Senate debates

Wednesday, 15 August 2007


5:25 pm

Photo of Alan FergusonAlan Ferguson (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Pursuant to the order of the Senate agreed to earlier today, I call on Senator Calvert to make a valedictory statement.

Photo of Paul CalvertPaul Calvert (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr President. May I add my congratulations to your elevation and may I also ask that you give me the same protection from the chair that you gave the previous speaker, just in case someone decides to interject. At the outset may I offer my congratulations to Senator Cormann for a very impressive first speech. I wish him well at the beginning of his career. It was his first speech, and this is my last speech. C’est la vie. That is the Senate—some come and some go.

I certainly appreciate the opportunity that has been given to me to make some remarks today before I leave the Senate during the non-sitting period. The first debt of gratitude I have is to the Tasmanian division of the Liberal Party of Australia. Like most of us here—and as Senator Cormann referred to earlier—we owe our position in the Senate to the support of our party organisations, and my association with the men and women rank and file members of the party has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. These are people who do not themselves seek public office but toil behind the scenes on behalf of their political parties and, by extension, on behalf of our democracy. I recall 20 years ago being invited by the then Director of the Liberal Party, Clem Hoggett, to put my name forward in the double dissolution of 1987. I also remember former Senator Shirley Walters ringing my wife and telling her that I would spend only 20 weeks a year in Canberra.

The second debt of gratitude I have is to my colleagues in this place. In 20 years I have sat on these red benches—and those benches in the provisional Parliament House—with many fine senators and have been privileged when they have elected me to various positions, first as Deputy Opposition Whip, then as Government Whip and, finally, as a nominee for the presidency. I hope I have repaid their confidence.

I have been privileged to lead the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team. As many of you know, we meet every week whilst parliament is sitting and have made several joint representations on matters of vital concern to our state of Tasmania. We also have a joint newsletter. We regard imitation as the best form of flattery and note that some state colleagues, in both the government and the opposition, have started to follow our lead.

I have also been honoured to work with senators of all political parties, especially on committees and as whip. I am the first to say that not all wisdom resides in one particular point of view and I thoroughly enjoyed some of the debates and inquiries I worked on through our Senate committee system. As President, I have been fortunate to visit many other parliaments around the world. I have never found any legislature that matches the effectiveness of the Australian Senate, and I urge all senators to cherish what we have and not for one minute take it for granted.

I thank the officers of the Department of Parliamentary Services, led by Hilary Penfold, and the Parliamentary Librarian, Roxanne Missingham, and their staff for all their efforts in supporting me in my role. They have been first class. I regard it as a particular achievement of my time as President to have overseen the amalgamation of the three joint parliamentary departments into one. Certainly there have been some teething problems, but the reality today is that the services are delivered at less cost to the taxpayer and with fewer staff than before the amalgamation.

I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a very good working relationship with two Speakers. I refer of course to the Hon. Neil Andrew and my colleague in the gallery the Hon. David Hawker. They have always taken a parliament-wide view of the administration of this place, as well as being gentlemen and friends. Observers might think that the President and the Speaker only sit in the chair in this place and the rest of their time is spent idling. Those who understand the magnitude of the administration of this Parliament House know that chamber duties are only a very small part of our role. And, while I am talking about the Speaker, might I say that in my time as President I did appreciate—and I know my wife did—the wonderful friendship that he and his wife formed with us and particularly the support that Penny Hawker gave to my wife.

I was very pleased to institute as President the Richard Baker Senate Prize for writing about the Australian Senate. I think that has contributed to raising the profile of thoughtful commentary on our activities—at least I hope it has—and I hope that it will continue. Since my election in July 1987 I have been impressed by the support I have had from Senate staff. There is no finer body of parliamentary officers, and I have also appreciated their support for me in the five years I have been President. In the Senate I mention particularly the attendants, the transport officers, the Table Office, the Parliamentary Education Office and the Black Rod’s office. And special thanks to Kathy Eliopoulos, who has acted as my attendant in the chamber.

My thanks are to cover everyone, but I do single out the Clerk for his advice to me in the chair, and the Usher of the Black Rod for looking after so many things attaching to the President’s office, most of them unseen. I appreciate all that they have done for me.

I thank my electorate staff in Hobart, especially my long-serving office manager, Yvonne Murfet, and John Bowes, who is a friend and a great source of wise advice.

Many of you will know my media adviser, Vince Taskunas. Vince has given me loyal support not only as President but before that, when I was whip. He is also a very capable singer, as many of you may know!

I have had excellent staff—not too many, 29 in fact—over the 20 years, and every one of them has bettered themselves over their time. It is a statistic of which I am very proud. In my early days I was very well served by Les and Mary Glover, and I would like to make mention of them tonight. In my Canberra office, Margaret Pearson and Di Goodman—and, before her, Julie Meskell—are known to many honourable senators for the quiet and efficient way they have kept the President’s office running. I will miss them all as excellent staff and as friends

I cannot let the matter pass without giving a special mention to my former senior private secretary, Don Morris. As most of you would know, he is almost the font of all knowledge as far as the history of this parliament is concerned, and I would sometimes wonder whether something had actually happened if Don did not know about it. Don’s advice, humour and personal friendship have been a part of the many pleasures I have had as President.

Home on the farm would be in a much worse state without the loyal support I have received from my neighbours Kevin and Olga Balsley. I thank them for all their work—and I certainly thank them for closing the gates when I have forgotten to!

I have been pleased to have contributed in some small way to public policy in this country over the last 20 years. One of the initiatives I am particularly proud of is the travelling school which provides tuition for the children of showmen and others who follow the annual round of agricultural shows. I thank sincerely Senator Ellison for the support he gave me on that project. I think it is wonderful to see those pantechnicons travelling the country, educating children who never had the opportunity of an education before.

I was also very pleased to have a hand in the raising of the beautiful Bellerive Oval to international test cricket standard. I hope the support of the government continues for that project. More recently, I was delighted when my call to the states to move towards harmonised time zones led to some small steps in the right direction. I was also pleased to see the development of a $15 million wastewater recycling irrigation scheme in the Coal River Valley. I had a lot of help from former senator Robert Hill in that exercise, and I earnestly hope that water reuse is followed by local governments around Australia.

