House debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Parliamentary Representation


1:01 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | Hansard source

Jane McNamara is one of those rough-and-tumble, down-to-earth, say-it-as-it-is mayors we all know and love in regional Australia. She's been mayor of Flinders Shire, centred on Hughenden in north-western Queensland, for eight years. Jane is someone who can see a fake, a fraud, a phony or someone who is insincere from a mile away. She rates highly one Scott Morrison, the outgoing member for Cook. 'Give him my best,' Jane said when I spoke to her last night. 'Tell him I'm sending virtual hugs his way.'

Mayor McNamara well remembers the member for Cook's visits to Cloncurry, Julia Creek and McKinlay during the terrible natural disaster that hit her region in early 2019. The people in those far-flung Queensland towns have not forgotten those visits and nor will they. The member for Cook as Prime Minister brought funding and, perhaps more importantly, hope to those flood affected communities and they appreciated it. It saved them. Not only did he stop by but he returned later to see how they were faring. That is the measure of the man and underlines the leadership he showed on that and many, many other issues.

I was there in February 2019 when the then Prime Minister told officials to get financial assistance in the bank accounts of devastated farmers within 24 hours. Those farmers had endured years of drought, but when the rain came it fell in biblical proportions and almost washed away the spirit of those hardy cattle producers. They were on the brink. Three years of rain had fallen in just 10 days. The Prime Minister was having nothing of bureaucratic delays and obfuscation. 'Get the money to them and do it within 24 hours,' he insisted and instructed. It was a decisive moment—stirring stuff, Morrison style.

On 24 August 2018, the day the member for Cook was elected Liberal leader and later Australia's 30th prime minister, we had a meeting immediately after his party room ballot. I remember it clearly. As the Nationals leader at the time, I sat down with the Prime Minister designate to sort out the directions our parties—different but together—would go in on certain pressing issues. There are a number of them. I recall writing down two words, the member for Cook did the same, and then we showed each other. Both of us penned the same thing: 'Drought visit.' It was the start of our successful working relationship. We were different but we were together, and that's the way it should be.

The following week the member for Cook and I found ourselves with Stephen and Annabel Tully at their 72,843-hectare Bunginderry Station at Quilpie, more than 200 kilometres west of Charleville—a long way from anywhere, you could say. It is in the electorate of Maranoa, represented by now Nationals leader David Littleproud. As the member for Maranoa said at the time, 'they're bred tough but no one is immune from this ongoing drought'. And he was right. Indeed, the Prime Minister saw the value of wild-dog fences, and other pest and weed management practices. They were valuable lessons for him to see firsthand and get a better understanding of farmers and regional, rural and remote Australians. Prime ministers of this country need to be the farmer's friend. The member for Cook was, in his time in the top job. He and I had any number of serious matters to deal with as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister between 2018 and 2021. As I told Q+A: 'The golden age of Australian democracy'. Insert laughter here. But it was.

Drought, bushfires, floods and then a global pandemic. The worst of those COVID-19 times brought out the best in Scott Morrison. He went above and beyond, working incredible hours to save lives and protect livelihoods. He was calm, publicly confident and dedicated. He was unflappable.

I must say, our relationship survived some truly testing times for the nation and those even closer to home, such as the time when he stole one of my all-time favourite press secretaries, Dean Shachar, for his own office. Dean's in the advisors box now, and I'm still dirty on you, Scott, for doing that. But, anyway, we'll forgive and forget, as you've shown us the benefit of forgiveness today. Seriously, I do wish you, on behalf of the Nationals, all the very best, and I thank you for care, understanding of and delivery for those who lived beyond the bright city lights. Personally, on behalf of Catherine and I, and our family, thanks for your friendship, your support and your good humour. I'm not going to mention bad Santa, nor the census. Insert laughter here. May you, Jenny, your girls Abbey and Lily, and your mum, Marion, enjoy good health, happiness and every success in the future.

Finally, Jane McNamara has a Droughtmaster—an appropriately named breed—steer named ScoMo 2. This, now 800 kilogram, bullock was a mere poddy calf, you'll remember, in the midst of the 2019 floods. And the Prime Minister gave it a feed as the cameras snapped happily away. Because of his fame from those photos, the calf got his name and a guarantee of a life of grazing. He won't know his life of contentment and happiness is due to the PM's intervention; he will not. In the same way, I guess, many Australians will never fully appreciate the efforts and work Scott Morrison put into ensuring that their lives, too, were better.

Ultimately I believe history will be far kinder to the Morrison years of government than some are now. In the words of St John, Scott, you have fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith. Thank you.


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