Farewell Address to Parliament
The Hon. Kevin Rudd MP
Madam Speaker, there comes a time in our lives as parliamentarians when our families finally say enough is enough.
And my family has reached just such a time.
We ask much of our families in this place.
And in the case of my family, well above and way beyond the call of duty.
The truth is the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, which regrettably have become the stock and trade for so many in public life, hit home to our families as well.
This applies particularly to the families of our parliamentary leaders.
For our family, recent statements since the September election have been particularly hurtful.
As parliamentarians, we might say we become inured to all of this, although I doubt it.
For our families, however, I believe it becomes harder, not easier, with the passing of the years.
And it affects their ability to get on building their own lives and careers as well.
My family have given their all for me in public life, and for the nation.
And it is now time I gave something back to them.
This has been the product of much soul searching for us as a family over the last few months.
And the decision I have made has not been taken lightly, particularly given the deep attachment I have for the community I have proudly represented in this place these last 15 years.
But for me, my family is everything. Always has been. Always will be, which is why I will not be continuing as a member of this parliament beyond this week.
I also believe it was right and proper that I report my decision to the parliament at the earliest opportunity. And that day is today. And I have chosen to do so now so as to create minimal disruptions to the normal proceedings of the House.
My predecessors as Prime Minister, Prime Ministers Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke and Keating, reached similar decisions to leave the parliament before the subsequent election.
As did would-be Prime Ministers Hewson, Costello and Downer.
And perhaps Prime Minister Howard would have done had he retained his seat of Bennelong after the 2007 election, although we will never know.
I wish to thank my local community, the good burghers of Griffith, for electing me to this place.
They are good people. And they are a great community. And I am proud of the new libraries, classrooms and multi-purpose facilities we have built in each and every one of my local primary schools.
And the hundreds of new laptops in high schools which before had none, or very few.
I just love the smiles on the kids' faces, and on their teachers' faces as I visit them, and schools like them right across Australia.
I also thank the people of Australia for electing me as their Prime Minister.
To have served as Prime Minister of Australia has been a great honour afforded to very few in our country's history.
For the future, I wish the Prime Minister and his government well because I wish Australia well.
The Prime Ministership of this Commonwealth is not easy. It is the hardest job in the land.
The expectations of whoever holds the office are infinite while the resources available are finite.
And so I wish Tony, his wife Margie and their family all the best for the rigors of high office that inevitably lie ahead.
This is a good country. Australians are by instinct a good people.
The rest of the world, more often than we think, also looks to us to help provide answers to the challenges facing humankind, not just tending to our own.
And so too I wish my good friends the Treasurer, and the Foreign Minister, all the very best for the complex global challenges that lie ahead.
As I do my good friend the Member for Wentworth, who remains a particular adornment to the parliament.
For the Australian Labor Party, the party of which I have been a proud member for more than 30 years, and a parliamentary member for fifteen, the future of Australian progressive politics lies within your hands.
I wish the newly elected leader Bill Shorten all the best in the great task that lies ahead.
Having served as Leader of the Opposition myself, this is never a position for the faint-hearted. There are always long dark nights of the soul. But believe it or not, morning does come, often sooner than you think.
Bill brings great strengths to the position and I have every confidence he will lead Labor's return to the Treasury benches.
I also wish to thank Albo for his extraordinary service as Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the House.
Albo is the most formidable parliamentarian in this place, as is recognized on both sides of the chamber.
He also has a passionate commitment to the cause of progressive politics.
And in my long years in this House, his loyalty has been beyond reproach.
I would also thank Chris Bowen for his great contribution to our party and government, and his future contribution as well.
It is a singular honour to serve in the high office of Prime Minister of Australia.
I have in the past few days looked at my first speech in this place back in 1998. You will be pleased to know that none of us have changed one bit in the years since them.
I said back then that I believed politics was about power, and whether that power was for the many or the few.
Fifteen years later, that remains my view.
I said back then that I believed in the politics of hope, not in the politics of fear.
Fifteen years later, that remains my view, because as Martin Luther King has famously remarked, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
I also said way back then, that I had no interest in being here for the sake of being here, and that the only point of being here was to make a difference for the betterment of all.
Fifteen years later, that remains my view as well.
In fact I have found nothing that I would change from my first speech all those years ago.
I set out to achieve many things as Prime Minister. In some of these I succeeded. In others l did not. Such is the nature of politics.
But when the history is one day written, detached from the passions of the time, perhaps it will be remembered we navigated Australia through the worst global economic crisis since the Depression, without recession, without the scourge of mass unemployment, and with our triple A credit ratings intact.
