Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
I thank the Prime Minister for his very touching words.
This sitting year has been sadly and tragically book-ended by the loss of two remarkable parliamentarians – Jim Molan and Peta Murphy.
Both, indeed, as the Prime Minister rightly points out, were wonderful characters and respected across the political aisle.
Both courageously battled, but tragically fell to cancer.
And both were marvellous people whose legacies have left an imprint on our nation and whose lives epitomised the very best of the Australian character.
The shock and sadness of Peta’s passing on Monday is still visible on the faces in this place today.
It’s my privilege to join the Prime Minister in honouring the life of Peta Jan Murphy.
When we remember the lives of the departed, we ask those central questions which occupy the minds of biographers and obituary writers:
‘What made the person the way they were?’
‘What made them tick?’
There were many factors which made Peta Murphy tick.
She was the girl born in Goulburn and raised in Wagga – a very proud product of the public school system.
Peta grew up during the Hawke and Keating Governments.
She spoke about her admiration for our 23rd and 24th Prime Ministers in the way that they’d enlarged our national imagination.
And in many ways, the inspiration Peta drew from Australia’s longest serving Labor Government forged her into the idealist that we all knew.
It was that idealism which saw her possess an unfaltering faith in our democratic system.
She had an unbreakable belief in the ‘cauldron of Australia’s national conversation’ – in the power of ideas and robust debates to break through the walls of brute politicking.
But Peta the idealist was also tempered by Peta the realist.
Prior to entering politics, she worked as a solicitor, as a barrister and as senior public defender.
In those roles she represented, as she put it, ‘the damaged and the difficult, victims and perpetrators, the blameless and the blameworthy’.
And through her work in the justice system and legal profession, Peta knew only too well the vicious cycle of disadvantage and dysfunction which swallows up so many lives.
It was this cycle she wanted to help break – a motivating factor for her seeking political office.
A further factor was the rotten circumstances thrust upon Peta’s life.
Not once, but twice did she find herself in the trenches battling that ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘sneaky’ adversary of breast cancer.
In recent days, many of us have revisited the interview Peta gave to Stellar Magazine last August, and the profound letter she wrote to her past self which is published on the website of the Breast Cancer Network Australia.
Peta spoke about her utter disappointment in not being able to have children following her cancer treatment, despite successive rounds of IVF.
Her thoughts were with her husband Rod.
She said, “It’s no small thing for someone’s partner to go through.”
As a parliamentarian contending with cancer, Peta bore burdens of the mind and pains of the body that most of us will never fathom.
Yet how remarkable – despite all that she was going through and the pressures of public office – that she so rarely dropped her sunny disposition or was devoid of a smile.
To paraphrase Peta’s words, she took a deep breath: she chose to use the bumps in her life’s journey to make a difference as a Member of Parliament.
And make a difference she most certainly did, living up to the ideals that she set for herself.
Peta made a difference to the people of Dunkley whom she described as ‘rich with talent and compassion’.
Peta made a difference to the people of our country.
We often saw her speak in a heartfelt and heroic way about those causes dear to her – namely, bettering the lives of women, children, and families.
She certainly bettered many Australian lives through her extensive contributions to parliamentary committees.
Most notably, as the Chair of the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs and its report into online gambling.
That report illuminated the harm which online gambling is inflicting on our communities and children, especially from the bombardment of advertising.
And we all commend that meticulous work which Peta led and had a great passion for.
Peta also made a huge difference to the women of Australia.
She received her second breast cancer diagnosis almost eight years after her first and only days after being sworn in.
Using her profile as a parliamentarian, Peta engaged in unrelenting advocacy for breast cancer awareness-raising, treatment and funding.
Thanks to Peta’s campaigning, Australian women have booked in to get that check up.
Thanks to Peta’s industriousness, Australian women have benefited from early detection.
Thanks to Peta’s endeavours, Australian women are with us today who would otherwise not be.
The brevity of Peta’s life reminds us of her prophetic words in her maiden parliamentary speech where she said, and I quote:
‘Life can be fragile and we’d better make the most of it.’
Leaving us at only the age of 50, we all know that Peta had so, so much more to say.
So much more to contribute.
So much more to do.
Some of us may wonder what the remarkable Peta Murphy would have done next.
But in that wondering heartache, perhaps we may find some solace in gratitude.
Gratitude simply to have known Peta.
Gratitude to have had someone of Peta’s calibre and qualities serve our country and grace this chamber with her presence.
And gratitude for a life which others will look back on to inspire their own idealism and ignite their own sense of national imagination.
On behalf of the Coalition, I offer my heartfelt condolences to Peta’s beloved husband, Rod.
To her mum and dad, Bob and Jan.
To her sisters Jodi and Penni.
To her extended family and friends.
Particularly today, to her staff who worked so closely with her, and as the Prime Minister rightly points out, had great admiration for her.
Importantly also today, to her Labor colleagues, especially the Member for Gorton for whom she served as a Chief of Staff.
To her many, many friends on this side of the chamber.
May Peta Murphy rest in peace.