When I was warden of Clarence, I decided that the best way to run any meeting is to let everyone have a fair hearing. I have tried to apply the same standard to the Senate, and I have been pleased to have the cooperation of almost every senator. I have mentioned the support of my Deputy President over the past five years, Senator John Hogg. I reiterate what a great colleague he has been, and I will certainly miss our daily interaction.

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the temporary chairmen of committees for their wise work. Often time in the chair is thankless, but I do believe that all of those people who take the opportunity to be temporary chairmen gain a unique perspective of the Senate from the vantage point that you, Mr President, hold at the moment.

Above all, of course, we are supported in this place by our families. In my maiden speech on 28 October 1987, I said:

There is no doubt, as other senators have said, that the support of one’s wife and family is so important. I appreciate them very much. Therefore, I take this opportunity of expressing publicly my gratitude to my wife Jill and to my children, Anna, Kate, Belinda and William.

As someone who knows more about me than anyone else looking down from the gallery, I echo those words tonight, 20 years on! In my time in the Senate, three of those four children have married and started their own families—and I use this public opportunity to tell my son to get a move on! They have been great. The joy they bring to Jill and me and the opportunity to see our five grandchildren grow up are good reasons for my decision to retire. Jill has been my best companion and fairest critic over the last 43 years—a typical wife, I might add—and she has been a particularly wonderful confidante and partner to me as a senator and particularly as President. She has stood shoulder to shoulder with me and represented this place and Australia magnificently. In fact, over the last 20 years she has not only been mother to the family but many times she has also been father.

When I am released from senatorial duties, Mr President, I am looking forward very much, as you would know, to joining several of my former colleagues in the Shearwater Health and Fitness Club—a more misleading name would be hard to find!

I wish all honourable senators well for the future. I know we will shortly be facing an election, which will be conducted freely and fairly. We do not realise how lucky we are to be able to take that fact for granted—it is a privilege many other countries are still to attain. We must never forget that we are the fourth longest lasting democracy in the world, and every Australian, young or old, not only should be proud of that but must realise that tradition must be maintained and nurtured. I thank the Senate.

5:37 pm

Photo of Nick MinchinNick Minchin (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance and Administration) Share this | | Hansard source

For many of us on this side, at least, today is a day of mixed blessings. We have had the enormous pleasure of formally welcoming to our ranks Senator Cormann, who made one of the best maiden speeches that I have heard in this place. But we also face the sadness today of losing our good friend Paul Calvert. This sadness is compounded by the regrettable fact that Paul is the fifth Liberal senator to depart our ranks just this year. On behalf of all coalition senators, I want to congratulate Senator Calvert on an absolutely outstanding career representing in this place the state of Tasmania.

Paul has provided meritorious service to this Senate for, as he said, some 20 years. It has been my privilege to serve here with Senator Calvert for 14 of those 20 years. In that time, I have been able to observe a senator dedicated to diligent representation of the people of Tasmania. He has brought to this place fantastic enthusiasm for his state and its future. If there was only one thing that we knew about Paul Calvert it would be that he is a Tasmanian. It is a time to reflect on the fact that one of the great things about the Senate is that as a result of the wisdom of the founding fathers we do have equal representation from all the states. If you think about it, if we did not—if the Senate was chosen on the same basis as the House of Representatives—this chamber would probably have two or at most three senators from the state of Tasmania, and people like Paul Calvert might not have had the opportunity to serve in this place and represent that great state. It is a reminder of the great heritage we have of equal representation from all states, a heritage that must be preserved.

Senator Calvert has also been a dedicated and loyal representative of our great party, the Liberal Party of Australia. He has enriched, in my view, the federal parliamentary Liberal Party throughout his 20 years here, especially and most particularly because he brings to the Liberal Party a strong background in rural affairs and rural production and a background in local government. We noted with some amusement Senator Cormann noting that Western Australia needed not only more butchers, bakers and candlestick makers but more lawyers. If there is one thing that this place probably does not need it is more lawyers, and I say so as one myself. Paul, to his great credit, is not a lawyer and has brought other fine and more noble qualities to this place.

Paul has also brought to this place great and endearing personal qualities: a tremendous generosity of spirit, a sense of humour and a warm, friendly and welcoming personality. It is those personal qualities that have enabled Senator Calvert to rise through coalition ranks, first to Deputy Whip, then to Chief Government Whip and then to the highest office that any senator can aspire to, that of President of the Senate. For the last five years, which is nearly half the period that we have been in government, Senator Calvert has presided in this place with what I would regard as the appropriate degree of independence, fairness and resolve. Senator Calvert has earned the respect of all senators in all parties in this place based on his professional conduct in the role of President. On behalf of all coalition senators, I thank Senator Calvert for his enormous contribution to the state of Tasmania, to the Liberal Party of Tasmania and of Australia and to the Senate. I wish Senator Calvert and his most loyal and devoted wife, Jill, all the very best in their post-parliamentary life.

5:41 pm

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

First of all, I congratulate Senator Cormann on his first speech. Welcome to the Senate. I note that he adds to the number of Western Australian senators who were not born in WA. There are very few who are born in WA; South Australians looking for a job often come across to WA. Welcome.

Paul Calvert, it is a great pleasure to speak today in a valedictory and not an obituary. One of the things that I have found as a Senate leader is that one gets to give a lot of obituaries, often about people one did not know. It is nice to give a valedictory for someone who you know and whose company you have enjoyed. One of the things that we all wish of our political careers is that we get out fit and well at a time of our own choosing. Unfortunately, very few of us do. Some are dragged out, some retire due to ill health and some go at the hands of the electors. I congratulate you on being able to achieve a distinguished career and then go at a time of your own choosing. I wish you well for the future.

Senator Calvert has had a long career in the Senate and before that in local government. It is fair to say that in some sense—and I do not mean this in any ageist sense—Paul represents the old school. He is someone who is collegiate and polite, who has a sense of humour and who does not let partisan politics interfere with the way he treats people. That is to his great credit.

