Tuesday, 20 June 2017
I rise as the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate to pay tribute to senator Chris Back and to acknowledge his outstanding record as a senator for Western Australia for the past eight years. I also would like to associate myself with the wonderful contributions that have already been made.
Since beginning his term in this place Senator Back has served this place, all the committees and his party with respect, hard work and sincerity—and, I would have to say, a bucketload of humour. In the vernacular you are indeed a funny bastard, mate—you really are! The number of times everything was very serious and Backie would lean over and deliver a one-liner—and you knew it was coming and you knew he would make you laugh, no matter what the situation. Thank you so much for that attribute.
On behalf of my mob—and I know they will say this to you in their own words, Chris—again, thanks so much for your work and your friendship over the time. We always need leaders who are able to work in a real multi-partisan way. It did not really matter who you were, what your background was or what your politics were, Chris was there working in what he thought was the very best way to get an outcome.
We particularly appreciate the focus you made, mate, on some of the regional issues. Your role in many of the debates in agriculture—and we have already spoken a lot about that—added a great deal to this place. I guess it is for the future, but people should acknowledge—and George spoke about this—your wealth of life experience. The more life experience, the better and the sharper the contribution you can make in this place. Your history has been such a broad brush of life experiences and we have been very lucky to have had the benefit of that. I was reading that you introduced the first equine management course in Australasia, back in 1976. When I read that I was thinking that trying to deal with half-mad horses must have prepared you pretty well for committee work, mate! You did very well—maybe that is part of your incredible patience. Indeed.
I know you have always been a really busy man in this place, wherever you were. I would always reflect with my staff that you would leave this place and suddenly there was a bit of a gap—quick, there was a second, and Back would stand up and have not an idea and not a clue—I was speaking to him a little earlier about the possibility of that happening—but sound as erudite as possible and talk about something different. You are always the man of the moment, mate, and I am sure that will continue to be the case.
Mate, I have to say that Western Australian owes you a lot. You have worked so hard giving your contribution to the Senate, and always tying it back in. It might have been good for Australia but you always tied it back into Western Australia. That is what you are here to do and I think you have made a remarkable contribution. Some of the stuff we have had to deal with in this place was very difficult. I can recall some of the very difficult debates, such as legalised assisted suicide. These are very difficult matters that had to be handled with respect and I think we will all remember the decency of your contribution.
You did not really wear your heart on your sleeve, but we were never very shy about ensuring that your personal values and beliefs in the people around you shone out. You and your family and Western Australians should be proud that on every occasion there was no question about what you stood for. You were not there to be cajoled or seduced into a slightly different view, and I think I might have tried it on a couple of occasions—unsuccessfully. You know exactly what you stand for and that is so important in this place.
You should know that your time here has helped to keep Australians safe. You have supported farmers particularly to regain and to access economic opportunities—we have talked about some of those matters already—and you have contributed to a more sustainable future for Australia's families. Your efforts in this place are valued and together in this place I am sure we all wish you well in the next chapters of your life's service to this nation. Given the number of careers that you have already engaged in, I hope that those new chapters are as exciting as some of your previous journeys. Mate, it has been absolutely fantastic working with you, and certainly on behalf of the Nationals, and I know the place more generally, I can say you have ensured that your mark has stuck on a part of all of us. So congratulations, thank you and all the best, mate.