Yesterday afternoon Senator Annette Hurley presented her valedictory speech to the Senate:
It was hard work for me to get into the Labor Party. It took me six months to join the New South Wales branch in the early eighties. My flatmate and I were living in Petersham and did not realise that the impending preselection battle would make it difficult for us to belong. We did not fit into the then very rigid factional divide that characterised the New South Wales Labor Party, and no-one was keen to have us in the branch when they did not know how we would vote.
We eventually made it onto the books, although I was not very active in the party at that stage. The management of the merchant bank I worked for, Chase NBA, were a bit stunned that I was a member of both the Labor Party and a union. I do not know how they would have coped if I had been actually active.
When I did launch into politics in Adelaide about 10 years later, I stood for preselection for the state seat of a retiring member. Unfortunately that seat had also been targeted by a Labor member who had a very marginal seat on the other side of town and who became an independent when he was not preselected.
It was a rugged contest fought in the shadow of the South Australian State Bank crisis, and the independent was running very hard. I was under pressure from some senior Labor people to withdraw in favour of the independent, who they thought would win. The incumbent Labor government then made him a minister in their government. Sometimes you do not need enemies when you have friends.
Nevertheless, I was elected, one of only 10 Labor members out of the 47-seat House of Assembly and the only female. Fortunately I was soon joined by other Labor women, who came in shortly afterwards in the by-elections. I do hesitate in mentioning these by-elections in case it starts to raise hopes in the hearts of those opposite, but that is what happened.
It meant long hours and hard work but we formed a close and united team behind Mike Rann, who was a strong leader and a great campaigner. I also got much assistance from Frank Blevins, a former Treasurer and Deputy Premier, who sat behind me in the chamber and was a great source of advice.
I got a large swing back the next time and Napier became a safe seat. I was then elected deputy leader of the party after the 2007 election. The Liberal government was a minority government and we used every opportunity to put them under pressure. We knew we had a chance of getting in at the next election but also knew it would not be easy—please note opposite that there were no by-elections that time. A redistribution put about a third of Napier into the neighbouring marginal Liberal electorate of Light, although it was still very much a safe seat.
My husband, Bob, who is an engineer, had one of his ‘what if’ moments and suggested that I could shift into running for Light. He forgot about it immediately, of course, but I started to think it was not a bad suggestion if we were to pick up that one extra seat that we needed to win. I had had enough of the opposition benches and thought that Labor deserved government. To Bob’s horror, the plan was put into practice.
Another gruelling election campaign followed. It was clearly an important seat and the Liberal Party put everything into it. For example, Bob had an office in a house close to the city, where I sometimes stayed overnight when parliament sat late. One of the Liberal Party Legislative Council members rang a number of the neighbours of that house to try to get them to say I lived there—and thus a long way from the seat I was running for. He called the night owl early in the morning and the early riser late at night and pushed them quite hard, apparently, but did not get much cooperation from them, although they did manage to track down my phone number and tell me what was going on. Some time later we did move into that house, and, as a result of the interesting introductions arising from that incident, those neighbours are now great friends of ours.
Still, I did lose that seat in the 2002 election. As many of you here know, it is very draining and personally demoralising to lose an election into which you have put all your heart and energy. Although I did not pick up the seat, a Liberal independent decided to support Labor, and Labor then formed government. If I had stayed in my safe seat I would probably would have been Deputy Premier, but I know I made the right decision not to put my own political safety first but to take a risk. I am sure this set a fine example to others—although I have not noticed anyone following my lead yet, and I rather fear it has set a salutary lesson on what not to do!
When I ran for the seat of Light, one of the interstate volunteers, Linus Power, came over to supervise the campaign. He not only ran a tight campaign but did a lot of the work on the ground and became a tower of strength for me and my family He is one of the young people I think of when others complain that the Labor Party has become a party of careerists.
Linus is intelligent, talented and hardworking and would succeed anywhere he chose to go, yet he remains with the Labor Party. There are others in the same category, like Elias Hallaj, Peter Malinauskas, Sonia Romeo and Michael Brown. The fact that there is speculation about three eminently qualified people as possible South Australian Labor leaders is a good indication of the depth of talent in the South Australian parliament, and there are others in parliament who will also eventually make their mark. It is pleasant to be in the position where I am able to choose retirement and the time of my going, knowing that the Labor Party, certainly in South Australia, is in good hands.
When I came into the Senate, I went again into opposition and again into a position on the frontbench This meant I could not settle into the job quietly along with the rest of my large intake, but it did give me something to sink my teeth into. I took the job of shadow minister for citizenship and multicultural affairs in the year following the Cronulla riots, in December 2004, and there was a particularly passionate debate about multiculturalism.