It may also be remembered that we helped establish the G20 as the premier institution of global economic governance as well as securing Australian membership of it.
That we ratified Kyoto because we believe in the reality of climate change and we acted on our commitments to reduce carbon emissions.
That we brought into being Australia's first ever national school curriculum, our first ever paid parental leave scheme, and the biggest age pension increase in our history.
And that as a nation we finally delivered an official apology to Aboriginal Australians.
Nothing has brought me greater joy in political life than the smiles I have seen on the faces of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, young and old, country and city, as a result of the apology.
I hope though that we have achieved some healing of the soul, although it will only be through the final closing of the gap that we achieve a healing of broken bodies as well.
It was also my privilege to be asked by my parliamentary colleagues, including Bill, Albo and Chris to return to the Prime Ministership earlier this year.
This too was not a task for the faint hearted.
I was glad that together we were able to save the furniture, and in fact do considerably better than that, and return Labor as a fighting force for the next election.
More importantly, we began the process of reforming the party though the new democratic processes for electing our leader.
But I believe this is but the first step.
Our party must continue to reform, to be the party of the reforming, progressive center of Australian politics: the party of the future economy, of social equity and of environmental sustainability.
The party of working people, the party of small business, and the party of our local communities.
And a fully democratised party where we also see the election of our national conference, our national executive and our Senate candidates though direct democratic election by our party membership.
And in time primaries for our candidates for this house through a shared electoral college of both our party members and our registered supporters.
In the meantime, I look forward to a full, democratic preselection process for all local party members to elect our next candidate for Griffith.
Madam Speaker, for the future my passion remains with indigenous reconciliation and in the year ahead I plan to establish a National Apology Foundation to keep alive the spirit and the substance of the apology I delivered in this place six years ago.
I will also continue to support the great causes of homelessness, organ donation and the future of multicultural Australia including foreign language education and inter- faith dialogue.
As members of this House also know well, I am both passionately Australian, and passionately a citizen of the world. I intend to be active in the international community in areas where I can make a genuine contribution to peace and stability, global economic governance and sustainable development including climate change.
In this context, I will also focus on China's future role in the region and the world. As Australia is the voice of the west in the east, and in time I hope a voice for the east in the west, I believe there is a useful role for Australians to play as an engaged, intelligent and sympathetic bridge between these two hemispheres, and between China and the United States in particular, in the challenging half century that lies ahead.
Finally Madam speaker, I wish to thank through you, and the Clerk, all the parliamentary staff for their unfailing professionalism and friendship all these years.
It is they who uphold the great institution that is the parliament itself.
I wish to thank the Australian Public Service as one of our great national institutions, and its professional commitment to the defence of the continuing national interests of our Commonwealth.
I also wish to thank all my staff, past and present, Prime Ministerial, Foreign Ministerial and electoral, for their loyalty, hard work and friendship over the years - and above all their overriding commitment to Australia.
I thank too the press gallery for their coverage both good and bad, and continue to encourage them to apply all necessary programmatic specificity to the task of holding the government of the day to account.
To the members of this parliament, both friend and foe, and I can confidently say they are spread equally across both sides of this chamber, I thank you for the privilege of working with you.
Whatever has been said, and a lot that has been hurtful has been said, I bear none any malice. Life is too short for that.
For new members of this place in particular, I wish you well. This parliament is a great institution. As members, you will choose what type of parliamentarian you wish to become. Positive or negative. Knowledgeable or otherwise.
And to my life partner Therese for enduring 32 years of marriage on this very day, to my daughter Jess, her husband Albert, our beautiful granddaughter Josephine, my son Nick and his wife Zara, and our youngest son Marcus, you mean everything to me.
In the days ahead, Therese and I will be spending some time together overseas to plan the next phase of our lives. I would ask my good friends in the fourth estate to give us privacy as I have ceased being a public figure. And I'm not planning on any interviews anytime soon.
Australia is a remarkable country. It is the land of remarkable opportunity. To think that the son of a dairy farmer, whose family had little money, could secure a place at university through the Whitlam reforms, and upon graduation become a diplomat, then serve as the chief of staff to a Premier, be elected to parliament to represent the Australian Labor Party, and ultimately to be elected as Leader of the Opposition, and then Prime Minister, says everything about this extraordinary country Australia.
And for these remarkable opportunities, I will always be grateful, so thank you Australia.
And so, having said all that, on this final occasion in the parliament, and as is now officially recorded in the classics for occasions such as this, it really is time for me to zip.