it undoubtedly ought to be if we are going to do our jobs properly on behalf of our constituents.
I have left my final comments and thanks to people who are probably the most overlooked among those who work on behalf of members of Parliament, and they are the electorate staff. They work day in and day out; they are the front-line troops. They are often in our electorate offices looking after our constituents at times when we cannot be there. They are the first port of call for constituent complaints and representations, and every opportunity I get I raise the importance of electorate staff and thank them on behalf of all of us for their work, which enables us to get on with our work as elected representatives. I would like to wish all electorate staff far and wide, throughout the 94 electorate offices in the State—including, of course, my own staff, Sandra and Janine—the very best for Christmas and the New Year. I thank them for the role they play and for the help they provide. I hope they will be able to continue their work so we can function as members of Parliament. Without them we would be unable to carry out our work.
Mr ANDREW TINK (Epping) [5.15 p.m.]: Thank you for your kind words in relation to the leadership on both sides of the House. I know you have done the job and I appreciate your personal comments very much. It is not easy; at times it can be extremely heated, but I think there is a general goodwill that comes through between the three of us principally. When things get very tough we can still talk things through. I would particularly like to thank Mary-Jo Grimaldi while she is here and wish her all the best for her retirement; I hope she feels free to come back. Why she would ever do that, I do not know, but I say on behalf of the Coalition that I hope this is not the last we see of her.
I particularly thank Peter Fraser and, through him, all the staff of the Leader of the Opposition and the wider staff who support us in the work we do in the Parliament. I particularly mention the Whips, especially the two Opposition Whips, Daryl Maguire and Thomas George, who do a difficult job with unfailing courtesy and good humour. How they continue to do that astonishes me; my good humour expires long before theirs does. It is probably just as well they keep their cool and their balance. It is good that they are there, and I think we are all much better off for having people with their personality and temperament doing what is at times a very difficult job.
In general terms I want to endorse what the Leader of the House said about the spirit of bipartisanship and goodwill across the Chamber. I notice that he did indeed thank Walt Secord, Graeme Wedderburn and Amanda Lampe for their work, and after the week we have had I would also like to thank them. We wondered what was going to happen today, and in fact it has been very subdued. I think the final day was really yesterday. I believe that they, rather than the Attorney General, are probably behind the tactics of this week, and I thank them for the very strong finish to the year.
I also thank the staff of the Parliament. I thank the attendants; I have thanked Mary-Jo in particular, and that is only right and proper. I mention also Joe and the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms, who has to do the physical work, so to speak, of throwing us out. We are still waiting for somebody on the Government side to go out. It is not too late. By and large, we are handled with care, and that is something we ought to be thankful for.
I thank the Hansard staff. There are rare occasions when issues arise, and when they do I have always found them excellent in terms of discussing those issues without in any way giving away their role, which is to report properly and faithfully what goes on in here as distinct from what some of us would like to think, after the fact sometimes, had gone on. There is a balance there and there are times when they have to say no. That is quite right and proper. But there have also been times, one relatively recently, when we have had to get something clarified, and that has been done in an extremely professional way. I am very, very grateful for that.
I thank David Draper, who runs probably the most highly regarded catering organisation in the city. This is the premier city in the premier State of the country, and I think David ranks with the best people in his line of work anywhere in Australia. Without taking anything away from the rest of the staff in the dining room and elsewhere under his control, one thing that has always struck me about David is that he is always very hands on. There are times of the day and night when he will deliver room service and remove plates and so on. That is not lost on me. It is leading by personal example, and it is fantastic. I also thank the library staff. At this time it is right and proper to remember the family of Mark D'Arney. I wish them the best for Christmas and hope that things are on the up and up. Obviously it goes without saying that they have the support and best wishes of us all.
I thank also the attendants around the building. Sometimes I think members take the security arrangements for granted. Because we are elected members and represent constituents sometimes we tend, to some extent, to take security for granted. We are in the people business and the natural inclination is for us to meet and greet the nearest person, the nearest difficult constituent and so forth, which is as it should be. However, it is important that other people think about security arrangements. I am certainly guilty of going through security a little grudgingly when I get hauled up or asked questions, but we all need to remember that there is a reason for that. It is not easy for security staff to ask for a person's details, and sometimes we get a bit snippy about it if a new security officer does not know who we are. I am sure security personnel cop it from members of the public also from time to time, but they are keeping the building safe for everybody—not only members but also staff. So I thank them in particular.
