December 06, 2023

It's a privilege to follow those heartfelt words from my friend the member for Paterson. This is an incredibly hard debate for all of us, but I think it's one of those days where you see parliament shine through. I was here for the passing of Don Randall, and the love and affection for Don was something that was clear across the chamber. He was a hard man and he fought for his beliefs every day. The parliament united to honour his passing, and to see the same thing for Peta Murphy, the member for Dunkley, someone who—it is a great honour to say—was a friend and comrade, is parliament at its best. I want to start with that. When I was sitting down to think about what I'd say about Peta in my contribution, there were three words that struck me which I knew had to be central, because they were central to Peta: bravery, honesty and empathy. For me, they were the three characteristics, the personality, that characterised Peta's life and her service in this place. It was a life of immeasurable contribution to the people of this country and to people beyond the borders of this country, contributions which Peta made in such a short time—only 50 years. I'll reflect on her parliamentary career, as everyone else has, but I just want to spend a bit of time on the six roles that brought her here, because I think they characterise her fundamental being; they characterise how she wanted to live her life and contribute to her fellow human beings. They are: volunteer, public defender, barrister, law reformer, health advocate and then policy adviser and chief of staff.

She volunteered her time at a community legal centre. I'm not a lawyer, but I do see a fair number of people coming through asking for legal assistance. They do it because they've got nowhere else to turn to. Often their cases are hopeless, or they don't have the resources to pursue cases or they don't have the opportunity to understand the legal system. For Peta to volunteer at her community legal centre and give her time to fight for people without a voice—who, by definition, did not have the ability to turn to anyone else—was just a testament to her character.

Then, to be a senior public defender at Victoria Legal Aid must have been a remarkable experience. Legal Aid performs such a hugely important role in our system. But the people who work there are under constant stress. They're underresourced and have to deal with cases with very little background and with very little support. Often, they're dealing with some of the most troubling cases in the system, fighting against structural injustice. For Peta to be a public defender was another very significant contribution.

To be a barrister and argue before the courts of the land was a remarkable achievement. And the one I think I could see shining through in everything she did in this place, was as a team leader at the Victorian Law Reform Commission. To fight every day to reform the law, to make the law more accessible to all people, to argue for equality of access to the law and for justice for all just demonstrated her commitment to improving the world. And there was her advocacy on health issues. She was a director on the board of Peninsula Health—again, advocating for people who didn't have a voice and advocating for people who the system had been left behind. That speaks to her character.

Then, finally, before entering parliament, she was a new policy adviser and chief of staff to Brendan O'Connor in his role as shadow minister for employment and workplace relations. That's when I had my first interactions with Peta. She had a fierce intellect. She was used to dealing with MPs and shadow ministers coming in with bright ideas and convictions. She dealt with them respectfully but was very clear when she disagreed with them, developing good policy that we took to many an election and which, as the Leader of the House said, laid the groundwork for the very important workplace relations reforms that we have driven through this place.

I've highlighted those six roles because I would say that, even if she never got elected to this place, even if she hadn't won Dunkley for the first time in decades for Labor, her life would have been well and truly lived—a life of making a massive contribution to helping her fellow human beings. But then she did get elected; she ran a magnificent campaign in a very tough year for Labor. It was tough going for all Labor candidates and MPs in 2019, particularly for those trying to win seats against incumbents. She ran a brilliant campaign, and then she went about actually implementing what she committed to. I truly remember her magnificent first speech. I had the honour of sitting near her while she delivered that speech.

I'll talk a bit in a second about her honesty around her cancer returning, but the five things she talked about in that speech, among many other things, that I think were so emblematic of such a wonderful person were: the need to tackle disadvantage; arguing for equality of access to education, health and economic opportunity, which she fought for before she entered parliament and dedicated her life to; her love of her local community; and her overarching ethos of not letting a day's opportunity pass by. First speeches are always challenging things for people because you want to talk about your priorities, you want to talk about your community and you want to talk about what animates you, but you also want to talk about other things that are important to you. The fifth thing that struck me was that she talked about her love of squash and the injustice in the lack of recognition for squash as an international sport. I just found it amazing and refreshing that, while talking about equality of access to education and while talking about the need to tackle disadvantage, she also wanted to tackle inequality in the sporting system by arguing for squash to get the recognition it deserved. Occasionally we talk about who are the great sportspeople of this place. She undoubtedly was one of the greatest.

Then it came to the most poignant part of her speech, which is where she disclosed not just her battle with cancer but the fact that it had returned. For her to deliver what is the hardest speech for any of us—I'm convinced that the first speech is the hardest speech for anyone in this place—and to then be honest with people here, around the country and around the world about the return of her cancer was remarkable bravery and remarkable honesty. You could hear a pin drop in the chamber when she did that. It was something of huge significance.

Then there are her actions as an MP. She did not let a single day pass. She lived and breathed the ethos of her speech. Every day she advocated for those doing it tough. She fought to support others, especially those in the critical role of carers, and she fought for the rights and needs of unpaid carers. She clearly supported those dealing with gambling addiction in her leadership of that inquiry. She supported the victims of robodebt. She dedicated many, many thousands of hours to raising the profile of women's health, and every day she celebrated her bayside home community. These were her actions in this place every single day, and it was a remarkable contribution in such a short period of time—in only 4½ years.

Before concluding I just want to reflect a bit on her honesty—her sometimes brutal honesty. The member for Paterson talked about the rose, and I saw that in action in caucus and in this place. She did not suffer fools gladly. She was quite sick of men patronising women in this place. She was sick of hypocrites. I think hypocrisy was the thing she could not stand the most. I was always very nervous when I was speaking in front of Peta because she had a truth detector, and, if you were BS-ing, you could tell on her face that she was calling you out. I think that honesty is more and more needed in this place, and I think it's a testament to her that she had the bravery and conviction to stand up for her community but also to stand up and call out poor actions by anyone, not just on the other side of politics but in her own party.

Can I pass on my condolences to her parents, Bob and Jan; her sisters, Jodi and Penni; and, most particularly, her husband, Rod Glover, someone who I had the privilege of working with a decade ago. Rod, can I say how sorry I am on behalf of not just myself but the community of Shortland. We have lost such a magnificent human being. You've lost the love of your life. We are all immeasurably poorer for her passing, but we are so much richer for her contribution. Vale, Peta Murphy.