Which Former Prime Minister Made The Quickest Departure From Parliament?

On September 1, The Weekend Australian published this list of prime ministers ordered by the time they remained in parliament after leaving the prime ministership.

Unfortunately, the newspaper has made a number of mistakes in the table.

The Australian


The most important error in ordering this list is the misunderstanding about the correct dates for the terms of members of parliament. A member’s term begins on their date of election. A member’s term ends on the day they resign or die. The term of a retiring member, or one who has lost pre-selection, ends when the parliament is dissolved ahead of an election. Only members re-elected at general elections are deemed to have continuous service. Election day is the final day for members who recontest and are defeated.

The lesson here, which I also learned the hard way, is not to rely on Wikipedia when checking dates. It is mostly correct for Australian MPs but there are crucial errors. The most reliable source is the current 45th edition of the Parliamentary Handbook.


1. Andrew Fisher Should Be First

Andrew Fisher resigned from parliament on October 26, 1915. He resigned his third, and final, term as prime minister the following day, October 27. He is the only prime minister to have resigned his seat before resigning the prime ministership, and should be listed first on the table.

Note: Under Section 64 of the Constitution, an individual can spend three months as a minister before they need to become a member of parliament. Fisher’s position on October 27, 1915, was completely constitutional.

Fisher left to become Australia’s second High Commissioner to London, succeeding former PM George Reid. The table says Fisher departed parliament on December 11, but this was the date of the by-election for his Queensland seat of Wide Bay. Fisher’s three listings on the table should each be reduced by 46 days.


2. Edmund Barton Beat Malcolm Turnbull

The table places Turnbull in first position, since he resigned from parliament seven days after losing the prime ministership.

Australia’s first prime minister, Edmund Barton, is listed in eighth position, having resigned from parliament on December 16, 1903, ninety-three days after he left the prime ministership. However, December 16 was the date of the general election that year, not the day Barton resigned. Barton had stood down from the prime ministership on September 24. He resigned his NSW seat of Hunter six days later, on September 30. Barton, therefore, should be listed second on the table, ahead of Turnbull.

Barton’s resignation was necessitated by his appointment as one of the three inaugural justices of the High Court. He was sworn in on October 5, 1903. Richard O’Connor resigned from the Senate on September 27 and was also appointed to the High Court on October 5. The Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, also took office on October 5, having resigned as Chief Justice of Queensland the day before.


3. Fraser Moved Fast

Malcolm Fraser resigned from parliament on March 31, 1983, having lost the March 5 election. The table lists his departure as May 7, but this was the date of the by-election to fill his seat of Wannon.

Fraser left parliament twenty days after relinquishing the prime ministership on March 11. Accordingly, he belongs in fourth place on the table, behind Barton and Turnbull.

Thanks to @theredandblue for alerting me to this one, which led me to examine all the dates.


4. Sir Robert Menzies Had A Second Term And Departed Quite Quickly

The table shows Menzies’ first term – notating it as (1) – and points out that he remained in parliament for another 8,938 days.

However, the table omits his long second term of 16 years, 1 month, 7 days. Menzies relinquished the prime ministership on January 26, 1966 and resigned his Victorian seat of Kooyong on February 17, twenty-two days later.

Menzies, therefore, should be listed in fifth position on the table, after Fraser.


5. George Reid Was Already In London

George Reid resigned from parliament on December 24, 1909. This was to enable him to become Australia’s first High Commissioner to London on January 22, 1910. The table says he left parliament on April 13, 1910, but this was the date of the general election. Reid’s 1,773 days should be reduced by 110 days, moving him up one place on the list, ahead of Gorton.


6. What Have They Done With Bruce?

Stanley Melbourne Bruce poses a singular problem for placement on this list. Having lost the 1929 election and his Victorian seat of Flinders, Bruce was returned as the member for Flinders at the 1931 election. Given that he did not serve a second term as prime minister, should he even be on the list? Like John Howard, who lost the 2007 election and his seat of Bennelong, the decision about when to leave was made for him.