Finally, I join Mr Speaker in thanking electorate office staff. They are extremely exposed to front-line work and difficult constituents. From time to time we all have difficult constituents. When we are sitting in this Chamber our electorate staff are often out there on their own. I thank all staff who are in that role. Some members of staff, in addition to the staff of the Leader of the Opposition, are involved in helping all shadow Ministers. It is important to recognise the role that shadow ministerial staff play. Mr Speaker, I wish you and all members of the House a safe and happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. I hope to see everyone back here on 22 February 2005. I am sure that all Coalition members will be here but I am not concerned about Government members.
Mr ANDREW STONER (Oxley—Leader of The Nationals) [5.23 p.m.]: I join with previous speakers to offer felicitations to all in the Parliament. At this time of the year we look forward to being with family and friends over the festive period and recharging our batteries for the year ahead. To members of The Nationals, their spouses and their families, I extend my best personal wishes. I extend my appreciation to my Deputy Leader, the honourable member for Ballina, and to the party Whip, the honourable member for Lismore, for their valuable assistance throughout the year. I also express my appreciation for the dedication exhibited by all The Nationals parliamentary team. I refer especially to the honourable member for Burrinjuck, who is preparing for the birth of her second child; in fact, she is somewhat overdue. We wish her the best for a birth this month, hopefully not too close to Christmas Day.
I also extend The Nationals' best wishes to our Coalition colleagues, to the other members in this place and to their staff, both in the Parliament and in electorate offices. As has already been mentioned, they do a terrific job, often in the absence of their members and, in the case of country members, sometimes for quite extended periods. I thank the many people who work hard behind the scenes to keep this Parliament operating smoothly year after year: the parliamentary staff, particularly the Clerks, the Clerk-Assistants, the Serjeant-at-Arms and the attendants. As has already been mentioned, Mary Jo is retiring this year. Jo, as she is fondly known to many of us, has a friendly smile from which people in this Parliament have benefited for many years. I think that is because she is a Kempsey girl. She has that good country spirit, attitude and smile. We will miss her in her retirement but wish her the very best for the years ahead. We hope to see her back in the Parliament from time to time.
I thank the building services manager and his excellent cleaning staff, who are always in early in the morning to ensure that our offices, and indeed the whole Parliament, are spick and span. I thank the accounts section, with all the red tape that it must deal with these days, inspired by the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal. I thank David Draper and his staff in the food and beverage section; the Procedure Office; and the Hansard reporting staff, who do a fantastic job, often under very trying conditions. Many thanks go also to the security staff of the Parliament, who operate professionally in these times of heightened security risks. I thank the information technology staff, who ensure that we have modern and up-to-date information technology services and equipment, and who walk some of us technophobes through modern systems and procedures. I thank the library staff, who provide great support, especially to Opposition members for the research work they need to undertake.
The Nationals greatly appreciate the prompt and quality work produced by each library staff member. I also extend The Nationals' best wishes to the Speaker's staff and to the staff of the Leader of the House. As is customary, The Nationals will host a Christmas lunch for members and parliamentary staff on 17 December as a token of our appreciation. Felicitations go also to the parliamentary press gallery. Finally, Mr Speaker, I wish you and all honourable members the very best this Christmas. I wish those who are travelling during the Christmas period a safe trip, especially those heading up my way on the North Coast. Be careful at this time of the year.
I specifically mention my staff, Scott McFarlane, Regina McCulla, Tanya Cleary, Kate Gisborne and Claire Gunning, who worked hard to support me throughout the year, and also The Nationals parliamentary stenographer, Jessica Priebe. I thank Peter Comensoli and Phil Corbett for the work they performed during the year. My electorate office staff—Margaret Bateman, Helen Elliott and Patricia Baker—do a terrific job in the Oxley electorate. At this time the thoughts of The Nationals are also with many country families and communities that are doing it tough as a result of the ongoing drought. I wish everybody a safe and happy Christmas.
