On the heels of Stephen Conroy and Jane Halton’s unexpected departures from their high profile roles comes news that clerk of the Senate Dr Rosemary Laing will step down.
However, she’s giving enough notice that her charges in the highly diverse new Senate will have time to settle in before she departs. Laing will step down on March 8 next year.
Laing has been the top public servant in the Department of the Senate for the last seven years, originally joining the department 26 years ago as a researcher.
Expansion of the work of the Senate, notably a marked increase in committees and inquiries in recent parliamentary terms, has put additional pressure on Laing and her team. Senate leaders, including Penny Wong, praised Laing for her support facilitating the work of government and the Senate.
‘One of those very special, historic moments’
In an interview with ABC Canberra, Laing says one of her more memorable days in the job was the day the Senate passed the Mabo bill:
“It was a massive negotiation coming together in this lengthy debate that started on the last scheduled Thursday before Christmas,” she said.
“I was the deputy clerk at the table. It was one of those very special, historic moments that you look back on always.
“It was after midnight, the galleries in the Senate were full. When the President announced the result of the division, the place just broke into applause, cheers, laughter. It was wonderful.”
Laing also cited the emotionally taxing Senate debate on euthanasia: “They can often be very emotional occasions to sit through … legislation affects all of our lives.”