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George Brandis's valedictory

On 18 December last year George Brandis was appointed Australia's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, replacing Alexander Downer whose term had expired.On 19 December last year Christian Porter replaced Brandis as Attorney General.

But it didn't suit George to leave straight away.

He wanted to return for his valedictory speech.

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He delivered it this week, all 6,000 words of it - this extract sets the tone:

Last December, shortly after my retirement from parliament was announced, Fairfax newspapers published a column assessing my political career. It was written by Waleed Aly, Australia's most philosophically literate celebrity—indeed, Australia's only philosophically literate celebrity.

We paid an extra couple of months pay and perks for this:

 

Photo of MP

Senator BRANDIS (Queensland) (17:29): Before I begin my valedictory statement, may I acknowledge the distinguished presence in the President's gallery of a number of visitors, including the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Hon. Susan Kiefel, and Justice Edelman of the High Court; the Acting Chief Justice of the Family Court and Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court, the Hon. William Alstergren; the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, Dr Stephen Donaghue QC; the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Rosalind Croucher, and members of the commission; two former Commonwealth attorneys-general, the Hon. Philip Ruddock and the Hon. Justice Robert McClelland; the former Premier of Queensland, the Hon. Campbell Newman; many former members of the Senate; and many friends and family members, who have travelled to Canberra for this occasion. I also mention that the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, the Hon. James Allsop, has a longstanding court commitment in Perth today but has asked me to say that he would have wished to have been here as well.

Last December, shortly after my retirement from parliament was announced, Fairfax newspapers published a column assessing my political career. It was written by Waleed Aly, Australia's most philosophically literate celebrity—indeed, Australia's only philosophically literate celebrity. I've been accused of many things in the Fairfax press, but what Dr Aly accused me of is something I'm glad to admit. He accused me of consistency. With a couple of qualifications, he wrote that the various positions I'd taken over the years, sometimes in controversial debates like the section 18C debate, were best understood as a consistent adherence to Liberal philosophy. I'm glad of that, because for nearly 18 years in public life, for most of them on the front bench and for almost half of them in the coalition's leadership group, that is how I have tried to approach issues: by the conscious application of a set of values which I first outlined in my maiden speech, given from this very seat in 2000. In that speech, I quoted the philosophers—Mill, Burke, Isaiah Berlin, Immanuel Kant—who, in my view, represented the best of the classical liberal tradition. It is that tradition and its values that I came here to advance and defend.

 

There have been some notable successes, which I'll mention in a moment. However, I am sorry to say that, after nearly two decades, I find those values under greater challenge than at any time in my memory. The parties of the Left have become even more authoritarian, particularly in their hostility to intellectual freedom and freedom of speech. Historically, parties of the Centre Right have opposed the Left's authoritarian mindset with arguments which elegantly balanced classical liberalism, with its belief in the freedom of the individual, with conservatism, with its respect for the integrity of institutions and the wisdom of evolutionary change. That is what the Liberal Party has always done, with reasonable success, over three-quarters of a century. But increasingly, in recent years, powerful elements of right-wing politics have abandoned both liberalism's concern for the rights of the individual and conservatism's respect for institutions, in favour of a belligerent, intolerant populism which shows no respect for either the rights of individual citizens or the traditional institutions which protect them. If I might adopt a brilliant phrase of yours, Mr President, we have seen the development of right-wing postmodernism. A set of attitudes which had its origins in the authoritarian mind of the Left has been translated right across the political spectrum. This presents a threat to both liberalism and conservatism and a profound challenge to the Liberal Party as the custodian of those philosophical traditions.

 

Being a liberal is not easy because it means respecting the right of people to make choices which we ourselves would not make and of which we may disapprove. It means respecting the right of people to express their opinions, even though others may find those opinions offensive. It means respecting the right of people to practise their religion, even though others may find the tenets of that religion irrational. It means, in a nation of many cultures, respecting the right of people to live according to their culture, even though to others that culture may seem alien. It means respecting the right of everyone to marry the person they love, even though others may find their understanding of marriage confronting. It means rejoicing in the richness of a nation which accepts that every single person is unique and respects the right of every individual to live their lives in their own way, so long as they respect the equal right of others to do so as well. It does not require us to be comfortable with those different opinions or beliefs or ways of life. But it does mean, as the minimum condition of a liberal society, at least that we be tolerant of them.

