Senate debates

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


3:59 pm

Photo of Russell TroodRussell Trood (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Pursuant to the order of the Senate agreed to on 11 May 2011, the Senate will now move to valedictory statements.

4:00 pm

Photo of Nick MinchinNick Minchin (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The 30th of June will, in my case, bring to an end not just 18 years in the Senate but 32 years of full-time involvement in politics. Unusually for the conservative side of politics, I have spent virtually all my working life serving the Liberal cause rather than, perhaps more sensibly, pursuing a career in the profession for which I was trained: the law. My 18 years in this place were preceded by 14 years serving as a full-time professional officer in the Liberal Party at both state and federal level, and I must say it was superb training for my years of service in the Senate. The transition I made from the Liberal Party's professional wing to the parliament is also not common. I remain only the second Liberal Party state director in the history of our party, after John Carrick, to serve in the Senate. I do note with pleasure that former state directors David Kemp, Petro Georgiou and Scott Morrison have made the transition to the House of Representatives, serving there with great distinction.

It has, of course, been an enormous privilege to represent my state and my party in this place for almost one-third of my life. One of the British parliamentarians I most admire, Enoch Powell, wrote in his biography of Joseph Chamberlain, 'All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.' There is, regrettably, much truth in that maxim—which is why I am retiring now, while the going is good, in the hope that it is only my political enemies who will claim that it applies to me. I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have enjoyed a political life that has enabled me to serve at the highest levels of government available to a senator. Unburdened by the levels of ego and ambition which weigh heavily upon so many of our colleagues in the other place, I have instead been the beneficiary of chance, luck and being in the right place at the right time.

Entering the Senate in 1993 in the shadow of such political luminaries as my SA colleagues Robert Hill, Amanda Vanstone, Alexander Downer and Ian McLachlan, I happily resigned myself to a backbench career, feeling privileged indeed to even be here. A series of fortunate circumstances gave me the opportunity, after just nine months, to rise to the front bench as a shadow parliamentary secretary in opposi­tion and then to serve as a parliamentary secretary, junior minister, cabinet minister, deputy leader, Leader of the Government in the Senate and, finally, opposition leader in the Senate. So I have spent 16 of my 18 years on the coalition front bench, including nine years in the cabinet. I remain surprised by the opportunities I have had—none of which, frankly, I expected.

Political life is, of course, a balance sheet and, while I hope history will judge mine as having a plus sign at the bottom, some may well judge that the positives and the negatives are fairly easily balanced. On the positive side of the ledger, I must say that I am delighted to have been able to serve in one of the best ministries in government, that of finance, for six years, making me the longest serving of Australia's 11 finance ministers. Fortuitously, I am also the only one whose every budget produced a surplus. I hasten to note that I lay no claim whatsoever to being the best. That honour rightfully belongs to Peter Walsh, the Labor identity whom I most admire and who is a great Australian. Having been the first South Australian to serve in the finance portfolio, I am pleased that another South Australian senator—albeit a representative of the ALP—currently serves in that role. I will bet that Senator Wong is very glad she is no longer looking after climate change!

The finance minister and the Treasurer are, in any cabinet, the only true repre­sentatives of the taxpayer. Together they must fight an often lonely battle against the ravages of the spending ministers, from the Prime Minister down. I am sure that Senator Wong knows what I am talking about. It was a privilege to fight alongside that greatest of Treasurers, Peter Costello, in that battle to protect the taxpayers. Together we produced six consecutive surpluses, totalling almost $82 billion. We eliminated government debt and, very importantly, established the Future Fund with sufficient resources to meet the government's substantial unfunded super­annuation liabilities. I had Peter Costello's strong support in one of my toughest challenges, the sale of the government's remaining 50 per cent shareholding in Telstra—which, in a process known as T3, completed the privatisation of Telstra. I do not wish to be partisan at all today, but I have to say that I am a little disappointed to see taxpayers now being forced back into being the owners and operators of a telecommunications business, having worked so hard to get them out of it. I do earnestly hope, for the nation's sake, that Senator Conroy actually knows what he is doing.

It has been my privilege to be the first and only South Australian to serve in the industry portfolio, which, at the time I held it, also entailed responsibility for science, resources and energy. I had three years in that megaportfolio, which existed only for the three years I held it. After it nearly killed me, I recommended that it be broken up—a recommendation the Prime Minister sensibly accepted. That portfolio, among many other things, made me the only Commonwealth minister ever to have had responsibility for the whole nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining to our only nuclear reactor to radioactive waste management. During those exciting three years, I approved the Beverley uranium mine in my home state of South Australia, I commissioned a replacement nuclear research reactor at Lucas Heights, and it was my job to identify the central north of South Australia as the site for a national radioactive waste repository—all somewhat controversial decisions. I have often wondered why some on the Left show such hostility to me, but I think it does derive from that period. The Left have regrettably allowed radioactivity to blind them to the compassionate and sensitive side of my character. I did think that my initial responsibilities in government for native title and our constitutional convention on a republic would expose my inherent and, I thought, rather obvious limitations and be the summit of my career. Fortunately, Prime Minister Howard, to whom I do owe a great debt, thought he should test me some more. Responsibility for all matters radioactive was certainly testing. My task of devising and steering through the coalition party room and the parliament our reforms to Labor's Native Title Act saw me gain the dubious distinction of being responsible for and centrally involved in the longest debate on any single bill in the history of the Senate, a remarkable 56 hours. That first debate on the Native Title Amendment Bill regrettably did not resolve the matter, necessitating a second, 49-hour, debate. Thus, that bill, for whose carriage I was responsible, resulted in a total of almost 106 hours of debate, by far the longest in Senate history. The next longest was the GST debate, at a paltry 69 hours. That record no doubt reflects my inadequate powers of advocacy as much as it does the intricacies of the bill. It might also reflect Senator Bob Brown's seemingly endless series of questions to me, which turned the committee stages into an interminable tutorial on native title.

I am able to reflect with satisfaction on the 1998 Constitutional Convention, which it was my task to organise and which I think was one of the more successful events of its kind. I am particularly pleased that the election of convention delegates was, at my insistence, the first national election since 1922 for which voting was not compulsory. In good faith, our government put the convention's preferred republican model to a referendum, in 1999. Nothing in my long career in campaigning has given me greater pleasure than the comprehensive rejection of that republican model. One cause I will remain actively involved in after I leave this place is advocacy of the virtues of our current constitutional arrangements.

There is of course a negative side to my political ledger. It consists of the lost causes, which, like Jude, I have so forlornly championed. I came into this place a committed federalist and I leave as a proud federalist, but I have fought forlornly against the creeping centralism which regrettably afflicts both major political parties. I have fought a lonely and quixotic battle to restore to Australians the legal right to choose whether or not to exercise their right to vote. I have not been able to convince even my own federal parliamentary party of the worth of that great cause. I note that, based on a recent article in the Spectator, I seem to have converted Mark Latham to the virtues of voluntary voting. I of course welcome Mark's support, but I am still trying to work out whether it is a good thing or not. More reassuringly, Lindsay Tanner, who I do hold in high regard, recently admitted to growing doubts about the wisdom of compulsory voting.

I entered this place with a profound commitment to smaller, less intrusive government and lower taxes, only to watch the reach of government into our lives, and the imposts upon us to pay for it, continue to expand. I was singularly unsuccessful in my internal advocacy of a lower rate of immigration, mindful as I am of the adverse consequences of Australia's very high rate of population growth, for Australia's quality of life and its natural environment. I want to commend Labor MP Kelvin Thomson on his courageous and principled advocacy of a more sustainable level of immigration.

I failed in my responsibility to establish a national radioactive waste repository in the central north of South Australia, one of the best sites in the world for such a facility. I failed to sustain support in my own party for the sale of a government owned electricity business called Snowy Hydro. And I failed to achieve the sale of a government owned private health insurance company called Medibank Private. I dare not even mention what else I would like to have sold.

I failed to have the courage of my conservative convictions concerning my serious reservations at the time about the US plans for the invasion of Iraq, and I did not have sufficient courage of my federalist convictions concerning my deep reservations about the use of the Constitution's corpora­tions power to underpin our government's Work Choices legislation. The High Court's frankly surprising decision to uphold the constitutionality of that legislation has been a disaster for federalism. I hope the coalition understands the lesson of our 2007 defeat: the Australian people will only ever accept incrementalism, not radicalism, when it comes to industrial relations reform.

Finally, I regret my incapacity to create the circumstances in which John Howard might have seen the wisdom in retiring on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his prime ministership in March 2006. My career has been an odd mix of the occasional success and a sequence of failures, but I would like to think I am getting out before falling victim to Enoch Powell's maxim.

Perhaps the most curious thing to me on reflecting on my career is the amount of time and energy occupied by consideration of the issue of carbon dioxide. Little did I know when I entered this place 18 years ago that carbon dioxide would play such a significant role in my career. Education, health, defence, foreign affairs, taxation and fiscal and monetary policy—all of these I expected to dominate political discourse. But carbon dioxide? Never. As I learnt in school, carbon dioxide is a clear, odourless, tasteless and invisible gas that is actually vital to life on earth. It constitutes 0.04 per cent of the atmosphere. Nature is responsible for 97 per cent of the earth's production of CO2; humans, just three per cent. And yet many now see anthropogenic CO2as the greatest threat to humankind on our planet, a threat which demands no less than an economic revolution to avert. Anyone who dares question this as yet unproven theory of anthropogenic global warming is branded a denier, as we heard from my good friend Senator Evans today, and treated as a veritable pariah.

I must say that when I first learned of the existence of the Australian Greenhouse Office, I assumed it was responsible for supplying tomatoes to the Parliament House kitchen. But, no, as I soon learnt as industry minister, it was in fact a government funded redoubt of veritable soldiers in a war against carbon dioxide. The zealotry and obsessive passion of these warriors in the battle against the apparent evils of carbon dioxide remains a curiosity to me. After fighting these people for three years as industry minister, I really did wish they would just go away and grow tomatoes. I am quite surprised and rather disappointed by the loneliness, isolation and indeed demonisation the sadly misunder­stood CO2is experiencing. Thus, upon leaving the parliament, I am contemplating the foundation of an organisation called 'The Friends of Carbon Dioxide'. Membership will of course be open to all, including the plants whose very existence depends on CO2. I think this organisation's slogan, 'CO2 is not pollution', self-selects. It has both accuracy and melody to commend it. I do acknowledge the remarkable power of CO2. After all, it led me to have to do something I had thought unthinkable, and that was to resign from the coalition frontbench at the end of 2009—albeit for only a very short time. CO2 played a significant part in the demise of Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull. It may well result in the demise of our current Prime Minister, so that really is some gas!

I do remain optimistic that one day the world will realise that carbon dioxide is more of a friend than an enemy to the earth's flora and fauna, and I do seriously believe that, given the extraordinary complexity of the natural forces controlling our climate, which have done so for millions of years, the only sensible policy response to the natural process of climate change is prudent and cost-effective adaptation.

It is customary in valedictory speeches to express gratitude to those who have played a key part in one's political life. As a conservative with a keen eye for tradition I do take this opportunity. I remain enormously grateful to Tony Eggleton who, as Liberal Party federal director in 1977, gave me the most junior job in our federal secretariat. Five years later he appointed me as his deputy. Whatever skills I have in campaign management and political administration I learnt at the feet of Tony Eggleton. I am indebted to the South Australian Liberal Party for preselecting me for the vacant No. 3 spot on the Senate ticket for the 1993 election, after just seven years as a South Australian. I owe thanks to Alexander Downer, who, during his short but very exciting time as our leader, first appointed me to the coalition frontbench. I am of course grateful to John Howard for giving me so many opportunities to serve in his government, culminating in my appointment as Leader of the Government in the Senate. Can I say that managing a one-seat coalition government majority in this place for two years was particular challenging—thank you, Barnaby, for that!

I am deeply indebted to all my Liberal Senate colleagues for bestowing upon me the great honour of election as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate following the 2007 election defeat. Nothing has been more humbling to me than to have received the unanimous support of my colleagues to undertake the task. As leader I was fortunate to have in Helen Coonan and then Eric Abetz two hardworking, dedicated and loyal deputies. I want to thank especially my National Party Senate colleagues for their loyalty and support during my 4½ years as coalition Senate leader. I also express my gratitude for the friendship and professional working relationship I have enjoyed with non-coalition senators. May I express particularly my thanks to then defence minister John Faulkner for his significant personal support following the ADFA training accident last year that resulted in serious injuries to my son Oliver. Indeed, the support I received from all senators at that time was enormously important and gratifying. I do also want to thank Commodore Bruce Kafer, who as ADFA commandant was so extraordinarily supportive during that wretched period. I remain saddened that such a fine man has been so poorly treated after the events at ADFA earlier this year.

I want to thank the hardworking and professional officers of the Senate for their support during my 18 years in this place. I was fortunate to have had remarkably capable, tolerant and effective staff throughout my Senate and ministerial career. I thank them especially for restraining my wilder political side and prolonging my career! I also had in Dr Ian Watt, during my six years in Finance, an exemplary depart­mental secretary and a truly outstanding public servant.

Finally, I thank my wife, Kerry, and children, Jack, Oliver and Anna, for their forbearance in having a politician like me as husband and father. It is the truest of cliches that federal politics in Australia is tough on families and I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have all four members of my immediate family, especially Oliver, in the gallery this afternoon. I am also delighted to have my much younger and much more handsome brother William here today. I have been blessed to have had in Kerry a political wife who not only shares my conservative predilections but brought to our marriage her career as an Age journalist. She is the only conservative female journalist that paper has ever had, of course, and her career included service in the Canberra press gallery. I suspect I may be the only federal MP to have had not only a wife but also a mother who served in the Canberra press gallery. Maybe that is why I have perhaps uncharac­teristi­cally retained a soft spot for the members of that esteemed institution. I thank them for tolerating my incorrect views on so many issues!

May I conclude by wishing all my retiring Senate colleagues all the very best for the future. As someone who has chosen to retire I express my commiserations to those who have had retirement from the Senate imposed upon them. I want to express my particular gratitude to my fellow South Australian and voluntary retiree Alan Ferguson, with whom I have served for all my years here. I thank him for his friendship and support and especially his companionship on the cold winter nights in the Canberra accom­modation we shared for most of my time as a senator. Of course, I refer to the warmth of his whisky, not the warmth of his embrace, which I know is the exclusive preserve of his wonderful wife, Anne.

I close with just one piece of gratuitous advice to all senators, and that is to remember the virtue of earning the respect of your colleagues on all sides of the chamber—earn their respect for your integrity, your decency, your passion, your commitment to your ideals and your willingness to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I call Senator Ferguson, I table volume 16 of Rulings of the President of the Senate, which covers Senator Ferguson's time as president.

4:21 pm

Photo of Alan FergusonAlan Ferguson (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr President. That will probably be the shortest book in history! It gives me great pleasure to follow my good friend and colleague Senator Minchin. Had I been in the chair, I probably would have enforced standing order 187, because I have rarely ever heard Senator Minchin read a speech. I am going to enforce it on myself. I read my first speech when I came into this place and have tried ever since not to read another one. I think it is one of the most abused standing orders in the whole of our book of standing orders, and I might have a little bit more to say about that later.

I am advised by the Clerk that since Federation, in the last 110 years, there have been 551 senators. I have served with approximately 180 of them—one-third of the senators since Federation. I say 'approx­imately' 180 because I have counted them three times in the Parliamentary Handbook and come up with a different figure each time. Had I counted them a fourth time and got a different answer, I am sure I would have got a call from the Prime Minister asking me to be federal Treasurer!

