Monday, 27 November 2017
Fife, Hon. Wallace Clyde 'Wal'
It is a great honour as a senator for New South Wales to make some brief and personal remarks about the Hon Wal Fife, a lifelong Liberal and a great citizen of Wagga Wagga. Wal had an extraordinarily impressive career for many reasons, which both the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition have enunciated in the chamber here this afternoon, but not least of it was the length of his service as a parliamentarian, both in New South Wales and federally: some 17 years, 10 months and two days in New South Wales, and almost 18 years here in the federal parliament—35 years is a considerable service to the public in anyone's terms.
I came to know Wal Fife through the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party but most particularly through the roles I had over a period of time working here in the federal parliament as an adviser, including—to show my age, Mr President—in the old parliament as an adviser to Andrew Peacock, then Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and subsequently as an adviser to Robert Hill as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate here in this parliament. We also worked together, with me as a junior woodchuck of nondescript talents, I'm sure, through the federal executive of the Liberal Party and the New South Wales state executive of the Liberal Party.
If one seeks to identify the City of Wagga Wagga in a person, then I think that person was Wal Fife. His service, both, as I have said, as state and as federal member, included moving from Farrer to Hume in not controversial but at least contested circumstances post-redistribution, as he followed his beloved City of Wagga Wagga, which had moved electorate in that redistribution. Wal Fife is a Liberal Party legend. You can't say that about everybody. His guidance and his leadership were much respected and often sought.
There is one special recollection that I would briefly relate. As Senator Wong noted and Senator Brandis alluded to, he has been called in recent articles since his passing 'a statesman', 'a true servant of the people', 'well regarded' and 'well respected'. I particularly remember him as also an old-fashioned gentleman, including with one particularly charming quirk. In my life, three men have always moved to the kerb side of the street when walking beside a lady so as to protect them from splashes from passing carriages: my father, my friend John Brogden and, I fondly recall, Wal Fife. It always made me smile. I am honoured to have the opportunity to pay my brief respects here today. My condolences also go to Marcia, who was by his side through all those years, to their children and to their extended family. Vale, Wal Fife.
Question agreed to, honourable senators standing in their places.