Senator RYAN (Victoria—Special Minister of State and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cabinet) (10:09): It is a great honour that my colleagues in the government have nominated me for this distinguished position.
It is not a circumstance that I thought would present itself, nor one that I particularly thought would present itself to me personally in the immediate years before me.
The role of this chamber in our Constitution is something I have always treasured. I have studied it, I have taught it and I have always been a strong defender of it. It plays a unique role in giving Australians a voice who might not often have a voice in the other chamber, represented not necessarily by a geographic constituency but by interests they may form collectively through voluntary association or through their efforts in our community. I treasure this chamber and the role it plays. I seek your support.
I appreciate that it is not common for someone to resign from the ministry, as I have done, to contest this. But it is not unprecedented. I am advised there have been eight former presidents who have previously served as ministers. I understand that the most recent one was my distinguished predecessor the Labor senator Douglas McClelland. He too served as Special Minister of State in a previous life. I think this particular portfolio gives me a unique perspective on how to put forward and defend the interests of senators and the Senate itself.
As I mentioned in my earlier statement, I appreciate that it is rare that someone has stepped down from the ministry to take on this position, and, with your support, I am honoured to do so. I do emphasise: I am now your servant. I now represent all senators. I’m no longer part of the executive government. And I will treat every senator on their merits as an individual representative of their state, regardless of party or office held. I thank you once again for the distinguished honour which you have granted me.