Bruce retired from his second term in parliament on October 6, 1933. The table says he left parliament on November 11, 1933, but this was the date of the Flinders by-election. The 693 days shown on the table is the [incorrect] totality of his second term as a member of parliament. His prime ministership ended two years previously. It really makes no sense at all.


7. Deakin Should Be Moved Up

Alfred Deakin retired from parliament on April 23, 1913. In three places, the table lists his departure as May 31, 1913, but this was the date of the general election. Deakin should have 38 days deducted from each of his entries on the table. His first term should be moved up one place to just ahead of McMahon.


8. Five Dating Errors That Don’t Affect Anyone’s Position

James Scullin retired from parliament on October 31, 1949. The table lists his departure as December 10 but this was the election date and a retiring member ceases to be a member when the parliament is dissolved. Scullin left parliament forty days before the general election of December 10, 1949, so forty days should be shaved off the table’s 6,548 days.

Arthur Fadden retired from parliament on October 14, 1958, the day the parliament was dissolved ahead of the November 22 election. The table lists his departure as March 26, 1958, but this was the date he relinquished the leadership of the Country Party. His 6014 days should have another 202 added. Fadden continued as Treasurer until December 10, 1958, as permitted under Section 64 of the Constitution.

Joseph Cook retired from parliament on November 11, 1921. The table says it was December 10, but this was the date of the Parramatta by-election. Cook’s 2,641 days should be reduced by 29.

Chris Watson ceased to be a member of parliament when the Third Parliament expired on February 19, 1910. It is the only parliament to have expired by effluxion of time. The table says Watson served until April 13, 1910, but this was the date of the general election. Watson’s 2,064 days should be reduced by 53 days.

John McEwen retired from parliament on February 1, 1971. The table says it was March 20, 1971, but this was the date of the Murray by-election. McEwen’s 1,165 days should be reduced by 47 days.


My Revised List

The list shows prime ministers as I have reordered them. The number in brackets shows the days each PM remained in parliament after ceasing to be PM.

  1. Andrew Fisher (third term – 0)
  2. Edmund Barton (6)
  3. Malcolm Turnbull (7)
  4. Malcolm Fraser (20)
  5. Robert Menzies (second term – 22)
  6. Julia Gillard (39)
  7. Paul Keating (43)
  8. Bob Hawke (62)
  9. Kevin Rudd (second term – 65)
  10. Frank Forde (443)
  11. Ben Chifley (551)
  12. Stanley Bruce (657 ??)
  13. Andrew Fisher (second term – 854)
  14. Gough Whitlam (992)
  15. Tony Abbott (1082)
  16. Alfred Deakin (third term – 1090)
  17. John McEwen (1118)
  18. Kevin Rudd (first term – 1247)
  19. Alfred Deakin (second term – 1662)
  20. George Reid (1663)
  21. John Gorton (1707)
  22. Chris Watson (2011)
  23. Joseph Cook (2612)
  24. Alfred Deakin (first term – 3283)
  25. William McMahon (3317)
  26. Arthur Fadden (6216)
  27. James Scullin (6508)
  28. Earle Page (8263)
  29. Robert Menzies (first term – 8938)
  30. Billy Hughes (10,854)


A Quibble on Methodology

There is undoubtedly an internal logic to the table’s listing of prime ministers by their separate terms. They are clearly noted.

However, the contest between Fisher and Deakin was between two men in the prime of their political lives. The combat that led to their six separate terms is instructive of the emerging two-party system post-Federation. Neither man was going to leave parliament after his short first term. For each, their second term was their most significant, and their third was a coda to their main body of work. Which to list?

Similarly, in 1941 Menzies was young enough – 46 – to believe he could return to the prime minister’s office at a future date. Retirement wasn’t under consideration. Placing him second behind the aged Hughes as a prime minister who hung around for a quarter of a century after losing office presents a somewhat misleading picture.

Likewise with Rudd. He was just 52 when he was deposed in June 2010. He correctly believed he could in time return to the leadership of his party. Even when he finally left in 2013, he was only 56.

