Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Parliamentary Representation

Valedictory

8:37 pm

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

I will be brief. I just rise to say a few words of thanks in the order of the speeches tonight. On Senator Nigel Scullion, my leader in the Senate, my mate and my good friend, Senator McCarthy said it well: you can never question his commitment, his passion and his loyalty to our First Australians. That's probably the greatest legacy he'll leave here.

I will tell a little story. About six years ago, we had a National Party function in Tamworth. Nigel was a guest speaker. He flew into Tamworth, and a taxi picked him up at the Tamworth Regional Airport. They were driving off. Typical Nige, he said, 'How are you going, mate?' The taxi driver said, 'Good, thanks. Where are you from?' Nige said, 'Darwin, mate.' The taxi driver said, 'Darwin? Oh, Darwin. I was up there about 15 years ago, fishing in the gulf in our boat. We ran out of petrol. The sun was going down. We were drifting towards the rocks. We were in real trouble. I got on the radio and said, "Can anyone hear me?" This bloke came back and said, "I can hear you." I said, "We're in trouble. We're in a spot here. We've run out of petrol. We're drifting towards the rocks." Then this mad young fella come out in a 12-foot tinnie, going flat out with a drum of petrol. He poured it in and got us going. We were so grateful.' Nigel said, 'I only had a pair of shorts on. I was freezing cold too, what's more.' Here they were, 20 years later. It was one of the blokes that Nigel saved when he got the radio message, took the petrol out and got them going. He was the taxi driver in Tamworth, and they met again. How coincidental. You have been a great friend, Nigel. You've been a great leader. To you, Carol and the kids, we wish you all the best in your retirement. Thanks for your contribution to our nation.

To Senator Claire Moore, I haven't had a lot to do with you on committee work, although we did some committee work together. But where we teamed up together was in defence of our friends from Iran, Mohammed and Shayesteh—lovely people—when they fled Iran and their friends and relatives were trapped there in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty and we teamed up to say, 'Give them a go; get them out of there.' Finally they got out of there safe and well—not all of them. Some were bombed, killed, shot or punished. It was a terrible situation. I was glad to have both Mohammed and Shayesteh here at my valedictory. They are lovely people. Claire, I was glad to team up with you in defence of the rights and the treatment of so many Iranians, and I hope that changes in the future.

Well done, Claire. You're a thorough lady—that is the way I sum you up. Enjoy the trip to Fiji. I was with you on one of the tours over there, and my wife, Nancy, was with you as well. We went to mass and enjoyed the singing so much. Those Pacific islanders are so good as singers. You'd pay money to hear them sing. It was just wonderful.

Now to my mate Senator Cameron. He told a few things tonight, but he didn't tell one job he used to do: he was a pump salesman. But I can't go into that, because it's a secret. Perhaps a journalist might ask you one day. Dougie and I came in together in the 2008 class, political opposites. You can't get two more political opposites than Doug Cameron and me, I can assure you. We became good mates. We worked together. The ASIC inquiry was Dougie's idea. We brought out so much wrongdoing in financial planning et cetera. Hopefully, those days are behind us and the right thing will be done in the future.

I worked with Dougie when we put the workers memorial up for those people killed at work. Sadly, there was a young fellow yesterday, 18 years old. Scaffolding collapsed and he lost his life. That was one of Dougie's passions, and I was glad to work with him as we picked the design of the memorial. That's one of Dougie's legacies.

He's a ruthless attacker. Even in his valedictory speech, he was still playing politics and attacking us, something I didn't do. I just said thanks to everyone else, but Dougie can't help himself: he's got to go for the jugular vein all the time. The most important thing to say as I say goodbye—probably my last words in this place—is that it's like a game of football: play it hard on the field but, when you get off the field, go and have a beer with your mates. That's how the Senate should always be: play your hard game in here but, when you walk out, we work together in committees and we're friends.

So could I just say to Nigel, Carol and Claire: all the best to you. Claire, thank you for your wonderful, long contribution. You're a very much respected lady in this place. To Dougie and Elaine: all the best to you in your retirement. I hope you have a good time down in Tasmania. Look out, Tasmania. Trouble's coming your way, not with Elaine but with Dougie. But he's a good bloke. You know where he stands all the time, even though he stands way opposite me in politics. But I think the good thing in the Senate is that we can work together. As you highlighted today, Claire, the committee work here achieves so much for our country. I hope it works together in the future parliaments ahead. I wish you all well.

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