Alistair Coe's last speech in the Assembly


I rise today for the last time as a member of this place. In many ways the past 12 years have flown by. It is interesting that there are many things that you recall with absolute clarity. Meanwhile, there are many other things that fade away.

Our minds are pretty good at triaging the parts of our history, our careers and our stories that are really significant. More often than not, it is the people, the personal conversations, the connections we establish, the verbal and nonverbal exchanges that are far more memorable than are the debates, the details and the disagreements.

Over the years there have been many issues that I have litigated and I am sure members would be very relieved to know that you are not going to hear another speech from me on light rail or housing affordability. But in all seriousness, I do hope that you can all work on making Canberra a more affordable place, particularly with regard to the cost of housing, so that the relentless pressure that so many families are feeling can be relieved.

Of course, there is no shortage of frustrations coming from a dozen years on the wrong side of the chamber. In many ways, the motivation, commitment and dedication of every opposition member, current and past, is quite extraordinary. Opposition is tough, and it is a credit to all that despite the inevitability of almost every single vote in this place, each MLA maintains the fight and the conviction.

For quite a few years, as I am sure some of you would recall, I certainly maxed out the adjournment debate and I am pleased to have included in the annals of this city many, many achievements and even more names. And I do thank all the staff of the Assembly, both those we see regularly and those who work behind the scenes. I particularly want to acknowledge the wonderful teams in Hansard and the library for all that you do. We take the provision and accuracy of our transcripts for granted. These services are always there when we need it.

I particularly thank the librarians for their patience with the many reports and documents that I have requested, and many yet to return. They will surely emerge as I pack up my office.

There have also been many journalists based here at the Assembly and elsewhere, that have helped along the way with our communication. Of course, the last thing that a journalist wants is to be named in the Assembly by a Liberal. I am sure that would be a very career-limiting move at certain news outlets. But there certainly are some that have gone above and beyond to report the news, to build relationships and to build trust, and I thank them.

To be elected by fellow citizens is very special. The personal satisfaction of election night in 2008 was a wonderful experience. I was written off in that campaign when I was preselected 49 days out from the election. We worked hard and went at a good pace. I am grateful for the many people that supported me in that campaign, many of whom continue to be volunteers, staff, confidantes, friends and supporters throughout my dozen years here.

In 2008 I vividly recall my car breaking down late afternoon on election night. I was pulled over on Castieau Street in Higgins, listening to the electronic pre-poll votes come in. Fittingly, 12 years on, late afternoon on election night, in October 2020, my car broke down again. Perhaps I was being sent a message.

There were many difficult decisions that were taken over the years. Perhaps none more so than decisions regarding leadership. But also the move from Ginninderra to Yerrabi in 2016. To lose 70 per cent of the electorate that you had worked on for over eight years was tough. However it was the right decision. And I am grateful to the Yerrabi electors for their support.

To all my colleagues on both sides, current and former, thank you for your friendship and support. To the wonderful Liberal staff who have served with dedication, distinction, commitment, loyalty, and friendship. I thank you all very much.

I am a proud Liberal. To be a Liberal in this city is tough. Based on what you hear and see in the media, from activists or from many institutions. It would surprise many that there is still around 100,000 people that vote Liberal in this city. More than one in three households still vote Liberal. That is a significant number. they are swimming against the tide. It can take courage to be a Liberal in Canberra. So I take my hat off to all those people that stick to their convictions.

Madam Speaker, I particularly want to thank my wife, Yasmin, for the extraordinary patience and love that she has shown me. I have been very blessed being supported her along this journey.

I also look forward to recalling these days with my beautiful kids, Angus and Annabelle, who really have no idea what I do. When they are asked what my job is apparently they say it is either to stand outside Casey Shops or to cook barbecues. I hope I did both with distinction.

I am also grateful to my parents-in-law, Jerry, and Karen; and my parents, Bruce, and Barbara; my brothers, Phil, and James. Mum and dad, who are here with us today, ride the wave of politics pretty hard. And I am also sure that they will be very relieved to not have to any more letterboxing.

My request and advice to you all is to not take for granted the support that you receive from your family.

In my first speech I made mention of the importance of faith. 12 years on, I am more confident and more vigilant about the importance of protecting and welcoming the input of people of faith into our public discussions.

I am proud of the constituent issues that I worked towards. I am proud of the policies I put forward, including our comprehensive planning policy, and the Rapid Bus Plan in 2016, that was largely adopted by the government.

I am proud of the scrutiny and research I applied, including uncovering the land deals and numerous pieces of legislation to improve transparency. I am proud of the groups that we championed, particularly the small business, faith, and multicultural communities. And I would particularly like to thank the Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Filipino, Chinese and African communities, for the warmth and generosity they have shown me.

I am also proud of some of the mundane day to day things, some of the technical things. Like our question time database, the FOIs, the questions, the correspondence, and all the other things.

But what I am most proud about is the wonderful team that I have had the pleasure and privilege of being part of. Whilst there is no shortage of gutless armchair critics, who anonymously put nasty comments about politicians on Twitter or Facebook, every MLA that I have served with were motivated by the most honourable of reasons.

And one final observation. I think many people on the right of politics can understand why some people are left wing. We disagree, but we understand. Unfortunately, I think there are many in the left who do not understand or comprehend why someone could be in the right wing. All these views are valid and deserve to be respectively heard and considered.

Canberra is a good place. And it has been an honour to serve in the ACT Assembly. I thank the voters of Ginninderra and Yerrabi, and the Liberal Party, for allowing me to represent you. I know that now is the right time to move on from this place. I have a fear that if I were to stay it would turn into a job rather than a calling. Best wishes.