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Late MP Peta Murphy remembered as ‘brave and loved’ by Anthony Albanese in emotional tribute

<span>Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP</span>
Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Anthony Albanese has confirmed that Labor MP Peta Murphy, 50, has died from breast cancer. The prime minister struggled to hold back tears as he confirmed Murphy’s passing in a short statement from parliament house on Monday afternoon.

Murphy, the member for Dunkley, attended the final sitting week of the House of Representatives last week before returning home for palliative care. The MP died at home in the company of her parents and siblings and her husband of more than two decades, Rod Glover.

Albanese paid tribute to Murphy’s determination, passion, and “absolute authenticity.” He described the former MP as “the strongest of local members, the most inspiring of colleagues and the very best kind of friend”.

“Peta Murphy was brave, she was courageous, and she was loved,” Albanese said.

“Right up to last week, she was asking questions in the House, raising awareness of issues she cared about and standing up for the community she was so proud to represent,” he said.

“Together with the Breast Cancer Network Australia, Peta advocated for a national registry for metastatic cancer patients. Such was her dedication to this cause, she travelled to Canberra last week to launch the national report.”

Peta Murphy giving her first speechin parliament
Peta Murphy giving her first speech
in parliament on 24 July 2019.
Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

“It was so true to Peta’s character that she channelled her personal battle with breast cancer into public policy, advocating always for others: for better treatment, more services and stronger support.”

Murphy, a barrister before she entered politics, first as a staffer and then as an MP, was hard working, empathic, principled, policy-oriented and plain-speaking. She was an unusually popular MP with friends from all sides of politics.

As chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, Murphy recommended in June that the Albanese government introduce a phased, comprehensive ban on online gambling advertising within three years.

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Keith Wolahan, a Victorian Liberal MP who worked with Murphy on advancing gambling reform, said she was a parliamentarian of “character and principle”. The opposition backbencher said of his colleague: “You made a difference, and you will be missed.”

When it became known last week that Murphy was likely facing her final days, Nationals MP Darren Chester paid tribute to his friend in a warm personal speech before question time.

“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,” Chester told the chamber.

“But I know she has earned the respect of all members in this place, on both sides of the chamber. We wish her great health and happiness as she faces those challenges in the days ahead. In the words of Pippi Longstocking: please remember you are the strongest girl in the world.”

Related: Peta Murphy on preventing another generation from online gambling harm - podcast

Labor colleagues took to social media en masse to mourn Murphy’s passing. The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said on Monday it was “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”.

The transport minister, Catherine King, said she was devastated by Murphy’s passing. King said the MP was “an extraordinary woman who gave so much and had much more to give.” The immigration minister, Andrew Giles, characterised Murphy as “brilliant, unflinchingly principled, thoughtful and brave” and “unfailingly kind”.

The regional development minister, Kristy McBain, said Murphy was “a ferocious advocate, smart as a whip, loved a laugh and had a sarcastic wit that I genuinely admired”. The housing minister, Julie Collins, said Murphy “was an inspiration in so many ways”.

The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, said the parliament would be poorer without her.