Mr ALAN ASHTON (East Hills) [5.27 p.m.]: I thank honourable members for giving me an opportunity to participate in the Christmas felicitations debate. As Deputy Whip—a position I enjoy in this Parliament—it is appropriate for me to thank some people for the role they play in assisting me. I acknowledge the participation of the 55 members of the Labor Party who make my job a lot easier when I count the numbers with the party Whip, the honourable member for Bathurst. I also thank Mr Speaker, Mr Deputy-Speaker, the Chairman of Committees and the Acting Speakers who play an important role in making this Parliament work.
We cannot have the Speaker sitting in the chair from 10.00 a.m. until 10.00 p.m.; others have to assist him in doing that job and they have to have a fairly good idea of the standing orders. I thank those people for the role they play. I thank the Leader of the House and his staff. Chris Bowen has moved on to the Federal Parliament and Brent Thomas is now doing his job. I thank Gary Sergeant, Michael Galderisi, Chris Minas and Wendy in the office, and all the other people who do the night shift. As honourable members know, Parliament sits very late but sometimes I do not think the electorate or the media give us much credit for it.
I thank the Opposition Whips and acknowledge the role they play. There has to be a great degree of co-operation when I ask Daryl or Thomas, "What are you doing in relation to this issue?" They tell the truth and we work it out. It makes Parliament work better if we know what they are thinking and they know what we are going to do. That is an important part of making the Parliament work. If we were not able to ask them what was happening, the whole place would be in a shemozzle. This place has to run properly. I also thank the honourable member for Epping, Andrew Tink, Leader of Opposition Business in this place. He is a character and a man whom I respect. I appreciate his passion. We have had a bit of fun in the past few days but a lot of what goes on in this place is just passionate theatre. We believe in it.
Anyone who does not want to spend a lot of time in this Chamber should not be here. It is a great honour to be able to stand at this lectern and speak as a member of Parliament; I am sure that every member shares that enthusiasm. At times I think it is great that Parliament is over for a couple of weeks, I am back at my office, it is not such a long drive into the city and I do not get home so late. But after being in my office for a while I cannot wait to get back into the Chamber to have some fun with my parliamentary colleagues and opponents. I thank the Clerks—Russell, Mark, Ronda and Helen—for the role they play. We often have to seek their advice. We might think we know the standing orders, but they have been here for many more years and they will probably be here long after we have gone. When I was on Bankstown council I found that the aldermen come and go but that officers remain forever.
Mr Brad Hazzard: We are here to make sure they stay here.
Mr ALAN ASHTON: Yes, they are happy to keep supporting us. I thank the staff of the Public Bodies Review Committee, which is chaired by my colleague the honourable member for Swansea and on which I serve with my colleague the honourable member for Charlestown. I thank my parliamentary colleagues who turn up when the honourable member for Bathurst and I want them here—most of the time. I do not read as many books from the library as I should, but if I think a good book has come out, I have only to suggest that the library should purchase it and it often does. I hope everyone takes up the option of using the library.
I conclude by thanking Jo and the other attendants who work in and around the Chamber, and those who keep the place in good condition and do all those sorts of things that may not seem to count every day. As a schoolteacher I learned that it was important to get on with people in the canteen and the front office. It did not matter what happened in the classroom; they were the most important people. I thank my electorate staff—Christine, Joanne, Allan, Myrna and Sue—who do the hard work when we are here. I know that every member would express similar sentiments in relation to electorate staff. When we are in the Parliament we depend a great deal on them. I also thank my family on whom I depend.
I wish everybody all the best for Christmas. I take some pride in the fact that I lead with my chin in this place and I get stuck into debate. The honourable member for Cronulla is nodding his head in agreement. However, I like the idea that I can walk out of this Chamber and have a friendly conversation with other members. That is what parliamentary democracy is all about and that is what separates us from other regimes around the world. Even though that passion and disagreement are meant we are good mates because we try to represent the people of New South Wales to the best of our ability. I wish all members of the Government and the Opposition, and everyone who works in this Parliament, the best for Christmas and the New Year.
