Tribute to Senator Christine Milne

I too want to associate myself with remarks of the Deputy Leader of Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. I have just come from a function tonight launching a book about the 'Joh for PM' saga.

Ian Sinclair was there to talk about the book. Ian regaled the story about how, when he was first made a minister, Robert Menzies said to him, 'I've only got one piece of advice for you: I might disagree with me, you might disagree with me, but your job is to always tell me what your views are. Be up-front with those views.' We should never be afraid of debate and of different views in this place.

I, too, want to say to Senator Milne that she has put her positions to this chamber in a passionate and forceful way over a long period. What would this place be without people like Senator Milne to have that debate and that contest of ideas, which is what Australian politics should be about? As a relatively new senator of nearly one year, I pay tribute. To think that Senator Milne has had 10 years in this place, almost to the day, and before that about 15-odd years in the state parliament in Tasmania, so a sum total of about a quarter of the century serving public life. I can only take my hat off to you, Senator Milne. I fear for my own sanity and youthfulness about facing the prospect of another 24 years in public life. I am sure my wife hopes that is not the case.

I, too, would like to wish you all the best for your future. I know that you will have more time to spend in your much beloved Tasmania among nature and with your family as well. I was particularly drawn to your quoting from Tennyson. There is a long poem that Tennyson wrote—In Memoriam. I am not going to read all of it, but there is a nice little verse that says:

But they must go, the time draws on,

And those white-favour’d horses wait;

They rise, but linger; it is late;

Farewell, we kiss, and they are gone.

It is a beautiful poem. I hope that you can read much more poetry in your retirement. I certainly do not get an opportunity to do that in this job.

Tonight, I was going to speak about the very important issue of single-income families. I was sitting here thinking that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has turned up to hear my speech, the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate has turned up to hear my speech; I must be saying something very important. And then it dawned on me that they were not here for me. But perhaps I will have to hold over my remarks to another night, except to say in the minute remaining tonight that I think this a very important issue.

The tax treatment of single-income families in Australia is becoming an increasingly important issue. We have always had a system which is relatively discriminatory against single-income families. It is relatively discriminatory in comparison with other countries in the world. Even when you compare it here in this country it is a difficult situation for those families that rely on one income. It has gotten worse in the last few years with an increase in the tax-free threshold and also the means testing of Family Tax Benefit Part B. I think it is time that, at some point, we look to tackle that anomaly. I made a submission to the tax white paper with some practical suggestions to do that—some affordable ones, I think. Perhaps in another adjournment speech night, I will expand further on those.

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