Senate debates

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Parliamentary Representation

Valedictory

5:01 pm

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

Thanks, Matt, for all your great work and friendship as well. To Steve Martin, it's great to have you on board from Tasmania—I wish you all the best. And to my good mate Senator O'Sullivan, I know what you've done, Barry. I know the people you've helped and I know how generous you are, and I thank you very much for your great work for many, many people.

I'd like to thank the media, who I've worked closely with. I've had a really good run with the media! There was only once when I was in a bit of a jam. Let me explain it to you. I was doing an interview with BBC in London with a bloke by the name of Phil Williams, no relation. It was over two illegal immigrants. Their names were Pistol and Boo. This is how it went: 'On the line we have Senator Williams with us, a good friend of Minister Joyce. Good evening, Senator Williams.' I said, 'Good evening, Phil.' He asked, 'Why does Australia have such strict quarantine?' Well, you know the spiel: we're a clean, green country; we're a big food-exporting country; we need to keep the diseases out and so on. Then he played it—the tape. He said, 'Let me play what your minister said.' Minister Joyce: 'As far as I'm concerned, Pistol and Boo can bugger off back to the States.' I thought, 'What am I going to say here?' Phil asked, 'Senator, is that how ministers speak in the Australian parliament?' I scratched my head and said, 'You must remember one thing, Phil, and never forget it: the English invented the English language, but Australia perfected it!' At that, he burst out laughing, and I got out of jail—out of that wedge.

Can I thank the media I've worked with. Now, I'm going to start with the really important media. To Ando at radio 2VM in Moree—I talk to you all the time, Ando, and you're a great fella. We never played politics—we simply got the message out that people needed to learn about things that are changing here. To radio 2AD, Pete Raymond and his team, in Armidale. To Inverell radio—and we're actually being broadcast live on 91.9 FM radio in Inverell now—to Gerry Taveira, John Shaw and the crew up there, thank you very much for your time and support and the way that the media helps us get the message out about what we're doing. To the ABC, both in regional Tamworth and Muswellbrook, thank you for your great work. It's always been a pleasure to talk to you. And thank you to Prime and NBN in Tamworth.

Can I thank many in the media here in Parliament House. We've become good friends, and I think you've been very fair to me. But I think the reason you're fair to me is I just answer the question. I remember I was doing an interview with Patricia Karvelas one day for ABC Radio National. I was on the tractor. I had to talk to her at five past five, so I set my alarm for five o'clock to turn the tractor off, cool it down, cool the turbo down and turn it off. At five past five the phone rang, and the question went something like this: 'Senator, what's the government doing about that?' I said, 'I don't know.' She said, 'But you're part of the government.' I said, 'I don't talk to the Prime Minister every morning. He doesn't ring me first up.' I asked, 'Would you like me to make something up?' At that, she laughed, and we've been pretty good friends ever since. So the message is: tell the truth all the time and you'll get a good run, folks! Can I thank my friends in the media. I can't name you all, but you know who I'm talking about—Joe Kelly, Sabra Lane, Lane Calcutt, Phil Coorey, Mark Riley and many of you here. You've been very kind to me. We've become good friends, and I've enjoyed your friendship. And thank you for never ringing me after party room meetings because you knew I wouldn't talk to you anyway.

When it comes to the media, can I please thank the great team at Sky News—David Speers and my good friend Janine Perrett, who is here today from Sydney. Thank you, Janine. I'm sorry Paul Murray couldn't make it—it's a late scratching—and Ross Greenwood as well. Can I thank my great mate Piers Akerman. In this job, you get to meet some great people, and, Piers Akerman, you're one of them. When I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, Piers Akerman went along to a Parkinson's conference to find out what he could learn about the disease to help me. That's a testament to what sort of people he and his wife, Susan, are.

