Anthony Albanese has announced Labor MP Peta Murphy has died after a lengthy battle with cancer, aged 50.
The Prime Minister choked back tears as he told reporters of her passing at a snap press conference in Canberra.
“A short time ago Peta Murphy passed away at home. Which was her wish. Her husband of 24 years, Rod, was with her. Along with her parents, and her sisters,” he said.
“Every one of us in the Labor family is broken-hearted.”
Mr Albanese led the tributes to the late Victorian. It was through tears he described her as the “most inspiring of colleagues and the very best kind of friend”.
“To attend a community event with Peta was to bask in her glow,” he said.
“Like all of us who served alongside her, the people Peta represented admired her determination, they respected her passion, and they responded above all to her absolute authenticity.”
“From the squash court to the law courts, to the House of Representatives, everything that Peta Murphy did she did with her whole heart. And what a warm generous, strong and proud Labor heart she had.
“IMPOSSIBLE TO NOT BE IMPRESSED”
Heartfelt tributes are flowing from all sides of government, with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton issuing a statement saying it was “impossible not to be impressed” by her.
“For anyone who was on the opposing side of politics to Peta and sat on the opposite side of the chamber to her, it was impossible not to be impressed by the heartfelt and heroic way she spoke about causes dear to her: bettering the lives of women, children and families,” Mr Dutton said.
Mr Dutton described the late MP as “unrelenting” and said she had “unquestionably” helped many woman in her advocacy for breast cancer.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong had to choke back tears as she delivered an emotional tribute to the Senate shortly after the announcement.
“We offer our deepest sympathies to her loving husband Rod, and all her family,” Ms Wong said.
“We will all have the opportunity to say more about Peta in the days ahead, but for now I recognise that this is the saddest of days for the Labor family.
Ms Wong had to pause to compose herself as she spoke about how Ms Murphy was loved and respected by other politicians.
She said Ms Murphy’s strength was “unmatched” and would be greatly missed.
Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said it was an “honour” to know and work with Ms Murphy.
“She is one of the bravest people I have ever met. She was asking questions in Question Time just last week. Her time in the Parliament has been an inspiration to us all,” he said.
Nationals leader David Littleproud also issued a statement describing Ms Murphy as “inspiring”.
“The Member for Dunkley was brave, inspiring and courageous in her health battle and never wavered from her commitment to Parliament and the community,” he said.
“Peta was a fighter in both a Parliamentary and a personal sense and will be missed by all Members.
TRIBUTES FROM ORGANISATIONS
Tributes have also been paid to Ms Murphy’s memory from organisations in which she was involved.
Construction, Forestry, Maritime Employees Union (CFMEU) National Secretary Zach Smith said the Member for Dunkley had been a champion for workers.
“This is a heartbreaking loss which will be felt right across the CFMEU and the wider labour movement,” Mr Smith said.
“I know so many of our members who live in Dunkley and beyond will agree we’ve lost one of the finest MPs in the federal parliament.
“Peta was a fierce advocate for gender equality, breast cancer awareness and tackling broader inequality in society.
“Her humility, positivity and bravery were an inspiration. She will be sorely missed.”
While Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) CEO Kirsten Pilatti said Ms Murphy was a powerful voice and advocate for all people living with metastatic breast cancer.
“As a strong supporter of BCNA, just last week Peta supported the launch of a report by BCNA calling for those with metastatic breast cancer to be counted on our registries in order to improve outcomes,” Ms Pulatti said.
“Our lives are forever enriched by the life, the voice and the tenacity of Peta Murphy MP.”
DIAGNOSIS IN 2011
Ms Murphy was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and was told her cancer had returned just days after she was sworn in as the member for Dunkley in 2019.
In her maiden speech to parliament, she said she was neither “unique, nor alone” in her cancer battle but vowed to use her platform to benefit others.
“Let’s be frank though, cancer sucks,” Ms Murphy said at the time.