Mr IAN ARMSTRONG (Lachlan) [5.33 p.m.]: I wish all those staff, members and officers of Parliament who have been mentioned by previous speakers, particularly, the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the House and the Leader of The Nationals, a happy Christmas and a prosperous 2005. I thank them for their devotion to duty, for their pride in their jobs and for the way in which they run this magnificent Parliament. Sometimes I do not think it is understood that democracy truly works. The 93 members in this place are a true reflection of the broader community. We have all sorts of educational standards, attitudes and backgrounds, and it is an interesting group of people with which to work. I enjoy it enormously because there is no other forum of which I know in which one can work in such close circumstances with such a cross-section of the community.
A couple of things always permeate this bag of liquorice allsorts. There is a fundamental decency, a sense of achievement and a sense of pride in serving the State and our constituents—something that should always be respected. I extend warm wishes to all members on the basis that they do the job in the way that they see fit. I respect that; it is essential if Parliament is to continue to serve the people of New South Wales effectively. I am aware of a number of members and staff who have suffered family problems this year, be it the loss of family members, family members suffering from an illness, or people who have suffered family break-ups. My heart goes out to them. I hope Christmas brings a time of reconciliation. I extend my best wishes to them. I always respect the fact that the human being is amazingly strong. It is right and proper that we recognise those people.
On a broader note, I wish to spend a few minutes talking about Christmas itself. Over the past 10 days or so there has been a lot of debate about Christmas decorations in the city and so forth. I reinforce the statement that Christmas is a Christian festival which recognises the origins of Christianity. Over the years it has evolved into a time of celebration that brings people together in friendship, that enables families to reunite and that enables people who might talk to each other only once a year to do so. Anyone who has had any difficulty with a neighbour during the year is able to walk over, shake his hand and say, "Happy Christmas." Families that might have had a dispute over a will or some such thing are able to say, "Happy Christmas." Christmas reunites people.
In my electorate I have people from all religions and backgrounds. It is a happy electorate. I wish every person in my electorate a happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. I make special mention of Clare and Ron, my electorate secretaries. They have been with me for many years and I admit that they probably do 70 per cent of my work as a local member. They know more than I do about fundamental issues, they deal with departments and Ministers and they do it well. I also thank my wife and family for their support during the year. When times are tough families often carry the cross that has to be borne in politics. Sometimes we do not give them sufficient recognition. I thank my family and my erstwhile wife, tough as a rock, but as human as they come. She is a wonderful supporter.
I wish everyone a merry and safe Christmas. In these days of motorcars and swimming pools we often hear about tragic accidents at Christmas. I hope this is a tragedy-free Christmas. This is a great country in which to live. It is no secret that the honourable member for Bathurst and I have just returned from a trip with the natural resources committee to Beijing in China, Madrid in Spain and South Africa. This is a great country but it is only as good as we make it. We have the honour of ensuring that it remains the nicest place in which to live and the best place for our kids. It is a country with a great future. I look forward to participating in debate in this Chamber next year. Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year to all.
Mr PAUL CRITTENDEN (Wyong) [5.39 p.m.]: As other members have recounted, next week Mary Jo Grimaldi, whom I have always known as Jo, will leave the service of Parliament. She is one of those wonderful people who gives one a bright, cheery smile. Her presence is one of the joys of working in this place. I thank the Hansard reporters, who are otherwise known as the department of good English, David Draper and his catering team, the cleaners and the Parliamentary Library staff. I also want to mention some of the departed staff members from the library, such as Mark D'Arney. We should spare a thought for Mark's daughter Valerie. Christmas this year will be very difficult for her. I might be failing as a member, because I recall reading Fred Daly's book, in which he said that the best way to learn standing orders is to break them. I have been here for some time and I obviously have not broken the standing orders enough because I have had to rely on the expert advice of the Clerks, especially in the past two or three months. I am eternally grateful for their assistance.