I guess I could reflect and say: how on earth did I ever get into this place? I have to tell you it was by accident. You might wonder why. I can tell you that in early 1992, when I was President of the South Australian Division of the Liberal Party, I never even had a fleeting thought about entering federal parliament. I had thought about a parliamentary career, stood unsuccessfully for a state seat and then went on and served the party in South Australia as president. The South Australian Liberal senators at that time—Senators Hill, Vanstone, Teague, Chapman and Olsen—were all younger than me, so I could not see much prospect there. We had already selected our Senate ticket for 1993, and Senator Minchin was in the third spot. My local member, Neil Andrew, was younger than me and looked like being set for ever—and a wonderful friend he has been over my life. So in early 1992 there was no contem­plation. I had thought about running for the upper house in South Australia, where some of my good friends said I could have decayed in comfort.

I got here because John Olsen, who had only recently come to the Senate, decided to return to South Australian politics, and so a casual vacancy occurred. I was driving down to the south-east of South Australia, attending a regional convention, and my wife said, 'You're very quiet.' I said: 'Yes, I am. I'm thinking I might have a crack at this casual vacancy in the Senate.' As many of you are well aware, if you happen to be president of the party at the time then it gives you a decided advantage when you see your preselectors about whether or not you can have their confidence to be here.

So by 26 May 1992 I was a senator, when three months before I had no plans—not even a blip on the radar. I well remember my first morning here. I got sworn in on 1 June. It was minus six every day that week, and in those days there were not quite enough Comcars, so they occasionally supplemented them with hire cars and the occasional stretch limo, as some of you may remember; I am sure Senator Faulkner can remember those days, because he was here when I got here. But, lo and behold, we were staying out at the Sundown Village, where I always stayed in those days—I can well recommend it—and I opened the door and there was a stretch limo to take me in to my first day in the Senate. I thought, 'My God!' So I sat in the front and Anne sat about three miles behind me in the back. We pulled up at the Senate door, and as we walked in she said, 'The pig farmer's come a long way.'

I do not want to talk about myself or my achievements in this place; it would be a very short speech. But I do want to reflect after 19 years on the Senate and what might be done to make this place more effective. Firstly, if it were up to me, I would abolish question time as it is currently structured. It is a total waste of time and, dare I say it, not much better in the other place, if not worse. We have in the Australian parliament the worst question time of any parliament throughout the world that uses the West­minster system. I recently went to hear Prime Minister David Cameron answering questions in Prime Minister's question time in the House of Commons. He answered 25 questions in half an hour, and answered every question. In Canada ministers get 35 seconds. In New Zealand they have up to 61 questions in the day, and each one is answered. There is one difference, and I have talked this over with Senator Faulkner on occasion at the procedure committee: every question is a question on notice, followed by supplementaries. I think the only way that we can ever get some order into this place or into question time is if questions are placed on notice and anybody in the chamber is allowed to ask a supplementary question. It means that there is no such thing as a dorothy dixer, a chance for a minister to then explain at length an answer to that question, because someone on this side of the chamber can add a supplementary and make it a more interesting debate.

I think there has never been a greater waste of time in the Public Service and in ministers' offices than question time as it is currently structured. Ministers, staff and departmental officials spend many, many hours—I do not know just how long, because I have never been in there—preparing for answers to questions in the Senate and in the House of Representatives—questions that may never be asked, because they are not on the Notice Paper and nobody knows exactly what the topic of the question is going to be on the day or whether a certain minister is going to be questioned.

So can I say that I think that in its current form question time in both chambers does us a disservice. Name me one person in the community who is not frustrated by watching question time and seeing questions asked that are never answered. It is a generally known standard: the opposition ask questions they hope the government cannot answer, and the government ask questions where they have already prepared the answer. I have never seen a more farcical waste of time in my life, and I think it is something that ought to be changed as soon as is practically possible, but it will take goodwill on both sides because both parties have been guilty of encouraging and maintaining the current system.

I do not think any speeches other than ministers' second reading speeches should be allowed to be incorporated in Hansard, except perhaps condolence motions where someone might not have time to say something which would not be a political argument anyway. Our chambers are meant to be parliamentary debating chambers. How on earth can you debate a speech that has been incorporated in Hansard when you have no idea of its content and you do not know how long it is? Speeches are meant to be 20 minutes. An incorporated speech could be any length. It has usually been done in the past—it is not being done at present in this chamber—because everybody on one side of the chamber wants to make sure they have their message recorded about their contribution to an industrial relations bill or something of that nature, but I do not believe that any speech should be incorporated in this place. It is a place for parliamentary debates. I think standing order 187 should be applied more strictly. By leave, you can do anything in this chamber. If you are going to bring a speech in here that has probably been written by somebody else, sometimes about a subject you have no absolute knowledge about yourself but you come here to espouse your own theory that has been written by somebody else, if you want to read the speech seek leave to read it, or else expunge 187 from the standing orders. Most people are in breach of it, those that read speeches—and there are many that cannot come into this place without reading a speech. I find that is something that ought to be attended to straight away. There are many people who never need to read a speech—I am looking straight across at Senator Moore, a fine exponent of speaking off the cuff who does a wonderful job, and there are many on my own side, particularly the new, younger members on this side who I must say are the finest bunch of new senators that have ever come into this place in my 19 years.

The other thing that we have in here is formal motions. If something is not done about formal motions it is going to disrupt our whole procedure. Formal motions were meant to facilitate the business of the Senate. They were not meant to be bringing in a formal motion about a complex foreign affairs matter or something that should rightly be debated. Formal motions were meant to do away with the debate, and now we have two-minute statements so we have quasi debates on half of the formal motions that come into this place. Let them get onto the Notice Paper. When I first came here we all used to bring in notices of motion; it was one way of putting something on the Notice Paper. We never wanted them voted on; we just wanted the subject aired in Hansard so that we could let people know that we were trying to propose something that was in their interests or certainly to the benefit of the nation. So formal motions is another area where I think the procedures of the Senate could be reformed and improved.

Colleagues and Mr President, committee work is the lifeblood of the Senate. When I arrived on the first morning I entered the Senate—I had never been into the place; I think I might have been here once before—as I came in our Whip, Senator Margaret Reid, said, 'Senator, you'll be on the committee on industry, science and tech­nology.' I said, 'But, Margaret, I don't know anything about industry, science and technology.' She said, 'You soon will.' So I had a wonderful experience in coming into this place with former senator Bruce Childs, who became a wonderful friend of mine, and Brian Archer, a senator from Tasmania, who had both been chairs and deputy chairs of that committee and taught me how committees work: how you could work together cooperatively to get a result which is in the interests of Australia; how you could make sure that your inquiries were not political inquiries but something that both sides of the chamber could have input into so that you could come up with a result that would benefit Australia's future.

The early inquiries I went on were the best. We had an inquiry into CSIRO. Senator Shayne Murphy was a new senator at that time and I can remember that the biggest argument we had was over the title of the report. The then Keating government was going to sell off some of the assets that CSIRO had. I had a wonderful brain snap and decided I wanted to call the report 'From sacred cow to sacrificial lamb'. Senator Murphy thought I was having a shot at the government, so we finished up calling it The case for revitalisation. We had an inquiry into AFMA, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. We all had an interest in it and we were all looking to get a good result. And we had an inquiry into telecommunications towards the year 2000. By the time we printed the report it was out of date!

I became Chair of the Economics References Committee in 1994 and had a chance to be involved in all of the GST inquiries and the industrial relations inquiries over the next five years. They were wonderful times. I cannot say that they were non-partisan inquiries; there seemed to be quite a bit of debate on either side. It was during that time that we had that shameful day when people tried to belt down the doors of this parliament in order to get their point of view over. In a robust democracy like we have here, I think it is to their eternal shame that an attack was made on the place of democracy in Australia in the manner in which it was conducted that day. I am sure none of my friends on the other side were involved, or even encouraging, but I must say I thought that was quite appalling.

After that I was very fortunate, having gone through the length of time with the GST and industrial relations, when the Prime Minister asked me to chair the Joint Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, and for eight years I had the most wonderful job in this parliament. I had three great deputy chairs: the unforgettable Colin Hollis, Laurie Brereton and Graham Edwards. When you are involved in foreign affairs, trade and defence, working with the defence forces and with the diplomatic corps here, it is important that there is a degree of bipartisanship—and there was. They were very great deputy chairs. I probably could tell a few stories about Colin Hollis, because Colin and I spent 3½ months at the United Nations for the Millennium Summit in the year 2000 so I got to know him even better there. But the story that I like the most was when he was on the temporary panel of Speakers on the other side. He was about to go into the chair at about nine o'clock one night and he handed his glass to the attendant and said, 'Bring it in once I get in the chair.' Colin went into the chair, they brought in his drink, and the only thing missing was the slice of lemon that normally goes with a gin and tonic!

I have also had the great privilege to lead teams overseas observing elections. The first one was a team of 25 to the Indonesian elections in 1999. I had two raw new recruits in the Labor Party there: one Kevin Rudd and one Julia Gillard. But that was an experience I will never forget. I then had two opportunities in Zimbabwe. One, for the parliamentary election, was leading an Australian delegation. They never invited us back after reading our report, so I went with the Commonwealth Observer Group the next time and I was also with the Commonwealth Observer Group in Malawi. I appreciated those visits no end because they taught me a lot about the difficulties of those countries, although I must say as far as Zimbabwe was concerned I have never seen such brutality firsthand. When I came back I was quite psychologically affected by what I had seen in Zimbabwe. The culmination for me here was being elected by my colleagues to be President. It is one thing to be appointed by a Prime Minister or to have an appointment to any other position but being elected by my colleagues to the presidency of this place is something that I will be eternally grateful for. I am also eternally grateful that I had John Hogg as my deputy. John was most supportive, the most supportive deputy you could ever have. I have loved working with him. When John became President of the Senate after we lost this election, I was very happy to be his deputy for the last three years. It has been a pleasure working with you, Mr President. We have a good relationship. We have been able to discuss things at length and I will cherish the relationship we have had.

I joined the Liberal and Country League in 1963, which was affiliated with the Liberal Party. It did not become the Liberal Party until 1975—we like to do things our own way in South Australia! At the time I joined, we had 63,000 members of the Liberal and Country League in South Australia. Today we have 5,000 members; it is no secret. Exactly the same thing has happened to other political parties in Australia. I think there is a lack of commitment and there are so many other things that take up people's lives. Being a part of that group of 63,000 encouraged me as I went through my career in the Liberal Party.

To my Liberal friends in South Australia, particularly my friends in rural council, for most of my time here I have been the only senator in South Australia who has lived outside the metropolitan area and the contacts I have had in the country have been with people that have been loyal to me all my life and so I pay my respects to them. I also want to pay my respects to my two best friends in the Liberal party: Nick Minchin, who I spoke about earlier, and Cory Bernardi. Nick and I have been together in the Liberal Party for over 20 years. He was director of the party when I became President—a better friend you could not have. In my time and in my judgment, he is the best strategic and political brain the Liberal Party has in Australia.

I met Cory Bernardi, who came a little bit later on the scene, by accident. He happened to own the pub across from my office where we occasionally had a feed. He was also great friends with my nephew, who now resides in New York. Cory has been a tower of strength. I admire people who stick to their principles, who say what they think regardless of how other people view their comments. Cory is a man of conviction. His views are not held by everybody but at least he has the guts and courage to say what he thinks, and I think that speaks volumes for the man. I am sure our friendship will continue for a long time to come.

I do have friends among my colleagues on the other side too. Michael Forshaw and I have been friends for a considerable time. As he said the other night, it started at a late-night session in the state guest house in Budapest over a bottle of Jim Beam. I also count among the best friends ever in this place former senator Andrew Murray. Andrew Murray was a man of principle. Andrew Murray was a very clever man. He had a wonderful set of ideals but he also was very generous in the way he treated his colleagues and I certainly wish him well.

I have enormous respect for Senator Lundy. Strange you might hear me say that! Senator Lundy was Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories for the past three years, and we went through some very difficult times with Norfolk Island. Kate was as good a chair as I have ever seen, including the way she handled those people who are having difficult times. I am sure she has changed the minds of some of them as to how they should be treated by Australia, and we are in the process of addressing that now. Kate and I became friends. We did a lot of work together on that committee, together with others, and I always enjoyed attending meetings with Kate.

To the Senate staff, to Rosemary, Harry, Cleaver Elliott and all those that have gone in the dim dark past, thank you. I even think fondly of Rob Diamond. Rob Diamond was secretary of our committee for a long time and then went out on his own into business. To all the staff in here, the attendants, those people who look after us so well, I do want to say a heartfelt thanks.

I also want to thank my staff. Jannette Jackson worked as my PA for 14 years when I started—I pinched her from the secretariat, actually. She was an absolutely wonderful staff member, who ran my whole life. My kids used to ring up Jannette and say, 'Where's Dad now?' She was the only one that really knew half the time.

I had the pleasure of working with Jan Murphy when I first started. She was a highly intelligent girl who was able to put me onto various topics she felt that I should pursue. Jan left and went to work for Robert Hill for a while. Sadly, her husband died after he joined the RAF in England, having been in the RAAF here. Her life has not been easy in the past 10 years but she came down for a dinner we had last week. I was very fond of Jan.

Kate White, or Kate Andrew as she was when I employed her, the former Speaker's daughter, was vivacious and lively. I do not think I know anyone who kept an office on such an even keel and was as happy as Kate White. She is now raising three young daughters, working as a lawyer in Adelaide and I caught up with her recently.

Then there is Kate Raggatt. Who can forget Kate Raggatt? We all remember Kate, because she used to sit down there in that corner with her red locks. She worked for me for four years and Nick said to me one day, 'Do you reckon Kate could make chief of staff?' I said, 'I reckon she could do almost anything but, just remember, she has got red hair!'

Most of my current staff are in the gallery today. There are Kirsty and Anika, the Semmler girls. The Semmler girls are no longer Semmler girls. We have got a Heinrich and Fielke. You can see they have not broadened the genetics very much. They have both been a wonderful support to me. Kirsty has been my PA for the last five years. Liz Cotton, who is back in Adelaide, is a wonderful talent and is going to move on to another job. Alexander Bubner, Cassie Baldock and Josh Bell, who worked part-time while they were studying, have been wonderful over the past few years.

Lastly, but not leastly, is Dianne Goodman. I do not know where to start and finish with Di because you could never get a better staffer if you tried. She is capable. She started with me in the President's office, and when I became Deputy President she moved over with me. She is the only one there; she does it on her own. She manages me, which is not easy. She manages to handle any problem that comes up and I have never worked with a more pleasant personality or a nicer person in my life. I do pay tribute to Di. I turn now to my family. My wife, Anne, who did not come from a political family and has always found politics difficult, especially when we are having some sort of an internal scrap, which occasionally happens—though it happens very rarely now, of course, doesn't it, Simon!—was never a political person. Her family was not political. But she said to me: 'I ought to have known better. Your father was a state member of parliament, and although you might have been feeding pigs when we got married … ' She always felt that there may be something else in the offing. So to Anne; to Sarah and James, and their daughter Maisie who lives in Adelaide and is 15; to my second daughter, Hilary, and Rob, who farm in the mid-north of Crystal Brook with their two daughters Grace and Alice, who are 10 and six; and then to my three young grandsons in Perth, who are so far away, who I hardly ever see, to Susie and Marcus, and Fred, Jim and George, who are six, four and two: you are going to see a lot more of me in the future.

