Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


5:37 pm

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

It was 15 years ago, right! Fifteen years in the Senate takes its toll! He survived better than I, although he is a bit grey. We have had the time in the parliament together and we served on the native title committee early in our careers. We worked quite closely together on those things. When he was Manager of Government Business in the Senate, I had a lot to do with him in various roles. It is worth noting, though, that, whilst Senator Minchin focused on perhaps a disappointment in his career, he should have tried it from this side for that long period before we won government. Chris is one of the few people who spent the vast majority of his time in government and the vast majority of his time in the ministry. While a lot of that is down to his own abilities, there is also in politics always a sense of luck. I think he was very lucky to have had that time. He has had a very distinguished career but has had the benefit of a career where timing has been good. No-one appreciates that more than those of us who did 12 years in opposition.

Chris has always been a very decent and professional bloke. He is very easy to deal with. Joe Ludwig and I, along with others who have worked with him across the chamber, have high regard for his decency and professionalism and also for being a person of his word and being very good to work with. I am very grateful for that and have enjoyed those interactions—even though they have been testy on occasions in the pursuit of different interests. I was a bit concerned by Senator Minchin’s descriptions of Chris as sharing his ideological positions—I know he is conservative, but he cannot be that bad, surely! Having said that, I embarrassed Senator Ellison once by saying that I voted for him in a student election at the University of Western Australia because he was the moderate face of the Liberal club on the campus. And he was regarded as being quite progressive at the time. I think it is fair to say he moved to a more conservative position over the years—obviously by associating with the wrong people, like Senator Minchin! Even then, Senator Ellison had a better reputation than most of the student politicians on campus, but that is probably not a big claim. He always looked to make a positive contribution.

I acknowledge his family, as Senator Minchin did. A lot of platitudes are often spoken on these occasions, sometimes about family, but having known his wife, Caroline, she certainly is the better half. You could not meet a more delightful person. Chris married a bit later in life than most of us, but he has been blessed with three great children, whom I have spent some time with on the planes on occasions. They are full of energy and full of life. They are lovely kids. One of the great things about Chris’s decision is that he will get to enjoy them more as they grow.

I have said this before, but I think one of the great things in politics is to go at a time of your own choosing. So few do it; so few do not end up bitter. Our last Prime Minister, Mr Howard, is a classic example. I do not mean this in a political way; we have had more than our fair share as well. Those that go of their own choosing seem to cope with post-politics life much better. Because they have made a decision, they go without regret and they go without bitterness, and I am sure Chris is in that place. I wish him well. I think he can learn a lesson from former senator Ian Campbell, whom I last saw driving around in a sports car in Subiaco, shouting out the window at me and enjoying life immensely. He is terrible to run into, because he is having such a great time. I think he is making a huge quid, having a great time and enjoying life. He is an advertisement for retiring while still young enough to enjoy it and making the decision to go yourself. He and Brenda are obviously enjoying life.

Chris, we do appreciate the contribution you have made. I think you have had a great career. To serve as a minister for that long is a rare experience. If you look back over the history of people who have served in this place, very few have served as a minister for that length of time. I know you have much to be proud of in the portfolios you have served in. I wish you all the best. I think you have made a very wise decision, and I am glad you came to it of your own choosing. You decided to go under your own steam. Senator Minchin and I probably have to examine our own performance, as we are still here and some might say we should have gone with you—


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