I got to know Paul when we were members of the whips club. Paul came on as the coalition whip when I was still the Labor Party whip. I had to break him in a bit, even though he had long experience as the deputy. The deputy does not quite learn the dark arts that are the key to being a whip. There are some things that whips guard to themselves. Paul and I retain secrets of those times. I recall once losing my temper a bit with him when, under enormous pressure from one of his backbenchers—who will remain nameless—to get a pair when pairs had all been allocated, Paul said, ‘Don’t hassle me; go in and see Evans.’ He sent his irate backbencher to see me. I made it very clear that I dealt with ours and Paul dealt with theirs and if they had a problem to take it up with him. We established that process and things worked well after that. I always respected Paul’s work. He always dealt with you honestly and fairly. I enjoyed that time dealing with him as whip.

On his promotion, he brought to the presidency a light touch and a capacity to work with everyone in the Senate. He treated people with respect and worked with them behind the scenes to resolve any difficulties, rather than trying to impose his will. There have been in the past—and I do not mean this of his predecessor—some Presidents who developed airs and graces and an inflated opinion of themselves and their authority. Paul has not been one of those. He has always taken the role seriously but has not taken himself too seriously. I think that is an important attribute in any profession but certainly in politics. I know that I and other opposition senators have tried his patience, particularly in question time, but that is part of the job; it is certainly part of the opposition leader’s job. What I have always respected is that Senator Calvert has accepted that it was not personal and that we always showed respect for the chair even if we were trying his patience on occasions. When he has lectured me and addressed me on my allegedly poor behaviour, I have always accepted that it was not personal, and we have always been able to have a chat about it afterwards. Paul is well regarded throughout the Senate for the way he deals with people. I think his terrible jokes are things that are best forgotten, and many of them are too risque to recount in the Senate.

I was interested in the observations about the pressures of the Senate presidency—all those lunches and dinners and international travel. I am very sympathetic, Paul, to the pressures you have been under in recent years. I know your colleagues are very concerned for you! But I have great faith that the new President will be able to handle those pressures, as he has put in a strong apprenticeship. I am sure he will not have any trouble in dealing with it.

I am very pleased to wish Paul and his family all the best for the future. I have enjoyed his company and his contribution to the Senate. We wish him well for his future. It is a really good thing to see someone go out having had a successful and rewarding career and having made a contribution to the Senate, and it is good to see someone go out in good health at the time of their own choosing. I wish him well.

5:47 pm

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (Queensland, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I rise this evening to convey my thanks, through you, to Senator Calvert on his retirement for the warm friendship he has given to me since I was elected five years ago as his Deputy President. At the same time as Paul was elected as President, I became the Deputy President of this place. I have listened to the words before and, in my own mind, I have one word that describes Paul, and that is ‘decent’. Paul has always been a decent person in the way he has treated me, in the way he has treated my staff and in the way he has treated the members of this chamber. I think that is a very important thing, because, in an era when so many people have so little respect for their fellow human beings, Paul has the enduring quality of being able to treat people as people. I think, Paul, that that is an outstanding quality and something that you brought to the chair. I am not saying that it was not exhibited by your forbears, but in your role you have been exemplary in the way you have treated people and the dignity of people. You have respected not only the people of this chamber but also the people of your state.

In my time serving as Paul’s Deputy President, we developed a friendship that did not know political bounds. It was a genuine friendship, a friendship that matured over the years. All I can say is that that friendship will be missed, because we have been good friends. We have had very many private chats which others have not been privy to—and I would not want them to be—but nonetheless we have taken each other into each other’s confidence and we have enjoyed that confidence. I believe that confidence between us has never been broken at any stage. Paul, I have appreciated your unending and untiring support of me. I have never been placed in a position in my five years where I have felt that I was exposed to the forces of good or evil. I have always felt that you were there in your role as President to support me in my role as Deputy President and, for that, I thank you very much indeed. Paul’s support for this chamber, and for me in particular as his deputy, was extended to my staff, through his staff, and of course that was deeply appreciated. Paul, that would not have happened unless you were the person that you are, so I thank you very much indeed.

The other friend I have made out of my friendship with Paul is Paul’s wife, Jill. A very true statement was made by Paul and by others that you are a product of your family in this place. If you do not have the unending support of your family, you will find yourself in all sorts of trauma and difficulties indeed. Jill has obviously been an unending source of support for you, Paul, and I think you are very fortunate. I do not know whether she will say that once you retire, because I have heard the opposite said in that many people, once they move into retirement, find that they become a nuisance rather than a mechanism that needs support. But I am sure that you have a loyal and faithful person in your wife. I have never had the pleasure of meeting your children but I am sure that they have been a support to you, and undoubtedly that is reflected in your attitude to people in this chamber.

Last but not least, I want to wish you well in retirement. I want to wish Jill and your family all the best as well, because, as my good friend Senator Evans has said, you are very lucky indeed. You have chosen the moment of your retirement, unlike so many others in this place. You are able to go without any recriminations, without any fear that you have been pushed or any other general aspersions that are cast on people who leave politics from time to time. You are fortunate, indeed. I am sure you will enjoy your retirement, I am sure you will enjoy the friendship of your family and I hope that you enjoy the wealth that will come out of your grandchildren, because that is something that is precious and something that my kids have not yet got to. Both I and my wife formally extend our thanks to Senator Calvert and his wife for their friendship, because my wife has enjoyed his company as well as Jill’s. All the best for the future.

5:52 pm

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Community Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Unfortunately, Senator Boswell was unable to attend. He was taken away suddenly.

Honourable Senators:

Honourable senators interjecting

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Community Services) Share this | | Hansard source

He is lurking. The Hon. Paul Calvert, President of the Senate, has left his seat after 20 years of serving Tasmania, the place he has always been so proud to represent. Even in my short time here, he has regaled me with plenty of stories—in fact, it was often in the company of him undertaking the very hard work that he does in the Senate that has been spoken of so fondly by Senator Evans. Tasmania is not a place that many of us from Northern Australia get to visit, and one of the great things about the collegiate nature of this place is that we are able to visit communities in a way through the stories we share and relationships we have with other representatives in this place.