I will conclude with a quote that I started with in my maiden speech. I was at a Rotary conference in 1979 when a young exchange student from South Africa called Jess King got up and spoke to 500 people. She said: 'The service we give to others is the rent we pay for our space on earth.' I hope that my rent book is up to date and I am paid in full.

4:46 pm

Photo of Julian McGauranJulian McGauran (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask for the suspension of standing order 187—speeches not to be read!

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Proceed, Senator McGauran. I am looking forward to your speech.

Photo of Julian McGauranJulian McGauran (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President and Senators, now that my hour has come to give my final speech in parliament, some 24 years from when I gave my maiden speech in Old Parliament House, now a museum of politics past, I can do no better than to repeat what all speakers say at their valedictory: it has been an honour.

With all its ebbs and flows, the pressing on every human emotion, the responsibility, tension, exhaustion and exuberance that come with politics, I can honestly say I have never driven up Commonwealth Avenue to Parliament House and not felt a buzz, or a sense of that honour. I feel it as much today, on my last day, as I did on my first day. Indeed, I recall, on my very first day, entering King's Hall of Old Parliament House, very early in the morning, and the first person I saw was Bob Hawke, the Prime Minister. He recognised me, knowing the publicity that surrounded my defeating—with DLP preferences—the former and notorious communist John Halfpenny. He propped and came toward me with a big smile and 'Gooday.' His expression said it all: better you than Halfpenny. That was my first lesson in Labor's infamous factional wars. I thought I was off to a good start. But, not long after, Labor and the media were giving me hell for placing sponges over badly wired and overly noisy bells in the office. Unfortunately, my act coincided with me missing a division.

I will miss politics and I will miss public life and all its attractions and responsibilities. I first became a public official when elected to the Melbourne city council in 1985 and then to the Senate in 1987, so I have a few habits to kick and a few realities to face outside politics. However I consider myself very fortunate and am excited to have a profession to go to post politics. Everyone who enters this place considers their time seminal in the nation's history. And they are right. Every point of time is crucial in our nation's history and direction. I am amazed at how each new parliament brings its own unique political intrigue, drama and history. In short, when you think you have seen it all in parliament, it has a way of surpassing itself.

Like those of many, my politics and beliefs were predominately shaped by the Cold War era. It is hard now to imagine the great divisions in the world at the time: physical—East versus West; philosophical—Marxism versus capitalism; and moral—religion versus atheism. And always hovering over this world of division was the black cloud of nuclear war and mutual destruction. Yet by 1990 it had all but gone with the wind. When the Berlin Wall came down they said it was 'the end of history,' and 'History starts anew'. How very true. The debates in this place changed; moods, beliefs—all changed. It is not too dramatic to say that it was the dawning of a new world. And Australia was part of all that change.

I mention this as I recall seeing and feeling that change sweep through the Senate. In September 1989, I made a speech in the Senate on the world-changing events originating in Poland. And I boldly predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union—just weeks before the monumental collapse of the Berlin Wall. Following the speech I recall sitting down and one of my colleagues quizzically asking, 'What was that all about?' I guess I was a little vague about the deeper meaning of what I was saying, but I did it for a particular reason. Well, now I have the courage to say what I did not then. So where I said 'good fortune' in that speech, I meant miracle. I was meaning in the speech what we Catholics sensed at the time: the fulfilment of the promises of the apparitions of Fatima in 1917.

Now that half the world was free from communist dictatorship, the next revolution could be ushered in: globalisation. In retrospect, it was an obvious progression post Cold War. The next decade of the nineties was absorbed by this economic and social revolution. It may be described as an uninteresting economics-obsessed era, but in truth it changed the world for the good by lifting general standards of living of countries and many billions of people. Australia, and thus this parliament, was without doubt at the forefront of this massive change and restructure. Once competition policy was accepted by the major parties, economic rationalism became a flood finding its level. It is now hard to contemplate just how much governments owned—banks, airlines, airports, railways, telecom­muni­cations and so on. I never minded the privatisations at all, but I was never too keen when it turned to deregulation of the rural sector like the wool floor price, dairy deregulation or wheat deregulation. I crossed the floor on several occasions to resist change—at least no change without healthy compensation; I was a good National in that respect. So it was the era in parliament dominated by liberal economics which in turn shaped the mores of our liberal democratic society, and it all sat well with me. Pity the poor old Left as they watched their every belief collapse with the Berlin Wall then be washed away by a tsunami of economic rationalism. Of course, globalisation is still with us and has now become globalisation the greater or mark 2, the telecommunications revolution.

The new millennium, the 2000s, brought its own great global challenges and conse­quently involved all who served in this parliament and indeed who serve today. I kicked off the new millennium by staring down the alarmists of the Y2K bug who said planes would drop out of the sky on New Year's Day. I took a flight to South America on New Year's Eve. There were about 20 people on the jumbo flight. So you see I have always been a sceptic, from the hole in the ozone layer to the rising seas. The last alarmist to get it right was Noah.

More than anything else it was the attack on the World Trade Centre on 11 September that defines this decade of politics. Its shock and horror led to the war on terror, which goes on. Every country had to reignite their security agencies and toughen the terror laws to the point of unprecedented intrusiveness. We were fighting for all our old values again and this parliament was at the vanguard of that fight. Just consider the significance and courage—it was Australia that triggered the ANZUS Treaty to be the first ally by America's side when under attack.

The war on terror was brought to Aust­ralia's doorstep on 12 October 2002 when 88 Australians were killed in the Bali bombings. The memorial service held for the families of the victims in the Great Hall of Parliament House was the saddest I have ever attended as a senator. Looking into the faces of those Australian families I gained a real sense of how indiscriminate this terrorist attack was.

I have spoken many times in this place on the war on terror, be it the twin towers attack, Iraq, Afghanistan or the terrorist laws. I am proud and grateful that we the parliament unflinchingly went after those who sought to kill Australians and destroy our way of life. It was our responsibility as elected officials and we did it.

I believe the decade-long war on terror has forced us to reaffirm our heritage and belief in Western civilisation, culture and values. It is a culture to be admired and defended. It is truly one of expressing the highest regard for humans rights, religious beliefs, enterprise, art and architecture. All this flows from our liberal democracy. I have no doubt the democratic world's affirmation of its values due to the war on terror and the forced democratisation of Iraq has had a cascading effect on all the uprisings in the Arab world, now termed the Arab Spring. Tragically, it looks to be a bloody and long affair—perhaps a decade—but there can be no turning back now.

I am fortunate to have been in parliament over those three tide-turning decades. I am sure the next three decades will be just as momentous and requiring equal strength of convictions. I am not a believer in the adage that you come into parliament full of ideals which are eventually knocked out of you. There is no doubt our ideals are greatly challenged—and those challenges usually come under the guise of raw political advantage—but I think ultimately you hold onto those ideals. The very core of my raison d'etre, or reason to be, in office is buried in a few lines of my maiden speech. While the names I mention are long passed, the principle still stands and has stood for every parliament to which I have belonged. I said in my maiden speech:

… I reject the philosophy espoused by so many … in public office and best exemplified by Professor Manning Clark, who, when speaking of the late Justice Lionel Murphy, said:

… there was a man in Australia who believed passionately that the morality of Judaeo Christianity had ceased to be relevant. I see Lionel Murphy as a man who in that context strove to end the domination of God over human beings …

I then said:

I say again that I not only reject this view but stand against it.

You see in essence for me this was a declaration of war against Christian values in public life. It is for this reason that politics was always personal to me; therefore, the conscience votes in parliament allowed me the freedom to express the ideals that initially drew me to public life.

Though I was on the losing end of many votes, I cherished the opportunity to exercise these soul felt beliefs. It should not then surprise people that the most disappointing moment in parliament for me was on a conscience issue. It could be seen by others as a small and inconsequential moment but for me never did my heart sink so low in this place when at a late hour in an empty public gallery I watched the House of Represen­tatives debate the introduction of the human cloning and human embryo research bill. Gallantly a certain member, who was against the bill but knew the bill would be passed, sought to salvage just one aspect of human dignity from its consequences. His amendment was to stop the use of an aborted baby girl's immature eggs to create experi­mental embryos. The very instant that that member sat down literally the charge to defeat this amendment was led by Ms Julia Gillard. I was chilled by the adamant tone and the agitated demeanour against such a decent proposal as that. Serving in government—the Holy Grail of politics—has been the highlight of my career. It was a revelation to see firsthand how challenging it is to run a country. To do so you must have a cornerstone philosophy. It matters in politics. Proudly, the coalition's philosophy never was just words in a glossy brochure but was implemented in government. One of our finest hours and an issue close to my heart was the sending of peacekeeping troops into a war-torn East Timor to oversee the fragile election for independence. It was a decision that encapsulated courage, compassion and the power of government—a potent combina­tion. I spoke many times over many years in this parliament on the East Timor issue against the tide of opinion. The chain of events that led to East Timor's freedom was as likely as 'a camel passing through the eye of a needle', but it happened and a very good government was ready, alert and competent to rise to the occasion. Australia's inter­national standing was greatly lifted by the competency of our action.

While East Timor's freedom is an enduring achievement for us to look back on, there were many exciting and gratifying moments and achievements, which we are all part of in government and even in oppo­sition. Suffice to say, the coalition govern­ment was remarkable to work in. It was as disciplined as you will get. It had good comradeship, which is crucial for the day-to-day running of a government. It was mostly positive and always drove the national agenda and reforms. Equally, it was inclusive of every single member. And the results were good. Consider but one result: zero net debt. I am still astonished by that figure. It took discipline and conviction.

One of the privileges of the position of senator, as you all well know, is the opportunity to meet an array of people and to attend a great variety of functions and events. If it were at all possible to choose one, I would say the greatest event I attended was the burial of the unknown soldier. From his unmarked grave on the Western Front in France to his final resting place at the National War Memorial, the formalities, the all-night vigil and the ceremonies were of the highest calibre. It truly symbolised a nation grateful to this fallen solider and to all fallen soldiers. I could not help but think, as the military funeral procession made its way up Anzac Parade, that in fact this was an answer to a mother's aching prayer, so long ago, for the finding and return of her son to his homeland—Australia.

One of the important lessons I have learned in politics is that your great personal victories soon become passe and your mistakes do not seem so big over time. It seems to be a very small lesson to learn, but it really is a big step in perfecting the art of politics—though I suspect no-one, to this day, has ever perfected that art.

Through the victories and mistakes, it was a bonus to have my brother Peter with me in the parliament. I confess I knew a little more about the goings on in cabinet than your average backbencher. We were very close. In fact, I was too loyal to him. I recall defending Peter against calls to resign his ministry. It was grand final weekend for the football codes and I boasted to a mass of cameras outside the Senate doors: 'I'm backing St Kilda on Saturday, Canterbury on Sunday and McGauran on Monday.' St Kilda lost on Saturday, Canterbury lost on Sunday and McGauran resigned on Monday. And did Labor sure rub it in! Though Peter was soon reinstated to his ministry, I cut back on my doorstops.

Earlier this year I attended the funeral of a wonderful National Party identity and Mallee man. It was a gathering of the political clan. All the Victorian Nationals were incredibly warm towards me when, frankly, they did not have to be, as I never doubted my actions to join the Liberal Party would be taken hard. I am so grateful that this wound between friends is healed. To my Liberal Party colleagues, thank you for accepting me at such short notice! I have not regretted a moment. I fully sensed the responsibility and great history of the Liberal Party at the moments of leadership ballots because of their repercussions in the nation. We were choosing a potential Prime Minister.

I suppose that just leaves the Labor Party. When last in government, during the Hawke years, one of your ministers was extremely instrumental in helping me, at a mother's request, rescue a very young girl who had been taken overseas and into a sinister cult. It required international connections and government funding. I learnt early on that, when it really counts, this is how government ministers and oppositions will work together. In short: don't burn all your bridges. It was a very valuable lesson early in my career.

I thank the staff of the Senate, some of whom have come up from Old Parliament House. Thank you to the clerks past and present. I have been a beneficiary of your skills. I recall what was a very bad week for me when I was caught on camera giving my opponents the one-fingered salute. The Clerk's advice to the President was that because I had used the wrong finger, the index finger, the gesture could be ruled 'unseemly but not obscene', so I was able to avoid a formal censure of the Senate. What a brilliant defence—what a get-out! Thank you to the clerks.

I greatly thank the people of Victoria, who elected me to represent them—four out of five times. I thank my past staff for their support and my present staff, who all have been with me well over 10 years: Jennifer McBride, Rachel Campbell and Jodie Naismith. A heartfelt thank you for your long and loyal service but, most of all, your integrity.

I thank dearly my beloved parents, my brothers and my sisters—a family in whom I am truly blessed.

In conclusion, it might surprise you that I recently performed as an extra for Opera Australia's season of The Pearl Fishersit is true. Opera is like a day in parliament: love, lust, murder and betrayal, but all in song. That is the thrill of politics: it is an opera. I hope I played it well. So now I leave the stage and the curtain must fall.

5:08 pm

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I call on other speakers in the debate, I just want to say a few words about my colleague Senator Alan Ferguson. Alan has shown in his valedictory speech this afternoon the passion that he has for the Senate and its processes. It has been my pleasure—as Alan said, when he was the 22nd President of the Senate, I was the 34th Deputy President of the Senate—to serve with him. Particularly during that time, Alan and I developed a very good relationship indeed. It is a relationship that one cannot necessarily explain, because we are not talking about a political divide; we are talking about, as Alan did, the passion for the processes of this place and the functioning and operation of this place. It was on that basis that we developed this very good relationship indeed. Of course, as Alan said, when he ceased to be the 22nd President, I became the 23rd and he became the 35th Deputy President. In a nonsensical way, I suppose, whilst we had changed positions, it did not alter the relationship one iota. The relationship just went on seamlessly. Even though Alan and I had travelled together and had shared friendship whilst travelling, at the base of our relationship was our belief in this place.

Alan, what you said tonight really sums up the career that you have had in politics and the culmination of your career in your role as the President of the Senate. In your valedictory speech I listened very carefully to your comments on question time. This seems a little bit selfish on my part—I hope not on your part—but in the roles that we perform as President and Deputy President, we see question time from a totally different perspective from the people who sit in this chamber, and we hear it in a different way—sometimes a little bit too loudly! None­theless, your expression of the value of question time and where you would like to see it go should not be lost in the parlia­mentary debate and how this parliament progresses into the future. I make no personal judgment on your comments, but I think your wisdom is well placed indeed.

Alan, to you, Anne and your family, on behalf of Sue and myself, we wish you all the best in retirement. We know that, because of a great institution in this place, we will meet at less once a year. I hope that is for many years to come. I value and treasure the work that you have done for this parliament, particularly with respect to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which you and I know is undergoing severe strain at this stage. You and I have shared a common view for the benefit of the members of this parliament in participating in that organisation. Thank you very much, Alan, and all the best to you.

5:12 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate for his courtesy in allowing me to speak first. Whereas the Senate farewells another three senators in today's valedictories, the coalition farewells three genuine heroes in the cause of liberalism. I thank their friends and families for lending them to the service of our nation, their state and their party. Political life is often surreal and has aspects associated with it that we as participants find uncomfortable. Our close friends and family often suffer collateral damage, which makes their support all the more precious to us. I know that to be the case for the three coalition senators we salute tonight. Their three speeches, whilst distinctly different, showcased the quality that we will lose.

