Senate debates

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Parliamentary Representation


5:50 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | Hansard source

I would also like to pay tribute to Senator Chris Back—not only a good friend and valued colleague from the great state of Western Australia but also, and this may be less well known, a fellow parishioner of St Benedict's Parish in Applecross. In this place, we are fortunate to count many among us who have come from many different walks of life. Not many would have had a more diverse journey on their way to the Senate than Senator Chris Back. Chris Back is a proud fifth generation Western Australian who grew up in the Western Australian Wheatbelt. As has already been mentioned, he started his career as a veterinarian in private practice and has had a very distinguished and incredibly varied career in business and public service over many, many years before finding his way to the Senate.

His pursuits throughout his career have reached into different forms of community service. He served his community with distinction as the chief executive officer of the Rottnest Island Authority and CEO of the Bush Fires Board of Western Australia—both leadership roles which saw him drive change for the better, whether it was the development of critical new infrastructure at Rottnest Island or the introduction of a water-bombing aircraft for the Bush Fires Board. In particular, I note his worthy receipt of the Prime Minister's Gold Award for technological achievement, which recognised his pioneering work in the use of satellites to track wildfires in remote and regional locations—a practice that continues to save lives today.

Rounding off his preparliamentary life, Senator Chris Back was a great success in the oil and gas sector, which saw him take on executive roles throughout South-East Asia, India and the Middle East. In Senator Back's first speech in this place, he set out a very clear aim. He said:

… for an Australia which is egalitarian in approach, which rewards independence in outlook and encourages interdependence as a necessary quality of a mature economy but which works actively to eliminate dependency as a long-term outcome. No policy should have the objective of denying a human being their right to support themselves and/or their family …

That, of course, sums up very much the Liberal Party's philosophy, values and principles. There is no question that Senator Back has consistently followed this principle in his approach to policy issues and to debate in this place.

Nowhere was Chris's concern more evident, and this also has already been mentioned, than in his passionate defence of our nation's live export industry after what can only be described as a disastrous decision by the then Commonwealth government in 2011 to ban live exports. Senator Back marshalled his wealth of experience as a livestock veterinarian who served on vessels in the 1980s to deliver amongst the most eloquent, passionate and well-informed rebuttals of this policy at the time. Moreover, his commitment to aiding the recovery of that industry in the years since the ban's removal speaks of his clear concern for those Australians whose livelihoods depend on that industry and for the welfare of Australian livestock more broadly.

Senator Back, of course, has been a very strong and vocal supporter of the coalition government's recently announced $8.3 million investment into the Livestock Global Assurance Program and, in very recent days, has continued to work towards renewed access to former export trade markets like Saudi Arabia. I am sure that, even after he departs this place, he will continue on as a strong advocate for the new jobs and opportunities for regional Western Australia and regional Australia more broadly. The tributes that continue to flow for Senator Back from agricultural industry bodies such as Meat & Livestock Australia and the Cattle Council of Australia leave no-one in any doubt that the sector is very keenly aware of the champion that they had in Senator Back here in the Senate.

I would also like to join those who recognise Senator Back's significant contribution as the chair of multiple Senate standing committees, reviewing and contributing to the improvement of legislation that has been critical to the coalition government's efforts towards building a stronger, safer and more prosperous Australia. In particular, I note that as chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee in recent years, the committee released important reports on legislation dealing with military justice enhancements and the civil nuclear transfers to India, among others. Respectively, these bills have improved the processes for inquiries, complaints and reviews in Australia's military justice system and ensured that the burgeoning and highly promising Australia-India nuclear trade was consistent with our nation's international obligations and values. For his efforts on these important reforms, Senator Back is indeed to be commended.

Senator Back has also made a significant contribution to the Liberal Party cause in the great state of Western Australia. In particular, in supporting our campaigning efforts across important seats for the Liberal Party in Western Australia, like Durack and O'Connor, and in working successfully with other WA Liberal Senate colleagues in those efforts. The fact that we have strong representatives in O'Connor with Rick Wilson and in Durack with Melissa Price is in no small part thanks to the great campaigning efforts and support that Senator Back provided in those very important campaigns.

Chris, you have made an outstanding contribution to the Senate, in particular, on rural, agricultural and resource policy issues and as the chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee. You have been a strong voice for regional Western Australia here in the Senate. Looking at your track record so far, we believe that you still have a few careers in you, moving forward; but, in the meantime, we wish you and Linda and your family in all the corners of the world all the very best for your future. Thank you.


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