A liberal society is not based upon any notion of moral equivalence. It is perfectly consistent for me, for instance, to denounce Senator Hanson's views while defending her right to express them. But it is based upon the principle of mutual tolerance, which demands respect for the equal right of every Australian to live their lives in accordance with their own choices in the way they live, in what they believe, in what they say, in whom they worship, and in whom they love. Those are the values for which I have fought for nearly two decades in the parliament, in the media, in the party room, and in the cabinet and the shadow cabinet—sometimes with success, sometimes not, but always, I hope, consistently.

I've also sought to defend the fragile institutions which enshrine those values: parliament, the courts and the rule of law. Just as liberal values are not always easy to defend, neither is the rule of law, for it means insisting upon the equality of all in the eyes of the law, not just those who live blameless lives in the mainstream of society. The rule of law applies equally to the guilty as to the innocent. As Sir Robert Menzies, Australia's greatest lawyer-statesman, said:

Do not let us begin to think lightly of the law. Its rule, its power, its authority are the centre of our civilisation.

I have not disguised my concern of attacks upon the institutions of the law: the courts and those who practice in them. To attack those institutions is to attack the rule of law itself. It is for the Attorney-General always to defend the rule of law, sometimes from political colleagues who fail to understand it or are impatient of the limitations it may impose upon executive power. Although the Attorney is a political official, as the first law officer he has a higher duty: a duty to the law itself. It is a duty which, as my cabinet colleagues know, on several robust occasions I have always placed above political advantage.

For more than four years, I was the minister responsible for domestic national security. That period coincided with the escalation of Islamist terrorism at home and abroad. I believe that we got national security policy right. Certainly it was the view of almost every commentator that it was one of the areas of the government's greatest strength. In December 2016, The Courier-Mail concluded in an editorial:

Our state and federal governments, in the main, have successfully trod a difficult path, finding ways to lay down new levels of security while still allowing both privacy and liberty.

There's a vital balance needed between security and privacy, and for the most part, so far, Australia seems to have got it right.

 

Our measures to keep our people safe have been successful. While four innocent people have died in lone wolf terrorist attacks, which are almost impossible to anticipate or interdict, importantly, over the same period, our intelligence and law enforcement agencies have disrupted and prevented 14 major terrorist attacks. In several cases these were intended to be mass casualty attacks on the scale we have recently seen in Britain and Europe. In July last year those disruption operations foiled a plot to bring down an Etihad aircraft bound from Sydney to the Middle East, which would have resulted in hundreds of casualties, most of them Australians. Of course, it is not politicians who should claim the credit for this success. It was the work of the outstanding professionals at ASIO, the Australian Federal Police and the state police. But governments and parliaments do play an important role, by giving the agencies the resources and the powers they need.

In 2014, Prime Minister Abbott asked me to undertake a comprehensive review of Commonwealth law, which resulted in some eight tranches of legislation over the following years—significant achievements of both the Abbott and Turnbull governments. At his press conference announcing the attempt to bring down the Etihad aircraft that had been disrupted last July, the AFP's deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, Michael Phelan, explained how the operation—Operation Silves—had been successful. Among other things, he said: 'The other thing that's important is the legislation we have used in this particular operation. We have seen, in the last few years in particular, eight tranches of legislation that have been introduced by the government, and let me tell you that some of that legislation that was brought in was what we used to make this investigation get to the stage where it did. So we went from not much to the stage where we were able to charge people with admissible evidence in relation to a very significant terrorist offence.' The legislation to which Deputy Commissioner Phelan was referring, which gave police the powers they needed to make the arrests and save those lives, was legislation debated and passed in this chamber three years ago.