If the coalition were to salute Senator Minchin, it would need to be with a 21-gun salute. Senator Minchin, in his understated yet powerfully convincing way, has been a great Senate leader for the coalition, especially in the dark days of transitioning from government to opposition. His steady hand, his sense of purpose and his unwavering commitment to the cause of the nation have been just some of the qualities that endeared him to his colleagues and earned him the respect of his opponents. Relatively early in my time here, namely 1996, Senator Minchin and I worked together on trying to resolve native title issues after the High Court's adventurous decision in the Wik case, which unwittingly helped the rise of One Nation. I was the newly appointed chair of the Joint Native Title and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Fund Committee and Senator Minchin the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister assisting in matters native title. It was in these interactions that I first saw Senator Minchin's fine mind, principles and pragmatism at work. The ILUAs, or Indigenous land use agreements, paved the way to absorbing the heat from many of the potential disputes. The resolution of the issues and their passage through the parliament was a great victory for our country, for common sense and, above all, for Indigenous communities.

As Senator Minchin's deputy I got an apprenticeship for which I am extremely grateful. His cool thinking in difficult times was inspirational. Without revisiting in any detail the difficult days of November 2009, I can vouch that they will be etched in my memory forever—to the day both Senator Minchin and I resigned from the front bench, thinking we would both be on the back bench together. Instead, today, I find myself as Senator Minchin's successor after his heart-wrenching decision to retire in circumstances we as parents hope never to find ourselves in. In political terms, Senator Minchin and I were true philosophical soul mates, be it as federalists—or, as Bert Kelly liked, free traders—or as supporters of the family unit or voluntary voting.

The list goes on, and as it does the more I know I will miss Senator Minchin in this place. But just in case those listening in think Senator Minchin was ideologically pure at all times, let me remind them of his one blind spot in relation to economic rationalism, and that was the South Aust­ralian car industry. He also supports New South Wales in the rugby, and I recall one evening watching a game in Brisbane with our dear friend Santo Santoro. In this huge sea of maroon, there was this one blue rugby jumper, worn by Senator Minchin. It was only out of our deference to his leadership that we allowed him to walk out in front. We stayed well behind.

Senator Minchin also had this bizarre view—and he made mention of this in his first speech—that the Liberal Party somehow favours state presidents over state directors.

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

And the problem is? I do not know, but one person that you have forgotten is Senator Bushby, who was also a former state director of the Tasmanian division, so there is a third. But, might I say, that does not detract from the fact that former state presidents do make very good senators.

More seriously, I think one's heritage often does help in the tasks that life throws one's way, and Senator Minchin had a great pedigree. His great-great-grandfather, Sir Stuart Donaldson, was Premier of New South Wales for only three months. I did not know that Senator Arbib was around in those days as well to cut short a premier's service! Especially relevant to our side of the chamber was Senator Minchin's heritage as the descendant of the first director of the Adelaide Zoo. I dare say that his skill in herding cats was derived from that heritage.

Senator Minchin referred to what he called 'failures'. None of those that he mentioned were failures. All of them indica­ted a commitment and a set of principles that we should all aspire to live up to. Senator Minchin has had a distinguished time as a Liberal senator for South Australia, a senior frontbencher and a leader. He goes of his volition and with the best wishes of all his coalition colleagues. Those best wishes are extended not only to Senator Minchin but also to his very supportive family: Kerry and children Jack, Anna and, if I might especially single him out, Oliver. On behalf of the coalition, we wish you well in your future.

I turn to our former distinguished President Senator Ferguson. The presidency of the Senate is the highest honour this body can bestow on any of its members. Senator Ferguson was rightly bestowed that title but, if I might venture, for too short a period. He was a capable, fair and good humoured President. The current President's words earlier were a wonderful tribute to Senator Ferguson and well deserved. I have no doubt that Senator Ferguson would have been an excellent minister, but sometimes politics does not play out as you expect. While ministerial appointment is the gift of the leader, one's election to the presidency is only at the behest of one's peers and colleagues casting their collective judgment.

Senator Ferguson and I first met when we were—and Senator Minchin might know this—both state presidents—surprise, surprise—of our respective divisions of the Liberal Party. We met at a federal executive meeting at Bowral, if I recall. We have known each other since and have enjoyed each other's company. Senator Ferguson's work on the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee is legendary. He did the work and earned the respect not only of his colleagues but also of the diplomatic corps, with, if I recall, another important country giving him a gong for his services. However, his core commitment was always to his rural constituency. He was a champion for their cause. Senator Minchin, Senator Ferguson and I have always voted together on the conscience issues of the day. Senator Ferguson was strong on freedom and family. Interestingly, I note that in his first speech he complained about electricity prices. I wonder what they actually were 19 years ago in comparison to now. Senator Ferguson in his first speech—he quoted it again this evening—said:

'The service we give to others is the rent we pay for our place on earth'. I certainly hope no-one here ever has cause to tell me that my rent book is not up to date.

I can personally vouch for the fact that his rent is up to date, as he has been staying at my place these last few months! He is a very easily accommodated flatmate, might I add. I will miss the early-morning and late-night chats and especially the Ferguson humour and insights. The service Senator Ferguson has provided—his wise counsel, his advocacy for the rural sectors and as President of the Senate—has ensured that his rent book is not only up to date but well paid in advance. To Senator Ferguson and his wife, Anne: we wish you well in your new, full-time role as grandparents.

I turn to a good friend, Senator McGauran, whom I first met in student politics. When Senator McGauran first started here, he was the youngest senator in the chamber at the time and the second-youngest ever elected. The elixir of youth has remained with him. I first met Senator McGauran, as I said, through student politics. It would be fair to say that I have not weathered quite as well as Senator McGauran.

Many people say that how you come to this place and how you leave says a lot about your character. It would be fair to say that in the 2010 election those Australians who lived south of the Murray River were not as favourable to the coalition as those living north and to the west. Senator McGauran told me, when I rang to commiserate with him, that politics was a bit like the tide: sometimes it sweeps you in; sometimes it sweeps you out. The graciousness with which you took your defeat speaks volumes for you as a person.

Senator McGauran's traditional values and conservative instincts—other than the length of his hair—made him a political and philosophical soul mate. With Labor in government during his first speech, he commented about public debt. How some things never change! He leaves with a bigger public debt, albeit we in the coalition had paid it off in the meantime. The common factor, of course, between his first speech, his last speech and the huge public debt is a Labor government. As a young man he lamented the problem of government debt placing a debt burden on future generations, and that is so right.

Senator McGauran was always a fighter for the things that mattered. He was one always to be relied upon for us in the coalition to take note of answers. If ever there was a gap we always knew that Senator McGauran could fill it. His stump speeches, as his speech this evening, were always informative and always entertaining, with that wonderful sense of self-effacement which is part of Senator McGauran's per­sonal charm. His capacity to obtain media attention was legendary on all sorts of issues, from dumped thongs washing up on foreign shores—and, just in case anybody is wondering, these are the footwear type of thongs—to Senator McGauran being entitled to ride a horse into St Paul's Cathedral by virtue of him being made a knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

He engaged in the tough issues of the day and was one of the first to call for our involvement in East Timor—and he was so right. And, whilst being terribly ill with malaria courtesy of a trek on the Kokoda Trail, he thought it absolutely vital that he present himself to the Senate to help overturn the Northern Territory's ill-considered euthanasia laws. Thank goodness the bells were working on that day.

Senator McGauran has done himself and the country proud. I say to all three of our retiring senators: thanks for your service. You have been a blessing to our nation, and may God bless your futures.

5:27 pm

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

On behalf of the government I would like to make some remarks about each of the three senators who have given their valedictory speeches tonight. It is a shame that most of them have left it to the last minute to give their best speeches! It seems a trend in the last few days that they are more eloquent and humorous than their earlier contributions. It is the freedom that comes from retirement, I suppose.

Photo of Nick MinchinNick Minchin (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Your best speech will be your last one!

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

Unfortunately, Senator Minchin, a few people have remarked that I am from the same school of '93 as you and perhaps I ought to consider my position! It is very uncharitable. I point out, though, that we have had reverse careers. We got elected at the same time, and you went straight into government while some of us toiled in opposition for many years. I was very keen to give you a decent length of experience in opposition at some stage, but you circumvented that by leaving. But I understand that decision.

I make the point that the British Council, in about 1987-88, made a decision to award what are now called Chevening scholarships to two young party officials. There was a break from the normal tradition. They usually chose people with academic creden­tials. I did not know that they had chosen another one, but one was Senator Minchin and one was I—one from each side. We both got the opportunity to study in London. He studied voluntary voting, as I recall, and I studied privatisation. I suppose I was happier at the LSE than he might have been in terms of the environment. I understand that un­fortunately they have never sent a party official since, and I do not know whether that is a reflection on me or on him or on both of us. Senator Minchin has had a very distinguished career in serving in the Howard government and, while I did not agree with him given his position on native title—and I do not want to sound condescending—I saw his understanding of Indigenous issues really grow during that period and I think he developed a real sensitivity about them over the period of having to deal with some quite difficult and challenging issues.

I think it is fair to say that tonight we are farewelling three genuine Tories. I think all three are genuinely conservative people, and that was reflected in their contributions. I certainly think Nick Minchin would wear that badge with extreme pride. I have always found it difficult to understand how an intelligent and able bloke can come to such opposite conclusions to those of mine on so many issues and yet have—

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

We understand!

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

I think on many issues you are closer to me than him, Senator. Nick has very strongly held and well argued positions that are clearly on the conservative side. I remember as immigra­tion minister trying to convince him that there was some value in immigration but I am not sure that I won that discussion.

Nick, congratulations on a very successful career. You were obviously a very effective minister and were well regarded in the government and in the wider community. From our side of politics I think it is fair to say that we regarded you as a professional, someone whose word could be trusted. I know that when we were both leaders of our respective parties I knew I could have a private conversation with you that would remain private—which is something not as well regarded these days as it used to be but I am a bit old fashioned about these things—and also that if we reached an agreement it would be honoured. I very much respect you for that as well as for your capabilities. You are obviously a very able and effective politician and I am told you could be slightly on the ruthless side when required. Luckily, most of that was always concentrated on the more liberal members of the South Australian Liberal Party and not on myself.

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray Darling Basin) Share this | | Hansard source

Not true!

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

Senator Birmingham probably bears the scars! But I understand there is a new rapport these days and a new rapprochement. Obviously, Senator Minchin was known as someone who provided leadership of groups inside the Liberal Party with great effect. As I say, he has had a tremendous career and is very well respected. He is certainly respected on this side of the parliament as a very professional and honourable politician and parlia­mentarian. I knew he was bordering on vegetarian but I was a little concerned about the idea that he was forming an organisation of which plants could become members. It did strike me as a little odd and as perhaps a sign it was probably time to retire. On behalf of the government, congratulations, Senator, on a fantastic career and you go with our best wishes.

I would also like to mention the tragic incident involving your son Oliver. I know how deeply that affected you and your family. Having a son of the same age, I was very sympathetic. You bring them up and always hope for the best and expect them to be free of danger, and that must have been a huge shock and a terrible period for you and the rest of the family, and I know how much it impacted on you. But we are very pleased to hear reports of Oliver's recovery and wish him well in his defence career. I am sure he will make a great contribution, although I hope his politics are a little better than his dad's but I suspect not given what I have heard tonight about his mum's politics! So all the best, Nick.

To Senator Alan Ferguson: you go very much with the appreciation of the whole chamber for a very successful career in this place. I know you like to pretend you were part of the class of '93 but we do not formally own you because you came in a little bit before that, but I remember you came to our orientation seminar. Alan has had a fantastic career in the parliament. I first worked with him when we were both on the superannuation select committee, which was very worthwhile work. It was probably the best committee that this parliament has had in terms of bipartisan work in staying in front of the partisan debate by actually doing longer term policy work. Alan made a huge contribution to that, along with people like Nick Sherry and Cheryl Kernot. It was a very good place for me, as a new senator, to learn some of those skills and have opportunities. But I suppose, Alan, you are best known as President of the Senate. You did a tremendous job. You were held in respect by me and my colleagues. We had some difficult discussions. I think it is actually harder to be President at a time when you have a majority in the Senate. While there are challenges when you do not have an automatic party support in the Senate, dealing with the expectations of your own colleagues to act in a less than impartial way is probably the biggest strain. There is an interesting discussion there, I think. I always respected the way you dealt with people fairly and with respect and that when we had a difficult discussion it was done maturely and with goodwill, and we have remained on good terms. I respected the fact that you brought a very calm demeanour and fairness to the role of President. The fact that you have got a sense of humour makes a huge difference. I will not name the former President who did not have a sense of humour but he was actually the worst President. It is funny but I think it is actually the most important skill to have, to have a sense of humour and a light touch, to help defuse situations in the Senate. Interestingly, I thought Noel Crichton-Browne was one of the best people that we have ever had in the chair. I do not think I have ever said anything good about Noel Crichton-Browne in my life—and I will not again.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

It is actually the second time I have heard you say this.

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

Yes, but it is the only thing I say. Alan, I know you are very well regarded on our side. I am sure some of our senators who have had the chance to know you better and have travelled with you will want to say things about you. You are always regarded in this place as good company. I do not know quite why that is; I suspect because you are always happy to have a chat and a drink. I know people on this side have very strong relationships with you and will miss you. I have certainly enjoyed working with you and I am sure you will enjoy a less demanding lifestyle in future. Visiting your grandchildren in Perth is a very good idea. All the best and congratulations on a great career.

Turning to Senator Julian McGauran, I reckon his best speech was his last. It was fantastic. It was a very entertaining and interesting speech. I did not know that he had brought down the USSR, that single-handedly he had brought down Communism in our time, but I very much enjoyed the speech and what has been a remarkably durable career. I also first stood in 1987, in the double dissolution election. I am very glad I did not get elected; I was too young.

Julian has had a remarkable period in the parliament and he has an interest in a whole range of issues that he has brought to our attention. I remarked the other night that one of the great privileges of being a senator is being able to bring public attention to and focus on an issue in a manner that may not have occurred if not for that senator's activities. Despite the stories of the bells et cetera, which are famous, I think Julian McGauran has a very proud record in terms of East Timor. Too many people were prepared to be apologists. Julian really campaigned strongly for the East Timorese people against the views of both political parties. It is to his enduring credit that he provided support for the struggle of the East Timorese. I think he was also one of the first to work to provide proper recognition for Vietnam vets. Again, that is to his great credit. While on most of the social issues he and I have never agreed, and will never agree I suspect, I have great respect for the role he has played in those causes. As I said, we have agreed to disagree on censorship, abortion and some of those issues. But I know they have always been views genuinely held. Despite the fact that Julian McGauran is very keen to roast us in the chamber and get into a very strong debate—and I am happy to return serve—it has always been done without any personal rancour. I think it is a credit to him too.

It is interesting to have your career made by the DLP and then broken by the DLP. It will be a nice historical footnote, particularly for one who has done so much to encourage their growth over the years. I think Julian McGauran will go down in the record books as probably the worst whip seen in the parliament; we always thought while you were whipping we had a chance to win a vote whatever the numbers! You referred to the decision in relation to your obscene gesture, which was described as 'unseemly but not obscene'. The fact that you could not choose the right finger is a terrible indictment. That is mostly why we were upset at the time: that you could not give us the finger using the right finger! That was a particularly interesting episode.

