Wednesday, 1 September 2021
Gallacher, Senator Alexander McEachian (Alex)
Alex Gallacher, Senator Alex Gallacher—I think maybe we should keep these titles. I don't claim to have known him incredibly well. I certainly don't know his family, and my thoughts and condolences are with them. My encounters with Alex come through this job and our interaction as parliamentarians representing South Australia. The member for Kingston just said he had a special interest in Grey. It's hard not to when you live in South Australia. It's a big place, Grey.
My first impression on meeting Alex was: well, he's a genuine kind of bloke, really. Genuine, I think, is a good thing for people that come to this place and the other place to be. I won't point out some that I think maybe aren't as genuine as others, but, in Alex's case, I don't think there was any doubt. He didn't hide where he came from; he didn't hide what he represented. And he was proud of it, and he was proud of being a Scotsman, but he was prouder of being a South Australian. And I think that's a good ground to build any kind of relationship on.
You would wonder what a Scottish born and bred—I always actually get it the other way round; I think we're bred then born—anyway a Scottish bred and born trade unionist and a farmer from Buckleboo would have in common. But when we actually did get to know each other a little bit, we found a lot more things that we agreed about than the things we disagreed about. We had a lot to do with each other through the period when we'd been trying to steer the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility through both Houses of parliament here. And Alex had sat on that committee, and he and I were in full agreement that this wasn't any kind of facility to be feared. It'll be one that'll be prized by the community that actually hosts it, and, as it turns out, it's the community I come from. I appreciated his work within the Labor Party to convince his colleagues to support it. It's not exactly in the form we put forward, and there'll be more to come on that, but we got it over the line and we are progressing down that way. That's where we probably came to know each other best, but it gave us an opportunity to talk about a lot of other things as well, including remote South Australia and obviously his interest in the transport industry, which has great interest to me as well, because the wheels on the road is what keeps an electorate like Grey going. We not only need to bring in goods; we need to send out goods. It is all to do with trucks. So, trucks and the transport industry.
When Alex first made it known that he was battling cancer, I did give him a ring. And it's something I haven't spoken about in this chamber before, but I'm now a close on eight-year survivor of cancer—7½ years. While it wasn't lung cancer—I don't often go out and tell people about it, and I am today because we're talking about Alex—it was a battle that I fought. I fought the law and I beat it, there you go—as the song goes. The reason was I think sometimes those who have been through it, particularly those who are lucky enough to have, God's good will, a good outcome, to share our experiences with those that are dealing with it on a day-to-day basis—that's why I reached out to him. I don't know if it made a difference. He said he appreciated it. I hope it did. I hope it made a difference, but we certainly know that he served to the end, and I think that's an admirable thing to do.
One thing I would say, though, was I thought we'd developed a reasonable kind of relationship and then, just around election time, I'd go to the post office box, get my mail out, and there was something from Alex Gallacher saying something really horrible about me—lazy, useless, out of touch, too old, too young, too short, too fat. I don't know. I said to Alex one day, 'You've been sending out stuff, saying awful things about me again.' He looked at me rather blankly and said, 'Have I? What was I saying?' I suspect he didn't know what he was saying. Maybe he'd signed off on the expenses sheet and it was going into South Australia and he'd ticked all the boxes but he didn't really know what he'd said about me. So I consoled myself with the fact that it wasn't personal.
Just in closing, let me say to his family: I know you'll miss him because—and I pay him about the highest accolade, in my opinion, you can pay an Aussie, because that's what he was in the end—he was a bloody good bloke.