Beyond the obvious skill of intelligence in law enforcement agencies, there are other reasons why our domestic national security policy has been successful over the past four years. Let me mention three. First, we have not overreached. The eight bills I introduced each contained carefully calibrated measures designed to give the agencies the powers they needed, but not more. The public never had reason to fear that governments were using the threat of terrorism as a pretext for a grab for power. So public confidence in the agencies remained, and remains, very high.

Secondly, we have maintained bipartisanship. All eight tranches of legislation were passed with the opposition's support after scrutiny by the PJCIS. It was a fine example of government and parliament working hand in hand to protect the national interest. I have heard some powerful voices argue that the coalition should open a political front against the Labor Party on the issue of domestic national security. I could not disagree more strongly. One of the main reasons why the government has earned the confidence of the public on national security policy is there has never been a credible suggestion that political motives have intruded. Were it to do so, confidence not just in the government's handling of national security but in the agencies themselves would be damaged and their capacity to do their work compromised. Nothing could be more irresponsible than to hazard the safety of the public by creating a confected dispute for political advantage. To his credit, the Prime Minister has always resisted such entreaties.

Thirdly, we've respected the autonomy and independence of the national security agencies and of ASIO in particular. The ASIO Act, appropriately, subjects ASIO to ministerial authorisation and oversight, and accountability to parliament through the PJCIS, but it contains very strict limitations upon the capacity of the minister to direct ASIO on operational matters.

 

The independence of ASIO from ministerial direction in relation to operational matters is a principle which has served Australia well for 70 years and it must remain sacrosanct.

I have had a very fortunate political career. I've been fortunate in my timing. Of the 18 years I've served in this place, my party has been in government for two-thirds, which meant I had the opportunity to serve as a minister in all three coalition governments of the period—not, by the way, that the thrill of the chase of opposition was not enjoyable in its own way, particularly during the second term of the Labor government. But I never came into politics for the blood sport.

I've been fortunate in my timing for another reason. During my tenure as Attorney-General an unusually large number of members of the federal judiciary reached retirement age. Most Attorney-Generals consider themselves lucky to be responsible for the nomination of one High Court judge. It was my good fortune to be responsible for the nomination of three, together with the nomination of the Chief Justice, Australia's first female Chief Justice, Susan Kiefel. The new Chief Justice of the Family Court, John Pascoe, and the new Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court, Will Alstergren, were also appointed on my nomination, as was the new President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Justice David Thomas. In all, about one-fifth of the entire federal judiciary was appointed in the course of the past four years. Unless they are controversial, judicial appointments attract little notice from political commentators, yet the nomination of candidates to the judiciary is one of the most important things an Attorney-General does. Only he takes recommendations to cabinet for judicial appointments and, in that sense, is the gatekeeper to the third arm of government. I'm immensely proud of the calibre of the women and men who have become members of the federal courts in my time, all of them recognised by those best placed to judge them, their peers in the legal profession, as outstanding.

I've been fortunate in the timing of my departure. Most political careers end in defeat or disillusionment or, in some sad cases, disgrace. I had the immense good fortune to be able to bring my parliamentary career to a close at the very time I had seen the fulfilment of two things which, more than any others, I had made my priorities. Shortly after 6 pm on 7 December last, the last sitting day of the year, the House of Representatives passed the marriage equality bill. The following morning, the Prime Minister and I attended a special meeting of the Federal Executive Council at which the bill was proclaimed. That reform will be a legacy of this government and this parliament which will never be forgotten. In decades, indeed centuries to come, if the 45th Parliament is remembered for nothing else, it will be remembered for this. Many Australians worked hard for this reform over long years. Some of them, like Tom Snow and Anna Brown, are in the gallery today. It was my good fortune to be the Attorney-General in the government which achieved it.