I spent a lot of time travelling around the country trying to reassure many groups that the Labor Party was still committed to the principle of multiculturalism, so it gave me much satisfaction to hear the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, make that strong affirmation recently.
Following the change from Kim Beazley as leader in 2007, I lost my position on the front bench. I was disappointed, since my assessment was, even then, that we had a good chance of being elected. I had been a shadow minister in a number of portfolios and a deputy leader of a state party, but unfortunately had never had the opportunity to be a minister in a government. This disappointment meant at least that I could take a more active part in the Senate committee system. I became chair of the Senate economics committee, and that became a busy and sometimes hectic job, with periods of high drama and, occasionally, high farce.
At this point I must recognise Mr John Hawkins, secretary of that committee, and other secretariat members over the years. The Senate committees are generally very well served by their secretariats, but John’s exceptional intelligence and commitment enabled the committee to keep its head above water when there was a record workload and at times some heavy political pressure from both sides.
I am proud of the record of the economics committee and particularly some of its larger reports, like the space industry and charities inquiries that were completed in the midst of a welter of other legislative inquiries. I thank my colleagues on the committee Louise Pratt and Doug Cameron, who also made the journey; the deputy chairman, Alan Eggleston; and other members of the committee.
I now want to acknowledge just some of the people who have enlivened my career and helped me along the way. It is now a common practice in maiden speeches to go through a long list of people who have helped the member in his or her life—so much so that a couple of them have sounded like the proverbial beauty pageant acceptance speeches, I think. I have always held the view that it is not the individual that is elected but the party, particularly in the Senate, so I used both my maiden speeches in the old-fashioned way, to talk about how I wanted to implement party policies and what I saw as the priorities. Today, however, I intend to be self indulgent and do a list.
First on that list must be Don Farrell—Senator Don Farrell—and his wife Nimfa Farrell. A quality I have admired about Don is his ability to set goals, plan tactics and not be distracted by any noise or squabbling along the way. This was demonstrated in his leadership of his union and his role in the Labor Party, and now I am sure that it will be a hallmark of his parliamentary career.
When I was a South Australian Labor Party organiser, I worked closely with Don on his bid for the federal seat of Adelaide in 1988, and he also knows the disappointment of an unsuccessful campaign. Many times in the subsequent decades, his position in the Labor Party meant he could have got preselection for a safe seat, but many times he stood aside to allow someone else to move ahead, including me.
From a personal point of view, Don and Nimfa and I have shared many good times. Apart from their incomprehensible liking for the wrong football team, I have a great admiration for their shared love of family, loyalty to their friends and dedication to the Labor Party.
I have been also fortunate in my staff. I started with three staff from Geoff Buckland’s office. Rosie Falco had done great work with the refugees in the Baxter Centre, and her infectiously lively personality now resides in a ministerial office in the South Australian government. Nimfa Farrell and Peter Gonis are still with me. Peter Gonis was only 20 when he joined my staff, but from the beginning he displayed effortless maturity and independence; I have basically left him to it, and have never been disappointed in the quality and value of his work.
Sidique Bah joined when I took the shadow ministerial role. Sidique came to Australia as a refugee from Sierra Leone with a background in journalism before the war overtook his life, and demonstrates why Australia gets a very good deal with our immigration intake.
Sidique moved into the electoral office and Andrew Plimer jumped straight into the role of policy adviser with tremendous enthusiasm and talent. He lost his job when I just lost a title and a bit of extra responsibility, and it is sad that he has now moved to Canada. He might anyway have felt some increasing and maybe uncomfortable scrutiny on his climate change views, given the stance of his father, Professor Ian Plimer.
Cathy Perry later came on board during the most hectic period on the economics committee. She worked side by side with me, and her intelligence and sage advice was invaluable. We had great chats on our long and frequent journeys to various hearings and I got to know her well. She has a strong belief in Labor values and she deserves a long and distinguished career in politics. She is now also working with a South Australian member.
A fairly recent addition is Matthew Marozzi. Matthew is another very young man who shows the Labor Party is in good hands for the future. He hit the ground running to take on the role of assisting with committee work and just about anything else going. I have already had other members trying to poach him from my staff—one of whom is here now! But at this stage I do not want to lose his quick intelligence, good humour and willingness to help.
