Thursday, 18 March 2021
Hurford, Hon. Christopher John, AO
Madam Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou, can I start off by saying thank you to you for relieving me in the chair in order for me to speak on this condolence motion.
I rise to express my deep sadness and regret at the passing of Christopher Hurford, the former member for Adelaide, former cabinet minister, former federal minister, former Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, a great person and an impressive man who held the seat of Adelaide, which I now have the honour to hold, through nine consecutive elections, and that is to be respected greatly. Chris entered federal parliament in 1969 after twice trying, unsuccessfully, for a seat in the South Australian parliament. He won the seat of Adelaide with a 14.3 per cent swing to Labor in the seat. That turned the federal seat of Adelaide into a safe Labor seat. Chris won enough votes on the first count in that first election to take the seat without the need for preferences. This isn't to gloat about Labor or how well we've done; it's to show the character of the man and the respect he garnered in the electorate. When you met Chris, you knew you were speaking to someone who was caring and who understood. He held Adelaide until his resignation in 1987.
After his retirement from parliament, Chris was appointed Australia's consul-general to New York for four years. In his many years as the member for Adelaide he held many portfolios and shadow portfolios. But the most important portfolio for Chris, I think, was immigration. As the minister for immigration he really was able to change the way we did things in that portfolio. He had a great knowledge of our multicultural communities, a great knowledge of the difference ethnic groups that had made Adelaide and Australia their home. In fact, he paid an interest in the issues of immigration long after he had retired. I would often get phone calls from him in my electorate office when I was the member for Hindmarsh. He'd have people he'd come across who he thought were being unfairly treated through their visa applications et cetera. He would give me their whole background and ask me to help them. But in most cases he'd already done the due diligence, he'd already have a brief for me. Many, many constituents were referred to me.
Chris paid a keen interest in immigration and changed the way we did immigration in this country. For example, the point system and skilled migration were things Chris Hurford brought to the forefront. It was as immigration minister, that role that he began in 1984, that Chris reformed Australia profoundly. He celebrated and protected our diversity and he had a great knowledge of the different communities in Australia. But he also reformed this area fundamentally. He brought in the points based and skills based immigration system that we still use today, making our immigration processes fairer. And he worked hard to encourage more women to run for parliament. In this, too, he was certainly ahead of his time.
The character traits that you often hear associated with Chris—we heard them in the chamber yesterday from the Prime Minister and from the Leader of the Opposition and we have heard them in this place over the last couple of days—include decency, integrity, intelligence and humanity. He was a very good man. I had quite a bit to do with him, through the Republic Movement, in the lead-up to the plebiscite—the yes/no campaign for Australia to become a republic. He was a true republican. We worked on the committee together in that period leading up to the 1999 plebiscite. I recall his disappointment at drinks on the night as the results came through. He worked tirelessly on fundraising for the campaign in South Australia. He was a good man and he'll be greatly missed. My condolences go to his children and grandchildren.
I join my colleague the member for Adelaide in making some brief remarks on the passing of Christopher John Hurford on 15 November last year. As the member for Adelaide and other speakers have pointed out, Chris Hurford was a former member of this place and a minister in the Hawke Labor government from 1983 to 1987. The details of Chris's personal life and his parliamentary service were comprehensively outlined in the contributions yesterday by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Birmingham, Senator Don Farrell—and, a moment ago, by you, Mr Deputy Speaker Georganas—so I'll just make some brief remarks recollecting some of my own memories of Chris Hurford and his service to our nation.
Australia in 1969 was a very different country than it is today. That was the year Chris was first elected to parliament. Our needs were very different, life was very different and there was a different class of politicians—old-school politicians who had lived through World War II and had invaluable life experience. With Chris Hurford, that was very much the case. He had lived in India and England and then migrated to Australia as a Ten Pound Pom. Even within Australia, he spent time in Sydney, Perth and Broken Hill, finally settling in Adelaide. That life experience, I believe, made him the very effective, very competent and highly respected politician that he turned out to be—and, indeed, a very competent minister. It is also what made him a very popular local member, winning eight consecutive elections in what has not always been a safe Labor seat.
Perhaps Chris Hurford's most notable ministerial role—as you, Mr Deputy Speaker, pointed out just a few moments ago—was as immigration minister during a period when Australia experienced a substantial diversification of migration. He developed an affinity with the migrant communities, reciprocating the tendency for those communities to view him as their minister. Chris was also heartfelt on workers' issues, perhaps driven by his Catholic beliefs, his experience with large families and his time in the working town of Broken Hill. Within the Labor Party, Chris Hurford played a key and leading role in the formation of the Labor Unity faction in South Australia. After politics, he served as Australian Consul-General in New York from 1988 until 1992, and in 1993 he was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia.
From my recollections of Chris and my relationship with him, Chris was a man of stature and intellect. When he walked into a room, his presence was immediately noted. And he was always ready to share good advice with upcoming colleagues, including me. I recall having some discussions with Chris when I stood for federal politics in both 2004 and then shortly after when I was elected in 2007. I can only say that his advice at the time was something I very much appreciated.
I extend my condolences to Chris's family—noting that his wife, Lorna, passed away in 2005—particularly to his children, Alex, David, Philippa, Kate and Richard; his sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, Marg, Jack, Mark and Emma; and his eight grandchildren, Sam, Georgia, Timmy, Tom, Tess, Clare, Matt, and Charlie. Finally, I thank Chris for his service to our country. May he rest in peace.