Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to pay tribute to the mighty and notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Like a number of, particularly female, members of this House, when I heard that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died on 18 September, it hurt my heart and I have been thinking about it ever since. I thought the best thing I could do would be to pay tribute to that remarkable woman in this place.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York, during the Great Depression, in 1933. She died on 18 September at the age of 87 and to her last breath, she fought for justice.
In Jewish tradition, those who die on the cusp of the High Holy Days are the most righteous, the ones God is most reluctant to take from this earth. Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and as we know, RBG, as she was known, was most, most righteous.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States by Bill Clinton, the then president, in 1993 at the age of 60. At the time there was some commentary that she was too old to be appointed to the Supreme Court. As we know, she sat on that court for 27 years - a voice of gender equality, of justice, of fairness, a progressive who was notorious in many ways for saying - 'I dissent'. When she was asked about her tendency towards dissent later in her career, she said - 'It's my view that dissenting opinions are important opinions because in time they will become the law'.
We honour this extraordinary woman and brilliant legal mind. She was a lifetime advocate for the rights of women and between 1973 and 1976 had already argued six women's rights cases to the court she would one day sit at, and won five of them, prior to being nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993.
At just over 5 feet tall in the old metric, Bader Ginsburg defied anyone who might suggest being female and small makes you any less important or any less dangerous in the right way. She was determined that women not only be seen as equals in the eyes of the law but to be included in all levels of decision-making across different professions.
In a position that had forever in the United States been dominated by men, Ruth Bader Ginsburg embraced her femininity as a strength, wearing different styles of collar over her court robes and some fabulous jewellery as a way of expressing her personal opinions about a court ruling or an event in Congress.
Here is a great quote she gave at an appearance at Georgetown University in 2015 -
People ask me sometimes when will there be enough women on the court and my answer is 'when there are nine'. People are shocked, but there had been nine men and nobody ever raised a question about that.
Ginsburg's presence on the Supreme Court reinforced the importance of diverse perspectives in judicial decision making and particularly the perspectives of women. She was a fierce champion for gender equality. She will always be remembered for her advocacy, for women's rights, abortion rights - once quoted as saying -
The basic thing is that the Government has no business making that choice for women.
Hear, hear. We do not want to live in a country that resembles The Handmaid's Tale.
She never shied away from taking progressive stances, no matter how controversial the subject might be and she said -
Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.
While Ruth Bader Ginsburg is remembered as an outstanding jurist, her legacy transcends the legal profession. As a female Jewish lawyer, she paved the way for women across all professions to be treated more fairly and not just in the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg's legacy wrapped around the world. I am absolutely certain that all over the world people are grieving the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They are remembering her legacy and we will truly miss her. As it was said in a recent article following her death -
As we celebrate her life and the magnitude of what she accomplished for us, we also feel the enormity of the work still before us.
As she told her granddaughter on her deathbed, her greatest dying wish was that -
The Supreme Court vacancy caused by her death would not be filled until a new president was sworn in.
That is certainly a wish I am sure is shared by thoughtful, compassionate people in the United States who would have to live with the legacy of a conservative judge replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for many generations.
I am so grateful as a woman, as a law maker for Ruth Bader Ginsburg's life's work. I am grateful for her pioneering example, for the inspiration she gave to women and girls the world over, for her courage, for her tenacity and for her heart. Vale one of the great women of the last century and this century, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.