(Not A) Valedictory Speech: Senator John Hogg (ALP-Qld)

The President of the Senate, Senator John Hogg, has delivered his valedictory speech, bringing to an end his 18-year parliamentary career.

Senator Hogg was first elected as a Labor member from Queensland at the 1996 federal election. He was re-elected in 2001 and 2007.

He was Deputy President of the Senate from 2002 and President from 2008.

Hogg described his speech as a “final statement”, not a “valedictory speech”.

Following Hogg’s speech and valedictory speeches by Sue Boyce and Alan Eggleston, a number of senators spoke about the three senators.

  • Listen to Hogg’s speech (40m)
  • Watch Hogg (40m)
  • Listen to Senator Eric Abetz – Liberal (12m)
  • Listen to Senator Penny Wong – ALP (11m)
  • Listen to Senator George Brandis – Liberal (6m)
  • Listen to Senator David Johnston – Liberal (3m)
  • Listen to Senator Ian Macdonald – Liberal (3m)
  • Listen to Senator Simon Birmingham – Liberal (1m)
  • Listen to Senator Chris Back – Liberal (2m)

Hansard transcript of Senator John Hogg’s Final Statement to the Senate.


The PRESIDENT (17:01): I understand that there will be some senators making valedictory speeches this evening, but I assure you that I will not. I am making a final statement because I do not believe that making a valedictory speech is appropriate for me, no matter what my circumstances might be. I thought it was appropriate for me to make a final statement to the chamber, seeing as I have had the opportunity to be the President of the Senate for the last six years. I hope I do not take too long, because the people who need to make their valedictory speeches need to have an opportunity to do so as soon as possible.

Firstly, I was elected on 1 July 1996 as a senator for Queensland. I was the Deputy President from 19 August 2002 till 25 August 2008. On 26 August 2008 I became the President of the Senate because of the confidence that was placed in me by honourable senators gathered in this chamber and by my honourable colleagues in my own party. For that I am eternally grateful and I have always acknowledged that it was a great honour that was not only bestowed upon me but bestowed upon my wife, Sue, and our family.

During my period as President I have had three Governor-Generals; three Prime Ministers—one was a repeat offender; four Speakers of the House of Representatives—it seems that the turnover has been fairly high; three Clerks of the House of Representatives; two Clerks of the Senate; and, by the time I finish on 6 July, I will have seen four Ushers of the Black Rod. Those with a longer history here will claim much better statistics than those, but for a person serving as a presiding officer it is a high turnover rate indeed. I am very fortunate—as others say in this place—that I am going of my own choice. I think it is a wonderful way in which to leave politics and the political arena. Not only that, in any form of life, if you can go at your own choosing, I think it is a wonderful way to go.

When I took office as the President of the Senate I said in effect that I hoped I would be fair and honest. I believe that I have been that, but in the end history will be my judge and that is all I want.

In terms of my life as a senator, there were some highlights, and they are not going to occupy a long period of time. The highlight for me was the work that I did under the Building the Education Revolution program to meet the financial crisis. During that time I opened 247 projects at different schools across the state of Queensland. The total value of the projects I opened was $389,460,352. There was a huge number of projects and a huge value of projects. It was to my utmost pleasure that I travelled the length and breadth of Queensland to take part with my constituents in those wonderful openings. I met the teachers, the children and the parents in the very smallest and the very largest schools in the state. Some schools had as few as six students. In those schools and even the largest of schools I sat down on the floor with the children and engaged with them to show that we are not remote from them but are real, sensitive human beings.

The schools included—and this sounds like I’ve Been Everywhere, Man, and that is what it is meant to be: Bamaga; Winton; Longreach; Jundah; Stonehenge; Stanthorpe; Bundaberg; Maryborough; Hervey Bay; Gladstone; Tresswell, which is an interesting place; Eromanga; Thargomindah; Allora; Comet; Dingo; Noosa; Gympie; Wallangarra; Yowah; and Woorabinda. Some of those places have never been heard of and, if you try to find them on the map, you will find that they are a placename only. But I had no trouble visiting schools regardless of their size and regardless of whether they were private or public schools to open these facilities that I believed were second to none.

I believe the BER changed the way schools went about the job of educating our children and in some cases the culture of the school was changed totally forever for the benefit of the children, their parents, the teachers and the school community. That was not just my judgement; I actually visited two schools that really stick in my mind where the principal went to great pains to point out how a culture of violence and lack of attention to education were completely overturned by the provision of decent facilities to the students, to the teachers and to the community. So the children, the teachers and the parents in those communities grew in their own pride, their sense of self-worth and their sense of dignity.

