Condolences - Ms Peta Jan Murphy

Condolences - Ms Peta Jan Murphy

Look, Pete, no notes! It's a personal joke. It's an intimate joke. But it's a joke about this chamber and it's a joke about the person that we are celebrating today, and her incredible capacity on joining what we fondly call 'Club Fed' in the Labor Party, and leaving an imprint in the first weeks of her being here.

When Pete joined the FPLP and joined the House of Representatives, she walked through the door like we all do. She came through the door as a local member; she came through the door, as all of us on this side do, as a Labor member; and she came through the door as a member of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia as a parliamentarian. The piece of advice I was given when I was first elected was that I needed to make sure that I hit that 33-33-33. Thirty-three per cent of your work is about your community, 33 per cent of your work is within the party and 33 per cent of your work is as a parliamentarian. I've always aspired to try and live that. Peta Murphy did live that every day.

In my contribution today I want to talk about Peta Murphy the local member, because the people of Dunkley sent her here, and what a warrior for them they found. When Pete and I talked, it was often outer suburbs to outer suburbs, the girl from Werribee talking to the girl from Frankston, previously from Wagga—I think you get the drift. We had a bit in common about the core of the communities that we represented, and the history of that. And it oozed from Peta—her love for that community, her love for that place: her love for Frankston, her love for the people of Dunkley she represented here. It was referenced earlier by the member for Berowra: if you haven't checked her Instagram feed, as the saying goes, 'Do yourself a favour.' If you're a member of parliament, do yourself a big favour and go and see how hard a local member works in their community when they know that every minute counts. Peta exemplified that local member.

The memories I will take of Pete in this place include her flying—soaring—in a 90-second statement three months into her first term—absolutely soaring from the back rows on that side in opposition, and stopping this parliament dead. No-notes Pete. She could do it with one idea and passion, and that's what made her such a powerful advocate in everything she did. It was because she spoke from the core of herself, from the core of her beliefs, and that drove her. The core of her beliefs was that her critical role was to improve the lives of the people of Dunkley. I know that they mourn with all of us today, and I know that because in every conversation, when given an amount of time—and in my role that amount of time might have been sneakily checking on Pete's welfare, sneakily shaping the conversation where I needed her to slow down a little bit or was concerned about her health—she would, as quickly as lightning, change the subject and tell the story about someone in Dunkley who was really doing it tough. She was so close to that community; she knew the people of Dunkley so intimately—their struggles, their accomplishments, their aspirations, the hurdles they were facing—and she brought them all to bear in this place. She brought them to bear with her Labor heart and with her fierceness that many people have spoken about.

I think about the number of times I was in committee meetings with her—not necessarily parliamentary committee meetings, as I had the privilege of chairing the internal Labor Party social policy committee. When Peta Murphy joined that committee, she made an impact in the first week. The impact wasn't because she made some solid speech. It wasn't about a massive piece of paper or a document she put on the table. It was because from her contributions everyone lifted their game. They were inspired to match Pete. She lifted our whole caucus. She lifted our aspirations. In the days of the pandemic, that was important. We were miles apart, states apart, on Zooms or telephones, talking about policy, the things that we would prioritise if we were to win government, and how to build back after the pandemic. Peta drove a lot of those conversations—online, on the phone, in committee meetings, privately on the phone after a committee meeting, debriefing, talking about how far we might take something, and at what point we needed to concede that we'd won something. And then we won government, and Pete made those same contributions from this side of the chamber. There was still the soaring rhetoric, but with the capacity to drill down, drop the eloquence and speak directly from her core. She could do both beautifully.

There are many Labor members who have paid tribute to her years of service. The member for Gorton put it so eloquently that I won't try to record her history in the Labor Party—no one could did it as well as he. As a member of the House of Representatives and as a parliamentarian, she also lifted us. She lifted us in this space when she saw an absolutely outrageous idea—she challenged it early, she challenged it hard, and she challenged it without looking over her shoulder or looking to see if everyone was following her. She had decided it was a bad idea and she would make it go away. Pete managed to do that more than once.

Her contributions to our policy development have been extraordinary, and only increased in government. We've heard testament today about her work in committees since we took government, and that has been extraordinary. And there was her work in her passion areas around breast cancer—around cancer—and also around the gaming industry. Again, when you talked to Peta about the report that was authored by the committee she chaired about the gaming industry, she would talk about the people she had met. She understood that storytelling, that narrative, is a way to change the world, and so she would tell you that.

In the last long conversation I had with Peta, she was telling me about a young man that had given evidence to her committee. He had signed up to the never-bet-again process. She said, 'He gave such strong evidence about how he knew it was the right thing to do but, even so, he wondered if he could actually press the button that meant he'd be blocked from gambling for life.' He went on and told his story to other people—how, once he pressed the button, he felt an absolute wave of relief that he had taken action to change his life. He became an advocate in the cause to assist other people changing their lives. Peta understood that his story would touch me, and that I could retell that story and it would touch someone else. She understood the power of narrative, as well as the power of legislation.

The other thing about Peta Murphy—everyone has talked about it, but I want to say something about it too—is that we did see her courage. It took great courage to make the commitment that she made, particularly in these last few months, to be here every day. But she did so, and she didn't see it as courageous; she saw it as doing her job, as living her promise and as doing the job for the people of Dunkley and for the people of Australia. She reminded us every day, in working beside her, that we need to make the most of every moment in this privileged place and of the privileged roles that we have.

She was also a person that inspired us to understand exactly what that meant. Even last week, when she was here, she asked a question in the House of Representatives, last Tuesday, and then left the chamber that day. In everything, in every ounce of who she was, she was giving to us. We know, on this side, that it meant great sacrifice. In that, I want to pay tribute to Rod; to her parents, Bob and Jan; to her sisters, Jodi and Penni; and to her nieces and nephew, because they shared with us their daughter, their sister and their partner for as long as she could give us and for as long as she could give the country. They supported her to make that choice and to make that commitment. I want to thank Rod, personally, for the way in this last week—across the weekend, in particular, and into Monday—that he kept the Labor family informed. That was an extraordinary thing for him to take the time to do, to think of us. And not just to think of us, as Peta's friends and colleagues, but to think of the country, because that's what Pete would have been thinking when she left the clear instructions that that was what Rod was to do, no doubt!

To know Peta was to love Peta; to listen to Peta was to learn about life, about people and about the way to change the world. If I think about coming into this place in 2013, I walked in with the class of 2013 to join some Labor legends in the federal parliament. Some of us were replacing Labor legends in the federal parliament, with big shoes to fill. And I can think about the class of 2019 coming in to join us—about the quality of the people that come to this place to represent their communities in the name of the Labor Party. I can think of no-one more inspiring than Peta Murphy. Vale, Peta, rest in peace.

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