Boundary changes mean that the State Seat of Baulkham Hills will be dissolved at the next election.
Former Liberal leaders Peter Collins and Mike Baird were among the guests who packed the public gallery to hear Transport Minister David Elliott’s valedictory speech to Parliament tonight.
The hilarious speech was full of one-liners and a sincere thank you to his wife Nicole.
It started with a quote from Winston Churchill and ended with one from Winnie the Pooh.
The Premier Dom Perrottet laughed all the way through and there was a standing ovation.
This was his speech: (you can also watch here https://youtu.be/ysRsrkbmJdo)
“It was Sir Winston Churchill who famously said “In a war, you can only be killed once, but in politics, many times.”
With that in mind it’s with amazement that I managed to survive long enough to stand at the dispatch box to offer my last contribution to this House. In many respects my Valedictory is 12 years in the making. Some would have preferred that time frame to be much shorter, but I accept that for the vast majority of Australians it’s come way too early. For me, I’m drawing on that great literary character, Goldilocks, and say I think that time frame is “just about right”.
Politics is a calling. One that I had at an unusually young age. It caused great distress amongst my family and friends, particularly when I announced which side I was going to bat for. But like all families, mine accepted my inadequacies and I joined the Liberal Party 36 years ago, save an unfortunate brief period earlier this year.
It’s been a roller coaster ride, and one I’ve relished. So at the outset I have to pay tribute to a woman I couldn’t have done it without. The current Mrs Elliott has been a champion. Advisor, chauffeur, media monitor and most effectively, a critic. I said recently that the burden of public life is heaviest on those we love. And boy wasn’t I a burden. I particularly appreciated her loyalty and never took it for granted. Like the time I was warned of a rumour being spread by my political opponents that the reason I lost weight last year was because I’d taken a mistress. Now, breaking that sort of news to a woman of Nicole’s temperament was always going to be a challenge, not made easier by the fact that she knew the real reason for the weight shedding. Nicole, thank your for wearing that gossip with dignity and, more importantly, not humiliating me by telling everyone that the real reason for my new diet was due to a dose of the dreaded gout – now that would be embarrassing!
Nicole was always available to support me on my parliamentary duties, particularly when as a Minister I couldn’t go to every single local school presentation. Not one to let the kids miss out, she would often tag-team with me at schools and front up to present awards in my stead. A few years ago, however, we had to pause this practice when I subbed her in at Jasper Road Public School only for me to make it to the school assembly in time for the last award. You can imagine my delight when, as her name was called to the stage and the School Captain saw me approaching announced “Mrs Elliott is being represented by her husband, David Elliott MP.” Thank you Princess, you’re a keeper.
To my sons Lachlan and William. I can only apologise so many times for making you grow up as “political orphans”. Mum tells me you’re both at University, which is great. I see on Facebook that you’ve both grown into fine young men. Proof positive that having an absentee father can’t hurt too much. Let’s catch up in the New Year.
My family would not be the sanctuary that it is without the guidance and support of my late father in law, Fred, and my mother in law, Laraine. Knowing that you would always side with me on domestic matters has been appreciated and, now that I’ll be home more often I expect your diplomatic skills will be called upon a lot more in coming years. Laraine, please move in with us!
The tradition of the valedictory speech is one that allows politicians to boast about their achievements in office. I would be happy to do that but I’ve only got the one hour. So I just want to focus on the people who I’ve shared this journey with.
When Mike Baird appointed me Corrections Minister I was thrown into a working relationship with Commissioner Peter Severin. Now, this may come as a surprise to many, but I’d had no exposure to the prison system before I was sworn in as its Minister – save a wayward uncle who I’d lost contact with as a young bloke.
Peter, thank you for teaching me how to be a Minister. Your patience and experience helped me look like I knew what I was doing for a solid four years. Oh, and thanks for letting me use your rifle range that Friday afternoon. “Try the Russian made Grenade launcher” he said, “What could go wrong?”
My first term as Emergency Services Minister was a lot less active than my second. But it did give me the opportunity to travel the state and see the brilliance of our 200,000 salaried and volunteer emergency services personnel. SES Commissioners Adam Dent and Carlene York have become personal friends, although I still can’t look at either of them without first checking to see if my pants are wet.
Fire Commissioners Baxter, Mullins, Rogers and Fitzsimmons. What can I say? Never change. Your ability to install confidence in our communities when they are at their most vulnerable is a unique skill. Yours is a challenging vocation. One that I could never do. I don’t think I’ve cried in the arms of a man more than I have with Shane Fitzsimmons, he always had my personal welfare front of mind and was particularly helpful when he insisted I go on a family holiday a couple of years ago.
To Stacey Tannous, Steve Pearce and Mark Gibson. The way you motivate people and offer superior levels of operational support with limited resources makes me wonder if you would have better been placed to serve the Treasury. Good luck for the future. Now that I’m not responsible for your budget bids I may even answer your calls first time.
To Mick Fuller. Where do I start? Mick has conveniently found himself in Melbourne tonight but we know he’s very very nervous about my tribute to him. In fact I wager he’s sitting in the corner of his hotel room right now, a once brave copper curled up in the fetal position listening in like a member of the French Resistance waiting for coded instructions via the BBC world service. The most recent time Mick had to investigate me he said I was at risk of becoming his best customer. Luckily he found all complaints about me to be politically motived.
Thanks for being the Deputy Sheriff whilst I played out my Walter Mitty fantasy as our state’s Police Minister. You’re the sort of cop I hope my sons would become if they join the Force. Oh, and thanks for giving me your badge. I’ll put it to good use.
