Condolence motion

6 February 2024

I rise to make a brief contribution with respect to our friend Peta Murphy. I make this contribution also on behalf of my staff, one who previously worked with me and one who is currently with me—namely John Conlon, who worked for Peta up until her last day; and Sue Heath. When I first came to the Senate, Sue started working with me, and I seconded her onto Peta’s campaign back in 2019. She is still with me today.

I know both of them will be watching. Both have been very special in Peta’s life and are really feeling her loss right now. That’s really because Peta, as we’ve heard, is probably one of the best examples of being an excellent local member of parliament. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who was so passionate, so articulate, so direct and a real champion of the people that she represented in the community of Dunkley. She was, as we’ve heard, someone who didn’t hold back. She was a matter of fact, extremely intelligent and dedicated individual who had a number of issues close to her heart which she wanted to see improve in this country, particularly around health care. It was so fitting to see the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese; and the Premier of Victoria, Jacinta Allan, only a few days ago dedicate a new breast imaging suite at Frankston Hospital in her honour. I think that’s a really touching tribute to the work that Peta managed to achieve in her brief time here at Parliament House. As we’ve heard, she has been a passionate advocate for the people of Dunkley and always stood up for her values. Most of us know that she was a wonderful friend, and we’ve heard many contributions in the other place late last year and today on that note.

Being the duty senator for Dunkley back in 2019, I got to know Peta very well. It was a very long and difficult campaign, but it was one where we had a lot of satisfaction—obviously, as Senator Walsh pointed out, toing and froing with the former member for Dunkley. I’m sure that the voice of Peta still rings in our heads every time issues like that do pop up on social media. It was really great to see Peta finally break through and actually win that 2019 campaign. Although we came from very different parts of the party, we shared very strong Labor values. We shared the common goal to not just win Dunkley for Labor but form a Labor government, because, when you form a Labor government, you can actually implement Labor policy.

We shared a birthday together, 1 November—so two very strongly minded Scorpios clashing, but the 2019 campaign proved otherwise, and we managed to get through it. We did enjoy a drink afterwards. We also shared the same day for our first speeches. We also had the member for Jagajaga attend the chamber as well. The three of us shared that special moment together.

It seems like only yesterday but such a long time ago now. I was delighted to attend her election party down in Frankston North. She was so excited, so passionate and very keen to start a long career in this place and for her community. When I was told about her cancer coming back, it really brought back a lot of memories about the struggles that she had gone through and often the hope that she saw with Rod and her lovely dogs, Bert and Ernie. But, really, it made sure that she was determined, more so than ever, to continue the fight of standing up for her community, fighting for Labor policy and making sure that we won the last election. She leaves a very big mark in this place and, as I mentioned, especially in my office, where she made some really deep friendships with those who were closer with her. All of us in the ALP are heartbroken that she’s no longer with us. She’ll be terribly missed.

The upcoming by-election is a difficult time for all of us on this side. Losing a friend, a colleague, is difficult at the best of times, but fighting an election in her honour presents an opportunity for us to really honour her legacy. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge her team, her office, her staff and all the volunteers that connected with Peta, and their loyalty to her in ensuring that we continue to serve the people of Dunkley during this time. I pass on my sincere condolences to Rod, her family, her staff and all her friends. I’m terribly sorry for your loss.

To senators Marielle Smith and Jess Walsh, you made beautiful speeches and a great contribution to someone who I think we’re all proud to say was not just a colleague but a very special friend indeed. Vale, Peta.