I was very surprised to learn that Senator Calvert was born in 1940 in Hobart, Tasmania. He tells me his youthful looks and good health are down to a Boags beer every now and again and a number of the other fine products of Tasmania. When I first got here I told him I was as an orchardist in the Northern Territory. He told me that before he came to politics he was an orchardist. Making your living on the land, Senator Calvert, firstly on your father’s orchards and moving on to purchase your own property, gave you the fundamentals for your ethics and hard work. I am not only talking about the hard work in terms of being the last to leave but also of ensuring that your wider congregation of the Senate was so well served. You purchased your own property with Jill and you had four children and you now have three grandchildren that you are obviously deeply devoted to—

Government Senators:

Government senators interjecting

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Community Services) Share this | | Hansard source

five—according to the most recent instructions delivered to your son today that number will change very shortly, I am assured.

Like many who come to this place, Senator Calvert was a representative of an industry through his presidency of the Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania. The fact that he is such a great people person is reflected in that background: he is not only a hard worker but rose through the ranks of industry to become the President of the Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania. When you have been in that position, it is often because of the great frustrations we feel with every level of government that we are continually fighting that we say, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’ I am sure that had a fair bit to do with Senator Calvert then being elected into local government.

He served very capably, I am told, as a councillor in the municipality of Clarence for 12 years, four of which he was a warden. I am quite sure that the skills that the good senator learnt during that particular time enabled him to find a balance. I often say under my breath, ‘Throw them out!’ It is so important in this place that the very few senators who become President find the very careful balance that ensures that we do not overstep the mark. The frustrations that I sometimes feel on this side were never reflected and, Senator Calvert, I am very glad you did not do any of the sorts of things I felt you should do. It shows that you were completely impartial and independent. It is important that you were able to find that balance so that the relationships between the sides in this place continue to be affable.

You were first elected in 1987 and you have continued to be re-elected in the years until 2001—20 years in this place. You have made an absolutely incredible contribution. You have been a member of both Senate and joint committees and had plenty of prestigious titles during your time in parliament, including Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate, Deputy Government Whip in the Senate, Government Whip in the Senate and most recently President of the Senate.

Having only served a relatively short time in parliament myself, I note that over that time you have found a great balance between your unwavering devotion to the Senate and to your own community and you have continued to lobby for the people of Tasmania on the issues that affect them, while at the same time under the continuous pressure in your role as leader obviously still maintaining a very happy family life. This reflects again on those wonderful balances that you have managed to find. You are leaving this place at a time of your own choosing, and I think your instructions to your son indicate that your family values are extremely important. Although you will be sorely missed as a colleague and a friend to those in this place, it is pleasing to know that you are leaving the stresses behind you and will be concentrating on the great values in your life with your wife and family. Senator Calvert, you have made a great addition to this government, and we can all learn from your contribution and your time in the Senate.

5:58 pm

Photo of Andrew MurrayAndrew Murray (WA, Australian Democrats) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Paul Calvert had been in the Senate for nine years when I became a member of the Senate on 1 July 1996. He was then the Liberal deputy whip. Thirty senators are left standing of the seventy-six that were there on 1 July 1996. This is a place of fast turnover, so lasting 20 years is quite a feat. Paul leaves the Senate as the immediate past President, the 21st holding that office and the third President of the Senate from Tasmania. Senator Calvert is only the third President to resign the office to leave at a time of his choosing.

In the order of preference at occasions of state, President Calvert held position No. 3, after the Governor-General and the Prime Minister. Thankfully, there was no sign that it ever went to his head. For a while I thought the President had exalted constitutional status, stepping in if the first two got run over by a bus, but that is not true. But the President’s constitutional status does come into play in ensuring that the Senate meets as required. By far the most significant provision in the Constitution relating to the office of President is section 23, which is the keystone of the federal compact and the mechanism which guarantees the equal representation of the original states in the Senate. The President’s vote is the same as the vote of any other senator. Because it is a deliberative vote and not a casting vote—as is the Speaker’s vote when the House of Representatives is equally divided—it has no greater or lesser value than any other senator’s vote. In this place the President is truly first among equals under the Constitution.

Any President should be assessed at the professional and personal level. They are equally important. Tasmanian politicians are peculiar for the intensely combative tribal and personal nature of their politics. As a typically one-eyed south islander, Paul freely admits to hunting in a pack when necessary, generally as Tasmanian Liberals but if necessary with all the other Tasmanian pollies. That trait did not harm his presidency. He was indeed a fair President. He was patient to a fault at the antics of some senators and diligent in the application of his duties. Throughout his presidency the Senate has continued to run efficiently, productively and on a fully serviced basis. No more can be asked of any Presiding Officer. He was also, may I add, served by an able and helpful staff.

Paul carries with him the wisdom of long service, long experience and a varied, practical and successful life. Such a life has taught him tolerance, an essential requirement of a good President. I have heard Senator Calvert criticised in estimates for not standing up enough to an over-mighty executive, but I take the view that trying to be Canute would have got him nowhere. I said earlier that in this job the personal is as important as the professional. A President without the personal characteristics of warmth, good humour, stamina and tolerance—which you have in great measure—would not be able to achieve the consensus and support that Senate progress requires.

In some respects the Senate is like an office block. An essential human need is to bond and to fraternise. The opportunity to relax and socialise in an intimate environment with your peers from all parties is really only provided via the President and his office, and the reasonably regular functions there have contributed materially to the attachments and affections that mark many relationships in the Senate. As President, Paul was a warm, generous and at times irreverent host. Paul was sent on 26 conferences, delegations or visits in his Senate service, 17 of those as part of the job of President. I was lucky enough to go on two of those with him and Jill, and Pam and I had a ball, in large part thanks to them—working hard and playing hard.

As a person, Paul, I am careful with my feelings but I have been drawn to you and Jill, as has Pam, and we count you both good friends. We have had truly great, memorable and very funny times together. My friendship with Paul, and not many would know this, has been helped by a common interest in spiritual matters—preferably with water and a little ice! As a tribute to Jill, I can say that as a couple the whole is indeed greater than the sum of their parts. Senator Lyn Allison, our leader, the Australian Democrat senators, and Pam and I wish you both well in your future life and thank you for your service and good offices.