Nobody who was in the House of Representatives that afternoon will forget the spontaneous demonstration which then erupted both on the floor and in the public galleries. Amid the joyous pandemonium, hardly anybody noticed what happened then: the Prime Minister, moving to the next item of business, introduced the foreign interference legislation and adjourned the debate. That legislation, upon which I, my officers and staff had worked with intense focus for most of the year, brought to completion the most comprehensive review of Australia's national security laws in more than a generation. So, by one of those remarkable coincidences with which politics is so replete, the two great pieces of law reform by which I had hoped to define my attorney-generalship—achieving marriage equality and reforming our national security laws; two issues that could hardly be more different—converged in the final minutes of the parliamentary year.

 

The time to close the chapter on my parliamentary career, and so avoid the curse of Enoch Powell, could not have been more exquisite.

No political career is without regrets, but there is only one regret that I want to mention tonight. That is that I will not be able to see through the reform to the federal judiciary, which had also been a major project. Late last year the heads of jurisdiction of the three federal trial courts—the Federal Court, the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court—agreed in principle upon a proposal for the fundamental restructuring of the federal judiciary, which would have seen a significant reduction in costs and waiting times, in particular in family law matters. It is the one large item of unfinished business I leave behind. But unfinished business is the lot of all attorneys-general who embark upon significant law reform. For instance, a large amount of the time and intellectual energy that was invested by Sir Garfield Barwick in his years as Attorney was devoted to legislation to deal with monopolies and cartels, but when he departed for the greener pastures of the High Court in 1964 it was left to his successor, Billy Snedden, to introduce the Trade Practices Act 1965. I trust that the reform of the federal judiciary will be carried forward by my successor, Christian Porter.

I have been fortunate in my mentors. Over the years a number of people took an interest in me and encouraged me. When I was a student I met and was befriended by Sir John Kerr, who encouraged me to pursue a career in politics. He was important in giving me the confidence, when I was young, to believe that I could do it; I want to conjure the treasured memory of that great Australian tonight. For most of my adult life, Canon John Morgan has given me much-needed spiritual guidance. Ever since I took over as the shadow Attorney-General in December 2007, I have had the benefit of the tutelage of the Hon. Philip Ruddock, who could not have been more generous in his guidance and advice. I'm honoured that both John and Philip have taken the trouble to be present this evening.

I've been fortunate in my opponents. For most of the time I was the shadow Attorney-General, Robert McClelland was the Attorney. He was a very good Attorney-General and we got on well. We would meet regularly, establish what we could agree on and identify the areas of difference, and then go out and have the argument. When he made his valedictory speech, Robert, now Justice McClelland, spent more time saying generous things about me than about any of his Labor colleagues—admittedly, it was a difficult time for the Labor Party—and I am honoured that he has come to my valedictory speech this evening. Nicola Roxon and I were ideological opposites, but she was always the soul of courtesy. Then, throughout my time as the Attorney-General, my opponent was Mark Dreyfus QC. This was also a stroke of good fortune. There were a couple of controversies over the last 4½ years, but I could always rely on the member for Isaacs to get me out of trouble. I will be forever grateful that Mark Dreyfus was my shadow. One of the many reasons that I'm cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the next federal election is that I believe the Leader of the Opposition is quite close to Mr Dreyfus and often seeks his advice.

I've been fortunate in my colleagues. Many of my House of Representatives colleagues have been good enough to come tonight, for which I thank them. The Prime Minister has done me the honour of being here, as have many of those with whom I served in cabinet and other friends from the House of Representatives. I thank them.

I want to dwell for a moment, though, in particular, upon my Senate colleagues, whom it was my honour to lead for almost 2½ years. I want to start with you, Mr President. You are a good friend who has increasingly become something of a political soulmate. There is no member in the Liberal party room today with a better and more thorough grasp of the Liberal Party's essential values, its philosophy, its culture and its history than you. That is only fitting, since you are the protege of the great David Kemp, Australia's greatest contemporary Liberal theorist. You are his legatee and, more than any other person I know in this place, you are the keeper of the Liberal flame.

