Standing up for Canberra

Governor-General Amendment (Salary) Bill 2014

I would like to echo the views of the previous speakers on the incoming Governor-General. We are very much looking forward to seeing him out and about in Canberra. He has spent a lot of time here. His children were educated here. We are looking forward to welcoming him to Canberra and Yarralumla. I also echo the congratulations to the incoming GovernorGeneral and acknowledge his distinguished career and his already significant contribution to the Australian community.

Since 1974, the Australian government has approved the salary for each incoming Governor-General through amendment of the Governor-General Act 1974. Section 3 of the Constitution provides that 'the salary of a Governor-General shall not be altered during his continuance in office'—an interesting term. So, before each new Governor-General begins their term, the parliament goes through this almost automatic process of approving their salary. While this amendment is almost a formality and neither political nor controversial, it is nonetheless noteworthy because it signals the end of one Governor-General's term and the beginning of another. So I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to our outgoing GovernorGeneral, Her Excellency the Hon. Quentin Bryce AC, CVO.

It has not escaped my attention that, as the member for Canberra, I have the incredible good fortune to have the Governor-General as a resident in my electorate. Of course, Canberra is home to many truly exceptional people, including many of the staff of this place, but she has stood out. Quentin Alice Louise Bryce has spent her lifetime breaking glass ceilings. She has been a pioneer for women and an eternal advocate for those less fortunate. In 1968, she became the first woman to be a faculty member of the law school of the University of Queensland. In 1978, she was appointed to the newly established National Women's Advisory Council, taking on the role of convener in 1982. In 1984, she became the first director of the Queensland Women's Information Service under the umbrella of the Office of the Status of Women and was appointed as the women's representative on the National Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation. In 1987, she became the Queensland director of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. In 1988, she became the federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner—a position she served in for five years. In 2003, she became Governor of Queensland, only the second woman to occupy the position. And, of course, in 2008, she became our first female Governor-General.

While her support of marriage equality and of Australia one day becoming a republic has made headlines, her ongoing support of women in crisis throughout her time as Governor-General has, unfortunately, flown under the radar. I have been privileged to visit Canberra's women's refuges, rape crisis centres and housing complexes with her on more than one occasion, including the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre in my electorate in Holder and Lady Heydon House. The compassion and understanding she showed to the women involved in these services was overwhelming.

To the women in need of housing she provided comfort and support. To the women running the refuges she provided empathy and guidance, sharing her own experience of having set up and run refuges on the smell of an oily rag. During a recent visit to the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, the Governor-General spoke about the fact that when she was involved in rape crisis centres in the 1970s, setting them up with no money—and we were in a brand-new Canberra facility, beautifully painted and decorated where you could still smell the fresh paint—she talked about her sense of excitement when setting up a refuge when she got some second-hand carpet and manage to lay it in the refuge. She has experience from a very long time ago of working to enhance the experiences of women and also to provide, on the smell of an oily rag, comfort and support to women in their moment of need. The Governor-General is an exceptional woman.

To the women counselling traumatised rape victims she provided strength and appreciation of their commitment, and encouragement for what they are doing. I know that her visits to these services did not occur just in Canberra, that she has visited centres right throughout the country and even internationally. As Governor-General, she has continued to advocate for an end to violence against women—which she rightfully calls our national disgrace—and has provided inspirational support to Australians working hard to make this a reality.

Recent polling suggested that support for an Australian republic was at an all-time low, especially among young people, which was very disappointing for a republican like me. I am sure I am not the only person who wonders whether a contributing factor to the reversal of that trend has been the enormous respect so many Australians have for our current GovernorGeneral. In Canberra, she has been warmly embraced by the community. Her presence at community events was both welcome and frequent. So, too, was her warm hospitality. She regularly opened the house and grounds of Government House to members of the community—recently, for the Canberra Symphony Orchestra concert. Unfortunately, we all sat in the rain, but it was a great night. On Government House open day she could frequently be seen talking to nature enthusiasts about the flora and fauna of the grounds or delighting with children as they explored the grand house. Canberra's community organisations and charities have enjoyed her patronage and unwavering support and I thank her that.

On behalf of Canberrans, I wish to say that it has been our absolute honour to have her as a resident of this city for the last five years. While I am sure she will now return to her beloved Queensland, she will forever be an honorary Canberran and we look forward to welcoming her back. Last year when Ms Bryce delivered the Boyer lecture, she said: Across my life, I've been inspired by women's work and women's leadership.

Today I would like to say to the Governor-General that we have been inspired by your work and your leadership. Thank you for all you have done for this country, especially for its women, not only in your five years as Governor-General but also throughout your life and career.

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