Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Parliamentary Representation


7:41 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Minister for Regional Services) Share this | Hansard source

I'm proud to call Senator Nigel Scullion a colleague, our leader and a great friend. He is a one-of-a-kind person, not someone you'd usually find around Parliament House. He's the sort of bloke you'd more likely find at Shady Camp boat ramp or at the bar at the Borroloola Hotel, but that is why he has been so successful in this place as a senator for the Northern Territory. He understands the pressures, the challenges, the real desires and the motives of the average, normal or, as Dougie said, ordinary Australian. He listens to people. He has his own code. He genuinely cares about what he can do to make their life a little better and give them more opportunity to take advantage of this wonderful nation. If you undertook an examination of the background of the representatives here in the Senate, you would not find one that had a similar one to Nige. No doubt there'll be many stories tonight and ongoing about his role here, but I think that is why he has been able to make such a unique contribution to this place. It's because of his character; it's because of where he's come from and what he's been through.

He was born in London and raised in Malaysia and Malawi, a varied background by anyone's standards, I'd suggest, that has played a part in the political career that followed. I certainly recall, way before the recent foreign citizenship challenges faced by politicians, that he undertook what might be called the midnight dash back from London to renounce his British citizenship just hours before the close of nominations. He flew across the world to ensure that he was eligible to sit in the Australian Senate. That's an example of his true dedication to the Australian parliamentary democracy.

It's well known that Senator Scullion is a keen fishermen. In 1985, he moved to the Territory to pursue his professional piscatorial interests. For over six years, he lived with his family on a boat off the coast of Arnhem Land in the NT as a professional fisherman. His love of the land and the Territory is renowned. He represents the true values of the Country Liberal Party, but he's always a bit of a conundrum to try and work out, and I think we saw some of that tonight in his valedictory remarks. In his maiden speech, he spoke of being both a conservationist and a proud professional fisherman. This demonstrates, I think, that it's not incompatible for those two sometimes seemingly opposing views to exist in the same human. But he has always proudly used science and reason to determine and argue his position from, and I think that is a great example for all of us. He has experienced some of the toughest country in the Territory and I believe truly represents the frontier concept that many Australians understand so well.

He is an enthusiastic natural history observer and collector and would always regale us with some special insect or grass specimen that he'd found somewhere that was quite incredible. He was always astounded and curious and respectful of nature and its wonders. His effort and work as a skipper on the vessel Reliance in the Northern Territory who transported herbarium staff into many isolated coastal localities have seen him have a plant named after him: the Eriocaulon scullionitrue story. This example, to me, sums up just what a—

Senator Williams interjecting—

Yes. Thank you. There's another scientist in the Senate. Senator Siewert is nodding profusely. That shows what a unique character Senator Scullion is. We can all imagine him, as a professional fisherman, swearing and cursing at the weather or complaining about not catching the fish on any given day, but he's also a very proud, passionate and practical conservationist.

Not wanting to confine himself to the life of a fisherman, Senator Scullion was previously a mango farmer. In support of the mango farming industry, he proudly brings them down here, and we ended up with mango daiquiri night at Parliament House, which then morphed into the coalition Christmas party, where many unsuspecting rookie coalition staffers were subjected to the delicious flavour of these mango daiquiris, only to find it a bit hard to get up the next morning! It will be a huge loss to the Christmas party this year.

I know Senator Wong mentioned his chilli crabs, made famous on Annabel Crabb's show. Recently he has initiated the National Party seafood barbecue in support of our seafood industry. The chilli crab dish is served loudly and proudly to all who come along. He did that in partnership with former Senator Ron Boswell to promote our seafood industry. It's so popular that we now have to limit who gets tickets to it, but that's testament to Nigel's passion for that industry and the success of his advocacy.

He also had a long and proud career representing the seafood industry, going on to chair the International Coalition of Fisheries Association in 1999. Senator Scullion was elected to the Senate in 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016. That is a lot of elections for a senator, but the two NT senators face the voters every single election. They don't have the luxury of six years. I might be so bold as to say that he is probably one of the most successfully elected senators, especially when senators are unfairly, I think, sometimes labelled as having a resistance to facing electors. He was appointed the Minister for Community Services in the Howard government. He became the Minister for Indigenous Affairs in 2013 and, at the same time, became a member of cabinet. He has also been the National Party whip—I think it's hard to find a National Party senator who hasn't been the National Party whip, but, as Senator Birmingham alluded to, it's not an easy role to be the National Party Senate whip.


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