 

May I acknowledge the Father of the Senate, Ian Macdonald. We've known one another in the Queensland Liberal Party for nearly 40 years. We were not always friends—had Ian not beaten me in a preselection in 1990, I'd be retiring tonight as the Father of the Senate—but, with the passage of time, we have become so. There is no better person to have on your side than Ian, particularly in a Senate committee. There have been many memorable moments, but the one I will always remember best was in October 2016 when Ian confronted the form Solicitor-General, Justin Gleeson. Mr Gleeson may have been the polished Sydney silk and Senator Macdonald the knockabout North Queensland solicitor, but there was no doubt who had the forensic triumph that day, when, Ian, your cross-examination exposed Mr Gleeson's secret conservations with the opposition, concealed from the government, his client, concerning matters to which an obligation of professional confidence plainly attached. That was the end of that. We may say of your cross-examination: it wasn't pretty, but it was pretty effective.

Allow me to congratulate the new Senate leadership. I am not going to detain the Senate by seeking to resolve the conundrum that is often the subject of speculation around the corridors of this chamber: is Senator Cormann a man or a machine? He certainly has the finest qualities of both. The years when we comprised the Senate leadership team were happy ones—due in no small measure to Mathias of course—which coincided with the government's most successful legislative period in the Senate since the election of the coalition. Mathias, of course, will be just as effective as leader as he was as deputy.

I want to congratulate Senator Fifield on his succession to the deputy leadership. A smoother, more suave political operator it would be hard to find.

And I want to congratulate my great friend Senator Birmingham, the new Manager of Government Business, who will be such an asset to the government's leadership group. It wasn't long after Senator Birmingham became a senator—a callow youth of 32, the youngest person in the Senate at the time—that people began drawing comparisons between him and the Liberal Party's longest-serving Senate leader, Robert Hill. With many years, indeed decades, on your side, I expect, Birmo, that in the long run, when others have departed the scene, the future of the Liberal Party in the Senate will rest upon your slender shoulders.

To my other ministerial colleagues, Marise, my oldest friend in the Senate—no, you're not that old, but my oldest friend in the Senate. I remember days when, in the Howard government party room, you were sometimes the lone dissenting voice, usually on issues of human rights. At that time you were about as far away from ministerial preferment as it was possible to be. Yet you were never deterred, speaking truth to power. It gives me so much pride to see you now, Australia's first female Minister for Defence.

Michaelia, the one thing I will miss about parliament is question time, which has been nothing but pure fun—I'm sorry, Senator Wong. The thing I will miss most about question time, Michaelia, is you. You're performances are simply spectacular—stylish, fearless and lethal. Yet I know that, behind that steely exterior, you have the softest, kindest heart of all.

Connie, yet another fearless, formidable Liberal woman, our friendship is proof that different philosophical views are no barrier.

To the Leader of the National Party in the Senate, Nigel Scullion: we have been the best of mates, almost since the day you arrived, the oddest of odd couples. There might occasionally have been tensions between the Liberal Party and the National Party, but there have never been any tensions between us.

Let me also congratulate Bridget McKenzie on becoming the Deputy Leader of the National Party. You have been a great colleague and will be brilliant in the role as was your predecessor, Fiona Nash.

And finally, Matthew Canavan, once again, proof that philosophical differences are no barrier to friendship. In fact Matt and I supported one another in our respective preselections in Queensland. I remember when you were first preselected. There was a gasp of incredulity in the Liberal Party room when the word filtered through: the new Queensland National Party senator was an economist from the Productivity Commission!

 

It scarcely seemed possible. But your contribution in cabinet has been formidable, and, as one who stood by you during your difficult times last year, I know better than most that the old saying 'the measure of a man is how he handles himself in adversity' applies in spades to you.

And, speaking of adversity, my only sadness tonight is that our greatly admired colleague Arthur Sinodinos cannot be with us. Arthur, too, has been a friend and guide to me at critical times. I know that all senators join me in wishing him a return to good health and in hoping that he will be able to return to the Senate before too long.

