House debates

Wednesday, 1 September 2021


Gallacher, Senator Alexander McEachian (Alex)

6:22 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

A straight shooter; somebody who said what he meant and meant what he said—that was Senator Alex Gallacher. We all knew him as somebody who was old-style Labor. Senator Gallacher, as we've heard, was born on New Year's Day 1954, in Scotland. I commend the fine words of the member for Makin, the member for Grey and the member for Kingston. Of course, they're all South Australians. I'm not from South Australia; I'm from New South Wales, but my respect for the late senator is no less. Of course, he was also a member of the other place, the Senate, and yet he was fondly thought of in this place, the House of Representatives. I know that the Prime Minister and the opposition leader, amongst others, have also spoken highly of Senator Gallacher for the work that he did and for the part that he played. Certainly, he will be sadly missed. My condolences go to his wife, Paola, his children, Caroline, Ian, Terry and Frank, and his grandchildren.

He had a long involvement in the Transport Workers Union for 22 years. He was a labourer—a truck driver—for several years, between 1971 and 1976. We've just been joined by the member for Flynn. The member for Flynn, of course, has got a lot of experience in the transport industry as a fuel distributor as well. He would also appreciate the importance of the transport industry to keep this country moving. Alex played a big part in doing just that, in fighting for rights for truckies, as an integral member himself in that industry, which is indispensable. In his first speech, he mentioned transport and road safety as some of his priority interests, and he has certainly lived up to what he said. Many people make all sorts of promises in their inaugural speeches, but he lived every word of what he said by his actions and by what he did following on from that.

He was appointed commissioner for the National Road Transport Commission and held that role in 2003 and 2004. He was the director of the South Australian Motor Accident Commission, an organisation he served until 2010. He was acting chair of the Road Safety Advisory Council of South Australia.

Alex was elected to this place, and he made his inaugural speech on 17 August 2011. In that speech, he said:

A lifetime on the road in my working life and capacity as a TWU official has made me aware of the ever-present dangers that each Australian faces every day when they drive their vehicle. I have a real passion for road safety. Our country's prosperity is reflected in our love affair with the motor vehicle. The freedom and mobility achieved by owning a car are tempered with the sickening human and economic cost of vehicle accidents.

I could put it no better myself. He lived that experience. He wanted to make a difference and, indeed, he did. He continued:

I have always believed that we should adopt the Swedish model of Vision Zero, which requires a move from traditional thinking. Vision Zero starts with this statement:

We are human and we make mistakes. Our bodies are subject to biomechanical tolerance limits and simply not designed to travel at high speed. Yet we do so anyway. An effective road safety system must always take human fallibility into account.

Somebody I admire greatly in the road safety advocacy space is Peter Frazer. Peter lost his beautiful daughter, Sarah. She was travelling on the Hume Freeway to Wagga Wagga to begin a university degree, and lost her life. Peter then began Safer Australian Roads and Highways—the acronym, of course, is SARAH—in her honour. He had this to say about Senator Alex Gallacher on social media: 'We are saddened by the death of Sen. Gallacher and our thoughts are with family, friends and staff. Alex dedicated his life to those who are vulnerable, and his passion for justice remains an inspiration to so many, including myself. I was privileged to know him. Vale, Sen. Alex Gallacher.' I could put it no better myself.

Alex was inspirational. He was a man of honour, a man of his word. He contributed mightily not just to this parliament but to road safety measures that will, in the future, save people's lives—people who will not even know that they wouldn't be alive except for the fact that he had done the work advocating better roads and highways, advocating more money for infrastructure, advocating Vision Zero. The sum total of those things have saved people's lives and will save people's lives into the future, and they can thank him for just that. May he rest in peace. My condolences and sympathy go to his family and wide circle of friends, particularly in the Labor Party.


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