But I also enjoyed my time in the community with the community infrastructure projects that I opened over that period of time as well, totalling $53,772,674. They included sporting facility upgrades in Biggenden, Eidsvold, Gladstone and Rainbow Beach and improved community and cultural facilities in Hervey Bay, Gin Gin, Stanthorpe, Dalby, Tara, Miles, Peregian Beach, Surat, Injune, Bundaberg and Maryborough. You can see that none of this was Brisbane based. None of it was Brisbane centric. It was out in the rural and regional areas. And I got great delight in meeting the people, the communities, and seeing the benefit that had been passed on to those communities.

My office also was very active in dealing with constituent complaints. They were really too numerous over that long period of time to keep track of, but I think our office had a good reputation, through my staff, for handling the difficult problems which generally—when the constituents have run out of patience trying to get their local MHR to fix them—come along and front up to a senator’s office as the port of last resort. It is good to see a number of heads nodding around this chamber, but I can see some dissent in the far back corner and moving around the chamber in this place.

Also, one of the other initiatives that I, along with other senators, did, which I found particularly rewarding, was the issuing of pensioner kits and the like to many people who are the most vulnerable in our community who want to know their entitlements. The degree of support and thanks that I have received from those people has been terribly rewarding indeed.

So that is a bit of my constituent work, and that is as far as I wish to talk on that.

I now want to turn to the major focus for me, which was my role in the office of President. The first thing that I am going to address is the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. This was an organisation that had suffered badly over a number of years. My predecessors, both Alan Ferguson and Paul Calvert, had, in a very bipartisan way, tried to engender appropriate reform in this organisation to get away from some of the mischievous activities that were taking place. I, with the help of my colleagues, tried to bring about meaningful reform, but of course there was no interest in that, and it failed. There was a complete failure to adopt proper transparency and accountability procedures, which really was the living end as far as many of us in this parliament were concerned. Of course, very evident in that organisation were the unrealistic demands that were being placed for a residence of diplomatic status in London and the other trappings of office for a very senior officer of the organisation, which were totally unwarranted and totally unnecessary. As far as I know, that demand still remains through to today.

For me, it was an organisation that had lost its way. It had lost sight of its charter to promote and deliver programs building capacity in the Westminster system. And that is really what this parliament is about: not just our own narrow policies and issues that we will debate in this chamber and the other chamber but ensuring the spreading of democracy, democratic values and the rule of law. Of course, I and a number of others saw that organisation as failing.

In terms of the parliament, I am just going to make a very brief comment, not my words but someone else’s, and I think they are very appropriate. It is a challenge for all of us in both houses that we have a model of a parliament that is a 19th-century model working in a 21st-century world. That is not a criticism of any of the people who work here. It is the fact that we as parliamentarians need to have a vision as to how this parliament will unfold into the future to meet the demands of an ever-changing democracy out there and to meet the change that is coming about as youth moves through this parliament.

I make a brief comment about ICT. We have a need for a real vision in terms of our ICT. We have brought about some reform, but I think it is not adequate. We have legacy equipment, legacy systems, and so long as they work people seem to want to hold on to them, but we need to be on the front foot. Having said that, as with the parliament, we need proper funding; otherwise, this will not be achieved.

I move, then, briefly to the funding. The funding in this place and the parliament in general concerns me gravely. We are seeing efficiency dividends placed on the various agencies and departments that are the responsibility of the Presiding Officers. These efficiency dividends are not something that has just happened under one government or the other. They have happened under both. I have real concerns about the adequacy of the funding of this parliament not only now but in the past and into the future—in particular, the funding for the Department of Parliamentary Services. There was an inquiry into the operation of the Department of Parliamentary Services, and rightfully so, and that inquiry found a number of things lacking in that department. But having said that, I do not believe the department has been properly funded by any government since its inception. If it is the department that is going to look after the shared services of this place and to develop a future which will cope with the demands of senators, members and of the chambers in particular, then proper funding is necessary.

One of the things that always amuses me around this place is that there is always a demand for savings; however, when change is mooted or brought about, everyone seems to be opposed to it. We have got to change our approach and the way in which we think of change. I am not for change for the sake of change; I am about proper change that is considered. I know there are problems when change is mooted around here sometimes, and it has not been handled well. One of the things that I have tried to do in my role as the president is to set up consultative mechanisms that will overcome that difficulty. Again, even getting that achieved can be a little bit difficult to say the least.

