Wednesday, 31 July 2019
Stubbs, Mrs Rosemary Frances (Romey)
Everyone in this House is well aware that every political party has its ups and downs, but we all know people who stick with and work for their party of choice through the good times and the bad and always embrace and embody the values it holds. I want to talk tonight about one such person, Romey Stubbs. Earlier this month I was pleased to attend a memorial service in Bangalow for Romey, who died just a few months after her 80th birthday. In this House in December 2015 after Romey's husband John Stubbs died, the former ALP national secretary and member for Brand, Gary Gray, paid tribute to him. It is an honour to now place on record a small tribute to Romey, because she and John both lived and breathed the Labor Party and had an unfaltering commitment to social justice.
Wherever Romey was, she maintained her Labor Party membership—in the ACT, South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. While living in Canberra, John worked as a press secretary for Whitlam government minister Clyde Cameron. After Whitlam's dismissal and defeat in 1975, the Stubbs moved to South Australia, where Labor Premier Don Dunstan was leading the nation in social reforms, and Romey began working for Premier Dunstan in his electorate office. As every MP knows, good electorate staff are vital. At her memorial service, stories were told about Romey's invaluable work for Don Dunstan in the electorate. They included the story about her first day, which saw her dealing with a series of bomb hoaxes to government offices, a constituent threatening to hang himself in her office and a conspiracy plot—all before lunchtime.
After the defeat of the South Australian Labor government, John and Romey moved to Brisbane. Romey worked for Queensland Labor Senator John Black and was widely regarded as an invaluable staff member. Then Wayne Goss led the Labor Party to office after 32 years of National Liberal Party rule. Romey's generosity, kindness, warmth and wisdom were legendary as well as her sharp judgement and sense of humour. She became a senior policy adviser and later chief of staff to Queensland cabinet minister Paul Braddy in the Goss and Beattie governments when he held the portfolios of education, police, corrective services, fire and emergency services and training and industrial relations.
In the Goss and Beattie governments, Romey had a reputation for her sound advice and valuable insight. She mentored and mothered a procession of young advisers. Romey was known as a velvet glove. At her service, a story was told of the time Romey was having a smoke in the stairwell of Forbes House, where senior officers of the Queensland Fire Services were headquartered. None other than the tough and tattooed Queensland fire commissioner himself opened the fire escape door and caught sight of Romey, but all he could say was, 'Oh, Romey, I do beg your pardon,' and then shut the door.
In 2017, Romey's service to the Labor Party was recognised when she was made a life member. In supporting the award, Gary Gray described her as 'a grassroots activist, a Labor romantic, and a Labor stalwart' who would 'make us all feel good when things were not working right' but also had 'the knack of bringing us back to earth when things looked too easy'.
In supporting her nomination, former Queensland ALP state secretary Mike Kaiser said the Goss government was often criticised for having too many young and inexperienced staffers, but Romey stood out. 'Romey was the wise one,' he said. 'While government was new to everyone in Queensland after three decades in opposition, Romey had seen it all before. Never one to assert herself arrogantly, if asked she would always provide honest, sensible and perceptive advice.' Mike Kaiser said Romey had always maintained an active involvement in Labor Party affairs—an involvement motivated 'simply from a deeply held conviction that Labor was best to bring about social justice'. He said: 'She backed her conviction with hard work in a voluntary capacity in her branches and at party forums like state and national conferences. Whenever and wherever she was needed, Romey was there.'
Former Beattie government cabinet minister Robert Schwarten said Romey was a woman of great conviction and always displayed party loyalty and solidarity but also a capacity for community campaigning and leadership. The word 'community' is important in the story of Romey and John Stubbs. The sense of community that both Romey and John generated through their work was an enduring element in their lives which touched all those who knew and loved them. Their rural property, Morningside, in the town of Federal was a symbol of that sense of community. Friends and colleagues were always welcome, and many stories were told at the memorial service of the fun and friendship that were a feature of life there.
That sense of community was also there when John was incapacitated with a stroke in 2008. That community of friends was also there to help Romey in her final years. We often talk in this House about the communities in our electorates. I've had the opportunity to see the real love and commitment that the community in Bangalow and beyond wrapped around both Romey and John. That support was there for them as they had supported others in so many ways throughout their entire lives—those like Romey Stubbs whose own life and work set an example for us all as she affected the lives of so many for the better, and those like Romey whose political beliefs and principles and wider commitment to Labor values and social justice made a real difference in the wider Australian community.
My sympathies go to Romey's many friends and former colleagues and especially to her family: her children, Will, Susie and Sasha; their partners, Merrki, Jamie and John; and Romey's grandchildren, Audrey, Jude, Darcy, Siena, Rosie and Arian. Vale Romey Stubbs.