Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Many words have been spoken tonight about Chris much more eloquently than I could, and I genuinely endorse them all. Such is Chris's influence for good in this chamber and everywhere he goes that I found myself for the first time perhaps in my life fully agreeing with Senator Wong in the contribution she made tonight. Chris's speech tonight was so much Chris Back. The humility, the good sense and the good cheer that he mentioned in his speech is just so Chris and why we all like him so much. His comment that great minds discuss great ideas is again so typically Chris. I am afraid I come into the third category of the three you mentioned, but following your speech, Chris, I will try to elevate slightly. Chris, as everyone has said, is a man without rancour. He always focused on the issue and how he could help to resolve things and make Australia a better place.
Chris will not like me saying this, and if I were a bit more sensitive I would not, but I do want to say that I despair that people with genuine talents like his were never called upon by Liberal prime ministers to administer departments so that Australia could benefit from their organisational ability, good sense and wide experience over many years. Chris was never a player in politics, and regrettably these days being a player seems to be a prerequisite for advancement. Australia and this parliament, and particularly the government, is poorer for the fact that you were never called upon, Chris, to do what I know could have been a power of good for Australia in the role of minister.
Loyalty and commitment are qualities that come to mind when anybody mentions Chris, and you can add to that knowledge and a real appreciation of people. As you know, Chris, I class you as one of my closest friends ever in this chamber, and I have been here a long time and seen a lot of people come and go. I have always had the greatest admiration for you and I have valued your friendship. I am still almost not speaking to you because of the fact that you have decided to go early, and I am distressed that you will not be with us. I might also say that my wife Lesley is distressed not only that you are going but also that she will see less of Linda, who she formed a very close relationship with over the time you were here. I know Lesley will miss her enormously when you have moved on. On the other side, of course, your children in far-flung places around the world will be the winners. One of the reasons Chris is leaving is to spend more time flying across the Pacific to Fort Worth and Panama, and to Singapore, and I know Chris and Linda particularly feel the absence not only of their children but also of their grandchildren. Hopefully they will be able to spend more time with those that they really love. I look forward to some time catching up with you on your Dutch canal boat on the French rivers, and hopefully we might even catch up with you sometime later this year. I do wish you all the very best in the future.
I would not dare to compare myself with Chris in any category, although we did share a passion for rural and regional Australia and in that category, as well, a passion for the Liberal Party. We shared a passion for Northern Australia, and I know the contribution Chris has made there and in so many other ways. Chris and I do share one attribute or quality, or calling perhaps, and that is that, whenever the government needs an additional speaker to fill in a bit of time while a bill comes across from the other side or for some other reason we need to delay things quietly, often Chris and I will be called upon to fill in that time. The only difference is that when Chris gets up to speak he actually knows what he is talking about. I admire him for that, and that comes from his very wide experience, his learning and his real understanding of people and issues. I conclude by saying farewell good and faithful servant of Western Australia and indeed Australia generally. From Lesley and I, au revoir, my friend.