Senate debates

Tuesday, 8 December 2020


Madigan, Mr John Joseph

4:14 pm

Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I too would like to make some brief remarks in honouring the service of Senator John Madigan and pay my condolences to his family and friends. Whenever John was going to leave us from this earth it was going to be too soon, especially given his contribution to many—his family and friends and others. His young age has meant that it has been far, far too soon for us. He was an enormously generous and compassionate man.

I only served with John for around a year in this Senate. I got to know him a little during a few inquiries and I was struck by how much work he did in his own community, with his church, and how much his strong faith informed him to be so generous and compassionate to others, no matter what their background. He did a stellar amount of work with young people, particularly in getting them interested in trades and other ventures. He helped overseas, I believe, with charity. His contributions to this country and to his community will probably remain unrecognised in public view because they were hidden from the normal political processes. It will be those people who will feel the loss of John more than anyone else, but his passing has also been a great loss to the political fabric of this nation.

John has gone too soon in political terms as well because, in some respects, the time has shifted now to suit John's principles and values. Some have remarked here that he was a reminder of a previous time, or a previous generation, in Australia. I actually think he was perhaps a harbinger of a renewed emphasis on the need for this country to return to cherishing its wealth-producing industries of agriculture, of manufacturing, of mining. John was sometimes a lone champion of those sectors, a lone voice for many who did not have someone to speak for them in this parliament. That was obviously informed by John's own background as someone who worked with his hands and who knew what was like to feel the pride of making something of worth and value to others with your own hands. He wanted an Australia that did not forget the importance of actually making things so that we can provide a service to others in our own community and to the world and, of course, also be in a position where we can build the products to defend ourselves and protect our independence, like the spaceships of the ocean, the submarines—another example where John was well ahead of his time. We are now building submarines in Adelaide and now everyone is talking about manufacturing. John was sometimes a lone voice on that particular cause a few years ago.

John also took up unpopular causes in other areas as well. He was a champion of the unborn, and I want to recognise the efforts he made in this chamber to bring forward legislation to protect those rights. Again, it was something he was criticised for but, in his own humble and softly spoken way, he would proceed on with his own principles and convictions on those matters. His passing is a great loss for us in this chamber on those causes as well.

I got to know John best when he chaired the Senate committee on wind farms, particularly their impact on local communities. John was an extremely grassroots politician. Being an engineer, he probably knew more about the technicalities of renewable energy than anybody else. But what most interested John was not the mechanics of the wind turbine but the impacts on human beings and their families of such industrial developments. So, during this committee inquiry, we actually went and spent a number of days going to people's own homes. I don't think I have been to a Senate committee inquiry where we have done the same sort of outreach. We went to people's homes, we went to their bedrooms—with their permission, obviously—and saw how closely they had to sleep to very large, noisy things. We heard their stories firsthand around their kitchen tables about how they were kept awake at night. Some people had sold their own homes or moved just to get away. His tireless work bringing attention to that issue has left the legacy of the National Wind Farm Commissioner, who I think is doing a good job to represent the interests of those who are impacted by very large developments and they, more than anyone else, deserve to have their views heard, listened to and acted upon.

As I said, John's passing is a great loss for us because he was a voice for those who often don't have a voice. It will be up to us now, those of us who share many of his philosophies and values, to amplify his messages—which have become more relevant in recent years—in the years to come. Despite John's passing, I hope there is some assurance that his legacy, his example, and his pioneering efforts in these fields will continue to be built upon in this place, thanks to his efforts. My great condolences go to all his family members. I share with Senator Abetz the strong view that Senator Madigan is looking down upon these proceedings, and I hope we can live up to his example and commitment.


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