Julian, I think you have a lot to be proud of in your career. I particularly note your commitment to the East Timorese people as something where you campaigned when it was not popular, to your great credit. We wish you all the best for life after the Senate. After being in here so long you probably worry about whether there is life, but I am sure there is. I hope it goes well for you. To all three senators, congratulations on your contributions and we wish you all the best for your future.

5:41 pm

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

I am going to miss all three of my retiring colleagues, though I suspect I will miss them in different ways. We should note with the retirement of Senator McGauran that he is the second-last senator to have commenced his career in the Old Parliament House. We lose with him the second-last link between this chamber and that building. I will miss Julian for his Irish charm and for his boyish looks, which impressively he has retained well into his fifties. I rang Julian the morning after the 2010 election, when it did look as if he was going to lose his seat to the DLP, and with impressive gallows humour he could not fail to miss the irony of that fact.

Fergie, when I came into the Senate 11 years ago there was a generation of older senators who set the tone certainly on the coalition side. I always thought of them as the wise men. They included Paul Calvert, Brian Gibson, John Herron and Fergie himself. These men nurtured a culture of collegiality among the government senators and were always a source of generous and wise advice. I think with the retirement of Alan Ferguson we lose perhaps the last of that cohort of older senators I thought of as the wise men. Alan Ferguson gave me some very wise advice when I was first a senator. He said to me, 'George, enjoy your years on the back bench because you will never be so free and they will never come again.' That is some of the best advice that I ever had. I stayed on the back bench perhaps a little longer than I had expected to, but I enjoyed those years enormously and will always look back on them as one of the happiest times of my life. In part, at least, I owe that to the advice of Alan Ferguson. Alan, you have been a friend to all. You have always been free with your counsel. You have always been generous with your time. It must give you tremendous satisfaction to know that you are one of only 23 Australians to have served in the high office of President of the Senate.

Let me turn to Nick Minchin, a man of whom I cannot speak too highly. It would have surprised practically everyone, including me, if I had been told when I first became a senator 11 years ago that, of all the coalition senators, the one I would grow to admire most was Nick Minchin. We had little in common in policy terms, though Nick had very sound views about the desirability or otherwise of Australia becoming a republic. That is something I always knew we shared. Nevertheless, we did come from different parts of the Liberal Party jungle. As I have observed Nick Minchin over the years, I have seen in him an exemplar of all the qualities I most admire—loyalty, integrity, courage, com­mitment to principles and decency. Those are all qualities we aspire to and, as fallible human beings, on occasions we all fall short. But all of those qualities were exhibited by Senator Minchin in an exemplary manner.

Can I conclude with this observation. Senator Minchin and I might have different views on a lot of things but we have an identical view about the Liberal Party, which is summed up in a remark once made by British Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, that 'Labour is an aeroplane which can only fly if both of its wings are intact'. That is the view that Nick and I have of the Liberal Party. It is the view by which we have lived and, on occasions, it has meant we have had some strange bedfellows. But I think the view has been vindicated by the success of the Howard government and the successful prosecution of the opposition's position since my side has been in opposition. And so, Nick, I will miss you as a mentor, a friend, an occasional supporter and an exemplar of all that is good about the Liberal Party.

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I understand that informal arrangements have been made to allocate specific times to each of the speakers in tonight's debate so, with the concurrence of the Senate, I shall ask the clerks to set the clock accordingly. I would like to thank Senator Brandis for his courtesy in understanding this arrangement. I now call Senator Joyce.

5:47 pm

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (Queensland, National Party, Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

In the political boat there are some people who actually put their oar to the water and make the boat move and there are other people who just go through the motions and let everybody else do the work. The three people we are speaking about tonight have all, in their own way, put their oar to the political water, made it move and affected the nation that they live in.

I will start with Nick. Nick, you are a typical person from Knox Grammar. I never quite knew what was going on up there but it was all very, very serious—and it seems to stay that way. Nick was a person who flew up to see me when I had just started. My memory of Nick will be that of a person glaring down the chamber at me on odd occasions because I had dared to differ from his position. Later on, Nick would join me on the other side of the chamber agreeing that we should reflect our liberty in this chamber. Reflecting on Nick's work, he stood by the $2.4 billion Telecom­munications Fund and gave respect to the coalition's National Party colleagues on that issue.

Summing up Nick, I would mention three things. I remember going into his room and seeing him lying on his back doing some sort of yoga. He said to me, 'Yoga is for your mind and Lord Monckton is for your head,' and I noticed that he was listening to Lord Monckton on a cassette! He urged being vegetarian, but even more insane than that was his disgust for milk. He called it 'the juice of cows' and wondered why children drink so much of it! We are also fellow travellers, obviously, on issues pertaining to CO2—and Nick has been a great light on that. I would like to thank Nick for his support during the dark days when we were trying to get what we believed was a right and proper process—an adjustment—around that very issue. Nick, you leave with the deepest respect of the National Party, and I mean that in all sincerity. Even other colleagues who might have been suspicious about you have nothing but the highest regard for you because they believe you are a man of honour.

I will remember Fergie as a person who has an excellent collection of scotch. I will also remember his desire for the Senate to stand on its own two feet, do its proper job and not be guided, bullied and pushed around. Fergie, if you leave that with the Senate then the Senate will be a better place. I thank you very much for your friendship and understanding. You too are a person from the country. You understand the country and your reputation as an advocate for the country was warranted. I also note that you are another person who managed to cross the floor. In fact, you sometimes did it from the chair, so you sort of sneakily got out of it; you nominated that your vote differed, which was rather shrewd. You leave here well loved and well respected.

Julian McGauran is a fellow traveller on right to life issues. We have immense respect for Julian for the work he has done there. He has been here since 1987 and he has stood by his principles from start to end. Julian was many things but one thing he never was was boring. There has been a rapprochement with regard to Julian's leaving, and I can say that his leaving is seemly but not obscene. Julian, thank you very much. We wish you all the best. You have been a great adornment to the Senate. You have been a person of true colour and true character.

To all three, I thank you for the work you have done to maintain this nation as one that believes in the principles of our Lord and Saviour, and you have never hidden behind that. So, when you are leaving, remember that we will look upon you with fond memories.

5:51 pm

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to associate myself on the record with all of the remarks made about my three retiring colleagues. Their speeches tonight were so very much 'them'. They were very fine speeches. They are very fine senators and very fine people. Each in his own way has made a real contribution to their state, to the Senate and to the nation.

Nick Minchin surprised me with the quality of his leadership. I have always been very close to Nick's predecessor as leader and, because of the idiosyncrasies of the South Australian Liberal Party, which I have never understood, I have never bothered to have much to do with Nick. But, in leader­ship, he showed what a wonderful, caring, no-nonsense leader he was. He was one who never hogged the limelight. He so ably did everything he had to do, and that has been remarked upon tonight. I did follow Nick to the death in the trauma of the climate change debate that confronted our party a little while ago.

Fergie has been a wonderful friend to so many here. His rural knowledge and background appealed to me when he first came to the parliament and the days of the Lees meetings, which were so very important to so many of us. His understanding of and leadership in the Senate will always be remembered as distinguished. His love of fine scotch and a good South Australian red is something that we have all shared in, thanks to his generosity, and his role in parliamentary democracy is recognised beyond Australia's boundaries.

I was one of his few supporters in our party room on the question time issue and I pledge, Alan, to continue your campaign, although I will not do it with your aplomb, your patience, your sensitivity or, I suspect, with as much success as you had. But I will keep going on that, because I agree with you. I hope that in your retirement you will be able to watch question time and see that it is a worthwhile episode. I thank you, Alan, on the record, for the time when I publicly criticised our new leader Alexander Downer. You never told me, but I know it was your influence with Alexander that allowed me to remain on the front bench and so perhaps gave me whatever career I had in the ministry. Thank you very much for that. I appreciate it. I think Nick might have had a little bit to do with that, in the background, as well.

For some strange reason I have always felt very close to Julian McGauran. It is quite strange because we are diametrically opposed, philosophically. He is a Catholic as well and I am an Anglican. Worst of all, he was a member of the National Party! I like Julian—I always have—and his speech tonight shows why. I inherited his office when Julian had his three out years from the Senate. That was interesting. We had our Liberal-National tussles over the years and that very memorable campaign in northern Victoria—which I promised I would never mention again—but I was more delighted than most when Julian eventually saw the light and joined the Liberal Party. I can never quite understand the Victorian Liberals on what they did to you, Julian, but that is another issue. Had that been a bit better, you would have been with us for the future.

The brevity of our speeches tonight, and I guess I can speak for everyone, is not because we do not have a lot to say about the three retiring senators but because we are on a time limit to try to give everyone a chance to say something. My best wishes to all three retiring senators for the future.

5:55 pm

Photo of Kerry O'BrienKerry O'Brien (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I will be brief, understanding that many colleagues of the outgoing senators who have given their valedictories tonight will want the opportunity to speak. I did not want to let the opportunity go past without putting a couple of things on the record. I admire the way that Senator Nick Minchin has conducted himself in this place. We have not travelled together. We have not crossed swords so much at estimates committees or in the parliament. It has been through my observation of his performance as a member of the Senate. It was a performance which drew my admiration. I respect the way that you have conducted yourself in this place, Nick. I really do hope that you enjoy your retirement and I am sure your family will enjoy your presence. Unlike other people, I do not wish that you watch the Senate question time again, and I suspect you will not, very often—as I would not.

Senator Julian McGauran and I have crossed paths on committees from time to time. We even travelled together to New Zealand to look at fire blight in apple orchards. We have had our moments. I do have one thing that I need to say and that is, in all of the speeches that I have given in this place attacking the National Party, I really do claim credit for Julian changing from the National Party to the Liberal Party following those attacks. If I influenced no-one, I am certain I influenced Julian McGauran. Yours has been a long period of service in this place and a distinguished career, something which I am sure you are very proud of and your family is very proud of. I wish you well in your retirement. If indeed you do go onto the stage, I am glad you will have a parliamentary pension!

Senator Alan Ferguson and I travelled together once. I made comments in my valedictory speech about the way that we got on, and I suspect the way I got on well with Alan is an experience which is commonly held by many on this side of the chamber. Of course, for many years I was on that side of the chamber and he was here. I recall many hecklings that I received from Senator Ferguson when I was prosecuting the case on the pork industry, apples and various agriculture sector issues which Senator Ferguson was involved in and there was the war on the waterfront issue. I recall attempting to prosecute an estimates case for Lindsay Tanner and having Robert Hill in the minister's chair and Alan Ferguson in the chairman's chair, making it extremely difficult for me to do that. Nevertheless, I have a great deal of respect for the way that Alan Ferguson has conducted himself. He has been loyal and true to his party but a very welcoming person around the corridors of this place and I have greatly appreciated his counsel from time to time.

I recall one event that amuses me. It was an occasion during the taking of note where one senator, whom I will not name, decided that there should be a bit of a game: everyone who spoke needed to mention three words but choose a word which had two meanings. Senator Ferguson, in the chair, ruled it out of order and would not allow people to use it. I must say I got around that by questioning the ruling and was the only one who could. It was a demonstration of the respect that Senator Ferguson had for the procedures here. Alan, I wish you well. I know you have enjoyed travelling. I hear you have a Winnebago or something of the sort. I hope you enjoy that for the future and that you and your family have a great retirement.

6:00 pm

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a bittersweet moment to stand here and give this brief speech, because I am losing three great Senate colleagues. I will not say I am losing three great friends, because they will not be lost at friends. But they all have become very good friends and they have all brought so many different things to this place.

Julian, I have not known you for very long in the five years that I have been here, but over that time we have become mates. I have come to admire your loyalty, your witty insight into the peculiarities of parliamentary life. My wife has not given up trying to find a nice young girl for you to settle down with. But I fear it is going to be a lost cause, because you are enjoying so many other aspects of your life at the moment.

Alan Ferguson was a great friend of mine before I got into parliament and has been a great friend ever since. He was a great patron of my prior establishment. It was there that I reflected on what Alan Ferguson said today, that I am a person who sticks by my beliefs. When Alan came to me and asked me to get involved in the Liberal Party more fully, he said, 'We'd like you to run for the state executive.' I said, 'Okay, I'm happy to do that.' He said, 'We'd like you to become the multicultural coordinator.' I reacted in a horrified fashion and said, 'Look, mate, just because my name ends in a vowel doesn't mean I believe in this multiculturalism baloney.' I have been sticking to that ever since. Fergie came back the next day for another schnitzel and said, 'What about running for vice president?' I never looked back. Fergie, it has been an honour and a privilege to have served with you in this place. You have been a wonderful role model not just for me but for many others and, without any doubt, you are admired and respected by all.

Senator Minchin, who has just walked into the chamber, is a man of extraordinary talent and insight. You are a man of great strength and you are a man that I have the utmost admiration for. No-one has been more loyal to me than you and Alan, but in particular you because of the strength that you have shown. At times where I have perhaps tested your patience, and maybe that of others, you have always been there with a firm rod—sometimes trying to belt me with it but, more often than not, to put a bit of steel in my spine.

A few days ago I was having a conversation with someone and I said to them it seems that the great failing in modern politics is loyalty. It seems such a transient thing. Nick, you have loyalty in spades. In response to a request from someone, I said: 'I've always believed that loyalty is an admirable quality. It's a characteristic that more people should demonstrate. And in parliament, or anywhere else, you always dance with one that 'brung ya'. For good or for bad, I'm with Minchin until the end of the week.' Nick, I am going to unleash my true inner conservative. There is no more moderation from me after your balance is gone; next week I am going to be a true hard-core conservative and let everyone know how I truly feel about things.

Friends, colleagues, I am going to miss you enormously, not only because of the great strength and wisdom you have all shared with me, but because you are all great mates. I know that friendship will continue outside of the parliament. I wish you every best wish for all of your futures.

6:03 pm

Photo of Brett MasonBrett Mason (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Universities and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

Perhaps the most famous and the most influential politician of the ancient world was Marcus Tullius Cicero. As you would expect, he was a senator. In the first century BC—just before he was murdered on the orders of Mark Antony and had his hands cut off so that they could be nailed to the doors of the Senate—Cicero wrote, 'A man's own manner and character is what most becomes him.' When the debates are over, when this chamber falls silent, what we remember is not the battles won and lost but how people fought. All the retiring senators are examples of Cicero's attitude to life and politics. What we will all remember about them is how they served. They all served different parties, they all won some battles and lost others, but they made Australia a better place. But what we will remember more than anything else is that they all served honourably.

Acting Deputy President, sadly I had remarks about my six retiring Liberal colleagues. Given the time restraints, I seek leave to incorporate the remainder of my remarks.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Senator Russell Trood

I know Senator Russell Trood better than any other retiring Senator.

Mr President, the most joyous, successful, indeed euphoric, campaign I have ever participated in was the 2004 Queensland Liberal Senate Campaign. It was by every measure by far the most successful Senate campaign in Queensland Liberal history—despite me leading the ticket.

Russell shone in that campaign as dedicated, hard working and very likable. Fortunately he has never changed. Politics did not corrupt him.

And even in the Senate campaign last year—despite little chance of re-election—he never complained. Not once. Never!

I listened to Senator Brandis description of those campaigns last week and I should add two things. First, from memory, Russell always loved my campaign music. He has eclectic tastes.

Second, how we moved from the Liberal Party's 'deal-breaking' and 'not-negotiable' position of an LNP Senate ticket in 2010 based on the order of election in 2004, which was supported by both the Federal President of the Liberal Party and the then Leader of the Opposition, to the eventual ticket in 2010 is a story now familiar to many of my colleagues but which might be more fully and frankly discussed in my memoirs.

