Condolence Motion - Peta Murphy

06 December 2023



Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle—Deputy Speaker) (12:55): This is the speech you never really want to give. The passing of someone in our midst so terribly soon is really sad—it's really sad. I know that everyone here is feeling that. Like many, I have shed many, many tears in the last couple of days. But I'm also just slightly terrified that Peta is going to figure out a way to come back at us all for having so much focus and attention on her today! Of course, regardless of the heartbreak that we feel collectively—especially amongst the Labor ranks—I could not let this moment pass without expressing the deep gratitude and respect I feel for Peta Murphy, the member for Dunkley.

She was a dear friend, colleague and, as many have noted, an absolutely fearless warrior—not just in this place but in every moment of her life. Along with a number of us, I had the immense joy of celebrating her 50th birthday recently. It was just so obvious at that great celebration—even though, at no surprise to anyone here, Peta was extremely weak at that point and in a lot of pain—that she was a woman who had an abundance of love in her life. Her family—her beautiful parents, Bob and Jan, and her sisters, Jodi and Penni, although I think Penni was still overseas at the time—were all there, making representations. The joy and love that they spoke about from all those early days which we didn't know about—I didn't know Peta as a child—was just delightful to hear. And there were all her friends from university and from her career in law, and then her parliamentarian friends as well. It was just so obvious to me that she touched everyone in her journey of life.

She made a profound impact on so many people way before her time in this House. These were the sorts of connections in life that everyone wants to have. These were people who had known her all the way through, or who had joined her journey at some point, and they stuck like glue. That was Peta's sense of profound loyalty to the people around her, who shared her values—values which maybe pushed and challenged her at times, when they were up for the argument—and who were decent humans. She surrounded herself with very decent humans. Even with those who she had to represent in court from time to time, Peta was always able to find the humanity in every case that was brought before her as a barrister. I think if I were ever in the situation where I needed a public defender in my corner, I would have wanted Peta Murphy!

We've heard a lot of contributions about Peta's tenacity, both in life and in her determination to represent the good people of Dunkley. She missed it that first time around. I had known Peta from her days of working with the now minister for skills, the member for Gorton. She was a formidable chief of staff and was always so incredibly competent, and that will come as no shock to anybody in this room. She was always on top of her game and incredibly competent. You weren't ever going to pull a shoofty around Peta Murphy.

It was no surprise to me to learn that she had been offered a state seat and an easier path to a parliament—in that case, the Victorian parliament. I don't know who offered her that and I don't know all the circumstances, but I do know that Peta was never shopping for a seat. She had her eyes set on representing the people and the community that she loved and felt so profoundly connected to, and it's so obvious that the love was returned to Peta Murphy. She was never going to be that woman that took the easy road. She was not here just looking for a seat in parliament; she had a life of purpose. Everything she did was purposeful. So thank goodness Peta Murphy did take the time to go: 'You know what? I'm sticking by the principles that I've always led my life by. I'm going to give this another shot.' She worked her butt off for three years. It was terrific to be part of the team to try and help support her in those endeavours to win the seat of Dunkley, which of course she absolutely did.

We know that Peta also loved her sport, and that brought an amazingly competitive streak. I've got to say I only once dared join her on a squash court, and I was truly whipped—deservedly so. Her love of sport came from her parents, who were sports tragics and gave her a great sense of how to make a competitive and determined spirit and turn that into good all the time. I won't go over all her extraordinary representations on the squash courts, but I'm glad that the member for Lalor is sitting next to me, because Peta also joined us on the netball team quite a few times. I remember, obviously—stupidly—thinking, 'God, Peta, shouldn't you take it a bit easy here?' Netball is a pretty ferocious contact sport, and nobody took it light on the courts. But she had an elbows-out approach on the netball court, as she had with everything in life, and I felt silly for even suggesting that she might want to take it easy or have a break at some point during the game. I don't think that anyone else other than Peta could have got me on to squash court, because I am, shamefully, one of those people that definitely laughed at the idea that squash was even still happening. I hope she might forgive me at some point.

We are making a fuss of her today, and rightly so, but I know she would be very, very uncomfortable with that. When her uni mates were getting up at her birthday celebration recently, she managed to, as weak as she felt at the time, get up in a chair next door and heckle them the whole way through, saying: 'Enough! Stop it!' I can hear that voice with me now. As was evident at that birthday party and from many of the contributions here in the parliament today, being friends with Peta was a bond for life, and it's a bond that we all wanted to have, really.

She had an extraordinary sense of fairness and was fearless in her pursuit of injustices everywhere. I couldn't have been more honoured to serve alongside her in this House on so many committees. In opposition, I was deputy chair for nine years of the Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee. I remember when Peta got elected and I thought it was fantastic. I got her roped into that committee as soon as I could. She was just a formidable partner to have, so I know much has been made. She subsequently went on to chair that committee, as she absolutely should have. She was a fierce contributor to the work of so many committees.

I was deeply honoured that she nominated me to be the Deputy Speaker in this parliament. I asked her to do that because of the respect I had for her as a fellow parliamentarian. She was someone who was always in your corner and who loved the art of being a parliamentarian as well. She wasn't here for nearly long enough, but she had the most extraordinary impact.

I want to end by acknowledging her staff, who have been a part of a really difficult journey as staffers. They worked for an exceptional boss—and, for that, they can absolutely celebrate—but it's hard to know that your boss isn't going to be here for a long time. It was a real tribute to you all that you were able to support her in ways that she appreciated, and I know that that's sometimes difficult. It wasn't easy to ask Peta to step aside and take a breather at any point. To her parents, Bob and Jan, you instilled in Peta great values, and I know her sisters, Jodi and Penni, shared that.

I find it hard to even think about what I would say about her extraordinary husband and partner in crime for 20-odd years, Rod Glover. I note that, during Peta's first speech to this parliament, she didn't divulge how you two met or the story of that. I'm definitely not going to breach any confidence there, but, Rod, I will repeat to you Peta's words in that speech. She recognised you as someone who is compassionate, brilliant, stubborn and silly—all the things she cherished most of all. She knew that you were her most constructive critic, her most loyal supporter and her greatest friend and that she wouldn't have been here without you. I want to end with those words, Rod, so that you know that the hearts and thoughts of all of us are with you, Bob, Jan and Peta's family today.

Finally, because I think Peta would want me to do this, I thank the people of Dunkley. You showed an extraordinary trust in picking a member from a different party after 20-odd years, but you got one of the best. You had a loyal, devoted, hardworking member who truly, truly loved you and your community. There was not a day in this parliament where she didn't stand up and fight for the people of Dunkley. So thank you for your wise decision, and we're eternally grateful that you chose to send her to the House of Representatives. Thank you.