I acknowledge all those who comprise the great ship of State that is New South Wales: the nurses, doctors, public hospital staff, teachers, police and so on. I also acknowledge the bureaucrats, who always give effect to government policy and who only only on the Acts and regulations promulgated in this place, such as the bow tie wearing, Jaguar-driving, German-speaking, champagne-quaffing, opera-going, would-be Sir Humphrey Appleby of New South Wales—Roger Wilkins, our Cabinet Secretary. He always gives his best performance, as do other senior officers of the bureaucracy. As the honourable member for Lachlan said, it is a time of Christmas cheer, of peace, joy and goodwill. I hope we are all back here in the new year.
Mr DARYL MAGUIRE (Wagga Wagga) [5.41 p.m.]: I join with my colleagues in extending good wishes to all those involved in the running of Parliament and to our parliamentary colleagues from all political persuasions. The members in this place rely heavily on the Clerks, parliamentary staff, security, catering and all those who serve us so well. As a new member in this place I understood quickly how important those people are in the everyday running of the Parliament. They were helpful in assisting me to find my feet and understand the rules of this place. They go out of their way to serve us and ensure that our every need is met.
I particularly want to mention Josephine Grimaldi, as I call her. She is a delightful lady. I know that many kind things have been said about her. I would like to add to them and thank her for the great assistance she has given us. In the short time I have been an Opposition Whip and the member for Wagga Wagga I have come to appreciate Josephine's dedication and helpfulness. I am always delighted to see her smile. She always says, "Good morning" with a lovely comment. I will miss that. I hope that from time to time, Josephine, you come back and say hello to us because you brighten up our day. I wish you well in your retirement, good health and happiness.
To my parliamentary colleague and Nationals Whip Thomas George, I would like to say that as Whips we do a difficult job, as do the Government Whips Gerard Martin and Alan Ashton. It is sometimes a very difficult job, sometimes a very pleasurable job. It is certainly one of great honour that has been bestowed on us by our colleagues. Thomas, thank you for the support you have given me in carrying out our duties. Andrew Tink, the Leader of Opposition Business, is a great guy to work with—an absolute pleasure. I understand that the Government has nicknamed him "Chainsaw", with good reason. Tinky, thank you for your kind words. It is a delight to work with you. I wish you and your family well in the festive season and the coming new year.
I wish to mention Marilyn Lees, who assists me in my office, Jessica Priebe, Leeah Salmon and the staff in the electorate offices of all members, including my own staff. Brad Hazzard asked that I especially mention Sandra Hutchinson and Noelene Barrell. Electorate staff are very important to us. We rely on them so much. Often they take the brunt of a complaint or a problem. They carry a great load of responsibility while we are here in this place. I thank each and every one of them for the effort, commitment and service they give to the people of New South Wales and to us.
I know that other members would like the opportunity to say a few words this evening. I make special note of people whose family members are ill or have suffered losses this year. I acknowledge that we have suffered two losses in this place this year. I say to those people that I know Christmas will be a difficult time for them. Christmas is a time for coming together, a reflection of the true meaning of Christmas and Jesus Christ. Best wishes to those people, our thoughts are with them. I thank my Nationals and Liberal Party colleagues for their co-operation this year. They have been a delight to work with. At times our demands on them are onerous and we give them short notice. Sometimes, because of the running of the Parliament, we place requirements on them that are perhaps unreasonable. I thank them for their responses. We may have heated words about the business of the House, but we appreciate their co-operation. We are a great team of members throughout New South Wales representing people from rural and city electorates. I thank them for their help. There is nothing else for me to say other than: Merry Christmas and have a safe and peaceful Christmas. To those who are on the roads: Drive carefully and return here next year safe and well rested, because it will be a very exciting year.
Mr MATTHEW MORRIS (Charlestown) [5.47 p.m.]: I join previous speakers in placing on record my warm thanks to all parliamentary staff, without whom we would not survive. I make particular mention of my electorate office staff Bronwyn Williams, Stephanie Herbert and Mark Raper for their support and commitment. Without them my life would be extremely tough. This is a special time of year that has come around awfully quick. That seems to have been the general theme for me, and I am sure for my colleagues, over the past number of years. We should take this time to reflect on the past 12 months. We should think about what has transpired and where we want to go. We should take the opportunity to rest, enjoy the break, refresh ourselves and come back for another busy, exciting year. I wish all my colleagues a healthy, happy and safe Christmas 2004. I look forward to working with all of them in 2005.