6:03 pm

Photo of Steve FieldingSteve Fielding (Victoria, Family First Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Family First wants to record its appreciation and best wishes to Senator Paul Calvert as he leaves the Senate. I know that after 20 years in the Senate, Paul and his wife, Jill, will enjoy a well-earned retirement with their daughters, son and grandkids. After so many years travelling between Hobart, Canberra and many other places, I am sure you will appreciate more time with your family. Senator Calvert performed his duties as President professionally and with courtesy. He leaves the office of President with that office held in high regard and that is no mean feat. On every occasion I have approached Senator Calvert for advice he has always been helpful, insightful and fair, and I thank him for that. Given that senators can be an unruly bunch from time to time, he has done a good job in keeping things more or less in order. In fact, in this political system, Senator Calvert has been fair, although I do admit to holding a slight grudge that he has asked me on a couple of occasions to remove a couple of video blogs from my website!

I am not going to comment on the rumour that Senator Calvert is leaving because of the strong showing of Family First and our lead Senate candidate, Jacquie Petrusma in Tasmania. Paul, I have really enjoyed working with you. It has been a pleasure. You have approached things fairly and I really appreciate that every time I came to see you, your office was open and you were more than willing to allow me to share my thoughts and you were able to share your thoughts with me. I have enjoyed the times when we have caught up as well getting to know your wife. I wish you and your wife the very best in retirement.

6:05 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) Share this | | Hansard source

First of all, can I congratulate Senator Cormann on an excellent first speech. He may well have been born on the wrong side of the border, but he is clearly on the right side of the fence when it comes to politics. Today the Senate quite properly pauses to pay tribute to one of its own. Senator the Hon. Paul Henry Calvert has served this chamber for 20 years, progressing from humble backbencher to committee memberships, deputy whip and whip, through to the highest office this Senate can bestow, namely the Presidency. But I think our campaign for the deputy whip’s position was the best! I am honoured to speak on behalf of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team, my Senate colleagues Senators Colbeck, Parry, Watson and Barnett and, if I may be so bold, Senator elect Bushby as well.

Senator Calvert will be remembered by us all as a friend, a team player and a contributor who, at all times, advanced Tasmania’s interests. Twenty years ago there were no mobile phones, and blackberries were those things that Senator Calvert had to spray once a year on his farm, but now they are communication devices.

I am told that first speeches are a useful insight and often provide a benchmark against which a career in this place can be assessed. If so, Senator Calvert’s first speech is a classic. In the very second paragraph of his first speech, after dealing with formalities, Senator Calvert was already on his favourite theme—his wife and family. And those of us who have known him over the 20 years that he has been in politics know that that to this day continues to be the most important part of his life. In that first speech he also spoke of his farming background, his rural youth, the Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania, being president of the local farming organisation, his involvement in local government and his love for the city of Clarence. All those loves were pursued throughout his successful career, be it in fighting for farmers on biosecurity issues or in being involved with show societies and his beloved Bellerive Oval, which is no longer just a municipal oval but a world-class facility.

His passion for Tasmania was nailed down when he said, ‘I will be using my position to protect Tasmania’s interests and its people.’ He crossed the floor to do so and, lately, as president, had a bronze statue of a Tasmanian tiger in his presidential office as a talking piece to remind people where he came from. He helped deliver the highly successful Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme, the Antarctic Airlink, the restoration of St Mary’s Cathedral, the Orielton water recycling project and also community projects, such as the Huon Valley Police and Citizens Youth Club.

Senator Calvert also spoke at length in his first speech on the fishing sector, and I may have a bit more to say about that tomorrow, other than I think his predictions on aquaculture growth were quite conservative, although I note as an aside—and Senator Ian Macdonald will also enjoy this—that research into Bass Strait scallops was an issue raised 20 years ago and it still remains an issue today. He concluded his first speech by saying:

I pledge myself to upholding the traditions of this most honoured place and fighting to retain the very important position the Senate holds in the parliamentary system of Australia.

As Senator Calvert leaves this place, he can be well satisfied that he has fulfilled the pledge that he made those 20 years ago. He can also be satisfied that he has been a faithful servant to the people of Tasmania and the Liberal Party. I know that his insights and views are highly valued by our Prime Minister and all my ministerial colleagues. He was at all times professional, courteous and polite, with a joke for all occasions. But he also knew how to be deadly serious. When liberties were taken which broke the bounds, Senator Calvert could be just as robust as any of us. I recall a particular meeting that, I think, was held in my office where Senator Calvert actually surprised me with his robustness and I was very thankful that I was not the subject of that particular robustness.

In short, Senator Calvert has been a contributor and has genuinely added value to public policy and decision making. Tasmania and Australia are better off because of his contribution. On behalf of the people of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team and the Tasmanian division of the Liberal Party, I thank Senator Calvert for his sacrifice of service over 20 years.

Finally, to Jill and his family: thank you for lending Senator Calvert to us so he could make this astounding and memorable contribution. To Senator Calvert, we say: enjoy your family, your children, your grandchildren, your farm, your golf and the Shearwater Health Club and, as you do, look back on the 20 years that you have served here with pride and satisfaction. To use the colloquialism: ‘You’ve done good—real good.’ You leave at a time of your choosing with our very sincere best wishes and we wish God bless.

In my role as Manager of Government Business in the Senate, I seek leave to incorporate speeches by Senator Barnett, Senator Ian Macdonald, Senator Colbeck and Senator Coonan, who wish to have their thoughts and comments on Senator Calvert’s excellent career incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

6:12 pm

Photo of Guy BarnettGuy Barnett (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The incorporated speech read as follows

Mr President, today I pay tribute to outgoing Senate President Paul Calvert as a great warrior for our home State of Tasmania and for his party.

In his 20 year career Paul Calvert has represented Tasmania with enormous distinction and influence. In his easy and persuasive style he has provided great leadership and we will miss his vast experience.

