Wednesday, 3 April 2019
I too will be brief, but I wanted to place on record some comments about my great mate Senator Nigel Scullion. As we've heard tonight, Nigel's been a fisherman, a shooter, an industry representative, a mango farmer, a senator, and a family man. In my view, in many respects, tonight we are losing more than just a senator; we're losing a number of people all at once, rolled into one, because he brings such diversity to this place. He brings something that no one person can replace. He has been a fantastic leader of the National Party in the Senate here. He is one of only three Country Liberal Party senators in the Senate's history. According to my research—I must admit done on Wikipedia while I've been sitting here—he is the third longest serving Indigenous Affairs minister in our nation's history as well. In fact, it's a bit of a dead heat: Ms Jenny Macklin beats him by about a hundred days, and Robert Tickner was Indigenous Affairs minister for a couple of hundred extra days. So he's in quite a pantheon there and he leaves a large legacy.
I want to focus on two things that I've seen Nigel do and achieve as a senator. One focuses on that portfolio that he has led ably for the last five years, with a great passion to help and advance the interests of First Australians. He will leave a legacy, in my view, after those 5½ years—a legacy of the focus he has put on delivering practical results for First Australians in school attendances, in employment participation, in training. Something that perhaps doesn't get focused on enough but I think is a real future task for future Indigenous Affairs ministers in this country is to support and develop the business capability and capacity of Indigenous communities. Nigel, in the last couple of years, has revolutionised government procurement in respect of Indigenous affairs, taking the Commonwealth government's procurement with Indigenous affairs companies from only a few million dollars a year to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. I think that is something that future governments can ably build on. I also hope that in my space, the resources space, it's something that businesses can take more seriously as well. While I often comment that the resources sector is by far the greatest employer of Indigenous Australians and has certainly contributed greatly to their advancement in the last 15 years, it could, of course, always do better. One area in which to do better is to engage more Indigenous businesses. I also want to see more Indigenous Australians in executive positions in mining companies. In the future it would be great to have Indigenous Australians run one of the major mining companies which operate in their communities. If that is achieved, I think a lot of what Nigel has started will be the reason for it.
The other thing I want to focus on is how Nigel has stood up for the little guy. He is a fighter, a natural fighter. He doesn't walk away from a fight. It doesn't matter who it is with. I have had great fun with Nigel fighting and defending the interests of fishermen and of the live cattle industry. Within our coalition, there's some tension sometimes, and Nigel's always willing to be there on the front line. It's been a pleasure to be there with him. I just want to relay one quick story, one of my favourite little battles—it's a small one in the whole scheme of things—that shows how we in the National Party will take up a fight, however much of a lost cause it is, because it is the right cause.
Nigel was very worked up about the impending ban on the importation of lion head trophies into Australia. Again, most people would think: 'That shouldn't happen. Why should we allow that?' Without going through all the details, those trophies are an incredibly important revenue source for poor African countries. Nigel cogently put the case that they are, in fact, also very important in helping with the breeding of lions, when well regulated. He only supported the well-regulated hunting of lions. In Australia, only about a dozen come in every year, but he was fighting for them. We didn't win that battle, but we did have some fun and achieved some other things through the battle. So we lost the war, but we won a few battles along the way.
It was particularly brutal. It was over a small thing. It wasn't a big issue. It didn't hit the headlines or anything like that. But I suppose that, sometimes, when the stakes are smaller the passions gets higher and people get more worked up, so it was quite an emotional couple of weeks. At end of one of the weeks, we were having a beer down at the Kingston Hotel, and I think it was Barry—Senator O'Sullivan—who suggested we should get Minister Hunt, who was the relevant minister, some kind of peace offering to get over the previous fractious couple of weeks of discussions. He, I think, suggested a stuffed lion toy. I thought that was a great idea, a smashing idea, so I said: 'Let's go one step better. Let's chop the stuffed lion's head off, mount it and present it to Minister Hunt.' So we now have Cecil in our office as a tribute, a trophy, to the fights that Nigel took up. The trophy artist did a fantastic job.
I will miss fighting along with Senator Scullion on behalf of people who wouldn't otherwise get a voice in this place. He's been a great contributor to the history of the National Party in this place. He will, I'm sure, have a fantastic retirement with his family, pursuing his interests and not being told what to do, which is what he likes. I didn't think I'd live to see the day where I saw Senator Nigel Scullion break down in the Senate, but it showed where his heart really lies and where he can now find time and solace.