I believe at the end of the day in terms of funding we must give our senators and members and those supporting them the best facilities to pursue their work. The current funding model as far as I am concerned will not stand up for the future and will not set us up in the way in which we can do our work properly.

I am particularly concerned also in that sense for the Senate in the out years. The Senate and its staff work diligently, tirelessly, for us as senators and for the community but I do not think we should be placing them under the financial stress into the future that we are. As I say, this is not the province or the responsibility of a single government so it is not a matter of attributing blame; it is a matter of looking at a model that works.

Last but not least, the thing that occupied my time the most in the job has been the parliament-to-parliament relationships with, obviously, other parliaments. The focus of those meetings with other parliaments both here and overseas has been very much on building and developing the relationship between our parliamentary democracies and, in some cases, giving assistance to those who are seeking to become democratic.

With those parliaments when I have met, whether it be here or overseas, I have repeatedly stressed to them that it is a different relationship than the relationship that exists between government to government. It is totally different indeed—and that is not being critical again of the executive government of any government whether it is now or its predecessors. It is a fact of life that we must foster and build a different relationship. We need to explore more meaningful ways of working with other parliaments, to share matters of common interest and work together to solve common challenges, because my experience has been that, where these parliaments are doing things, we are trying to reinvent the wheel here. Where we are not feeding off each other and cooperating with each other, we are wasting our resources.

In those parliament-to-parliament relationships, I must pay tribute to the diplomatic corps here in Canberra and also to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. They have been excellent in supporting the work of the parliament as have ICRO—or PRO, whichever name you wish to call them—and I will mention them in a moment.


So that is the end of most of what I need to say. I want to single out the Senate. The strength of Senate is in the committee system as we hear all the time. The work of these committees though needs to be reported to the community so that the community know of their fine work. I have anguished at seeing the effort that has gone into some committee reports by senators of all political persuasions and yet, because it is not sexy or controversial, it does not get the spread of publicity that it deserves to let the people know what this parliament does and what it achieves.

I think the current media will never report the heart and soul of committee work, and one of the things that I have championed for a while but got nowhere with is that I believe that there needs to be a specially funded media unit in the Department of Senate.

Last, I want to make one comment about the difficult issues that I have had to deal with in this parliament. The difficult issues go to the issue of conscience. The hardest thing that I believe we all as members of parliament deal with is our conscience. We get some major challenges indeed. I look back on some of the issues that I have been asked to think about, vote about and speak about: euthanasia; stem cell research; cloning; RU486; same-sex marriage. My views are not necessarily shared on those issues by every other senator in this place or even some but, having a diversity of views is healthy. When those issues and their like are part of your DNA, you cannot expect people to walk away from their conscience. People—and I do not care what side of politics they are on—who have a view different to me are entitled to it. That is a fundamental of our system.

Now I get to the pleasant things—if you ever thought there were going to be any. Firstly, my thanks: my thanks go, firstly, to my party. I am grateful for the trust that they have placed in me. The Queensland branch on three occasions selected me to be a candidate in a winnable position for the Senate. That was also supported by the branch members who had patiently listened to my reports on many occasions and who supported me. I really thank them for their confidence in me. I also thank my caucus colleagues, because my caucus colleagues showed the confidence in me to enable me to become the President of the Senate. Then, not surprisingly, I turn to my union, the SDA, and my other colleagues in the AWU who have supported me without hesitation over such a long period of time as well as, of course, the electors of Queensland.

I then move to the hub of my life in politics, my staff. In my electorate office Hazel Hubbard and Julie Christensen have been rock-solid and the main support of my political life in the EO over a long period of time. The only thing that they had to do was have a photograph of me so that they could remember, in the 33 weeks that I was absent from the Queensland EO, what I looked like. For 18 years they have been the rock-solid support that made my office work and tick well. Darryl Main, Michelle Curran and Josef Chick bring up the residue of the staff there, and there are others who have worked for me that I will not mention.