Mr President, every so often the Parliament is witness to the retirement of a rare breed of politician —a person with real charm, leadership, both a raconteur and passionate representative for average Australians, and of course a thoroughly decent human being.

I have no hesitation in crediting Paul Calvert with all those attributes, and I am sure that they in no small measure figured in his elevation to the Senate Presidency in 2002.

He has been a force for stability during his time as a Senator, as Government Whip in the Senate and as Senate President since August, 2002.

Paul Calvert’s Senate career has done so much to restore the credibility and standing of those in public life in Australia. He has done much to restore the basic credentials of a politician, and that is to serve your electors and represent their best interests no matter what side of politics they hark from.

As deputy warden and then warden of the Clarence Municipality between 1981 and 1987 Paul remains a highly respected community leader, showing great leadership in his home community on Hobart’s Eastern Shore and indeed across Tasmania.

As a farmer and Show Society representative, he was as much at home with constituents in his own community as he was at home as Senate President in Canberra, receiving visits from royalty and Heads of State from countries like the United States and China.

Mr President, a great warrior and a first rate representative is departing these hallowed precincts, and I feel both proud and privileged to be here as a fellow Tasmanian Liberal Senator to mark and to hail his send off.

I know political spouses carry a heavy load and Jill Calvert has been supreme in this role.

I warmly wish Paul and his wife Jill and family a well deserved happy retirement .

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The incorporated speech read as follows

Unfortunately the Legislative Program before the Senate has necessarily curtailed the number of speakers able to say farewell to the parliamentary career of a great parliamentarian and great President, Senator Paul Calved.

By incorporating this very short speech I did want to associate myself with the remarks made by Government Leaders.

Senator Calvert has been a wonderful representative for Tasmania but more importantly his experience, understanding and genuineness have made a very significant contribution to the work of the Senate and indeed of the Government of Australia.

As well he has been a personable, generous and genuine friend to most of us in this place and has always carried out his duties in a manner that is a great example to all other Senators.

I and my wife Lesley wish Paul and Jill all the very best in their future life together.

I believe that our country is a better place because of Senator Calvert’s work in the Senate over his term here. His time as President has been distinguished and professional and his demeanour and leadership have significantly added to high regard in which the Senate is held.

Well done, Paul.

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) Share this | | Hansard source

The incorporated speech read as follows

It is with a mix of emotions that I make my contribution to the valedictory debate in honour of my very good friend and colleague Senator Paul Calvert.

To say that Paul has been anything less than a terrific colleague would be an understatement. When I arrived in this place, in February 2002, following my election at the 2001 poll and subsequent early retirement of another very distinguished Tasmanian, Senator Jocelyn Newman, I had already enjoyed the cut and thrust of the campaign with Paul as ticket leader. His sense of humour and real grass roots method of campaigning.

I don’t think that either of us will forget the evening we spent with a group of fishermen at St Helens on the East Coast of Tasmania. Nothing out of order, but it was a long and convivial night. And Paul did retreat a little earlier than some of us, indicating that he had confidence that we could manage the situation.

When I was sworn in to this place, Paul in the pivotal position of whip, set me up perfectly in respect of my committee appointments, directed me toward other possible opportunities and generally and generously gave me guidance in respect of the workings of the Senate.

I don’t think that any senator could have received a better entree into the senate than I received from Paul, and I will be forever grateful for the assistance and guidance that he provided.

It is obvious that he is highly regarded by his colleagues, you would have to be to hold the positions that he held. As whip in the engine room of daily operations of the Senate and then five distinguished years as president of this chamber.

And while conducting these duties, Paul still maintained his connection to the issues of importance to Tasmania, the agriculture sector in particular including, importation of apples and Atlantic Salmon, the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, recycling of wastewater into the Richmond area and a passionate interest in ensuring that the facilities at the Bellerive Oval were of a standard that would be suitable for first class cricket.

Paul is a great friend and as I have said a terrific colleague, he said to me on many occasions, “I never let down a mate” and he never did.

Paul deserves to leave this place with all the accolades that come his way, he has well and truly earned them, and the respect that comes with them.

He can be justly proud of his contribution to his party, his state, country and this place over his twenty years service to the senate.

I wish him, his wife Jill and his family all the very best in retirement, he deserves to enjoy his time on the tractor and with his family. I trust that his retirement is a long enjoyable and prosperous one.

All the best, Paul.

Photo of Helen CoonanHelen Coonan (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

The incorporated speech read as follows

It has been a great privilege to know and work with Senator Paul Calvert since my election to the Senate in 1996.

Of course, Paul’s service to the people of Tasmania and Australia more broadly spans a period of twenty years since he was first elected in 1987 and subsequently in 1990, 1996 and 2001.

His distinguished contribution to numerous committees and seminal work on the Select Committee Inquiry into Animal Welfare—Intensive Livestock Production has been commented on by others and I will not repeat these milestone achievements.

Rather, I want my comments and my reminiscences to be about Senator Calvert the man, whose personal qualities equipped him superbly to be the Government Whip in the Senate from February 1997 to August 2002 and the crowning achievement of his career, becoming President of the Senate from August 2002 until yesterday.

It was as Deputy Whip to Paul from 1998 to 2001 that I had the opportunity to get to know him well. We became known Mr & Mrs Whip. We ran an efficient team much like the webbed feet beneath the swan!!

We knew each others strengths and weaknesses and we complemented each other very well. I know that I had reached a significant juncture in our relationship when the locked door between our two offices got unlocked suddenly and we worked seamlessly thereafter.

We had a lot of fun and as much as I enjoy being a Minister and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, I do look back with a great deal of affection on our days spent together as Whips.

Paul was very well suited to assume the Presidency and he has as expected acquitted himself superbly. His hospitality is legendary and his warmth and his engaging personality stood him in good stead to receive numerous foreign delegations and make them feel welcome.

Paul is the real deal, the genuine article, with the ability to listen to the concerns of his constituents and the capacity to do something to address those concerns.

With his background in Local Government and rural activities he truly represented the heartbeat of Australia.