To all my other coalition Senate colleagues, you know that we have something in the Senate which our House of Representatives colleagues envy—not just collegiality but genuine friendship. That is rare in politics, and it was not always so. During the troubles of 2009, the Senate party room was bitterly divided, and those divisions took a long time to heal. But that was many years ago. In my time as leader, that spirit of real friendship has existed among the senators, which made my job such a pleasure and all our lives so much easier and richer.

On occasions such as this, there are so many people to thank, and I want to begin, of course, by thanking the people of Queensland who elected me to the Senate three times and the members of the Liberal-National Party who preselected me on two of those occasions, giving me the honour of leading the Senate ticket. Con Galtos, who is in the gallery tonight, was the president of the Liberal Party at the time I was first preselected and facilitated the democratic outcome. I owe him a debt of gratitude, as I do to two other state presidents: Mr Bob Carroll and our former colleague Dr John Herron.

I want to thank the four leaders under whom I served for the opportunities they gave me: four very different men; all of them, in their very different ways, great Australians. John Howard put aside early misunderstandings to take me from the backbench and put me in his ministry. Brendan Nelson, than whom I have not encountered a more decent person in politics, promoted me into the shadow cabinet as shadow Attorney-General, a portfolio I held, through opposition and government, for over 10 years, which I think is a record. Tony Abbott brought me into the leadership group as deputy Senate leader and made me Attorney-General. Malcolm Turnbull reappointed me as Attorney-General twice and promoted me to the leadership of the government in the Senate. And now, of course, he has done me the honour of appointing me to the one position which—I made no secret—I hoped to fill after I left politics. Conducting the relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom in the coming years will be a task, I expect, every bit as challenging and satisfying as any I faced as Attorney-General. With the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union and looking to re-engage more closely with kindred nations like Australia, there has never been a time more rich with opportunity.

Finally, let me thank my staff. All of us know how important staff are to us. We spend so much time together, mostly away from home. We share so many experiences that they become like a second family. Over nearly two decades, I've had relatively few changes in my staff. The Brandis office was well known to be a very happy place, and people never seemed to want to leave. And so tonight is really about them, and I'm immensely flattered that so many of the people I'm about to mention have travelled to Canberra to be here. Let me mention and thank Maureen Nagle, my first secretary; the late Bob Harper, my first office manager; Ross Vasta; Andrew Nguyen; Verity Barton; Brad Burden; Alison Kubler; Luke Walker; Nick O'Connor; Rohan Watt; Harriet Bateman; Lexie Sekuless; Bruce Lehrmann; Melissa Lam; Maggie Forrest; and Benjamin Nance.

As a minister I was served by four chiefs of staff, all of whom are here.

 

Zoe Mackenzie was my first chief of staff. She is a dear friend who decided to take me in hand, as the Howard government's newest and most unexpected minister, some 11 years ago. Initially, I wasn't quite sure who was the boss, but I soon worked that out. It was Zoe. When the Abbott government was elected, I had the great good fortune to be joined by Paul O'Sullivan, a former Director-General of ASIO and a member of a brilliant generation of Australian diplomats, who lent wisdom, gravitas and good humour to the office. He was succeeded by James Lambie. James was, for many years, in opposition and government, the soul of the office and one of the most popular people in the building, with his unique blend of uncommon erudition, happy cynicism, wicked humour and spectacular political incorrectness. Every day, he put us in a good mood. He was succeeded by Liam Brennan.

For almost three years, my deputy chief of staff was Josh Faulks. He came with the experience of having worked for two attorneys-general, Daryl Williams and Philip Ruddock. Josh brought to the office professionalism and energy in equal measure. Sometimes, it seemed to me that he lived life at a faster speed than anyone I knew. He was a wise counsellor and a very good friend.

The advisers who served me as a minister were, every one of them, people of the very highest quality. Dr Donald Markwell, a former Fellow of New College, Trinity College and Merton College, Oxford, and a former Warden of Rhodes House, is a constitutional scholar of international reputation. Of the many contributions he made to my office, none was more important than his meticulous preparation of the papers for the prorogation of the parliament and the advice to His Excellency the Governor-General on the double dissolution of 2016. The government was immensely fortunate to have him in its service. There is literally nobody in Australia with a more thorough, scholarly knowledge of the constitutional precedents.