And is there any point in even listing Page, Forde and McEwen, let alone describing them as “defeated” PMs? All three were stop-gap leaders who temporarily filled the position following the death of their predecessor. As deputy leader of the ALP, Forde faced the possibility of becoming leader after Curtin died but he was defeated by Chifley. The two Country Party leaders had no realistic prospect of becoming prime minister, even though attempts were apparently made to conscript McEwen.

As always, tables, lists and dates need to be accompanied by some contextual and historical knowledge, and even psychological insight. It’s not that difficult to get the numbers right, but they never tell you everything.

Sen. David Smith (ALP-ACT) – Maiden Speech

Senator David Smith has delivered his maiden speech to the Senate.


Smith, 48, is a Labor senator, representing the Australian Capital Territory. He was elected in a special recount of votes from the 2016 election, following the disqualification of Katy Gallagher for dual citizenship under Section 44 of the Constitution. He was declared elected by the High Court on May 23, 2018 and sworn in on June 18.

Prior to his election, Smith was the ACT Director of Professionals Australia. He previously worked as an advisor in the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, an industrial relations manager for the Australian Federal Police Association and a policy advisor in the ACT Chief Minister’s Department.

Smith’s term expires with the next dissolution of the House of Representatives. Katy Gallagher was this week endorsed by the Left faction to contest an August preselection against Smith, a former convenor of the Right faction.

  • Listen to Smith’s speech (22m)
  • Watch Smith’s speech (25m)

Hansard transcript of maiden speech by Senator David Smith.

The PRESIDENT (17:03): Order! Before I call Senator Smith, I remind honourable senators that this is his first speech and, therefore, I ask that the usual courtesies be extended to him. [Read more…]

Sen. Amanda Stoker (LNP-Qld) – Maiden Speech

Senator Amanda Stoker has delivered her maiden speech to the Senate.


Stoker, 35, is a member of the Queensland Liberal National Party. She will sit with the Liberal Party in Canberra. Stoker was appointed on March 21, 2018, to fill a casual vacancy created by the resignation of Senator George Brandis, the government’s former Senate leader. Brandis is now the Australian High Commissioner to London.

The 99th woman elected to the Senate, Stoker is a barrister who specialised in commercial and administrative law. She became a solicitor in 2006 and practiced at Minter Ellison in Sydney. A former associate of retired High Court Justice Ian Callinan, she commenced at the bar in 2011.

In her preselection for the casual vacancy, Stoker defeated former Senator Joanna Lindgren, who served for one year between 2015 and 2016.

  • Listen to Stoker’s speech (25m)
  • Watch Stoker’s speech (29m)

Hansard transcript of maiden speech by Senator Amanda Stoker.

The PRESIDENT (17:02): I ask senators to remember the traditional courtesies for a first speech and to observe them.

Senator STOKER (Queensland) (17:02): Australians don’t trust politicians. It’s a universal truth. In fact, Australians are losing faith across the four sectors of the economy—government, media, corporate and non-government organisations. But for my new role as senator for Queensland it is concerning—most concerning—that people’s trust in Australia’s institution of government, which has delivered peace and stability in this country for more than 100 years, is among the lowest globally. [Read more…]

Speaker Sets July 28 As Date For Five By-Elections; Opposition Outraged

The Speaker, Tony Smith, advised the House of Representatives this afternoon that he had set July 28 as the date for the five by-elections caused by recent resignations relating to dual citizenship.


Smith told the House that because of new regulations to refine the nomination process and because of imminent schools holidays, July 28 was the “optimal” date for the by-elections in Longman, Braddon, Mayo, Fremantle and Perth.

The ALP opposition accused the Speaker of inordinate delay and said the by-elections coincided with the ALP National Conference in Adelaide.

  • Listen to Speaker’s statement to the House (21m)
  • Watch the House proceedings (21m)

Hansard transcript of House of Representatives proceedings relating to the calling of five by-elections on July 28.