Throughout his long and distinguished career he has been supported and loved by Jill, his children and his grandchildren.

As they contemplate their future, the Calverts can be well satisfied that they have given of their best and that they have made a real difference to public life in Australia.

I will sincerely miss you Paul and will always regard our time in the Senate with great affection. Good luck and enjoy!!

Photo of Kerry O'BrienKerry O'Brien (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

ParlInfo Web tells us a lot about Senator Calvert, as one of 12 Tasmania’s Liberal senators from Tasmania. But it does not quite tell us enough. It does not tell us that he shares two things in common with the honourable former senators Henry Turley and Justin O’Byrne. They, along with Senator Paul Calvert, are the three Tasmanian senators who have occupied the chair as President of the Senate. It is a fairly high bar and a very exclusive club that Senator Paul Calvert has joined and now leaves, with the respect, I can assure this place, of his colleagues from this side of the chamber from Tasmania.

I had dealings with Senator Paul Calvert during my time as a whip in this place, as Senator Evans referred to. I suppose some of the whips’ arts are dark arts in a sense, but I think the relationship that I developed with Senator Calvert was based upon honourable dealings, understanding and respect for position and, ultimately, respect for the democracy of this place. By working on those principles and operating in as principled a way as I could with Senator Calvert, I think this place worked well and the needs of senators were attended to as far as they could be.

We saw those principles carried through by Senator Paul Calvert into his role as President in this place, in the way that he dealt with the debate conducted in this chamber on the basis of the principles of a fair hearing, democracy and respect and tolerance—up to a point—for all senators. But we have seen, on occasions, comments from the chair which demonstrated a degree of annoyance, disappointment and anger in relation to the behaviour of certain senators.

I think it is probably pretty true to character that Paul as President never actually got to the point of naming anyone. I suspect on occasion he was close. I suspect on occasion that some of those close to being named sat close to me! But it is a difficult job to preside in this chamber, to hold the respect of all senators and to control the performance of the chamber to the point where its business can be done. On behalf of my colleagues I think I can say that we respect the way that Senator Paul Calvert conducted that job.

People have talked about Senator Calvert’s 20 years of service. If you look at ParlInfo you will see it is actually over 30 years service, because it refers to the local government service of Senator Calvert. He is recorded as having commenced his service in 1976, so it is over 30 years of public service in one form or another—as an alderman, as a warden, as a senator, as a whip and as the President in this place—accumulating a case for recognition for exemplary service to the public.

Whilst we do not agree on a lot of political issues, I can say that parochialism for Tasmania is one of Senator Calvert’s special talents. He is also very parochial about the south over the north from time to time, particularly in relation to the AFL games at his beloved Bellerive Oval. They are not going to happen, Senator; they are not going to happen! He has made a couple of disparaging remarks about the atmospheric conditions around Launceston. Can I say that I respect all parts of the state—and I am sure you will come to respect them all as well, Senator!

I had a look at other aspects of the information on ParlInfo, and I think I’ve Been Everywhere is probably your theme song, Senator. There is a record of your traversing of the continents of this globe, and I am sure you have done service in all the states and territories, the parts of Australia that we as senators are privileged to have the opportunity to experience as part of our job. The downside of that is that on many occasions we are alone, away from our families—and we can only do that with the leave of our families. I know that we all pay a price for that separation, and I am sure that Senator Paul Calvert has paid that price—or, probably more accurately, his family has, just as all our families do from time to time. I am sure he has on many occasions expressed his gratitude for that. On behalf of my colleagues, I express our gratitude for his family giving him the support that he needed to do the job here. Being the person that he is, I think he has added to this place and our experience of this place. I wish him well. I hope he enjoys sitting on his tractor or on the porch of the new house that he is going to build, looking out over the water. I hope the new house is splendid, it is a worth while enterprise and it will not distract you from the things you really enjoy.

6:19 pm

Photo of Kay PattersonKay Patterson (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Sadly and reluctantly, having being sworn in on the same day as Senator Calvert, I seek leave to incorporate my speech, which I would rather have given.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

If a week is a long time in politics then twenty years is almost a lifetime.  The 11 July 1987 election seems, on the one hand, like only yesterday and yet in other ways it seems like an eon.  I don’t think when Senator Paul Calvert and I were sworn into the Senate in the old parliament house on the 14 September 1987 we could have ever imagined we would still be here 20 years later.  We have seen enormous changes in that time – we moved from our shoe box office in the provisional parliament house (those last elected got the smallest offices) into our brand new parliament house offices on the hill.

Over that 20 years we have experienced the roller coast ride that is politics.  The lows of losing elections, the highs of winning elections.  We have seen senators go, and we have seen a large number of senators come and go.  Over that 20 years we have experienced personal highs and lows.

One of those highs for Paul Calvert must have been his election to the very important office of President of the Senate.

Paul has undertaken his role as President just as he has carried out his role as a senator – with diligence, dignity and with his own endearing form of humour.  The latter a quality which has never deserted him even if the going has been tough.  I first experienced this humour very early on when I was in the old parliament house.  I had to keep dashing in and out of question time on the day of my maiden speech.  I sat across the aisle from Paul and he diagnosed what was wrong.  I won’t disclose the nickname he gave me but it is one he has not forgotten and will regale people with the story given half, or even a quarter, of a chance.

I can’t let this opportunity pass without emphasising the strain that service in this place places on spouses, partners and family.  I know Paul’s role has meant long periods of time away from home.  Before he became President he was for 15 years a very active and committed member of senate committees and this and parliamentary sittings has meant weeks and weeks in any year away from home.  Throughout those 15 years and the five as his role as President, Jill his wife has been there – a rock, a source of comfort and encouragement.  Theirs is a true partnership and I know how much Jill’s support has meant to Paul.

Not many people can leave this place unscarred and unscathed but I think I can say that Paul is no different from when he first entered this place.  He is happy on his tractor as he has been mixing with Lords, Ministers, Kings and Ambassadors.  Rudyard Kipling’s ‘“If” - if you can walk with kings and not lose the common touch’ applies to Paul.

Paul has not lost the common touch – he has served Tasmania, the Senate and the Australian people and his family should be rightly proud of him.

