Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Senator Back, we first met at the preselection committee that decided to make you a senator for Western Australia in the place of the former senator, Chris Ellison. We competed in that race, and that was the first time I got to know Senator Chris Back. And while I was a younger person, I was disappointed with the result, having been here with you, having watched the way you have done your job as a senator for Western Australia, having watched the great clarity of your thinking and the great conviction with which you have met many of the challenges, some of them easy and some of them difficult, in this place. But to be travelling around Western Australia and constantly reminded of those strengths of friendships that you and Linda have had with many, many people across regional Western Australia, I cannot help but reflect on the wisdom of state council at that meeting in December 2008, I think it was.
We have enjoyed some battles in this place together, and I am pleased to say that we have been winning some battles here together. I think the most notable was when you and I and some others joined in tackling our own party in arguing against its position to join with Labor in recognising local governments in the Constitution. I think for me that brought home in a very stark way why senators in the coalition must always stay vigilant and must always keep at the forefront of their considerations their commitment to Australian federalism. That was a battle that was unpopular. It was not easy. But it was an important battle that we were successful in winning.
Just reflecting on the commentary of others this afternoon, it is interesting how when we end we sort of go back to where we started. In your very first contribution in the Senate you talked about the contribution of the Irish to Western Australia, citing CY O'Connor's considerable commitment. You talked about the importance of the bushfire service in Western Australia, and how many of us can remember you actually donning the jacket of the bushfire brigade when Esperance endured those devastating bushfires.
And, of course, we are reminded too of how some things just do not change. You talked about GST distribution reform. But what was powerful about your 2009 contribution in regard to GST distributional reform was that no-one else was talking about it at that time. You showed tremendous perseverance and courage, because it is not an easy issue to tackle.
Chris, you mentioned how grateful you were to the state council of the Western Australian Liberal Party. As a party man of 30 years, I think I can stand here and extend to you and Linda the heartfelt gratitude and appreciation of the Liberal Party WA state council for the great work you have done in representing Western Australia, in standing up for the traditions and privileges of the Senate and, most importantly, for representing regional Western Australians.