Sure, Russell will be remembered for his expertise in foreign relations, but for me, his legacy will be his honesty, his spirit of generosity and his grace under pressure.

He leaves this place with my great affection and sincere respect.

Senator Alan Ferguson

The greatest Chairman of a Committee I have ever known is Senator Alan Ferguson. As Committee Chair he was always fair—but firm. I still bear the scars of his Chairmanship. And he was always great company. He put me on to green label scotch. I still bear those scars as well. Alan, I will miss your wise counsel, friendship and warm company. Best of luck to you and Anne.

Senator Judith Troeth

The two qualities I admire so much about Senator Judith Troeth are her grace and her strength. She really is the iron fist in the velvet glove, with a wicked sense of humour thrown in. Judith, we didn't always agree. But I always respected you. And , in the end, that is what matters.

Senator Guy Barnett

On this classical theme, Senator Guy Barnett, I think it was the Oracle at Delphi who said, 'Above all, know thy self'. You are Tasmania's greatest legatee of the Oracle of Delphi. I have known no one in the Senate who holds convictions as firmly as you. My only hope is that our country continues to benefit from your service.

Senator Julian McGauran

Julian, you have always been something of an enigma. Your views are rock solid, but you have always charted your own course. I will miss the long flowing locks, the dark coats, the Italian shoes—but most of all I will miss your passion. You never let anyone down, least of all yourself.

Senator Nick Minchin

Yes, Senator Nick Minchin was a great strategist, tactician and campaigner both before and during his time in the parliament. He was the best sort of finance minister; he was miserly but never lost the smile on his face. But I admired Senator Minchin for two reasons. Firstly, he was a man of conviction. Sure, he was conservative, but never reflexively. He holds conservative views, sometimes courageously but always persuasively.

And, secondly, as a leader, he inspired that scarce commodity, very rare in politics, of trust. Whether you were a coalition senator, Labor or the cross-benchers you could trust Nick Minchin.

And I should just add, Mr President, he pulled me out of a few scrapes—but, again, wait for the memoirs.

To all senators—coalition, Labor and Family First—thank you for your public service. Thank you for your service to our Senate and for what you have done for our country. I will miss you all.

6:05 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to observe the Ameri­can convention and refer to 'President Ferguson'. Alan, you have been a mentor and a friend. Your counsel has been the wisest that I have received in this place; my only regret is the occasions on which I did not follow it. You were an outstanding president and you have been a truly grand parlia­mentarian.

Julian, your Senate career has indeed had an operatic quality. You were in the Senate, you were out of the Senate for a brief time and now you are back in. You have been a National and you have been a Liberal. Indeed, I was proud to stand with you after you decided to join the Liberal Party. I know there were some who urged that the Liberal Party not accept you and leave you as an independent in this place. But accepting Julian was one of the best decisions the Liberal Party organisation in Victoria has taken. You are immensely popular. You have worked incredibly hard. You have the affection of the Victorian Party organisation. You are the ultimate 'conviction politician'. You come from a great political family; your brother, Peter, and your father, John, also supported the coalition parties strongly. I am just delighted that you are going to make a continued contribution to the community as a teacher. I think that is wonderful. Senator Minchin, you truly are a creature of the party: you have always put the interests of the party ahead of your own. That was never more clearly on display than in the times that we refer to on this side of the chamber as 'the troubles'. Contrary to popular belief, there was no 'Minchin's militia'; there were just individuals who reached common conclu­sions. Nick was, as always, his own man. He did put it all on the line. Nick, I hold you in the highest regard. It is very much my hope that your formal service to the party we will see again in some other incarnation.

6:07 pm

Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

In addressing the retirement of Senator Nick Minchin, may I say, Nick, that leadership, discipline, respect and admiration are things that few people can achieve all at the same time. With respect to your Senate colleagues, when you led them and indeed when you were simply a minister in a very successful Howard government, that was a high-wire act that few can perform. But you have achieved it. You leave a template and a model of honesty and integrity that I think is a lesson for us all into our futures. I thank you for that and for your service to your state and of course for your service to your party and indeed this parliament. It has truly been a most magnificent contribution.

Julian McGauran, as a Western Australian the machinations of Victoria never cease to amaze me. I have been one of those senators who has always admired your wit and wisdom. Your speech tonight was one of the best I have heard for a very long time in this place. I did enjoy it, Julian. We will miss you. We wish you all the very best in your future. You have been someone whose company I have certainly enjoyed.

Lastly, to my friend Senator Alan Ferguson, who bears the title of 'Respected'. It is a title I think is worn better than any other senator in this chamber. He is a person of great modesty who said tonight that his achievements were few. I am struggling to think of anybody who has achieved so much. The achievement of chair of the joint standing committee was something; the achievement of President was something. I thank you for the time, courtesy and the mentoring you gave to me, along with Jeannie Ferris, when I first came here and to my colleagues, particularly those from Western Australia—and I know our South Australian colleagues benefited enormously. I thank you for those special moments of advice and consideration that you have given. You have been in many respects our Rock of Gibraltar in our party room. We will terribly miss that stability and that wisdom. It has always been a delight to see you in the corridors and to meet you at large. I look forward to continuing a long friendship. To you and Anne, all the very best.

6:10 pm

Photo of David BushbyDavid Bushby (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I too rise to pay tribute to the three Liberal senators who delivered their valedictory speeches tonight and to make a few comments about the three who did so last week.

Since his election to parliament in 1993 Senator Nick Minchin has had an impressive parliamentary career, culminating in his serving as both leader of the government and the opposition in the Senate and also in cabinet. I believe that this is a testament to the high esteem that he is held in, both professionally and personally, by his colleagues, by his party and by the nation. But of greater importance to me is the fact that Senator Minchin is a true advocate of liberalism, of the free market, of the benefits to Australians of small government, of rewarding innovation and effort and valuing individuals—all ideas which I believe are wholly owned by the people on this side of this place and ideals which are exemplified by Senator Minchin's principled approach to policy issues on issues that have come before him during his time in this place. I personally have no doubt that Senator Minchin will be recorded in history as one of our nation's true statesman and one whose influence and opinion have served to shape a stronger, better and fairer Australia. Can I say, Nick, that I believe your loss to this place—the loss of your wise head and counsel—will leave the nation worse off than it currently is.

Senator Ferguson, you are another one of the Australian parliament's true statesmen. As President of the Senate, Deputy President and Chair of Committees, Senator Ferguson has shown a masterful knowledge of the procedures and processes of parliament and a considered, capable and equitable approach to controlling the people in this chamber—and we certainly need that control some­times. You are a true gentleman, a man of immense gravitas and one who has earned the respect of all senators who have been through this place in this time.

I also acknowledge the longstanding parliamentary career of Senator Julian McGauran. Although also a senator who has had a great impact, I will miss him for entirely different reasons. During my time here, Senator McGauran, you have undoubtedly been the most entertaining debater in this place. This is not to downplay at all your ability to debate well; you are certainly articulate and effective in what you say. But you have the ability to include a degree of comic turn of phrase and delivery that is quite unique and enables you to deliver the points that you make in a way which I think is quite humorous and effective. Your valedictory speech today did not fail in that regard.

Senator Judith Troeth's retirement marks the end of a long and successful Senate career, including time as a parliamentary secretary in the early Howard government. Her passionate advocacy on a wide range of issues, particularly those impacting on rural and regional Australians and women, reflect her commitment to the principles of liberalism and truly highlight how just one individual in this place can make a real difference.

Senator Trood, although here for less time than the other retiring Liberal senators, has nevertheless made a significant impact through his exemplary committee work and his erudite and in-depth contribution to policy debates, particularly in the area of foreign affairs. In his speech last week he mentioned how Canadian senators are appointed for life. If senators here were appointed for life, Senator Trood is just the sort of person who should be appointed.

Last but not least I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge my fellow Tasmanian Guy Barnett. I recall first getting to know him whilst I was a student politician at the University of Tasmania and he was then the youngest ever senior adviser to a Premier in Australia. I continued that friend­ship over the years, culminating in my going into partnership with him in a public relations and law firm in 2001. That partner­ship did not last long because Senator Brian Gibson retired within months and Guy was soon appointed to replace him in the Senate. I followed his career closely and have no doubt that he was a most passionate, hard-working and committed member of federal parliament, and I had great pleasure in again becoming his colleague, this time in Canberra, some six years later.

In conclusion, to all retiring Liberal senators, best wishes and enjoy the life that your retirement will now return to you.

6:15 pm

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray Darling Basin) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to farewell the six Liberal colleagues who are departing us very soon. Their valedictory speeches and their great diversity of views, attributes, back­grounds, achievements and skills really do demonstrate how great our Liberal Party is. For four of the retiring senators, I have selected some quotes—some from well-known individuals and some from less well-known individuals—to draw from. I will start with my South Australian colleagues and Senator Nick Minchin. This quote is perhaps appropriately, or perhaps not, from Napoleon Bonaparte:

The people to fear are not those who disagree with you but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.

Nick, I have never feared you. I have always known where you stood. Even when you were seated, directly behind me, I knew exactly where you stood and never had cause to fear you. In fact, my respect for you has grown, especially since I came to this place and since I have seen you lead our party. I have had cause to seek your advice from time to time. Your advice and counsel have always been sound; indeed, I expect that even when you leave I may still seek your advice on occasion.

To Senator Ferguson, Alan, from the influential French renaissance writer, Michel de Montaigne:

We can be knowledgeable with other men's knowledge, but we cannot be wise with other men's wisdom.

It is Alan's wisdom, I think, that we will miss most in this place. As evidenced by his contribution tonight, the words that he speaks—whether in this chamber, in our party room, in the Senate, in the joint party room, or indeed in private—usually get an attentiveness and focus that is rare in this parliament, and that shows how wise Alan's contributions are and how much they are valued by so many people.

For Senator Judith Troeth I chose, perhaps appropriately, an Eleanor Roosevelt quote:

A woman is like a teabag. You cannot tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.

Judith has been tested with plenty of hot water throughout her career and she has been found to be very strong. She is compas­sionate, engaging, understanding, determined and principled, and JT—as I like to call her—will be missed and missed sadly, certainly, by me.

For Russell Trood, a perhaps lesser known quote from the early 20th century American writer Carson McCullers:

There is nothing that makes you so aware of the improvisation of human existence as a song unfinished.

Russell is perhaps not a song unfinished so much as a book unfinished—a great classic novel—whose intelligence, capacity and knowledge deserve to be in this place longer and should be making a longer contribution. It will perhaps fall to the rest of us to improvise and to live up to the issues that Russell highlighted in his contribution.

To the other retiring senators from this side, Julian McGauran and Guy Barnett: Julian, your wit, charm and great capacity for debate have been highlighted already; Guy's diligence and passion for causes was highlighted last week. To the other South Australians, in particular, who are leaving from the Labor side, I wish you every success in the future. It has been a pleasure to serve in this place with each and every one of you. Each of you adds to the dynamic of the parliament. You learn a little bit from everybody, and indeed it is debates like these valedictories that show us the great diversity of contributions in this place. I wish all of you well for a very happy and prosperous future.

6:18 pm

Photo of Michael RonaldsonMichael Ronaldson (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I was in this place, in the other chamber, when both Nick Minchin and Sprat Ferguson arrived. I suppose there are not many of us who know Alan as 'Sprat'. I want to say a couple of very quick words. Nick Minchin brought to the job a remarkable legacy of people management. People management is something that a person is not, in my view, born with. I think it is something that is acquired with experience, and Nick is the best people manager that I have seen in my time in politics. He managed some difficult months some 12-plus months ago with great dignity, and the fact that our friendship survived that means that it can probably survive anything, I suspect.

I have fought a lot of battles with Alan and his close mate, former President Calvert. When I was chief whip in the other place—the stories can probably never be told—I remember that on many occasions we had massive fights. Sprat said: 'You'd better come over to the Senate barbeque. We have got to sort this out. They all hate your guts over there, and we want to get this sorted out.' So I came over for this peace offering, and I will not say who it was or exactly the words they used, but it was made quite clear to me that I was not welcome. When I asked about it, I was told, 'Sprat said, "As soon as he walks in, give him a payout."' To his credit he did come back and get me. To Anne I would like to say: you have been a very loyal partner to Sprat.

I want to farewell my colleague Russell Trood. We are in some respects strange bedfellows, but we will maintain a friend­ship. His nickname, of course, is a similar colour to the chamber we sit in at the moment, and I will very much miss Russell. I am absolutely sure that Guy Barnett's time in politics is not finished, and nor should it be. I will quickly say: for those who know Nick well, to see what he and Kerry went through with Oliver was, I suspect, one of those defining moments in Nick's life. We all have those and they are never pleasant, but I think we come out of them better people at the end of it. I know the effect that it had on Nick.

I want to talk finally about Julian. There are some who, foolishly, have under­estimated Julian over the years. When he was a member of the National Party there was no better campaigner against the Liberal Party than Julian McGauran. He ran some sensational campaigns and he was very, very good. I watched Jules during his speech tonight as he said he was 'pleased that the wounds had been healed'. I saw the look on your face, Julian, when you said those words. I know what you went through. Helen Kroger, Mitch Fifield and I know the absolute angst that you went through with that changeover. You brush it off, but we know it was an enormous decision for you to make. Our party quite frankly has been a lot better for you coming to join us. I offer all of my departing colleagues my very best wishes for the future.

6:22 pm

Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing) Share this | | Hansard source

I will start by paying tribute to Senator Trood, Senator Troeth and Senator Barnett, who gave their speeches the other evening. Senator Trood looks very much like one of those distinguished Roman senators. He resembles that beautiful picture in the Roman senate; all he needs is a white robe and a toga and he would look the part. Senator Judith Troeth, I did not always agree with your stand on many issues, but I do respect your right and the work that you did to stand up for the causes you believe in. Senator Barnett, I shared many of your conservative causes and I wish you all the very best.

Tonight I pay tribute to three conservative colleagues. Sadly, those of us who share mainstream conservative values are losing three of our own. Being conservative is not always fashionable in this country. The fourth estate love to deride us. They ridicule our values and belittle the causes that we stand for. Nick, as you said, we are sometimes called pariahs, but I know that every time we stand up for such causes we represent a silent majority. I can see 'The Friends of Carbon Dioxide' having a lot of foundation members.

Fergie, we will miss your leadership, your sense of humour and your general bonhomie. We have valued your sage and wise counsel. You represented us well as President and Deputy President, and we will certainly miss your warm hospitality on Monday nights. I wish you and your family all the best and I am sure you will all enjoy the holiday you are about to embark on.

Julian, you win some; you lose some. Perhaps that investment in the DLP was not so profitable in the end. You always managed to add colour and movement to any debate. You have an ability to espouse a view on almost anything, coupled with a ready wit and much gesticulation. Your speeches not only made good listening but were entertaining viewing, and tonight was a fitting finale.

Nick, you have been friend and mentor to so many of the next generation of conservatives. I thank you for the years of support, especially through the years I struggled to get to this place. Indeed, even when I was finally selected, you were berated for having been the cause of my selection. As the leader of the national conservatives, you have always stood up for our cause and have not been afraid to do so. Some who shall remain nameless could never quite work out the strength of our factional cause and our dedication to it, but you always wore your power with humility and the great respect of both friend and foe.

Many in the Liberal Party seek to deny the existence of factions; they are, however, a fact of life in the Liberal Party. Indeed, we were born with the Liberal and conservative philosophies. You often repeated that we should formalise our factions. I agree. We could have saved ourselves a lot of angst along the way.