People say you don’t make friends in politics.  Well I can say that they are wrong.  I count Paul and Jill as friends – I thank him for that friendship – and wish them both well in the next phase of their lives. 

6:20 pm

Photo of Ursula StephensUrsula Stephens (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition (Social and Community Affairs)) Share this | | Hansard source

For the completeness of the record, I seek leave to incorporate ‘A farewell to the Hon. Paul Calvert, whose carnival is over this week’.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

A farewell to the Hon Paul Calvert whose Carnival is over this week.

Well, farewell Paul Henry Calvert As we say our last goodbyes And consider when we lose you Fergie’s sure to take a rise

Like a drum, your beat’s been steady From the day you first arrived. Two whole decades in the Senate- And how well you have survived!

It’s a long way from the farm-gates To this big house on the hill But you showed us how in parliament You could use your farming skill:

Inquiring into Animal Welfare Your experience made you wise; Some folks tried, but failed completely To pull the wool over your eyes.

Like a drum, your beat was steady As you steered the senate ship. And your knowledge from the paddocks Taught you how to wield the Whip!

Your expertise on WhistleblowingWas made clear for all to see. And you pruned five senate departments To a neat and tidy three.

When you examined Intelligence Services You didn’t need to rely on a hunch: As an orchardist you’d learned to pick The one bad apple that spoiled the bunch;

Like a drum of fertilizer You’ve helped young roosters reach their goals Grooming ministers in waiting Making sure they keep their souls!

Not at all a simple home boy You have travelled near and far! Sampling Guinness, eels and roll mops Blue fromage and caviar.

Have you dined on shark and sushi? Did you try Mongolian yak? Lithuania and Estonia Russia, Turkey, France and back

Now your home state lights are calling And it’s time to say farewell. What you’ll do in your retirement Only Jill and kids can tell.

High above the dawn is breaking Over Tassie Fields of green Where we wish you a long life That’s contented and serene

(With apologies to The Seekers)

Photo of Chris EllisonChris Ellison (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to incorporate my speech.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Senator Paul Calvert not only fulfils a distinguished 20 year career in the Senate but one as President of the Senate for five years. In his substantial contribution to the Parliament and Australian politics he has been strongly supported by his wife Jill and family. Senator Calvert’s family can indeed be proud of his achievements. A fierce Tasmanian Paul has represented his State with great vigour.

One cause which he supported and I remember only too well was the education of the children of the travelling showmen who ran the Royal and Agricultural shows which form a part of Australian culture. As a result of Paul’s efforts these children now have a formal education in stark contrast to the past where they had none.

As President of the Senate he has carried out his duties with distinction. From a personal point of view I have enjoyed his support as President and like many others am sad to see him go. I take this opportunity to wish Paul, his wife Jill and his family all the very best and hope they can now enjoy more time together. Thank you Paul and on behalf of my wife Caroline and myself, all the very best.

Photo of Alan FergusonAlan Ferguson (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I have the opportunity to conclude these remarks in relation to my good friend Senator Paul Calvert. Senator Murray was talking about the transient nature of this place. One of the things I did prior to becoming President was to check how many senators I had served in this place with. I have been in the Senate for just over 15 years. There have been, I think, around 500 senators since Federation, and I have served in this place with 159 of them. It makes you wonder how many senators Senator Calvert has served with, having been here for five years longer than me. It would certainly be well over a third of the senators that have ever served the Australian people in this place. It is a very transient place.

I will be losing someone who is, aside from some of my South Australian colleagues, probably the best friend I have ever had in this place. I am friends not only with Paul but also with Jill and the family. I can promise you that Paul, when he retires, will be a good grandfather, as he has always been. I hope that Jack and Ben run him off his feet. He is going to build himself a new house on the beach in Tasmania. You are all invited, and I can promise you, having seen the plans, you will nearly all fit in at once! Some of my colleagues have been unkind enough to say that Senator Calvert’s leaving will improve both my health and my wallet!

Paul, you have been a wonderful servant of the Senate. The one thing that we will remember most about you is the pride that you have in your state and the way in which you have promoted all things Tasmanian. I have been to dinners with Paul and visiting delegations. We have been talking about the Middle East and Senator Calvert would say ‘Well, in Tasmania—’.

You have been a wonderful servant for your state, Paul, and you will long be remembered in this place for a number of things. You will long be remembered because of the respect that you have had and your ability to get on with all people. You said that you got on with nearly every member you served with in the Senate. I think that is a real achievement. Amongst us there are always some who we like more than others, but you never let that show. I think that is tremendous, and you will be remembered for that.

The other thing that Senator Calvert will be remembered for is being a magnificent host—far too generous a host at times. He has had the ability to move amongst circles of people on both sides of the chamber, visiting delegations and people in the House. It does not matter where he has represented the Senate as President—and even prior to his election to the presidency—he has always been a very generous and convivial host who treated people so well. When Paul invites people to dinner very few ever say no. I think that is a tribute to him. Jill has been alongside of him for most of those times; she has performed the role of President’s wife and Paul has performed the role of President in a manner than I can only hope to emulate.

I am losing a friend who has chosen his time to retire. I think it is just wonderful, Paul, that you have decided that this is the time of your life when you want to move on and do other things. I think that is a tremendous credit to you because it is true that this place can become a little addictive. People find it difficult to leave. I know of very few people who have left the Senate and have not said, at some stage after leaving, that they miss the place. I know you will be moving on to other things and your life will be very full, with the big circle of friends that you have in Tasmania. Spare a thought for us back here just occasionally.

You had a wonderful attribute of being able to choose very good staff. Your staff have been wonderful to you. Some of them are here today. I know Vince is moving on but your staff are so good that I have chosen to retain the rest of them. They have proven what a wonderful asset they can be. I know you consider them to be an asset and one of the recommendations that you made to me was that, because your staff had been so good, I would be a very wise person to keep them on.

I am not going to repeat all the things that have been said about your career here. I will have a chance to do that privately and in some other places. You will be remembered for a very long time for your contribution to this Senate. Thank you, Paul.