The SPEAKER (15:12): If members could cease interjecting, could I please have the attention of the House on this important matter: I’d like to read a fairly lengthy statement, and then I’ll be tabling some documents. Earlier in the week, I advised the House I would provide an update on possible dates for by-elections in the seats of Braddon, Fremantle, Longman, Mayo and Perth. This update follows further consultation with the Australian Electoral Commissioner and party leaders. Under the Constitution, it is my responsibility alone to issue a writ for a by-election when a vacancy occurs, and generally it has not been the practice to provide an explanation for the exercise of this responsibility. I have varied from the usual practice because of the quite unusual—quite unique—circumstances surrounding these by-elections. [Read more…]

Turnbull And Shorten Pay Moving Tribute To Sir John Carrick

Moving tribute was paid to the late Senator Sir John Carrick in the House of Representatives today. The former Fraser government minister died on May 18, aged 99.

CarrickCarrick, shown here in 1971, was a NSW Liberal senator from 1971 until 1987. He became Minister for Education on November 12, 1975, following the dismissal of the Whitlam government. In 1979, he became Minister for National Development and Energy, holding the portfolio until the government’s defeat in 1983. He was Leader of the Government in the Senate from 1978 until 1983.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke of Carrick’s wartime experiences, including three years as a prisoner-of-war in Changi. He spoke of Carrick’s service as General Secretary of the NSW division of the Liberal Party and his time as a minister in the Fraser government. Turnbull’s voice broke as he told how Carrick died in his family’s arms, just as Changi prisoners ensured that none of their number died alone.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said some regarded Carrick as “the soul of the Liberal Party”, which “he took from a fledgling amateur operation to a national political force”. Shorten said that “giants of our movement across the generations knew and admired John Carrick not just as a worthy foe and an opponent of great civility and courtesy but also as a person of substance, someone always prepared to argue sincerely held differences in principle, philosophy and the convictions that underpinned policy”. [Read more…]

Ged Kearney (ALP-Batman) – Maiden Speech

This is the maiden speech of Ged Kearney to the House of Representatives.


The new ALP member for Batman was elected at a by-election on March 17, 2018. The by-election was caused by the resignation of David Feeney, due to his inability to provide evidence that he had renounced his dual citizenship with the United Kingdom.

Kearney, 54, was the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) between 2010 and February 2018. She is a former nurse and a former official of the Australian Nursing Federation. [Read more…]

Sen. Tim Storer (Ind-SA) – Maiden Speech

Senator Tim Storer has delivered his maiden speech to the Senate.


Storer has filled the vacancy created by the resignation of South Australian Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore, a Nick Xenophon Team member. Kakoschke-Moore was ruled ineligible by the High Court, due to her dual citizenship. A special recount of ballot papers elected Storer in her place. Storer had already left the party and has chosen to sit as an independent. He was declared elected on February 16, 2018.

Storer, 48, is a former member of the ALP. He joined the Nick Xenophon Team in 2013 and was number four on the party’s South Australian Senate ticket at the 2016 election. The ticket elected three senators. Following Senator Xenophon’s resignation in 2017, Rex Patrick was chosen to fill the casual vacancy. Storer resigned from the party in protest.

Storer has worked in China, Hong Kong and Vietnam. He ran a business assisting businesses with Asian trading and investment interests.

  • Listen to Storer’s speech (19m)
  • Watch Storer’s speech (21m)

Hansard transcript of maiden speech by Senator Tim Storer.

Senator STORER (South Australia) (17:04): I would like to begin by acknowledging the Ngunawal people as the traditional owners of the land upon which I stand and the Kaurna people as the traditional owners of the land on which my office in Adelaide sits, and I pay my respect to their elders, past and present. I also acknowledge all First Nations people in the chamber and gallery today. I wish to thank my family, especially Belinda, our sons Raphael and Ilan; Belinda’s parents; and my friends for their support. Thank you to those who have travelled here today. I would like to acknowledge the kind and courteous reception I’ve had since joining the Senate, from its wonderful staff, from the President and fellow senators and from Senators Cormann and Wong, who kindly escorted me into this chamber.