On behalf of your many mainstream conservative friends and supporters in New South Wales, I wish you all the very best for the future. Who knows? You may one day return to your old stomping ground on the northern beaches of Sydney. But rest assured that you leave a conservative legacy that I and many in this place are proud to follow. To all three of our colleagues I say: you will be missed.

6:26 pm

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

I wish all the retiring senators all the best. Senator Wortley, from South Australia, we have a common friend in Jim Michalanney, who I went to school with in Adelaide. Senator Hurley, thank you for your time on the economics committee. Senator Fielding, I wish you well in what your future brings. Senator O'Brien, if I had known before what I found out tonight—that you were the reason Senator McGauran joined the Liberal Party—we might have had more words in the past. But I know he was perhaps being a bit humorous.

Senator Steve Hutchins, thank you for the times you have helped me behind the scenes with various problems I have had, including constituent issues. Steve was always there to help me. I hope that someday I can return those favours. Senator Forshaw, I remember when we played cricket—Steve Lewis was seriously batting away and I was wicket keeper. Steve got an edge and Michael Forshaw took the flukiest catch at the top of his reach. I do not know who was the most surprised, but it was the end of Steve Lewis's innings. I wish you well and thank you for your friendship.

Senator Troeth, thank you so much for your contribution over many years to this parliament. You are certainly a woman who sticks up for what you believe in, and you proved that on many occasions. Senator Trood, I did not have a lot to do with you but you command enormous respect. We wish you well in the future. Senator Barnett—and Kate and your family—we had a magnificent trip to Thailand, Anzac Day 2010. It was great to get to know you better then. Guy, I am sure we have not seen the last of you in one way or another in public life.

Senator Nick Minchin, thank you so much for your wonderful contribution to this parliament over many years. He is a man who commands enormous respect from the National Party. In various meetings and on some controversial issues, it was always, 'Look after Nick.' That was the bottom line. I think Senator Boswell had that recorded pretty often. We wish you well.

Senator Alan Ferguson, three years ago, we were having a mock sitting of the Senate here with the new senators—the muster of 2008—and my job was to stand up and move some formal motion, I think. I stood up and the Deputy President said 'Senator Williams.' I went to move the motion, and he said: 'Senator Williams, you have stood at the wrong time. You are out of order on the red.' I thought: 'What a great start to this place; I have stood up at the wrong time.' I was sat down and corrected. Alan, thank you so much for your magnificent contribution. You will be missed, but we will see you at Innamincka one year, I am sure.

Senator McGauran, thank you for the handwritten card today. I am not going to recite all of it, but it says: 'Wakker,'—it is 'Wacka', by the way—'You are a fine representative in the Senate and for your party. There should be more shearers in parliament.' I will not go into the other details. Julian, all the best. Can I say: your sins are almost forgiven, if I could put it that way. We do believe in forgiveness. You made your decision. I am glad that when you went back to that funeral—you told me about this before—you were very welcome. That is what the National Party is like. Good luck in your future, and thank you for that great speech tonight. It was a great speech, but after 24 years you should be able to speak properly! All the best, Julian.

6:30 pm

Photo of Helen CoonanHelen Coonan (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a real privilege to be able to associate myself with comments about the three retiring Liberal senators and, indeed, all retiring senators. I want to talk briefly about each of them and concentrate on some personal reflections.

First of all to my friend Nick Minchin. Nick's rollcall of achievements on entering the Senate has been very well described. To my mind, his most accomplished role was his appointment to cabinet by the Prime Minister, John Howard, as Minister for Finance and Administration, a position he held from 2001 to 2007. I believe I am the only sitting senator remaining in this place who was also a cabinet colleague in the Howard government, able to observe Nick firsthand as he applied his sharp intellect and attention to detail to every cabinet discussion, sometimes much to the chagrin of colleagues.

Also his role in the Expenditure Review Committee, that exacting task of examining in detail every portfolio bid, would no doubt remain forever in the minds of ministers with visions of being big spenders. Quite rightly, no-one left the cabinet room without Nick running the ruler over and the red pen through any excess. I think he was only outwitted on one occasion, by the former senator Richard Alston, who was well known as the thief of the ERC.

Quite apart from cabinet and the ERC, I also served as ministerial shareholder with Nick in Telstra Corporation and Australia Post. I have to say we had some rather interesting meetings with the board and management of both Telstra and Australia Post, some volcanic and others much more calm and focused—and I will leave the Senate to conclude which were which. I also enjoyed working with Nick as Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. I had the great privilege of participating in the coalition leadership team, where Nick was always a sound contributor, always forthright and possessed of keen political instincts.

People have talked about Fergie being a great mentor and always giving great advice. I remember some advice he gave me when I first came to this place. He said: 'Keep quiet for a while in the party room. More people talk themselves out of a job in the party room than they do into a ministry by making a goose out of themselves.' It was extremely good advice, as, indeed, is most of the advice that Fergie gives and it is much valued by colleagues. He has really made the most amazing contribution in the Senate. I do not have time to go into all of his achievements, but, as a delegate to a CPA conference just this year, I must say that Fergie's fame in that conference is worldwide, so successful has he been throughout his years of contribution to the Senate and elsewhere. He is a truly great man, although sometimes I think he has been known to lead a few of us astray with his great friend Gordon Broderick. I rather suspect there might be a farewell perform­ance coming up very soon.

That leaves me with Julian, who, in his own way, has made the most amazing contribution also to the Senate. He was deputy whip a long time ago when I was also deputy whip, back in the mists of time. I think he only had about four people to look after and sometimes he managed to lose them! That was Julian at his finest. I must say that perhaps the other thing I have in common with Julian is that I think we might be the two people in the Senate who ever did track work, and I know he once worked for Bart Cummings.

What a wonderful trio of senators with an amazing and diverse range of experiences. In many ways, I think it is a very melancholy task to try to capture the essence of such diverse and talented senators—three lives spent largely in public service, furthering the interests of those who elected them. What finer way to make a contribution in your life. Well done, everybody, and don't be strangers to us.

6:34 pm

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration) Share this | | Hansard source

It is with enormous admiration coupled with a degree of sadness that I too rise tonight to pay tribute to the significant contributions made by my colleagues Senator the Hon. Nick Minchin, Senator Alan Ferguson and Senator Julian McGauran to the Parliament of Australia during their time as senators in this place. I say to all three of you: when I entered this place three years ago you were my colleagues; tonight in giving your valedictories I am so glad to be able to say that each one has well and truly become my friend.

Nick, throughout your career in this place you have consistently demonstrated professionalism, competence and an extra­ordinary understanding of parliamentary practice and procedure. Your record in this place is such that, when you leave here, you can hold your head exceptionally high. I take solace in the fact, in particular after listening to your speech tonight, that, whilst your distinguished service in this place may be ending, there is a future for you on the conservative side of politics. Like Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, I too may well be looking quite seriously at joining your 'Friends of CO2' group!

Nick, it has been an absolute privilege to serve with you as a fellow senator but, in particular, as part of your team when you were the Leader of the Opposition in this place. I have always regarded you as my mentor, and I appreciate the time you have spent with me sharing your wisdom, your experience and your knowledge of parlia­mentary practice and procedure. I congrat­ulate you on your long and distinguished service to this place and I look forward to continuing to work with you as we go into the future.

Alan Ferguson, if only I had been a scotch drinker, but I wasn't—but that is all right! Alan, during your time in this place you reached the esteemed office of President of the Australian Senate. Without a doubt, that is a role of which you should be very, very proud. I did not have the opportunity to serve with you when you were the President of this place, but certainly I am advised by colleagues on both sides of this chamber that you discharged your role in a competent and effective manner and were, without a doubt, one of the best presidents in this place. I, of course, have had the opportunity to serve with you in your role as Deputy President, and I would agree that that is a role which you have discharged in a dignified and effective manner.

Your speech tonight has confirmed everything that I believe about you—that you are a true champion of this chamber. You are a person who is prepared to forcibly argue the case for houses of review and the fact that the upper house of parliament needs to maintain a degree of independence whilst ensuring that it discharges its role in an efficient and effective way, continually enhancing its capacity to carry out the review function, for which members of this chamber are elected. During my time in this place, Alan, you have been a great mentor to so many of us. I have sought advice from you on many occasions. Like others, I recognise that you are a man of great integrity and wisdom and a parliamentarian who has accumulated much knowledge in the working of the Senate over many years. Your departure from this place, again in relation in particular to matters of parliamentary procedure and practice, will be a great loss.

Julian, what can I say? I do not think you are allowed to say that it has been a blast in this place, but I have to say that, since I have been seated next to you, it has been an absolute blast—it really has. Julian, in the three years that I have been in this place—and I thought I had a unique style—you have taken the cake, well and truly. You have what is described as a unique style that will be greatly missed. Throughout your time in the Senate you have worked with distinction and with great flair. It has been an absolute pleasure to have worked with you in a number of capacities but in particular in relation to our time on the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. You are a highly principled person, you have stood by your convictions and have steadfastly remained true to your beliefs during your time in this place.

In Julian's maiden speech in 1987, when laying down his beliefs, he said:

I stand for traditional Australia and its belief in the family structure as a source of strength to a society which is presently sorely tested by an array of social pressures. I stand for an Australia which accepts the recognition in law and policy of the status of marriage and its preferred treatment.

…   …   …

I seek to give full service to these ideals in my term in the Senate.

During your time in the Senate, Julian, no-one could say that you backed away from your stated beliefs, and in this game, with the pressures that can be brought upon a person, that is something to be exceptionally proud of.

Senator McGauran has had a long and colourful career in the parliament. His retirement will be a great loss to senators in this chamber, in particular his style of address and his undoubted capacity to identify and get to the nub of any issue in an effective way. Julian, I congratulate you on your service to the parliament and to the people of Australia. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the future and I wish you the very best in your endeavours. The state of Victoria and the Liberal Party is fortunate to have had the representation of a senator of such quality as you.

All three senators who will retire on 30 June are entitled to be proud of the contribution that they made to the Senate and the nation. Our country is a better place as a consequence of their service to the parliament. I wish them all the very best.

I will say one more thing for the record. Julian has promised to take me to dinner on Thursday, 28 September, when I am in Melbourne. It is now on the record.

6:39 pm

Photo of Helen KrogerHelen Kroger (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am pleased to have this opportunity to join my colleagues and pay a somewhat brief but genuine tribute to my colleagues who are retiring. The speeches that have been made speak volumes for the high regard in which we consider all our retiring colleagues.

I first had dealings with Senator Minchin when I was on the federal executive. It was with some trepidation that I first sat around that table with you, Nick, because your formidable reputation preceded you. So it was with some anticipation that I sat around that table. It did not help that at the second meeting that I attended as state president for the Victorian division I was 'beaten up' by the then Prime Minister, John Howard, in a particularly outstanding way, which only emboldened me in the approach that I should take. Nick, it was with your encouragement that I did that. Your valedictory speech tonight speaks volumes about the enormous contribution you have made to the country. There are very few people about whom you can stand up and say they made a real—with a capital R—difference to the state of our country, and you are one of those people. You have been a champion fighter for a number of causes and for that not only we, in this place, but many Australians will be forever grateful.

Senator Ferguson has really fathered those of us who came here in the class of 2007. Senator Ferguson, you have been a great mentor. Your advice has always been very sound and much appreciated. It really made the transition to this place so much easier for us. I also wish you very well for the future. I am sure that you and Anne will have many times to be able to enjoy those gorgeous grandchildren and enjoy the break from this place that you so well deserve.

Regarding Senator McGauran, I do not know how else to say this except to say that Julian is like family to me. He is like one of those challenging kids, one of my sons, whom you will always love to death, but who, my goodness, give you some problems that you have to deal with. Julian and I have known each other since university days. The flamboyant Julian has not changed since those days, which is such a redeeming nature. He is very much the person that I knew—I will not say for how many decades but for a few decades. It was the McGauran clan who were instrumental in the Victorian division determining to organise and agree to a joint Liberal-National Party Senate ticket—an arrangement that I have been a staunch critic of for the last decade, with a view that it should be revisited, notwithstanding that I hold my relationship with the National Party very highly. But the McGauran clan are largely responsible for us brokering that Senate ticket and sending Julian here for the last couple of decades.

Mr Acting Deputy President, if I may continue with your forbearance, I cannot go past a phone call that I received a few years ago, when I was state president. It was on a cold Sunday night, at seven o'clock. Julian was at the other end of the phone saying, without any preamble, 'Helen, I've just resigned from the Nats and I'm joining the Liberal Party.' After I got my breath I said, 'Julian, who have you told in the Nats? Who have you spoken to?' He said, 'I haven't spoken to anyone.' Julian, thank you very much, because you essentially ensured that for the next two months my life was taken away from me as I managed your transition to being a member of the Liberal Party and representing the Liberal Party. Julian, well done. It has been a great pleasure working with you and I look forward to having many dinners in the future.

6:44 pm

Photo of Judith AdamsJudith Adams (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Firstly, I would like to wish all retiring senators well. For those on this side, I missed out the other night on con­gratulating Judith, Guy and Russell, so I will quickly run through them. That does not sound good, does it?

Judith Troeth has been a great advocate as far as rural issues go, and of course that has been one of my favourite things. She has been a pillar of strength and a great friend, and I really do hope that everything goes well in her future.

Guy Barnett had to put up with me sitting beside him for about 2½ years. When I first came he really did help me with Senate procedure and, Guy, I do thank you very much and wish you and your family well with whatever comes. Congratulations on being appointed as an ambassador for Diabetes Australia. That is great; you will do very well.

Russell was part of our 2004 class. I am really sad that he is going but I am sure that we will see him back, either here or in some other area that he has great expertise in.

As for Nick and Alan, a word that has not been mentioned tonight is advocacy. I think both of them have given so much in that role. They have been very good. I will start with Nick. As the leader, I really did appreciate your advocacy and your wise counsel when things were going a little bit amiss on a certain subject that I took on when I first came, the single desk. It did not go down very well with my National Party colleagues but Nick was great and he and Alan were certainly great with their counsel. Nick's mother was the same age as my mother, so when things were not going very well he was great and I really did appreciate that. Nick, with a son in the Army as well, I really did feel for you with Oliver. I am so pleased that everything has happened as it has and I am sure that Oliver will go on and be a great officer.

Fergie—and it is very difficult not to turn around to face him but I had better stay with this—has been great, once again with rural issues. He and I bonded right from the start and, as President of the Senate, he was very good and I learnt so much about Senate procedure from him. Also, on the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, I have made two trips to Norfolk Island with Alan. He has certainly given me great insight into the issues that are confronting the Norfolk Island people, and I am sure that if things do not go quite to plan I will be on the phone to talk to Alan.

Julian, those girls are going to have a wonderful time when you get to the college to actually teach. I would think that in theatre and drama, or whatever they call it now, you would certainly be able to fill that gap as well! I wish you well in many ways and I am sure that you will be a great success with your future endeavours. When Julian was in the National Party we did have a few clashes with him and his brother over the same issue, which was the single desk, but he came to the Liberal Party and he probably saw where I was coming from in the end. Thanks, Julian. You have done a wonderful job.

In conclusion, I wish everyone well. I am sure that colleagues on the other side and Steve Fielding, in their own way, will do well in the future.

6:48 pm

Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No-one wants to see their colleagues leave, but as the most junior senator here for the last 2½ years I cannot wait until 1 July, I can assure you. History is made this afternoon, and I also want to honour those colleagues.

