Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt) (1.20 pm)-I rise to say that it is a great pleasure to be back in this place. Three years ago when I rolled my swag and decided that I was going to call it quits, being back here today giving a valedictory a couple of months after re-emerging as the member for Leichhardt was the last thing I anticipated. I want to take the opportunity to say thank you to quite a number of people who make my life a lot easier in this place and provide a tremendous amount of assistance to ensure from our side the smooth working of the parliament.
The coalition now holds more seats than any other party within the parliament, and I think that every singlem coalition member sitting in this House today needs to be very proud of themselves in their dedication and what they have achieved in this short period of time.
This new paradigm, more than any other previous parliament, has been essential to an effective and workable relationship with those on the other side of the political realm, particularly in relation to the tightness of our numbers. The importance of not missing a division and being in the House on time is paramount on both sides. It certainly could mean the difference between a vote getting up and a vote being lost.
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge Joel Fitzgibbon, the Chief Government Whip. We certainly do not agree on everything and often go in to bat for our side of politics, but I have to say that we do have a very solid working relationship. I appreciate the high level of cooperation that I get from Joel; it certainly helps to make things run a lot more smoothly as a result. I would like to thank not only Joel but his staff. Our staff have a regular interaction. His staff, led by Anna, do a great job in working together, and I look forward to that relationship continuing. I stand here, but without the support of my staff there is no way in the world I could do the job that I was given. When I won the seat of Leichhardt again, the last thing I expected was to be offered the position of Chief Opposition Whip. It is not something that I had aspired to. On taking up the role, and in the years I have been in this place, I note that it is the first time we have seen such a balance of numbers and, subsequently, it has provided some challenges.
Probably more than I have, my staff, my Canberra staff in particular, Nathan Winn, Suzanne Newbury and Joshua See, have done a wonderful job in making sure that there has been a smooth transition from one opposition whip to another. To Kylie Hart, who keeps me on time and makes sure that the diary works well, and Danae Jones, who does her best to try to keep my profile in the media, you do an outstanding job.
To my electorate staff, who have to spend more time there because I am away, Jaki Gothard and Corrie Donaghey and Natasha Sambo, and Temira Creek-Dewis, who works in my office in the Torres Strait, it is a credit to them that they are able to keep that office functioning. All the good work that they do there reflects very positively on me. At this point I would like to acknowledge that they are the ones who do the work and who really deserve a lot of the credit for an outstanding job. They are all very new. For most of my staff, this is the first time they have worked in an electorate office. It has been a bit of a challenge at times but they have adapted very well and are learning very quickly. I am very proud of the commitment they have shown me in the roles they play on a daily basis and the support they give me to ensure that we have overall functionality in this place.
The Chief Opposition Whip, as a figurehead, if you like, has the support of some other great people who need to be acknowledged. I refer to my fellow whips, the member for Forrest, the member for Parkes, the member for Hinkler and the member for Barker. Patrick, in particular, has an outstanding understanding of standing orders and I would be somewhat lost without having him there to refer to on a regular basis. They all do an outstanding job in their capacities as opposition whips. I think we should also recognise their respective staff in Megan Smith, Vicki Riggio, Kate Barwick and Sarah Johnston. They do make coming to work in this busy environment an absolute pleasure. Knowing that you have such a great team to back you up certainly makes a big difference.
I would also like to thank the honourable member for Fairfax, who was the former Chief Opposition Whip. He served the party well during his time as whip. He is a very good friend of mine. He did an outstanding job and left behind some seriously large shoes to fill. He managed to be not only a whip who was highly respected by his colleagues but also a confidant to many within the party during some very trying times over the past couple of years. I understand that the member for Fairfax has announced that this will be his final term in the parliament and I would like to pay tribute to him. I wish him well in his final term, along with his wife, Jenny, and their family. I thank them for their support over the many years that I served with him. Certainly while I will miss him in the parliament I will be looking forward to catching up with him from time to time.
