Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


6:07 pm

Photo of Alan FergusonAlan Ferguson (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | Hansard source

I well remember, in early 1993, when I felt very mature having been in this place for nearly 12 months, talking to my good friend Ian Campbell and to former Senator Noel Crichton-Browne and saying, ‘Who’s this bloke that’s going to replace Peter Durack?’ I still remember Ian saying to me, ‘Choofer Ellison’s a good bloke.’ From the day that Chris came into this chamber, I do not think there has been anybody here who would not have agreed that ‘Choofer’ Ellison is a good bloke.

I had the good fortune to be in this place at that time, when Chris and I were both a lot younger. We were in opposition. We had a bit of time to spare. People have talked about nights at Lee’s. I remember the nights at Lee’s, but I remember even more the nights at Le Grange, which is a place that is not known to any of the newer people in the Senate. Chris and I and a few others used to occasionally venture to that establishment, which you notice is now closed. I would not want to shock Caroline or the family by detailing the exploits of those times. But can I say that with Chris Ellison we always had a good friend and a good mate.

Chris came into this place with a number of other senators, such as Senator Minchin and Senator Ian Campbell. Who will forget those early days, with the Mabo legislation? I notice Senator Troeth nodding. We sat in this place for hours and hours and hours debating the Mabo legislation. All of you guys who were involved in the legal field were performing a bit of a tag team, trying to make sure that the legislation was well documented and well questioned.

The thing that I remember about Chris the most is his very strong beliefs. Chris came into this place with principles and he never varied from them. His principles always came first. To the newer senators in this place, my only advice is that if you stick to your principles people will always respect you, regardless of what those principles are. Chris, you are to be remembered for that. You made an enormous contribution to government. One of the difficulties about being in government is that you do not get as much time to spend with your mates. If you are a minister or you have a responsible role, it takes up so much of your time that you do not have time for the relaxation periods that, it is true to say, you get more of in opposition.

I remember that when Chris came into this place he was a bachelor. Caroline, you were the best thing that ever happened to Chris. He knows that and we know that. You have no idea how Chris became the ultimate family man, and it was all due to your influence. Can I say that, on behalf of the spouses of all of us who have been in this place for a long time, there is not one who did not love Caroline and the contribution that she made here. Although your time was curtailed once the children started growing up, Caroline, we remember you. We will always remember you for the support you gave Chris and for the friendship you gave to the other spouses in this place.

Chris, you were a fantastic Manager of Government Business. It is one of the hardest jobs in this place. As Manager of Government Business you never upset your colleagues. There are ways of handling your colleagues. You have to go and say, ‘I’m sorry, guys, you can’t speak on this bill because we’ve got to get this legislation through,’ and although people might think that they should speak on it, they cannot because business has to be done. I think that is something that needs to be remembered today. Not everybody in this place can expect to speak on every bill. You were a magnificent Manager of Government Business.

I have had the privilege to serve in this Senate over the past 16½ years with 175 senators. A hundred and seventy-five people have come and gone in this place since I came here in May 1992. Chris Back, who is up in the gallery tonight, will be the 176th. I am sure that we will welcome him with open arms in the same way that we welcomed Chris Ellison. But of those 175 senators, there are none that I respect more than Chris Ellison. To you and your family, Chris, we wish you all the best in the future. I have had the good fortune to call in on Ian Campbell a couple of times in Perth since he retired. Unfortunately, I am a bit old to start another career. You are not, Chris. You are going to have a wonderful time spending the years with Caroline and your family. We wish you well in the future.


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