But one of the great things Piers Akerman did was many years ago in Adelaide at The Advertiser. He gave a young lady a start in the media. Her name was Adele Ferguson AM. Adele, we've done a lot of work together and we've achieved a lot together. Thank you for being here today with Christian and with your daughter. I will cherish the memories. As Adele said to me, 'When the media and politics teams up, it becomes very powerful.' When I first met with Jeff Morris, the whistleblower from Commonwealth Financial Planning, he asked, 'Senator, what should we do?' I said, 'I think you should give it to the media.' He asked, 'Do you know anyone?' I said, 'Yes, I do.' I handed the story to Adele Ferguson: 900 pages for her to read. Out of that came some changes for the betterment of all Australia and a Gold Walkley Award for Adele Ferguson. Well done! You'll have to extend your house soon, Adele, to fit all the awards in!

I thank the Inverell community; they've been great supporters of mine. They've been very good to me. We have a serious fire up there today; it's burnt about 15,000 acres in the Tingha area. I hope everyone is safe and I hope they get on top of it.

I need to thank my staff. When I started on 1 July 2008 I had four full-time staff: Greg Kachel; Debbie Kachel, his wife; Heather Morris; and Gary Lamrock. Here we are, nearly 11 years later, and my four full-time staff are: Greg Kachel; his wife, Debbie Kachel; Heather Morris; and Gary Lamrock. That means I'm either a pretty good boss or jobs are bloody scarce in Inverell—one of the two! But people know what Greg's like; he works hard. You can ring my office in Inverell at 7 o'clock in the morning and Greg's there to answer it every weekday. Everyone in the building knows Greg and how reliable he is. He gets back to you all the time. Thank you, Greg, for your great work, for your mentoring and for slowing my speech down when we first got here.

You often hear Greg calling the races on Sky, 'We'll now cross to Inverell to Greg Kachel in Moree,' or wherever he's calling the races from. He's a great race caller and a great talent. He's been 32 years in radio, including 18 years as manager. I think the best scalp I ever got was getting you to come with me, mate! Thank you for your great work.

To Debbie, your wife: thank you for all your filling in of the diary—telling me where to go, literally. Deb's good at that! It was the diary I lived on, and Deb kept it up to date. She also got very well known with immigration issues; any immigration issue went straight to Deb.

To Heather Morris, a former Commonwealth Bank staffer: thank you for keeping me off the front pages for doing the wrong travel claims and all the other things we have to go through. You're an expert at that. And to Gary Lamrock: Gary did all my internet, website and all the work in communications. When I got equal first with Barnaby Joyce for the best communicator, that was you, Gary Lamrock. It's a great scheme, Mr President: they do the work and I get the praise. How much better does it get than that?

To Lyn Bull and my casual staff: thank you for your work and support. I've been blessed to have the same staff—I think it would be a record. Of the 226 politicians in this building, who can say that they've had the same four full-time staff as when they started nearly 11 years ago? So I'm very proud of that.

Where are we up to? I thank people so much for attending today. People have travelled a long way. My sister, Pauline, and her husband are here from Perth; my brother, Peter, and his wife, Carol, are here from Inverell; and there are my good friends from South Australia. We have been friends for many years, Michael Kelly and I. We met in 1960 and became mates. We played football together and we played tennis together. He was best man at both my weddings—you won't be getting a hat-trick, matey, I can assure you of that! To Bill Hoffman, Greg Boston, Rick Kelly, Liz Kelly and many who have travelled from Inverell down here: thank you so much for being here and for being part of it as I say goodbye to the Senate.

To my family: it's great to have my eldest son, David, here and his wife, Tammy, with my three grandsons: Finn, Ryan and Jackson in my office. It's wonderful to have you here and to have my daughter, Becky, here with her newborn, two-month-old little boy, Lewis. I'm sorry your husband, Pat, couldn't make it, and the two girls, Ella and Lucy, but we'll catch up with them soon. And to my younger son, Tom, and your wife, Dr Sarah Williams—I must add—and your little girl, Claudia, who is five months old: it's great to have you here. Thank you so much for your support and understanding.

And now to my wife, Nancy. Thank you for your unending support and your understanding. I look forward to getting home and spending every minute with you for the rest of my life. And that's stumps, Mr President. Good luck, everyone, keep well!

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