At this time I would also like to acknowledge the Leader of the House and, especially, the Manager of Opposition Business for their ability to maintain an effective working relationship. I should also acknowledge their staff, especially James Newbury, all of whom help us in making sure that this place runs well. I acknowledge Mr Henry Thomson from the Parliamentary Liaison Office for his exceptional leadership and his dedicated team. They serve both the parliament and the executive in a very professional and courteous way and deserve much credit for the fantastic work they do. It certainly is not easy balancing the demands of this place and the executive, but Henry manages to do that fantastically.
The Department of Parliamentary Services also does a wonderful job in keeping us supported on a daily basis, ensuring that we have everything that we need to undertake our jobs adequately. We certainly thank you for everything you do. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the clerks, especially the Clerk of the House, Mr Bernard Wright, for his assistance. He and his department do a wonderful job in helping members and their staff in what can be a very hectic place. They have earned some very well deserved rest over the forthcoming summer break.
I would also like to pay credit to all of our attendants for the wonderful assistance they provide members and their staff in performing their duties. The Serjeant, Claressa Surtees, and her deputies and assistants, thank you very much indeed for all that you do. The Speaker and the deputy speakers-a good friend of mine, Deputy Speaker Adams, is sitting in the chair at the moment-do an outstanding job in an endeavour to keep us under control in sometimes very difficult and heated debates. I would like to congratulate you all, for the first time publicly, for being elected to your roles. I certainly look forward to working with you in the new parliamentary sittings.
I leave the best to last in paying tribute to the Leader of the Opposition for his exceptional leadership. This has been an amazing year for the coalition. Thanks to our leader, we managed to win more seats in the parliament. Under his reign, we certainly stand within a whisker of taking government. This, of course, is the challenge that now lies ahead of us, and I have no doubt that under his leadership a victory will be within our grasp at the next election.
On a personal note, I would like to thank a few people who have helped me come back into this place after my three-year break and recognise them for the outstanding work that they have done. I have before recognised Trent Twomey and Dennis Quick, but there are others such as Nicole Tobin-Donnelley, Richard Gibbons, Katrina Breen, Doug Jones, Graham Smith, Louise and Jake Robinson, Danae Jones, Lisa Dunkerton, Julie Wallis-who did a wonderful job in supporting me during the campaign-and Kate Dewar, and of course everyone else who came forward and offered the support that has provided me with the opportunity to be in this place. I really appreciate their outstanding effort, and again I say that, without their support, the opportunity to be here today would not have eventuated.
On a further personal note, I would like to thank my family for their ongoing support-my partner, Elle, and my sons Jacob and Jason. We as federal members of parliament have to commit an enormous amount of time to our roles and spend a lot of time away from our loved ones. Particularly for those of us who live in more remote regional areas or at significant distances from this place, this makes it even more difficult for our families. So I think it is important that we recognise them and thank them for their support. Of course, to my widowed mum, who, again, very rarely sees me but whom I try to keep in touch with, thank you very much indeed.
Also, thanks to all my colleagues in this place who have been very cooperative and supportive. We have been on the job now for only a relatively short period of time, so I think it is fair to say that I have a decent set of training wheels on to learn the job. However, without their cooperation, it would make it a hell of a lot more difficult. I see my neighbour and colleague Bob Katter, the member for Kennedy, in the chamber. I am sure he has an outstanding contribution to make. We share a significant boundary-
Mr Katter-And views.
Mr ENTSCH-We have a lot of issues that we share and common views in the way that we want to address them. I certainly look forward to working with the member for Kennedy during this term of parliament in trying to address some of those things. I am sure that between the pair of us we can not only certainly raise them but hopefully find some solutions. Again, I would like to wish everybody a great Christmas. It is a time to reflect and also to spend with family. Christmas can also be a very sad time for some people and a very distressing time for others. If you know someone who is without family or who is away from their home, take the opportunity to open your home and provide them with the opportunity of spending some time with you. That is probably the greatest gift that we can give as we move into the new year.
While I would very strongly urge everybody to make the most of this time and to enjoy it immensely, I want you to also understand that moderation is very important. I urge you to take the opportunity of enjoying this time somewhere where you do not have to get out onto the roads, because that is where some of our greatest tragedies occur. So stay at home and enjoy it with your family and friends. I look forward to seeing everyone at the start of the next parliamentary term.