The tears and triumphs of 2022

At this time every year we ask ourselves how we possibly could have already completed another lap around the Sun.

Surely time is going faster — a phenomenon that seems more pronounced the older we get. But, come on, was it really only at the start of this year that Ash Barty won the Australian Open while the unvaxxed Djokovic was sent home?

We should have seen it as a portent of what was to come in 2022. It was a rollercoaster.

Will Smith's Oscars slap. The UK's revolving door at 10 Downing Street. Elon Musk buying Twitter. Our former prime minister Scott Morrison inadvertently gifting us with a bulldozing tackle at a kids' soccer match and Grace Tame's side eye. Little did we know then that her disdain would be nothing compared to how all his ministers felt when he secretly swore himself into their jobs too.

This was the year we had some semblance of reality returning after two years of pandemic restrictions.

But just as we rejoiced at international borders reopening in February, unprecedented flooding hit northern NSW and Queensland. And it hasn't stopped, making its way down the east coast, Tasmania and South Australia. The toll on lives, homes and livelihoods continues to mount with towns and properties along the River Murray the latest to bear the brunt. My own electorate of Maribyrnong was devastated by flooding in October, and while the community spirit on display was incredible, the heartbreak endures long after the water recedes.

Overseas, we saw our worst fears realised with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin's aggression continues to be as widely condemned as the Ukrainian resistance is celebrated. Australia was quick to support Ukraine, including with the brilliant Bendigo-built Bushmaster combat vehicles. Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, praised these pieces of Australian ingenuity, saying they had “preserved the lives” of his country's soldiers.

For anyone who thinks the fight on the other side of the world doesn't matter to them, they couldn't be more wrong. This is a war for free democratic countries and their peoples to live in safety within their own borders.

The year 2022 will also be remembered for the people we said goodbye to.

On a personal note, I lost my incredible friend senator Kimberley Kitching early in the year.

Her passing has changed our lives, but her legacy lives on, remembered as a fierce human rights warrior and a wonderful woman.

Queen Elizabeth's death in September sent shock waves around the world and resulted in an outpouring of grief and affection.

Here at home we lost great entertainers and Australian icons. Among them Aboriginal actor and activist, Uncle Jack Charles; The Seekers' sublime vocalist, Judith Durham; multi award-winning singer-songwriter, Archie Roach; and our Livvy, beloved singer and actor Olivia Newton-John.

And as the Boxing Day cricket Test began with a tribute to Shane Warne, we were also reminded that we had farewelled a lovable larrikin and our country's greatest leg-spinner.

We may not have known any of these Australian legends in person but still feel a genuine sadness at the closing of a chapter in which they featured.

Over the past 12 months there have been the usual tears of joy and heartbreak in various sporting arena. Football grand finals have come and gone. We've watched women's AFL and NRL go from strength to strength. And we cheered as both our Commonwealth Games athletes and para-athletes topped the medal tallies at the Birmingham Games.

People with disability achieved in many spheres this year. Dylan Alcott was named Australian of the Year and I was pleased to announce Kurt Fearnley as chair of the National Disability Insurance Agency. They are two sporting heroes and fierce disability advocates who are raising their voices on behalf of the disability community.

But perhaps the best thing to happen for disability rights was Labor being returned to Government in May. That signalled a turning point for the National Disability Insurance Scheme that had been so unloved during the Coalition government years.

We're going to make it the world-class scheme it was designed to be. This isn't about NDIS participants wanting yachts and mansions, they just want to be able to participate in society, to live an ordinary life that so many take for granted. A well-functioning NDIS can support that.

The election in May of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Labor Government was a highlight of 2022 for me for a number of reasons, and I hope it is for many of you.

The pride I felt in the Australian voters for rejecting the cynical, and quite frankly toxic, brand of politics our predecessors practised was unlike anything I have felt in my political career.

Instead of dishonesty and double-speak, the electorate chose integrity and accountability. That's what Labor promised and that's what we are delivering.

We've passed the National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill, the IR Bill to get wages moving, legislated gas price caps to deliver power price relief, and set up a royal commission into robodebt. We're lowering the cost of child care and medicines, and acting on climate change. Our international relations are getting back on track and our global reputation is being restored. I don't think. I know.

I hope you go into the new year feeling that our country is in mature hands. I know I am incredibly proud to be part of a group of people that is fighting for every one of you, whether you voted for us or not. That's what decent government is about — governing for the greater good.

Enjoy what is left of this rollercoaster ride and to paraphrase an old Irish saying of my family's: may your best day of 2022, be your worst day of 2023.