Peta Murphy Condolence Motion

06 December 2023

Today in this House we honour our colleague who we lost just two days ago: Peta Murphy, the member for Dunkley, my beautiful, brilliant, brave and tenacious friend. I am thankful for knowing Peta Murphy and for every moment of her too-short time that I got to share with her. Our parliament, our nation and her beloved local community are so much richer for the immense contribution she made in a relatively short time. She fought for social justice, reform and a fairer future to the very last, even coming here to parliament last week. We are all hurting today, and I acknowledge the heartfelt tributes that we have heard already. Most importantly, my deepest sympathies are with Peta's loving and much loved husband of 24 years, Rod Glover; her parents, Bob and Jan; her sisters, Jodi and Penni; and her dedicated staff.

I first met Peta when we were staffers, when she was working for the then shadow workplace relations and now skills minister, and she was someone I loved working with. I was so excited to hear that she would be running for Dunkley again in 2019, before I thought it was a possibility that I would be running too. As it turned out, we were elected together in 2019 and every step of that journey I have shared with the member for Dunkley. An image of Peta that is clear as day in my mind, and always will be, was seeing her when we arrived at parliament school, walking into the Speaker's courtyard and seeing Peta in a beautiful light grey suit and a white shirt and this smile on her face that said, 'We're really here; let's get on with it,' and Rod beside her smiling too.

Peta had fought so hard to represent her community in this place. When she ran in 2016, the seat had been held by the Liberals for 20 years and had a margin of 5.6 per cent. In spite of gaining a 4.1 per cent swing, Peta didn't win Dunkley in 2016, but, in 2019, with a further 1.7 per cent swing, she was successful and she became the first ALP member for Dunkley since 1996 and the first woman to represent the seat. In 2022, she was elected with an increased margin.

The member for Dunkley didn't waste a moment as an elected representative. Members aren't usually supposed to speak in the chamber until they give their first speech, but Peta got an exemption to speak on the condolence motion for Bob Hawke because he'd been such an inspiration to her. I was in awe of how she did that speech. I was always in awe of her speeches and of her ability to channel her passion, intellect and empathy into such powerful words. Even when there was little opportunity to prepare, she was incredible. Who could forget Peta's withering take-down of an idea, floated by the previous government, to allow women to access their superannuation to help them escape domestic violence. Peta killed that idea off in just 90 seconds.

In part of our parliament schooling, our Labor class for 2019 were asked to think about what we'd like to talk about in our valedictory speeches and to focus on the changes and reforms that we would most like to see achieved before we left this place. I was paired with Peta and, of course, there were many things we talked about. But I remember Peta talking passionately about gender equality and about the introduction of a bill of rights, which, as she then put it in her first speech, would allow complex, important national debates to occur within a comprehensive national human rights framework. It is devastating that we will never get to hear Peta give that speech sometime many years into the future at a time of her choosing, and I can only imagine the mighty things that Peta would have achieved if only she had more time and the contribution she would have made to our parliament and our nation.

Peta, the member of Jagajaga and I gave our first speeches on the same day. But before we would do this, in that time so full of hope, promise and nerves, Peta would receive the unthinkable news that her cancer had returned. The whole time that Peta was here she fought that cruel disease, working through significant suffering. Not that you could've guessed from the incredible amount of work that she did both at home in her community or representing them here in this building. She cared deeply for her constituents and I can't imagine that there is a community group in Dunkley she was not well known to. She was an inspiring example of an MP who could take deep engagement with her electorate into the national policy discussion, to advocate and contribute to the reforms needed to improve the lives of all Australians.

Peta personified tenacity and dedication. She was funny and fun and a true friend. She loved children, including mine, and I will cherish memories of her chasing a footy around with Paul and rocking Elena to sleep when I couldn't manage to settle her. She was someone you could always trust to give advice from a place of love and principle and nothing else—a very special thing, particularly in this place. She was always in your corner.

Peta said that she was neither unique nor alone in her fight against cancer but that she had a platform that could be used to benefit others, and she used every opportunity to raise awareness and advocate for the 19,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer, or the 145,000 Australians diagnosed with some form of cancer, each year.

Just last week, Peta was here in parliament in part to host the launch of the Breast Cancer Network Australia's report entitled Time to count people with metastatic breast cancer. The report presents a road map on how Australia can collect and report cancer occurrence data, without which we cannot adequately plan and meet healthcare needs. It is something that BCNA and Peta have long advocated for. Devastatingly, Peta was hospitalised that day and couldn't be at the event, but she said that establishing a national registry for metastatic breast cancer could serve as a trial for a registry for all metastatic cancers. This seems to be something we absolutely can and must do.

Yesterday morning, here in Canberra, the Canberra chapter of Dragons Abreast, a dragon-boating team and support group for breast cancer survivors, paddled to Commonwealth Place to lay a heart of petals in honour of Peta and the legacy she leaves.

On another local note, I'd like to talk briefly about squash—and I think that Peta would want me to. As we all know, Peta was a brilliant squash player and she loved her sport. One of my favourite parts of her unforgettable first speech was when she asked, 'Why do people always laugh about squash?' My husband is the president of Dickson Squash Club, where Peta played for many years, including in a team with Ben in the nineties—and in our household we most certainly don't laugh about squash! Peta was widely known and loved in the Canberra squash community, and so many here are grieving her loss.

Peta never shied away from taking a stand. History shows it takes particular courage in Australian politics to take on gambling, and earlier this year Peta did exactly that as the chair of the House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, which held an inquiry on the harms of online gambling, handing down the report, You win some, you lose more. Among the 31 recommendations of the unanimous report, it recommended that ads for online gambling should be banned across all media and at all times within three years to combat the manipulation of an impressionable and vulnerable audience. The report noted that gambling addiction is a public health issue and it is important that we take away the stigma in the same way it's been taken away for alcohol and drug addiction. It must be treated in a harm reduction manner. Peta spoke with power and empathy for those impacted by gambling addiction who contributed to the report, and sparked an incredibly important national conversation.

Peta's contribution to this place was well beyond her years here. As Peta said:

… above all else, I would like to be able to say that I left Australian politics—Australian democracy—in better shape than when I joined it …

She absolutely has, in the example she has set. May we channel her courage, her integrity and her kindness, keep up her fights and honour her legacy. Dear friend, we will miss you every day, but your memory will lighten our lives forever.