I am tremendously proud to represent the great state of South Australia. I have deep roots in South Australia, through my mother and father’s families, going back to the mid-19th century. It is an exciting time to be a South Australian, and I am lucky to be one.

I come to this place representing South Australia from my involvement with Nick Xenophon. I’d like to pay tribute to Nick, who included me on his South Australian Senate ticket in 2016 and who made a significant contribution to South Australia through his considerable political service. I thank Senator Griff, former Senator Kakoschke-Moore and others for supporting that decision. I intend to uphold the values and spirit of accountability and transparency that the Nick Xenophon Team articulated when I stood for election in 2016. The process of careful review I’ve undertaken with the important bills before me in my first two weeks in March and now is consistent with that spirit. I will judge legislation and other measures put before me on their individual merits, assessing proposals against four benchmarks: integrity, fairness, prosperity and sustainability. I will not engage in trade-offs for political gain. I will not compromise on what I think is in the interests of South Australians and our nation. I believe the South Australian people expect and deserve no less. My values are underpinned and encapsulated in the Prayer for Generosity taught to me at St Ignatius’ College in Athelstone:

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give, and not to count the cost,
to fight, and not to heed the wounds,
to toil, and not to seek for rest,
to labour, and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.

Those values, instilled in me by my parents and teachers, guide me to this day.


Commitment to integrity is rooted in my upbringing. I was born in 1969 in Loxton, a town in the Riverland region of South Australia. Loxton remains the place where I developed a strong sense of community and belonging. Growing up in Loxton gave me a deep connection with our land. The mighty River Murray and the surrounding banks of reeds, inlets and scrub was the natural world in all its spectacular glory, and was in many ways our playground. I fondly remember waterskiing when I was just four years old, off Proud’s Sandbar just outside of Loxton. It’s where we spent time with friends and family, and it gave me a close appreciation of nature.

Being a child in Loxton for me meant a feeling of idyllic freedom, of imagination and time, and a sense of a higher purpose. This sense also developed at St Albert’s Catholic Primary School in Loxton and at St Ignatius. It was reflected in my early passion for middle- and long-distance running. Robert de Castella was a particular hero, and I was inspired by his world record run in the 1981 Fukuoka marathon and his come-from-behind victory at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. The late Brother Paul Callil was another inspiration. His encouragement to all of us at school to strive for our personal best in athletics influenced me greatly.


Studying economics at Adelaide university and then an MBA at the Australian National University, I learned the importance of hard work and the value of impartial factual evidence in guiding actions for the greater good. The revelations of the banking royal commission and of various state integrity commissions remind us of the critical importance of demanding integrity in both government and the corporate world. This requires stronger accountability and transparency arrangements. This is why I will push for real-time registration of political donations. In a digital age, it is not good enough to have paper disclosures reported on annually in non-election years and 24 weeks after polling day in an election year.

We can also do better to bring the South Australian people into the parliamentary process. With modern technology, the electorate can more easily have a voice. I therefore plan to invite the input of South Australians into my policy priorities as well as the questions and statements I make, providing them with a real-time voice in the Senate.

My dedication to the principle of fairness comes from my parents. My father loved being a GP and sought to serve his patients with the utmost care and respect, moving to Loxton to broaden his ability to do so. My mother was an extraordinary English teacher, a lover of literature and a walking dictionary. They were pillars of their communities, continuously engaged in activities for our schools and their professional associations, and instilled in me a strong sense of service, humility, compassion and empathy.


A society is judged, I believe, on how it treats its most vulnerable, and that is why we must do more to address the refugee crisis, by finding a pathway to regional processing in Southeast Asia, and the homelessness crisis here in Australia, with an enhanced focus on providing public housing. It is cheaper to place the homeless in housing than to have them live on the streets and increase the pressure on our welfare resources. Finland and Utah, in the US, have demonstrated this.