Mr THOMAS GEORGE (Lismore) [5.49 p.m.]: Time is of the essence. I would like to endorse all the thanks that have been given to everyone by members on both sides of the House tonight. Christmas is a special time. I thank my staff at Lismore—Karen, Bronwyn, Julie, Christine and Graham—for their work throughout year. They do a tremendous job.
They all job share, don't worry. I do not have that many staff, so don't cause an uproar. They do a mighty job. They are like the Hansard team: they make me look good. I really appreciate that. I could not go without paying tribute to the other Whips and the leaders of the House—Andrew Tink on this side of the House and Minister Scully on the other side. Being a Whip, one certainly gets to appreciate the work that goes into making this place run professionally. I appreciate the support I have been given. I thank them all sincerely, and Daryl Maguire, for the tremendous job they have done. We have all tried to support each other and work together to make the place run properly.
We in The Nationals are all country people. I pay tribute to the staff in the office of the Leader of The Nationals and Jessica Priebe, who works for The Nationals. I also pay tribute to the staff of honourable members in the other place, who are based here in Sydney. We work as a team and it is great to be part of that team. I want to also pay tribute to Jo. Sadly, there comes a time in life when one calls it a day. Jo, thank you for what you have done for me. Jo has a daughter who lives in Ballina—
Everyone is claiming credit, but that is not my seat.
Mr Carl Scully: She votes Labor!
Mr THOMAS GEORGE: I cannot help that. Jo, I wish you all the very best in your retirement and I simply thank you for what you have done. I wish everyone a safe, happy and holy Christmas and trust that we will all be blessed with good health in 2005.
Mr ANDREW FRASER (Coffs Harbour) [5.51 p.m.]: I would like to join with my colleagues in wishing everyone well, not only for Christmas but for the New Year. I hope that everyone has a very happy and relaxing break until we return. I, like the honourable member for Lismore, would like to commence my contribution by saying to you, Jo, that it has been great having you here, with your smiling face. I have appreciated your encouragement at times. It has been my pleasure, when there were issues that I know you felt very strongly about, to have been able to speak on them and support you without naming you in the House. I extend an invitation to you to come back to the North Coast. Stay in Coffs Harbour on your way through. I know you have three children in Sydney and one on the North Coast, but come back to the best part of the North Coast, which is Coffs Harbour. Call in to say "G'day" whenever you are passing through. I look forward to breaking bread with you next Friday at the National Party Christmas Party.
I, too, would like to thank all the people who make this place work, especially the Whips. It can get testy at times, as it did earlier this week when I had a few words to say. I know the Whips worked hard with the Leader of the House to ensure that I was able to put on the record my contribution to debate on the Local Government Amendment (Public-Private Partnerships) Bill. Those things tend to happen around this time of the year. Honourable members are well aware of what the logjams are like. We know that we are coming back tomorrow because the other place keeps to a different timetable than we do. To those in Hansard, I know I speak too quickly at times, but I have great trust in your judgment in deciphering what I have said and ensuring that names are correctly spelt. I, probably more than other members, have contact with Hansard. They contact me to ask, "Who was that? What did you say?" I really do appreciate the job you do. I congratulate all the attendants on a job well done. I know that sometimes yours is a thankless task. Whilst we are here for a purpose, and are probably paid a little better than you are, you sit in this Chamber for long hours and ensure that our needs are well catered for.
