Wednesday, 4 May 2016
This evening I rise briefly to pay tribute to former frontbenchers in the Abbott government who have retired or are retiring. Obviously, we heard today valedictory speeches from the members for Wide Bay and Goldstein. As I have previously said a few words about them in this place, I hope they will forgive me if I focus on others. Starting with former Senator Michael Ronaldson. The Centenary of Anzac celebrations last year were a flawless tribute to the original Anzacs and also a great tribute to his skill as an administrator and as a minister. The Sir John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux, which we expect to open on Anzac Day in 2018, will be an enduring legacy from his time as a minister.
The member from Groom, Ian McFarlane, was the resources minister who scrapped the mining tax. This was the job-destroying, investment-killing tax which did not raise any revenue. It was a magnificent achievement by the member for Groom in his time as minister reborn, as it were. I hope this sector will acknowledge and demonstrate their gratitude to him in his years of retirement from this place.
The member for Dunkley, Mr Bruce Billson, was not just the Minister for Small Business; he was the evangelist for small business. After last year's budget, I think he was the messiah for small business. He authored the small business tax cut and the small business $20,000 instant asset write-off which were at the heart of last year's budget, and, expanded, were at the heart of this year's budget too.
Then, of course, there is the member for Paterson, Bob Baldwin. He was one of our parliament's greatest advocates for tourism, a fierce partisan for the Hunter Region and, as parliamentary secretary, a deft judge of the right balance between our economy and our environment. I want to particularly thank him as the member for Warringah for his excellent work with the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust and for the deft way in which he handled a difficult decision about a nursing home on trust land. He dealt with that very well in his valedictory earlier today.
I cannot finish these remarks without honouring my friend Senator Bill Heffernan. Bill Heffernan has been almost unique in this parliament: someone who was never ambitious for himself. He is the only member of this parliament I have ever met who never sought promotion. That has made him, over a very long period of time, the one person you could always trust on everything. I recall quite some years ago, as a relatively new member of parliament, that a well-known millionaire invited me for a pre-Christmas drink. As I was leaving he gave me an envelope and said, 'That's your Christmas present.' When I opened it up it contained $5,000 in cash. I can tell you, the Abbott family in those days could have used that money, but it did not feel right. I rang Bill Heffernan for his advice and he said: 'Once bought, always bought. Give it back and say to that person, "Please write out a cheque for the campaign."'
I have not always agreed with Bill Heffernan, but I have always admired him as the most honest and selfless member of parliament that I have ever met. He certainly deserves a long, happy and honoured retirement from this place, as indeed do all of the members who have served this parliament so well for so long and are now leaving us.