Cost-of-living pressures are a major problem for our stability, security and quality of life. Housing affordability, for example, needs greater attention. It takes far longer these days for young families to buy a home than it did their parents. Rents are also increasingly prohibitive, especially for the less well off.

The appalling inadequacy of unemployment allowances is also an issue of fairness. Newstart hasn’t risen in line with national living standards for a quarter of a century and it’s simply not enough to live on. I endorse calls from respected economists, business and welfare groups to boost Newstart significantly, and I am incredibly disappointed that the government didn’t pay attention to this in the budget. With the budget revealing a substantial improvement to revenue since Christmas, surely there was room for an increase in Newstart. As the Business Council of Australia noted as far back as 2012, the level of Newstart ‘may now be so low as to represent a barrier to employment’. And this morning John Howard declared that the freeze had probably gone on too long.


A discussion of fairness cannot ignore our First Nations people. I personally acknowledge the legacy of trauma and grief in communities as a result of colonisation, forced removals and other past government policies. It saddens me greatly that the 10th annual Closing the Gap report, in February this year, showed that only three of the seven targets are on track after a decade. It is shameful that, by percentage, more of our First Nations people are in jail than any other indigenous group in the world. The historic hand of reconciliation extended to our parliament through the Uluru Statement from the Heart remains unmet. I support calls for a First Nations voice in parliament to be enshrined in our Constitution and for a makarrata commission to supervise a process of truth telling and agreement making. I welcome initiatives to encourage more Indigenous entrepreneurship and participation in small and medium-sized businesses. The Commonwealth’s Indigenous Procurement Policy should be adopted by all levels of government and more companies to drive demand for Indigenous goods and services and grow the Indigenous business sector.

My vision for our ongoing prosperity centres on our lucky proximity to and relationship with Asia. I’ve lived it since I got on a plane at the age of 23, just over 25 years ago, with a one-way ticket to Hong Kong. This was a seminal moment in my life. I was struck, on my first flight into Hong Kong, by the seemingly daredevil half-turn over high-rise apartments just 15 seconds before landing at Kai Tak Airport, right in the middle of the city. This apparently risky but regulation routine was repeated every five minutes throughout the day and said so much about the intensity and dynamism of that vibrant city.


Hong Kong at that time was bursting with entrepreneurs. The dynamic mindset—embracing change, seeking new horizons for experience and prosperity—has been a constant reminder to me to ‘have a go’. This led me to my first role in Hong Kong, where I worked with the late Alison Wenck, who was the driving force behind a magazine aptly titled Austral-Asian Entrepreneur, and from there to a career with entrepreneurial SMEs across Asia—from Guangzhou, to Haiphong, to Saigon, to Shanghai, or selling into Asia from Australia in Sydney and Adelaide.

It also led me to learn languages of the countries I was living in, be it Mandarin, which I’ve now resumed learning for the third time, or Vietnamese. I’ve always tried to learn the local language. It was both respectful and offered insights I could not have otherwise gained into the societies in which I was living. More Australian school students should be learning Asian languages for these reasons alone, as well as for other economic and strategic advantages. Life in Asia requires perseverance and a flexible, entrepreneurial mindset. Hard work, focus and having a go have helped raise hundreds of millions out of poverty in a generation.

The opportunities for permanent benefit for South Australia and Australia are obvious. In little more than a decade, it is estimated Asia will have a middle class of around three billion people, a 600 per cent increase in 20 years, whereas the middle class in Europe and the US combined will be 1.2 billion, just 40 per cent of Asia’s. This is not just China. Presently our two-way trade with South-East Asia actually exceeds that with China, and opportunities for doing much more with South-East Asia as well as India are strong. We already see dramatic examples of what deepening trade with Asia can bring to our economy and society—a 63 per cent year-on-year increase in Australian wine exports to China in 2017, much of that from South Australia; the growth of international education to be our third-largest export industry; and the number of Chinese tourists doubling in the last five years to be our largest visitor market.

