Senate debates

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Parliamentary Representation


6:31 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader (Tasmania)) Share this | Hansard source

I want to make a few comments in relation to Senator John Williams. It's already been very well articulated here in the contributions this evening, in relation to the background of Wacka, being a shearer, a truck driver, a farmer and a small business owner. Being elected in 2007, I think he has brought something very unique to this chamber.

I can only speak for myself in the way that I've had dealings with him as my deputy chair on the scrutiny of bills committee. But something that Senator Williams said in his first speech was, 'I just want to be me.' I think that, after 11 years in this place, it's very evident that that's who he was. I think that his contribution to the financial sector in this country, which has been noted in many of the contributions from other people, and, in particular, his strident determination to bring about a banking royal commission, standing out on that side of the chamber for something that he believed in, has been well noted. His driving force was in calling it out for what it was from his background in dealing with banks to understanding the issues that were confronting too many Australians in the way they were being treated by the large banks. I commend him for his contribution there.

I think the thing that has really stood out about Wacka in this place is the amount of respect that he's had from this side of the chamber and the friends that he's made from this side of the chamber. I think it's a good story to tell, so that the people listening to this broadcast will understand that, although we come in here and we have some very strident debates—we articulate our views and we can have very different views—there are times when we have agreements across the chamber and we do that in a respectful way and we do work together on our committees. Those are where we get to know each other in a different forum than the combative nature of what the Senate chamber is only too often.

Can I say, too, that when he's been in this place, and since he's been here, we've had some contentious issues to deal with. I have to pay respect to Senator Williams for his conviction and for living by the values of his Christian beliefs. I appreciate the respect that he has at times given to me personally in relation to sharing his views in those debates, and then there have been times when we haven't. I thank him for his contribution. He's also going to be remembered for his integrity and his courage. I think that, as a senator leaving this place after 11 years, it's a pretty good thing to go away knowing that you have the respect of people around this chamber and you're respected for your courage and your integrity.

In terms of his role as deputy chair on the Scrutiny of Bills Committee, we worked together very closely. But we were having issues on that committee with government ministers not responding as quickly as the committee would have liked. It was Wacka who took it upon himself to make contact with the offices of those ministers who had been tardy in responding to our requests for further information on legislation. At times, there was legislation that was about to be debated in the Senate chamber and we wanted to ensure that senators had as much information as possible. So Wacka took it upon himself to follow up. I have no doubt there were times when some of those ministers would not have appreciated his phone call or his knock on their door, but he did that. I have to tell you that the turnaround was remarkable. So I thank him very much. I would also have to say that I'm sure that there have been times when he has been more popular on this side of the chamber than in fact he has been with some of his ministerial colleagues.

Again, I think it was so evident in what Senator Cameron said in his contribution about the calibre of the man that John is and what he has upheld during his time here in the chamber. His devotion to his wife and his family has been commented on. I just want to wish them both the very best in the next chapter of their lives together. I know that he's going to be missed by not only me but many on this side, particularly those of us who have worked with him on committees and also in estimates.

Senator John 'Wacka' Williams, thank you for your contribution. I only hope that when I have the opportunity to choose my time of leaving that I will have some similar comments made in relation to my contribution in this place. Thank you very much for the way you've always conducted yourself and all the very best for your future.


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