Dianna Zollo joined my staff last year in a strange twist of fate. I first started a paid political career when one Carmel Zollo took maternity leave from the office of Chris Hurford, member for Adelaide. She was very generous in showing me what to do and how to do it. Carmel is now a member of the state legislative council and was a good minister. Her daughter, after beginning a teaching career, now does the job Carmel helped me into, and is very well regarded by the constituents she helps. The office has been pulled together and managed with an iron fist in the velvet glove of Nimfa Farrell. She has been the pivot of my office and my work in the Senate, as well as a great friend.
Although I was always interested in politics, scientists do not come across political work much. Getting to know MaryAnne Armstrong, with her extensive Labor Party connections, was my first introduction to the world of professional politics, but what I remember most is the warmth of our personal friendship. Other personal friends have been patient with my peripatetic life, and I want to thank them all.
There are also many people to thank here in the Senate. When I first came here for the information session, I was immediately impressed that the Senate staff treated the institution with gravity, dignity and professionalism yet somehow managed to be friendly and unassuming. I thank Rosemary Laing and Cleaver Elliot for their assistance, as well as the Table Office and Parliamentary Library staff. Hansard and Broadcasting do outstanding work. All Senate staff share the long hours and the ups and downs of the job: the Senate transport office and drivers, the messengers and the security people. The mail room is outside my door and it is strangely comforting to see them going about their job calmly and efficiently. Thank you, too, to the Aussie’s management and staff for keeping patient and cheerful while providing long queues of tired people with essential caffeine and refreshments.
My immediate family do not want any formal recognition, but I will ignore that. My son, Patrick, was five years old when I was first elected, just embarking on his first year of primary school. He is now 23 years old and just embarking on his first year of a PhD in mathematics education. I was eight months pregnant with him when I was doing the 1988 by-election campaign, and he was been immersed in politics ever since. He has been a source of joy to me since he was born and along the way he also became an interesting companion, a knowledgeable sounding board for discussion and a minder of the family home. Of some pride to me is that he continues to spend a significant amount of his spare time with TocH, a group that provides recreational activities for disadvantaged children.
My parents, Pat and Floss Hurley, have given me the kind of unwavering acceptance and encouragement that anyone in politics should have. It was their belief in the value of education that gave me and my sisters the chance to fulfil our potential, and this was at a time when it was not fully accepted that girls would be career minded. Our tertiary education occurred under a Labor government and I am very pleased that the Gillard government is also deeply committed to education.
My sisters, Carol and Sharon, have helped out with the kind of vigorous scepticism and energetic debate that characterised many of our discussions when we were growing up. This has proved very useful at times in politics when people have tried to shout me down or impose their views—let me tell you that they were nowhere near as intimidating as either of my sisters. One of them is a lawyer and the other a school principal, and they are pretty good at getting their own way and know all my weak points.
My husband, Bob, and his family have also backed me to the hilt. After about six months in state parliament it became clear to Bob and me that we could not both continue in busy full-time jobs and provide the care we wanted for Patrick. So Bob quit his job as a software engineer in minerals analysis instrumentation and began gradually working up a business at home as circumstances allowed. I will say no more than that I very much hope that in the new phase of our life, when I leave politics, we will continue to have the partnership that has so delighted, enriched and sustained me.
Before I leave I want to mention a couple of topics that I think should occupy your time here in the chamber. Firstly, there is the question of Australia beginning to use nuclear energy. While we did not need nuclear power to complete our energy requirements, I thought we should not risk the dangers. However, regardless of any emissions trading system, the futures of our energy sources of oil, gas and coal are not as positive as they used to be.
We now need to have a serious look at nuclear energy. Because it will take so long to do a proper inquiry and have a thorough look at the new technologies, much less identify possible sites, I think it is imperative the nation tries to keep an open mind and commit to an impartial inquiry. I urge you to support any such initiatives.
Secondly, I want once again to put the case for Australia becoming a nation of science and innovation. We know we have the talent; unfortunately, we do not have the size to fund significant levels of development from the private sector.
The universities, the CSIRO and the CRCs have made very significant contributions over the years and I urge all parties to not only maintain but improve government support for pure science, technological research and assistance in commercialisation. We have the example of the Scandinavian countries to show that advanced research and development can create a large niche in a country’s economy that will deliver good, rewarding jobs.
In Australia the history of agriculture demonstrates that advanced research and development result in better profits and greater adaptability. The future of our manufacturing must surely be in innovative, technologically advanced areas. I think we have just scratched the surface of the possibilities in Australia.
On that note I say farewell to all my colleagues in the Senate and the House of Representatives, particularly the class of ’04. It has been a wonderful and fulfilling opportunity to be a senator, and I wish my successor, Alex Gallacher, and his wife, Paola, the very best in their new roles.