To Rob Sharp, Matt Longlands, Howard Collins and all the team at Transport. Bloody Hell! Who was in charge before I arrived? Thanks for making it look like I fixed all the mistakes my predecessor made.
To Caroline MacKanness and the team at Veterans. You know yours is the only portfolio I ever wanted. My only stated career achievement was opening the Anzac Memorial renovations standing alongside Prince Harry and his wife, what’s-her-name.
To my personal staff, it’s no secret around these parts that my office is the most professional, brutal, calculating, articulate and hard working than any other in Government. They can swear like troopers and could drink for Australia. And the blokes can hold their own too. Tracey and Vanessa in media – I warned you both that being the Press Secretary to an ex Press Secretary would be a gruelling experience. I hope I met that expectation. And of course my messaging was always assisted by our freelance media team, Ben English, Jason Morrison and Linda Silmalis. To the policy team, John and Trish. Imagine having to explain complex matters to a bloke who already knows everything. To Anna and Levy our Department Liaison Officers – I never really worked out what you do but the fact you both always did it with a smile on your face makes me very suspicious.
To Vyish – I’ve only really had three Private Secretaries over the last 20 years. You came at a difficult time and therefore my gift to you is that you’re the only one I won’t embarrass tonight. Thank you for being a wonderful addition to Team Elliott.
To Ross, my driver. I really really hope and pray that you haven’t kept a diary.
When I inherited the seat of Baulkham Hills the margin was about 10 percent. It’s consistently returned me with a margin twice that. Whilst this should not be a surprise to anyone there are two distinct reasons for this fact. First, because I was never there. Secondly because Kim, Leanne and Helen have dedicated their lives to making sure my constituents had everything they need. They were ably assisted by Rahul Jethi, Ken Norris and Samuel Uno who managed to get me elected in spite of myself three times. Thank you.
Now, to my Chief of Staff Tanya. Everyone knows our formidable partnership isn’t over. Not by a long shot. Nicole thinks you’ve suffered enough but I don’t. My ambition is to make your life as miserable as you’ve made mine for as long as I can. And given I’m still seven years from retirement you’re in servitude until I say otherwise. Anyway, good luck with finding a new job having my name on your resume!
And to my previous Chief of Staff, Katherine. I’ll never forgive you for leaving me and putting Tanya in charge.
I would also like to pay tribute to the many union officials I’ve dealt with over the last eight years. Stuart Little, Alex Glassaans, and the great Tony King of the Police Association. We’ve had some cracking fights but I’ve always felt our meetings were respectful. But, mark my words, Alex, if you don’t put that Enterprise Agreement to your members soon you I will resurrect myself out of the political tomb I’m to be laid to rest in and I will haunt you until you do.
Mr Speaker the last thing I want to do is thank some very special parliamentary colleagues who have made this journey just that little bit more bearable.
The Member for Seven Hills for his long term friendship and his unique hearing skills – your ability to hear my bar fridge open from a great distance is nothing short of superhuman.
The Member for Rockdale for his encouragement whenever things went pear shaped.
The Member for Castle Hill for his unfiltered enthusiasm in opposing everything I did as Transport Minister.
The Members for Londonderry and Canterbury for their courage in beating cancer whilst being mothers and partners. Your battle should always serve as a reminder that our own problems need to be put into perspective.
The Member for Penrith – here’s to plenty more long Sunday lunches. Nicole keeps reminding me that we really enjoyed the last one.
The Member for Northern Tablelands for his sage advice.
The Member for Pittwater for his intellect and dignity.
The Member for Prospect for his brutal, but always clinically accurate, assessment of my character.
The Members for Sydney and Balmain for helping me find my “sensitive” side on the odd occasion.
The Member for Ryde for his humour and patience in trying to show me the wonders of the interweb.
To the Ladies representing Port Macquarie, Holsworthy, East Hills and Miranda – thank you for chaperoning my young Anzac Ambassadors on their overseas adventures over the last eight years. I know you spent more time making sure certain Labor colleagues and I kept out of trouble than you did worrying about our students. As Humphrey Bogart said to Ingrid Bergman “We’ll always have Paris”.
The Member for Campbelltown – Nicole’s just happy I’ve left your evil influence.
Member for Granville, please delete all our text exchanges. I have. I don’t think Sydney could cope with that many “Truth Bombs”. Actually that goes for about a dozen of those sitting opposite. You know who you are.
The Members for Swansea and Lismore for their hugs.
The Member for Cessnock for representing me at my family’s functions in his electorate, and for reassuring them I was one of your “Labor” colleagues.
The Member for Lane Cove, like so many diggers you’ve always been able to scrounge around for supplies when I’m under attack. I’ve particularly been grateful for your ability to light up a smoke for me whenever I’m stressed. It’s great you’ve now got me down to three packets a day.
The Member for Lakemba for making sure I never finished visits to your electorate feeling hungry but seriously mate, why do the Lebanese all think a famine is about to start?
The Member for Hornsby – whilst I’m reluctant to let you continue your parliamentary service unsupervised, I’m forced to admit that your unwavering passion in advancing causes you believe in is a rare trait in modern politics.
To the Member for Epping, so many of the stories I feel I should be putting in the public domain cannot be aired, even under Parliamentary Privilege, not until at least one of us is dead. So I will just leave you with this golf ball. Because recreation is cheaper than procreation.
Mr Speaker, whilst I’m sad to leave the service of this House I accept the circumstances in which I find myself. Let’s face it, my guardian angel could only do so much.
So I’ll leave this House, one last time, with the thoughts of another great character of English Literature.
It was Winnie the Pooh who famously versed:
“How lucky am I to have had something that makes saying goodbye so hard.””