The two leaders of the House do a great job under sometimes very trying conditions and I thank them. I thank Mr Speaker, Mr Deputy-Speaker and the Acting-Speakers. I would like a tape of yesterday's infamous debate. It is the first time I have ever seen the Acting-Speaker on his feet, making everyone sit down, then taking points of order and finally ruling. The funny thing is, it did not even make it into print in the newspapers. Despite all the energy we expended in the debate, it did not even rate a line in today's newspapers. I regard it as one of the better debates. I would say to the Serjeant-at-Arms, who has escorted me from this place on some occasions, that I hold no grudge. I wish him well for the festive season and for the coming year. I commend David Draper and his staff for the great job they do. My best wishes go to the staff in our leader's office and to all my colleagues. The staff do a fantastic job with limited resources and I really do appreciate the assistance they have given me and all The Nationals. I thank Jessica Priebe, our stenographer on the 12th floor, for the excellent work she does.
The library staff and the printing staff are fantastic, and when we need something we get it. One hears the odd complaint around this place about things not arriving on time and what have you, but we are all in the same boat. We are all asking for things to be done quickly! I would especially like to thank my wife and my family. Country members are away from home for long periods and when the fence gets busted, the bull gets out on the road, or a wild storm causes $14,000 worth of damage to the family home, your wife and children are left to organise what has to be organised.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: You forgot to mention the river pump failing.
Mr ANDREW FRASER: Exactly! The bore pump, Mr Deputy-Speaker, as you know full well. We are not in the same situation as our city cousins, many of whom can get home overnight. We have to organise those things at the end of a telephone, normally in the middle of a very busy schedule. It is extremely difficult for our families, who have to bear the brunt while we are doing what we do here. I really want to thank my family and my electorate staff because they are the ones that staff the front line.
This year Lyn Chalmers, who has been my electorate officer for 10 years, has married and is leaving to live in Gympie in Queensland. I want to place on record my appreciation of the great job my staff does—especially Lyn during the past 10 years—in handling difficult situations in my electorate office. Those situations tend to arise when we are not there. Some people take advantage of the fact that we are here when they are dealing with our staff. Problems arise, sometimes as a result of socioeconomic circumstances, which the electorate staff are required to handle. In my view my staff handle those situations with aplomb.
I would like to also place on record that Lyn has worked with me, employed by the State, for the full 10 years and that she has done a fantastic job. I wish her and Col, her new husband, all the very best for their new life in Queensland. I believe she has applied for a couple of jobs up there with members of Parliament. I would have thought she would be well and truly fed up with parliamentarians by now. Lyn received an award from the Presiding Officers in recognition of her 10 years service. Unfortunately, because of circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to be here on the day the award was presented to her, which I regret.
To my colleagues on both sides of the House, and even the Independents—considering they have been the flavour of the week all this week—I wish you well. Do have a great Christmas. I know some new members may tend to think that proceedings here are somewhat adversarial. It sometimes does get that way. Just remember when you walk outside the House that we are all the same here; we have all been elected to represent our constituents. When you walk outside, remember that our philosophies may be different but that we are all here to serve our constituents in the best way we can. Do not take things personally. In fact, wish one another good cheer, not only at Christmas but each day of the year. Merry Christmas to you all.
Mrs JUDY HOPWOOD (Hornsby) [6.00 p.m.]: I thank you, Mr Speaker, and the Leader of the House for this indulgence. I obviously agree with everything said about families, staff, and those who work in this Parliament. However, I want to stress the importance of considering those who are less fortunate than us, that is, those suffering with a mental illness and the debilitation caused by ageing. As the co-convenor of Parliamentary Friends of People with a Mental Illness and Parliamentary Friends of Dementia, I remind honourable members that Christmas and other celebrations are often the most difficult times for these people. I ask honourable members to remember them and to send them good wishes. Merry Christmas to everyone.
Mr GREG APLIN (Albury) [6.01 p.m.]: I thank the House for the opportunity to extend the Christmas greetings of the electorate of Albury. I thank honourable members, the attendants, and other staff for their assistance during the year. I extend Christmas greetings rather than seasons greetings, because we do not get the opportunity to mention seasons at other times of the year. I see no reason why we should single out this season. Of course, it is the Christmas season and it is not open to any other interpretation. I sound a note of warning to those who feel it should be interpreted differently: They run the risk of making it generic, and once that happens we will have lost our heritage and traditions. At this time of year I want to concentrate on the tradition of peace and goodwill to all. I extend that Christmas greeting to everyone in the House.
Motion agreed to.