“It changes the way your body feels and the way you feel about your body. The treatments can make you sick. Sometimes you are scared, sometimes you are angry. In my experience, often you are both at the same time.
“You worry about how your friends and family are coping. You value their support but resent the fact that you need it.”
Her husband Rod Glover, and family members Bob, Jan, Jodi and Penni Murphy, said Ms Murphy spent her final days surrounded by family at home and was “still giving sassy advice until the very end”.
“She died the way she lived - with dignity and strength and a touch of sarcasm to boot,” her loved ones said in a statement.
“We loved her deeply and are so, so proud of her achievements, her character and her courage. She was indeed the strongest girl of all.”
Ms Murphy led the charge for important reforms such as reducing the harm from online gambling and advocated for a national registry for metastatic cancer patients.
In an in-depth interview with Stellar Magazine back in August, Ms Murphy revealed the diagnosis also led to another heartbreaking loss -- she wasn’t able to get pregnant.
“Despite endless rounds of IVF, I couldn’t get pregnant,” she said.
“It means my husband doesn’t have any children, either ... It’s no small thing for someone’s partner to go through.”
But her cancer diagnosis made her determined to do something meaningful. She won pre-selection to be Labor’s candidate for Dunkley at the 2016 election, which she lost, before narrowly winning in 2019.
She told Stellar that throughout the 2019 campaign she had chest pain and suspected it was pneumonia. After seeking a second opinion, they found “two whopping great tumours growing out” of her sternum bone.
“I do remember swearing a lot,” Ms Murphy said.
But she said her diagnosis meant people had to stop and listen when she spoke.
“If I said I wanted to talk about it because it affects one in seven women in Australia then people might listen, but when I say I have metastatic breast cancer and this is what I’m going through, there’s not really much space for someone not to listen,” she told Stellar.
“I’ve got this opportunity to be part of some big stuff, and I’m doing everything I can to do that for as long as I can.”
Before entering parliament, Ms Murphy served as a barrister and Victorian public defender.
She later worked as chief of staff to Labor frontbencher Brendan O’Connor.
Every one of us in the Labor family is broken hearted by the death of our beloved Peta Murphy.
At this saddest of times we offer our deepest sympathies to her loving husband Rod and all her family. pic.twitter.com/4xsHF1i0tG
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) December 4, 2023
The news of her passing came just a week after the late Victorian MP travelled to Canberra for the last sitting week of the year. Mr Albanese said she was “clearly very much not well”.
“But she travelled to Canberra last week to try to launch the (Breast Cancer Network Australia) national report,” he said.
“As ill as she was, she was again thinking of others. It was so true to Peta’s character she channelled her personal battle with breast cancer into public policy.”
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said Ms Murphy was “highly respected” and “unquestionably lived up to the ideals she set for herself”.
“For anyone who was on the opposing side of politics to Peta and sat on the opposite side of the chamber to her, it was impossible not to be impressed by the heartfelt and heroic way she spoke about causes dear to her: bettering the lives of women, children and families,” he said.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said he was saddened by the news.
“It’s hard to convey just how wonderful Peta Murphy was, an absolute gem of a person, so kind and so compassionate, so fun and so real,” he said.
It’s hard to convey just how wonderful Peta Murphy was, an absolute gem of a person, so kind and so compassionate, so fun and so real. Such immense sadness now comes with her passing. Heart goes out to Rod and her loved ones, and her community. #auspolpic.twitter.com/nkdbZw72Uw
— Jim Chalmers MP (@JEChalmers) December 4, 2023
Greens leader Adam Bandt said the news of Ms Murphy’s passing was “devastating”.
“Even before she entered parliament, Peta was respected in Victoria as a fighter for people’s rights. We’re all poorer without her. Our condolences to her family, friends and the broader Labor movement,” he said.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong paid tribute to Ms Murphy on the floor of the Senate on Monday.
“She was loved, she was respected by all of us, greatly admired by her community that she represented with passion and determination even through all her illness,” she said.
“Peta’s strength was unmatched, and she will be greatly missed by us all.”