Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (10:09): I rise to pay tribute today to the member for Warringah, our former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a man whom I respect enormously for his passion, his determination and his dedication to public service. I have also valued the friendship he has offered to me since becoming a member of parliament from 2008 and the professional opportunities he has extended to me in that role, most recently as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence. I thank him for his outstanding service to our nation in what has been a distinguished parliamentary career. He should be proud of his record of achievement and I am confident that history will be kinder to the member for Warringah than perhaps the Australian parliament and the media have been in recent times. He has a strong record of achievement over the past two years, particularly in relation to the three breakthrough free trade agreements, his capacity to work with his ministerial colleagues to regain control of our borders, the abolition of the carbon tax, which was a blight on the Australian economy in an international sense and his efforts to spend in the order of $50 billion on infrastructure for our nation’s future.
The removal of the previous leader of the Liberal Party poses some questions for our nation. What is so wrong with Australia that in the past five years we have needed to have four different prime ministers? I suggest that it is a challenge for us in this place, a challenge for the community more generally and a challenge for the media to deal with as well. I suggest there is nothing that cannot be fixed by showing more respect in this place and in our public discourse—and I challenge the media to be part of that as well, by focusing on the national policy debates of significance rather than the personalities in this parliament. There is a requirement for our media to show more responsibility in the way it focuses on issues rather than on personalities. It should not be so concerned about inside gossip but rather work on issues that benefit our nation. The community wants us, in this place, to provide more stability and more certainty to give business the confidence to invest and provide jobs for the future. So I lay out that challenge to the people of Australia, to the media of this place and to the members of this place as well—how are we going to work to provide that stability into the future?
I congratulate the new Prime Minister, the member for Wentworth. I think he has a huge job in front of him in being a healer for our nation and in trying to find ways to unite Australia in a more bipartisan spirit on a range of significant issues that confront our communities. Certainly he faces a challenge in uniting his own party, and I urge my colleagues in the Liberal Party to work with the member for Wentworth in a constructive way into the future. There are massive challenges facing our future and I believe that a strong coalition agreement between the Nationals and the Liberal Party is the way forward. Providing jobs for our young people, providing for the nation’s security, providing for our defence forces and issues related to health and education services—these are the challenges and the issues that the people of Australia want us talking about in this place. They do not want us talking about ourselves. They want us focused on the future.
In standing here today, I congratulate the member for Warringah on his achievements and I wish the member for Wentworth well in his new responsibilities as the Prime Minister of Australia.