Our proximity to Asia and the inherent strengths of ‘brand Australia’ in perceptions there put us in a superb position. We are automatically and rightly seen as high quality all over Asia. For a large country rich in land and natural resources with a relatively small population, foreign investment in Australia is essential to our development. We must resist knee-jerk reactions against investment by non-Western entities. We must also support more Australian companies and institutional investors to invest in Asian countries. We should also deepen engagement with Indonesia. Too much of our mindset is in looking beyond that country. Mutual opportunities are being missed.


Asia provides new markets for entrepreneurship and innovation in South Australia about which I am passionate. I welcome the growth of incubators, hubs, co-working spaces, precincts and business parks that will further foster exciting development in our state. I also see great potential for South Australia around advanced manufacturing. From my recent business experience, there is clearly global demand for high-quality, advanced manufacturing products from our state. For example, we should capitalise on the opportunity to bring car manufacturing jobs back to South Australia through the electric vehicle revolution. EV car sales are growing internationally. All the major car brands are investing heavily in developing EVs to meet increasing demand. Australia is one of the few places that has all the natural and human resources needed to build an electric vehicle within a stable political environment. We have lithium and other minerals that are essential to making the batteries in cars themselves. We have the parts manufacturers and the engineers who can build the machines that will make these cars. But the missing piece of the pie is domestic EV uptake. We need the right policies and leadership to encourage this, and I’m disappointed that the government didn’t focus on this in the budget.

I’m also passionate about the positive impact that South Australia’s arts and festivals have had for the state. Building on the legacy of Don Dunstan, Adelaide is an ideal place to foster creative entrepreneurial businesses, tourism, sport, film and television productions, and music.

Sustainability is important to me not just environmentally but also economically. We must have responsible, broad-based tax reform to create a more sustainable, equitable tax-and-transfer system. Our current budget deficit and debt demand it. Our present tax system is insufficiently robust to support a medium-term fiscal strategy of budget surpluses on average over the course of the economic cycle.

This may be my first speech, but I’m sure people want to know what I think about last night’s budget, given the first major decision I had to make in this chamber concerned the government’s enterprise tax plan. I welcome the first round of personal tax cuts announced in last night’s budget. They are affordable; they are also neatly targeted and provide much needed relief for low- and middle-income earners. The benefits will flow directly into the economy.

But I have serious doubts about the last round of tax cuts due to come in six budgets and two elections from now. They would be regressive. There are questions about their affordability. The personal and company tax cuts proposed by the government do not amount to comprehensive tax reform. We should refocus on the principal reform elements of the Henry review into the tax and transfer system, commissioned 10 years ago this month. As the 2015 Intergenerational report notes, spending needs should take into account Australia’s ageing population, which has important implications for the growing demand for health, aged care services and retirement incomes.


We should continue to support businesses with R&D, innovation and industrial transformation; fund world-class education and health systems; harness the contribution potential of our youth and ageing populations; and increase investment in public infrastructure, which has the effect of stimulating economic growth at the same time as securing long-term benefits to our communities.

Amid all of this, we must not lose sight of the existential threat posed by human induced climate change. Climate change is the significant risk to our economy, national security and environment. As we know, tackling this issue will take strong and dedicated leadership and vision.

Before concluding, I want to refer to my passionate advocacy for the Australian republic. A home-grown Australian head of state is essential in a nation which defines itself as self-determining. It’s ironic and telling that to be a member of this chamber you cannot hold British citizenship, but you must be British to be our head of state. I’ve been actively involved in advocating for an Australian republic for over a quarter of a century. I have fond yet also queasy memories of organising a pre-1999 republican referendum yum cha lunch, with speakers being former Prime Minister Whitlam and current Prime Minister Turnbull, in the floating Chinese restaurant in Rose Bay in Sydney.

Senators usually have six years to make their contribution in this place. From the time of my declaration by the High Court, my initial term will be 500 days. I look at this as a glass half full. I will make every day count and judge every issue on its merits against the benchmarks of integrity, fairness, prosperity and sustainability. These are principles I will uphold for the people of South Australia in my role as senator for them, and I hope that will meet with their continuing support. Thank you.