Labor MP Peta Murphy dies aged 50

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Victorian federal Labor MP Peta Murphy has died, aged 50, after fighting cancer for many years following her diagnosis of breast cancer in 2011.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made an emotional statement in Parliament House shortly before 2pm on Monday to relay the news that Murphy had died earlier in the day.

Labor MP Peta Murphy in the House of Representatives last week.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“We will always carry her glow in our hearts,” Albanese said.

Murphy was a public defender at the Victorian bar before defeating the Liberals to win the Melbourne seat of Dunckley in 2019, rising to become chair of the House of Representatives committee on social policy and legal affairs.

“Peta Murphy was someone who was respected by all who saw her extraordinary contribution in such a short period of time,” Albanese said.

“The whole way through her contribution while going through what was very difficult treatment, she never once, never once, talked about herself or asked for anything special. She’d apologise if she missed a day of parliament.

“This parliament was a better place for Peta Murphy being elected to the House of Representatives. This country was a better nation for her contribution.”

Praised by government and Opposition MPs for her spirited arguments in parliament as well as her willingess to talk about her experience with cancer, Murphy was in parliament for work last week despite undergoing difficult treatment.

Nationals frontbencher and former cabinet minister Darren Chester told parliament last Tuesday that Murphy was a warrior for causes she cared about.

“She’s a warrior for fairness, equality, women’s rights and breast cancer, and a champion for battlers in her own community,” he said.

“Right now my friend the member for Dunkley is facing some serious health challenges; we know that. She is facing those challenges with courage, humility and good humour. It is bloody hard to watch.”

Born in the NSW town of Goulburn in 1973, Murphy studied psychology and law at the Australian National University before becoming a practising lawyer and an adviser to Labor frontbencher Duncan Kerr.

After moving to Melbourne, she became a barrister at the Victorian Bar from 2008, a senior public defender at Victorian Legal Aid from 2012 to 2014, an official at the Victorian Law Reform Commission in 2015.

After contesting Dunckley without success in 2016, she became chief of staff to Labor frontbencher Brendan O’Connor, in preparation for her successful campaign three years later.

She was first diagnosed with cancerous tumour in her breast in 2011 at the age of 37, while acting as a junior counsel in a murder trial.

In her first speech to parliament, Murphy told of how she had learned just two weeks earlier that the cancer had returned.

“I am neither unique nor alone in the fight I am about to take on,” she said in that speech.

“Let’s be frank though, cancer sucks. 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.”

In one of her most significant actions in this parliament, Murphy led the social policy and legal affairs in producing a unanimous report on the need for stronger regulation of online gambling to reduce harm.

“A phased, comprehensive ban on all gambling advertising on all media – broadcast and online – that leaves no room for circumvention, is needed,” she wrote in the report.

Murphy is survived by her husband, Rod Glover.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers expressed “immense sadness” at the news of her death.

“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.

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