In the office in Canberra, the President’s office, I have been well served by Quinton Clements, who is my current senior adviser, by Gerard Martin, who was my first senior adviser when I took the office, and by Chris Reid. I am grateful to them for the eye they placed on the detail of managing the office and for the knowledge that they brought to me because without that experience I would not have been a success, if I have been. I also thank Julia Clifford and Meredith Horne, both of whom were with me from my first day as the Deputy President of the Senate, and have lasted for that long period, enduring some bad jokes from time to time but also enduring my attention for justice for this parliament, justice for the senators and ensuring that we made this place work in the nuts and bolts way as best we could. Hazel Hubbard, who I have already mentioned at the EO, has been the connection between the EO and my work as President, and she has worked in my President’s office as well with Kate Ward, Matthew Tredwell and June Nelson, and a number of other people.

I want to express my thanks to Sue West, who some might remember. She is a former senator for New South Wales, and former Deputy President, who I could claim was probably my mentor in this place when I first arrived. Sue encouraged me to become a temporary chair of committees and encouraged me with my work on the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, so I thank her for her guidance in that very formative period.

I want to thank the Senate clerks, Harry Evans and Rosemary Laing, and their staff. They have been absolutely marvellous. We have always had a professional relationship, as I have had with many others. I want to thank the deputy clerks, Richard Pye and the late Anne Lynch. She was a stalwart in giving support to the democratic values that come out of this place. I want to take the clerk assistants and staff. In particular I want to thank the attendants, John, Robin, Adrienne, Rebecca, Bryan and Wally. There is one thing you should never do. You should never ask them the winner of the Melbourne Cup or anything else, because, every day, they are waiting with the folder that I use during question time and I ask, ‘How is question time going to go today?’ They look very reassuringly at me and say, ‘It’s going to be good. They’re going to be quiet.’ Unfortunately, I think they have been wrong on every occasion. So, if you are looking to them for a tip on the weather, or if you looking to them to give you the drill for the Melbourne Cup, don’t.

I want to thank the ushers of the Black Rod, Andrea Griffiths, Brian Hallett and Bronwyn Notzyn and the Office of the Black Rod, John Baczynski, Glenn Krause and Nick Tate, who was a former deputy usher of the Black Rod. In the Tables Office I could thank a whole lot of people, but I want to thank Peter Verdon, who I have known over a long period of time, and a person who was always serving up out-of-session reports for me to sign off on, Angie Lilley.

I want to thank, briefly, the committees. I want to thank the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade legislation and references committees and their staff, in particular Paul Barsdell, Brenton Holmes and Kathleen Dermody. I want to thank the Transport Office, Ian Miller and Peter Monck; the DPS, Carol Mills, and Russell Grove in particular, who filled in for a short period of time, and their staff. I thank the gardeners, art services, the gym staff, the security guards—internal and external, AUSPIC photographers Howard Moffat and David Foote. Howard is in the gallery tonight, most appropriately, because when I retire on the 30th so does Howard. Howard has given a long service to this parliament and I am sure will be sadly missed indeed. I want to thank Phil Bowen. Whilst the PBO is a new innovation around here, Phil has taken up the challenge very well. I want to thank ICRO and the PRO, Andres Lomp, Geoff Barnett, Colin Christian, Onu Palm, Andrew Templeton, Raymond Knight and Paul Jeanroy. They have done, and continue to do, a marvellous job for us.

I thank the Comcar drivers and those at the reservations call desk, the cleaners, the IHG staff, the FCM staff for helping with travel arrangements, 2020 and the IT people. Reyhan Waterford, Josh Cunningham and Michael York in particular have done exceptionally well. Then there is a person who was mentioned in someone else’s speech. I want to extend my thanks to Reverend Peter Rose, who again is in the gallery. Peter walks the corridors here not seeking business but being available for those who might be troubled or who might want someone to extend the hand of friendship to them when they might think that all is lost. I think that is a wonderful characteristic: taking other people’s burdens and shouldering them to assist them. Peter, I take my hat off to you.

In the chamber, I want to thank Senator Wong and a number of other people who I have had close association with. I wish Senator Wong all the best into the future with the business of being Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. It can be very frustrating and it can be unrewarding sometimes, but it is an important role and I believe you are up to the challenge. I wish you and the team all the best. I want to thank Anne McEwen, as the whip—and I have not forgotten the other whips; I will come to them—because we developed a very good working relationship. I believe in working the chamber rather than being some sort of dictatorial figure, trying to yell and scream from up here. Unless you have that close cooperation with the whips, it does not work.