Dr Susan Cochrane also brought to the office great erudition in her particular field, family law. All of the significant reforms to family law during the Abbott and Turnbull governments were directly the result of her work. She played a crucial role in the preparation of the exposure draft of the marriage equality legislation, which evolved into the bill introduced by Senator Dean Smith. And—I know this is an issue about which she feels very deeply—she was the key to the Commonwealth's submissions in the Kelvin case on gender dysphoria, which reversed the Family Court's decision in Re Jamie.

Justin Bassi, David Mason and Tim Roy served as national security advisers. They drove the comprehensive reforms to national security law of which I have spoken, and which are landmark achievements of the Abbott and Turnbull governments. Michael Napthali was a prince among arts advisers, while Jason Costigan, now a member of the Queensland parliament, added even further to my knowledge of sport.

I had the good fortune to be served by brilliant young lawyers—Daniel Ward, Jules Moxon and Sarida Macleod. Tom Fardoulys proved to be a brilliant speechwriter. I discovered in Tom the only person who could ever capture my tone of voice. The years 2016 and 2017 saw an unusually high death rate among former senators. Many of the most eloquent condolence speeches ever delivered in this place came from Tom's elegant pen. If all else fails, he has a brilliant career ahead of him as a professional obituarist. When ministerial duties kept me away from Queensland, Nina Schrinner nurtured the grassroots of the party with tender loving care—there is no more important task in a senator's office. Tanya Morgan, and then Martine Whitton, managed my program and did their best to manage my life.

My media team—Scott Bolitho, Gabriel Young, Rachelle Miller and Michelle Perks—performed their jobs with great skill. They also staunchly resisted frequent entreaties by one or two journalists to engage in transactional journalism: cabinet leaks or classified national security information in exchange for favourable coverage in the tabloids. I am reminded of Lyndon Johnson's advice to Richard Nixon about leaks from America's National Security Council:

Read the columnists, and if they call [somebody] thoughtful, dedicated, or any other friendly adjective, fire him immediately. He is your leaker.

 

We 'seen a bit of that recently, but it never happened in my office—a fact that would be obvious to readers of The Daily Telegraph! So I thank my media team not just for their professionalism but for their integrity as well.

I also want to thank my many DLOs. It says something for the spirit of the office that almost all of them are here tonight.

And lastly I want to acknowledge a particularly deep debt of gratitude to the two longest-serving members of my staff: Travis Bell and Liam Brennan. Travis joined me not long after I became a senator in 2000 and worked for me for almost 13 years. In my years on the backbench, we travelled the highways and byways of Queensland with the Liberal Senate team and in 2004 ran the campaign that elected Russell Trood and gave the Howard government its Senate majority. Travis was then my media adviser in the Howard government and through the six long years of opposition. Liam joined me in the most junior position in my office in our first year in opposition, when he was barely out of secondary school, and has been with me ever since. Through a combination of hard work, shrewd political judgement and precocious ability, he rose over the course of nine years to become last year the government's youngest chief of staff—and one of the best.

Through all the twists and turns of the long, winding road of politics, on the good days and the bad days, from early in the morning until late into the night, Travis and then Liam were there for me to advise, to encourage, to caution, to scold, to sustain, to be exasperated, to be proud, to share the dramas and rejoice in the victories—nobody has been blessed with more loyal counsel. I recall the words of WB Yeats:

Think where man's glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.

And so now, as I close this, the longest chapter of my life, I leave as I arrived: an unapologetic, committed Liberal, a little bloodied perhaps but nevertheless unbowed. So farewell to you all. I thank you for the memories. I thank those who gave me the opportunity to make whatever contributions I've been able to make to Australia. And, most of all, I thank all of those who have shared the journey with me.

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