It is an honour and a thrill to rise to acknowledge two great Australians who have announced that they are leaving this parliament at the next election. There are few members of parliament who leave at their peak, in their prime and at a time of their own choosing. It is very much to the credit of the Deputy Prime Minister, the member for Wide Bay, and the Minister for Trade and Investment, member for Goldstein, that they are doing just that.
Warren Truss was a remarkably effective minister in the Howard government. He has been a peerless Leader of the National Party for almost a decade and he was an absolutely outstanding Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. Thanks to the member for Wide Bay, the Deputy Prime Minister and infrastructure minister, Sydney’s second airport is finally under way. Thanks to him Sydney’s WestConnex is finally happening. Thanks to him the Bruce Highway is undergoing the biggest upgrade in its history, the north-south road corridor in Adelaide is finally being upgraded to expressway standard and Perth’s road system is also being transformed. But for the obstinacy of the Victorian government, thanks to the Deputy Prime Minister and infrastructure minister Melbourne would be getting the East West Link too.
These are remarkable achievements. This is a historic legacy. This is someone who has quite literally transformed the face of our country. His legacy is a decade of coalition harmony and the steady growth of the National Party under his leadership. I often used to talk about grown-up, adult government and the instant I used that phrase I would look to Warren Truss to ensure that it was in fact provided. The foreign minister talked about the Deputy Prime Minister’s dry and droll wit. I can remember, after listening to one of his colleagues in leadership, Warren said, ‘That sounds a bit like a Treasury wet dream,’ and then he said, ‘No, Treasury only has dry dreams.’
As has been remarked, Warren, the member for Wide Bay, has been an undemonstrative, understated member of the government. He has also been an absolutely decent and honourable member of this place and member of a government. We need more people like that—we really do—and Warren’s lives and times prove that we can get them.
Andrew Robb, as we have heard, has been a successful and effective servant of the Liberal Party. He was a great frontbencher in opposition and, as the Prime Minister has observed, he is the best trade minister Australia has ever had. No ifs, no buts—the record is there to demonstrate that he is the best trade minister Australia has ever had.
After the 2013 election I gave him 12 months to finalise free trade agreements that had been languishing for the best part of the decade with Korea, with Japan and with China. I said, ‘Don’t let the best be the enemy of the good.’ Almost to a day he finalised those free trade agreements, and our country is immeasurably the better for that work. He has set us up for decades to come.
As has been mentioned, this is a sad occasion and a happy occasion. We are sad that our friends and colleagues will not be with us beyond the next election but we are happy that we had them for so long and we are happy that our country has been the beneficiary of the most productive years of their lives. We are sad, but of course Lyn and Maureen, rightly, are happy to be able to have their spouses with them much more in the years to come.
In this parliament we are very good at saying the right thing. We are not always nearly so good at doing the right thing, but both the member for Wide Bay and the member for Goldstein have done the right thing in every way. Our country is better for their public life. I join with my other senior colleagues in saying to both of them: ‘Well done, good and faithful servants.’