Former Labor treasurer Wayne Swan hoped to "reach across the chamber" in his valedictory speech.
But the "divisive tone" of the past week in politics had made that harder than he hoped.
Ahead of his retirement at the coming election, Mr Swan used his valedictory speech in parliament on Tuesday to lay out his concerns about rising inequality and the politics of fear.
The Lilley MP likened the asylum-seeker medical transfer bill debate to John Howard's 2001 Tampa affair, which prompted divisive debate over border protection.
It also brought about "American race-based dog-whistle politics", which Mr Swan says is back in the political stadium.
"Read the Hansard and the ministerial transcripts of the past few days. The only thing missing is the subtlety of yesteryear," he told the lower house.
"My hope is that this ugly approach is so soundly defeated at the ballot box that it can never arise again."
Despite retiring from parliament, Mr Swan won't stepping away from politics, after being voted as Labor's national president in June last year.
He says he will continue fighting against trickle-down economics, for progressive tax and for a fair industrial relations system.
The Queenslander reflected on his 24 years in parliament, which included close to six years as treasurer, and pointed to one of his proudest moments - his control of the books during the global financial crisis
Australia's economy avoided serious harm due to "recession-beating policy", he said.
"There wasn't recession and there wasn't unemployment. And there wasn't a decade of lost opportunity for our people and our country," he added.
"You don't feel the bullets you dodge. And we dodged a huge one."
It was for these policies that Mr Swan earned the title of "Finance Minister of the Year" by Euromoney Magazine in 2011.
The Labor stalwart also singled out former prime minister Julia Gillard, who he served as deputy prime minister and treasurer.
"(There is) no tougher warrior for Labor values, who possibly alone of recent prime ministers has cracked the secret code about how to carry herself with dignity after losing the job."
He also had a clear message to his Labor colleagues ahead of the federal election, which is due by May.
"We must not become over confident, but we could be on the cusp of something quite special and unexpected: returning to government after just two terms."
He credited the party for showing a "new lease" of political unity, which he says is ultimately the result of a united political purpose.
"Our policies have been able to unify us because they speak to the things our movement and the wider Australian society hold dear," he said,
"Decency, fairness and greater economic and social equality."
Australian Associated Press