Other people who have had senior positions when I have been in the presidency include Joe Ludwig, Claire Moore, Jacinta Collins, Chris Evans and Stephen Conroy. I also want to thank Senator Abetz and his team and Helen Kroger and her staff. Again, it comes down to the relationship that we have been able to build to run this chamber. I want to thank George Brandis and Mitch Fifield, whom I have had a good working relationship with, as well as Christine Milne and her team, and Rachel Siewert. Rachel has only ever done one thing wrong in this chamber. Rachel turned up one day with a different hairstyle and I did not know it was Rachel. I wondered who the stranger in the chamber was and I had to apologise to Rachel profusely about that. I also want to thank Nick Xenophon and John Madigan for their cooperation. I acknowledge former Senators Calvert and Ferguson, as Presidents, and the work of Stephen Parry as the Deputy President over the last six years. In my role as Deputy President to those two former Presidents and in my role as the President with Stephen Parry, political boundaries did not count. It was ultimately the business of the chamber that mattered.

I want to thank my friends and colleagues in the House of Representatives. I am very pleased to see them up in the gallery. It is interesting that I have them across the political boundaries. I do not know what that really means to me, but you are welcome, because I welcome your support. I think I spot a ring-in up there, but I am sure that your support has been most welcomed by me in the carriage of my duties. I want to thank senators and especially those who are moving on to another life from here. As I said, I do not believe in the valedictory speech for myself, but I trust that you people will have a good life after politics. I trust that those who remain will have an interesting and challenging time as of 7 July. I will not be thinking about you. I will be relaxing.

There are two other groups I have to thank. I know I have gone on for a while. I want to thank Michael Zavros. Michael Zavros has painted my portrait. That in itself is a challenge. Michael is a great artist. He is a Queenslander. He just happens to live no more than about three kilometres, as the crow flies, from me and he has done a great portrait indeed. I am proud of the work that he has done. I must say, though, that there will be no public hanging of the portrait because of constraints arising from the budget and other considerations. However, you are invited at your own discretion to come and view the portrait, which is currently being privately hung in my suite.

I turn to my family. I turn to Stephen and Sophie first. Stephen is my eldest son. They have missed out on me for a long period of time. As we all know here, family pay the biggest price, so I thank Stephen as the eldest—and I will thank the others in turn—and his wife, Sophie. They have given us something that we are looking forward to, our second grandchild. We have not even got the first yet, but we will come to that in a moment. It will alter our life in retirement, so thank you, Stephen, and to your beautiful wife, Sophie, thank you for your love too.

I turn to Elizabeth and Joshua. You will find that when I come to the girls I will refer to them by their correct names, not Liz and Lou; they are Elizabeth and Louise. I will first deal with Elizabeth, the second eldest and eldest girl, and her husband, Josh. Thank you for all the patience you have exhibited with a father who has not always been around, and thank you for the love that you have both given to me. They are providing grandchild No. 1. That will be on 16 August. The point that I am trying to make is that we have had to change our plans. Last but not least, I want to thank the youngest child, Louise. She has brought with her tonight her good friend Brenden Eames. Louise has been a child we love dearly and we will continue, as with all our children, to give her unconditional love.

I have saved the best till last: my wife. She is a beautiful woman. She, like many spouses and partners in this place, has put up with a great deal. But I think, Sue, you are not going to necessarily relish retirement because you are going to see me more often than you have ever dreamt of. I can say that; she can only think it. I really think, though, you have done a marvellous job with a husband who was away, on average, somewhere between 30 and 33 weeks a year. You coped with the stresses; you coped with all the challenges without me, other than sometimes at the end of the phone. My love for you is great, as I said previously, and I am forever and eternally grateful for what you have done for me in my career and for us as a couple.

Last but not least—Hogg’s gone long enough; he just wants to say where he started—in my first speech I said:

“When I sought preselection in my party, I made it clear that my interests were one, a preferential option for the poor; two, solidarity with the poor; three, seeing that the common wealth was shared; and, four, seeing that things should be done for the common good.”

Then I went on to say:

“Those who are well-heeled, in positions of power or otherwise advantaged have little or nothing to worry about. Those people can take care of themselves. The people that I am concerned about are those who are poor, who do not have any power or are otherwise disadvantaged.”

And I say in conclusion:

“I shall work through the avenues of my party and through this Senate to focus on the right of the individual to their dignity by being given meaningful work and meaningful pay. I hope I am able to raise the status of people above that of some mere pawn in a production line or something as disposable as a tissue. I will fight for dignity in youth, in work and in retirement.”

I trust that I have done that. Thank you very much.


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