24 June 2013
Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (22:00): Earlier today I joined members from across the political divide as we celebrated our shared membership of an auspicious group—the class of 2010. Thirty-two members make up the class of 2010, and it gave me great pleasure to invite all my classmates, regardless of political affiliation or title, to break bread together in an effort to create greater understanding and respect of each other, to encourage us working together as community leaders in the best interests of our nation.
Whilst many may prefer to focus on the animosity of question time or to paint the coalition as a negative force, the truth is that we do work together—evidenced by the fact that nearly 80 per cent of legislation presented by this government since the last election has not been opposed by the coalition. Both sides of politics have members who enjoy great respect across the aisle. This was exemplified when the member for Batman gave his valedictory speech and received applause from across the chamber and an emotion-filled response from the Leader of the Opposition.
In this spirit, I invited the member for Batman to attend today’s class of 2010 lunch as a special guest, to commence the Arthur Calwell-Robert Menzies Lunch Club, to be situated in the centre of the Member’s Dining Room, at the Martin Ferguson Table. I must take this opportunity to thank Timothy Stephens and Mirjana Sladic of the Members and Guests Dining Room for setting up the Members’ Club Room for this event. Timothy told me that in his 10 years of administration of this part of Parliament House he has never witnessed this kind of bipartisan event.
The background to this event dates back to stories that my dad told of the weekly lunches had by the then opposition leader, Arthur Calwell, and the Prime Minister, Bob Menzies, at the end of many sitting weeks. As a result, Madam Speaker, tomorrow I will be writing to you to request your support for a formal name change of the Members’ Club Room to the Calwell-Menzies Club Room to preserve this memory.
However, any speech in this place cannot totally avoid the cut and thrust of politics, and it is somewhat fortuitous that this lunch took place on 24 June—a date that will long live in political infamy in this country. Whilst we may celebrate standards of civility across the chamber, for over the last three years we have observed a public fight between factional leaders and faceless men and a divided caucus over whom they believe is best suited to serve our country as Prime Minister. We deserve more from our nation’s leaders, and we expect more from our federal government.
Strong leadership is key to the development of real solutions to our local and national policy challenges. Strong leadership asks, ‘What is best for our country?’ not ‘What is best for my career?’ Strong leadership seeks to serve the majority best yet is considerate of all. The role of Prime Minister is the greatest responsibility that we can bestow on a leader. Only the people should have the right to bestow that responsibility. It was surprising when our Prime Minister recently stated that the people Australia will decide who will be their Prime Minister on 14 September. This concept was not extended to her predecessor, who legitimately was elected by the people.
This is now a matter of history, yet the consequences remain as many voters continue to question their respect for this great democratic institution. In my electorate of Bennelong, strong leadership is expressed through our tri-level government meetings, where local, state and federal leaders regularly meet to discuss the issues important to our local community. By working together we achieve the best results for Bennelong. Forming the tri-level government committee was my first act as the member for Bennelong. I look forward to continuing to serve the Bennelong region and supporting real solutions and strong leadership. Our community deserves and expects nothing less.
This is the final week of sitting for this parliament. Madam Speaker, as a member of the class of 2010, I wish to thank you and all members, senators, staff and departmental officers who have helped me and my fellow classmates as we work together to make this great country even greater. I would like to think that Arthur Calwell and Bob Menzies would be happy with the inspiration they have provided to us.
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