In the case of Senator Minchin, also having a son who has served in active service in Iraq and Afghanistan, we felt keenly for you, Nick, and your speech this afternoon was one of legend.

In the case of Alan, as you said recently, it is better to go when your colleagues do not want you to than to stay when they actually want you to leave. I can only thank you very much for that very long two minutes you gave me when I proposed the motion for World Veterinary Year.

When it comes to Senator McGauran, he could not have had a better schooling than with Bart Cummings, a man who is actually known for not saying too much but whom you listen carefully to. What Julian did do—and it was a great apprenticeship for him—was learn in the horse industry, mucking out boxes, that what you put in at one end, if you do not treat it very carefully, inevitably comes out the other end. Therefore, he had a very good apprenticeship. I believe it was also in riding work. If ever you will get back to that weight, Julian, I do not know. Nevertheless, history is fast coming down, because at this moment there are only four, I think, who have come from the old Parliament House to this one: Senator Boswell, Senator McGauran, Philip Ruddock and Bronwyn Bishop, and one of those four in fact now leaves.

In the few minutes available to me I would like to honour also those from the other side of the chamber and Senator Fielding. Senator Wortley was chair of the first committee I was put onto, and I really valued her for her wisdom and guidance. Senator O'Brien, of course, was on the Rural Affairs and Transport Committee. Senator Hurley will be long remembered in my family and in my office. In fact, heat will be applied because we have bought both of her microwave ovens for those purposes. Of course, Senator Hutchins, I travelled to the Middle East with, and Senator Fielding I wish well. With the Irish ambassador, we will enjoy Senator Forshaw's hospitality on Thursday.

In the few minutes remaining I want to also honour, if I may, my colleague Senator Guy Barnett for the enthusiasm in the areas that I have seen him perform in. Guy, I know that you will have a long career. As a person very interested in diabetes, I can only thank you for prosecuting it.

In the last six months I have sat with Senator Russell Trood on the Select Committee on the Reform of the Australian Federation and have watched his wisdom.

Senator Judith Troeth mentored me from the time I came into the chamber and taught me what I do know. It is not much, I suppose, of procedure, but I feel particularly honoured that I sat beside her when she made her speech on the CPRS at variance with what was the position of our side. I did not agree with what she said; I honoured her for her willingness and her capacity and I felt very pleased to sit here beside her because I believe that is the essence of democracy.

I honour all colleagues who are leaving. I thank them for their contribution.

6:52 pm

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to associate my remarks with those of my colleagues who have spoken before me in this debate today and pay tribute to today's batch of retiring speakers. Firstly, Nick Minchin, who was my senior minister in the Finance portfolio for a period of time, from the time that I arrived was always one of the figures that I looked up to as a sage voice. We did not necessarily always agree on some of the issues that we talked about, but one of the things that I really valued when I was his parliamentary secretary, though we did not interact an awful lot—I did not have to pester him a great deal, but he did not come to badger me—was that we had some pretty serious discussions about some major issues and, when I had made a decision, he would back me all the way through the process. There were a couple of really very difficult ones and a couple of quite significant ones that probably will never see the light of day, but once the decision had been made Nick followed that decision through the process that existed and provided me with support all the way through. I always appreciated that support.

I had the opportunity to travel with Nick and Kerry 18 months ago, and we had a great time on that delegation. It was a good opportunity to get to know each other personally. It was the time when Oliver was going through a lot of his significant issues. I wish you and your family all the best, Nick. Taking the time to get out when you do is really important.

Fergie, sometimes we think this place is all about us. We get into a mindset. We get involved in our work. It has been so important to me to have someone to remind me—remind us all—every now and then about the institution that we are involved with. You spoke about that today, and I think it is really important that you put what you did on the record today and have reminded us over a period of time about the institution we belong to, how we operate within it and how our manner and how we conduct ourselves in this place can aid the operation of the place. I think that was a really important contribution.

I appreciate our friendship. It has more often than not been over a glass with a bit of ice and a small dash of something else in it, but it has always been convivial. I have enjoyed, appreciated and valued your friendship. Again, I wish you and your family all the very best into the future.

Julian, you mentioned in your presentation your salute to the chamber. Unfortunately, I was the cause of that. In fact, I was with your brother out on the front lawns at the time. I came back and apologised. I said, 'Mate, I'm sorry for causing all the trouble,' and you said to me, 'Mate, I think I've taken the pressure off you.' You leave today, with a speech like that, in great dignity and style. You really do yourself credit. Congra­tulations and all the best for the future.

6:55 pm

Photo of Alan EgglestonAlan Eggleston (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I have always admired politicians of conviction and principle whose position on any issue could always be predicted, and tonight we are farewelling three such people. First is Julian McGauran, whose commitment to the Catholic Church and its principles has always guided his actions here. We saw that in the euthanasia debate, the stem cell debate and many other issues. Julian is a genuine man of principle. I worked with Julian as the Deputy Government Whip when he was the National Party Whip and I got to know his other side: his humour. He is a great man with a great sense of occasion at times.

Cory Bernardi referred to the fact that his wife was looking for a girlfriend for Julian. I seem to remember that when Julian was the delegate to the IPU a few people noticed that he spent a lot of time in South America and was learning Spanish. Some people thought there might have been a senorita from one of the Central American states involved!

Nick Minchin, of course, is a person of strong political convictions. He is one of the real conviction politicians of the Liberal Party. He is a man that I put on the same level as people like Sir Charles Court, Bill Hassell and, of course, John Howard in the federal arena—people who always were guided by their principles and people who you could always predict would take the position they did based on the situation and the principles which they applied. I admire you greatly for the fact that you are a man of such great principle, Nick, and I think you will leave a great hole in the canvas of the Liberal Party when you leave us.

Lastly, Alan Ferguson is another senator of conviction and commitment. Alan's commitment has been to the institution of the Senate. I think Alan, more than most, understands the importance of this house as an independent house of review within the Australian political system. Alan has always made sure as far as he can that that respect for this institution is maintained. I knew Alan as the Chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, and I must say he carried out that job with great dignity, aplomb and skill.

I wish all three of you every success in whatever you do after parliament.

6:58 pm

Photo of Mary FisherMary Fisher (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to join my colleagues and pay tribute to our six departing colleagues. I reckon Senator Guy Barnett must have welcomed every one of us to this place who came here after him and was first to do so. Guy, what a great thing that was to do. You are looking forward to us one day repaying the favour and welcoming you back, and we look forward to that. Guy was an unrelen­tingly hard worker and, together with Russell Trood, in my early days on the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs taught me how one part of our party can join with the other part of our party and always find a compromise to do public good.

Senator Russell Trood is a rascal. I know many of us choose not to see that part of Senator Trood, who has dignity and integrity, but he is a rascal, and here's to his feeling more free to demonstrate that if he moves beyond life that is as public as this. Senator Troeth was known for her steely resolve and her generous advice, often unsolicited—but even when it was solicited much of it was given behind the scenes. She was always so giving. Thank you, Judith.

To Julian McGauran—man, are you one out of the box! Senator McGauran is probably the closest to the definition of 'expect it when you least expect it'. To have Senator McGauran's flamboyant behaviour departing this place is to run the risk of making the behaviour of the rest of us seem much more flamboyant than it actually is.

I thank Senator Minchin for teaching us about respect and for being always direct in his advice and counsel, even if it was constructive in its criticism. We cannot always rely on that constructive counsel and it is a tribute to you that I found we were able to rely on that from you. Since I have been here, you have been a shadow and a rock that has always been there. I am not sure how it will be when you are not there.

Senator Alan, Senator Ferguson, Ferg—I started working with Ferg before I came to this place, when I was an adviser to former cabinet minister Peter Reith. Alan, those were the days when you taught me about the value of the Senate committee process. You taught me what could be achieved. You showed me how we can work with great contributors from other parties, like Senator Andrew Murray, so thank you. Thank you all.

7:01 pm

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

One of the sad days on the calendar of the Senate is when we farewell our friends and colleagues. It is nostalgic, particularly with people I have served with, like Julian McGauran. In 1987 he was the only product of the Joh for Canberra campaign. He came in on the Joh for Canberra ticket. We have been friends ever since. I admire the way he stood up for his pro-life issues and his Catholic faith. He never wavered from them. There are some fantastic stories, and there is one I have to tell. Before I met him there was a photo shown on television depicting him and his brother flying into Gabo Island. The caption was 'These guys will go anywhere for a vote'. It was blowing and the plane landed, Julian knocked on the lighthouse door and the guy came down and said, 'Sorry, mate; I vote Labor'. Anyhow, Peter automated that lighthouse sometime later. You explained today how you attended the funeral of the great person in the National Party and Peter Ryan walked down the aisle and shook your hand. That was absolution from the National Party. All was forgiven. I never held it against you; you were always my mate. We will sadly miss you.

Nick and Ferg, you are the cement that binds these parties together. Some people ungenerously describe the National Party leadership as being like the captain of a canoe, but I know that when Barnaby, Wacka and Fiona wanted to cross the floor, there was one thing I could say: 'Don't do this to Nick; we have to look after Nick'. They always said, 'Yes, we have to look after Nick.' That was our call—we had to look after Nick. Fergie, I do not know how to describe you—you are the cement that binds the parties together. You are a great guy. Some people say everyone is indispensable, but you two guys will be hard to replace.

Guy Barnett, it has been lovely to be with you, to spend time with you and to support you in some of your issues. Russell Trood, I wish you the best. I wish all my colleagues the best and I hope that they have a very long and productive retirement and great happiness in the future.

7:04 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Fair Competition) Share this | | Hansard source

My Victorian colleague Senator McGauran's speech tonight illustrated that he is the master of understatement in so many ways. He referred to how he joined the Liberal Party on short notice. I can recall being the recipient, as the chairman of the party's constitutional committee, of a phone call from our state director, saying we had to find a way to make him a Liberal Party senator. I had not read the news; it was about to break. I had to inform our state director that, because Julian had actually run against the Liberal Party in 1987, we had to go through one of those arcane and democratic processes that only the Victorian division of the Liberal Party manages to have. Over five weeks we had to make sure that Julian, up against some concern from some Liberals, Victorian and national, was accepted into the Liberal Party. It was put to me by our then state director and our state president, 'Well, Scott, if you get this wrong we will lose our majority in the Senate'. That was not the sort of thing you wanted on your CV at that time. Julian, I got to know you then. You have always stood by your principles. You have not been ashamed of voicing them, even when those principles have not been popular. If someone can go to bed at night knowing they have followed their principles, they will sleep easy.

This gives me an opportunity to also make a brief comment about Senator Troeth, because I could not be here last week. Senator Troeth, the same as Senator McGauran—although in a very different way—stood by her principles even when it was not easy. That represents the great strength of the Victorian division of the Liberal Party. We are all better for their service.

Senator Ferguson, time constrains me from saying what I would like to. I did not know you before I got here, but you came with the finest of character references from my predecessor. I know you and a number of others have commented on the fact that fortune did not necessarily give you the opportunity that it might have given someone else, but your loss of that in some ways was this chamber's gain and this country's gain. You have demonstrated to people like me and particularly our intake, as Senator Cash outlined, the importance of being a parliamentarian. This chamber is vital to the good functioning and safety this country, and you demonstrated exactly what a senator should aspire to be. It has been a pleasure to work with you and I look forward to maintaining our friendship.

This brings me to Senator Minchin. I had the privilege of briefly working with Senator Minchin when he was minister for industry, as his speechwriter. I am not quite Senator Minchin compliant—I am not a monarchist and I do not necessarily share his sympathy for the car industry—but those of us who might describe themselves as free-trading, tax-cutting federalists have no greater inspiration. We have already heard that tonight. Nick, you have always been on the side of the angels—in this case the taxpayers—and the sign of your decency was in some ways the humility of your speech tonight. Many people would not necessarily only list what we might say are their alleged failings and would not necessarily say that someone else was a greater finance minister than they were, but I think that the Australian nation is better off if the mark of a man is the impact he has had, the regard in which he is held by ally and foe alike, and the humility he can express upon an occasion such as this. That is a sign of a man's character. The only thing I will finish with is that, while our loss is your family's gain, just like voting, service to the Liberal Party is not always voluntary, and you may be drafted in the future.

7:07 pm

Photo of Gary HumphriesGary Humphries (ACT, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Materiel) Share this | | Hansard source

I described valedictory speeches on the last occasion as real-time obituaries for the living. I do not want to prolong those obituaries. However, I want to record that when Senator Minchin was appointed by then Prime Minister Howard to be the leader of the coalition team on the resignation of Senator Hill in the last couple of years of the Howard government, I confess to have been quite resentful of that decision. I thought it was inappropriate that a person should be imposed on the senators and was determined that if the opportunity arose I would not support Senator Minchin's election. When, after we lost office in 2007, he approached me seeking my support for his position as leader of the party, I was able with complete honesty to say that he had my support and my vote because he had demonstrated to me his ability to lead, in the best possible way, all the members of the coalition team from government into opposition. I remain in awe of his capacity to unite his colleagues and to be sensitive to their respective needs as individual politicians. That skill in leadership is something that the Liberal Party particularly will miss.

I regret enormously the loss that the Senate coalition team will experience with the departure of Senator Ferguson. The time that I have shared with him in this place has been characterised by his enormous sagacity, an ability to reflect on the past but make constructive comments about where we should be going without ever sounding as if he is preaching to us. I feel as if we will need some kind of electronic hotline to him on days of party room meetings to get his latest advice on particular situations, which I have no doubt he might regret wanting to give—but if it is available, we will take it.

Senator McGauran, my wife was here earlier to hear your farewell speech just as 24 years ago she heard your maiden speech in the building down the mall. She was particularly sad to see Senator McGauran's departure and I express on her behalf the great sense of loss that we feel for his leaving. He has somehow managed to retain a sense of youthfulness and awe of the place he works in, a kind of Peter Pan quality which others of us who have served less long but have more grey hair do not seem to have mastered. I wish him the best for the future, as I do all of my colleagues. I hope, with the loss of their experience that we endure from 30 June, we can gain new blood which will put the Liberal Party particularly in good stead for the future.

7:11 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to incorporate a valedictory statement on behalf of Senator Feeney.

Leave granted.

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

(Victoria—) (): The incorporated speech read as follows—

Madam Acting Deputy President, I rise tonight to say a few words concerning the retiring Senator Minchin.

I was delighted to find myself elected to the Senate at a time when Senator Minchin served here. He is one of the great characters of this place. Senator Minchin's reputation with his ALP counterparts is, as one would expect, a mixture of dread and respect. You might say that he is regarded in the same way that Darth Vader is regarded by the Rebel Alliance: a heady cocktail of respect and fear.

I have always regarded former party officials as being a higher calibre of political animal; people who are steeped in the values and traditions of their party, people of organisational skill motivated by political conviction; people for whom the words loyalty and discipline still matter a great deal. Although always reliable ideological protagonists, party officials from all sides nonetheless typically share a mutual understanding—an understanding built on shared trials and challenges. Senator Minchin is an exemplar of the type.

It was my privilege to participate in a delegation to Taiwan in 2009, and I travelled with my wife, Ms Liberty Sanger. Senator Minchin travelled with his wife, Mrs Kerry Minchin.

What a formidable combination they are! I quickly realised that while Senator Minchin is an army of one, when combined with Kerry he is a veritable movement! If the stature of a man can in any way be judged by the qualities of his spouse, then Senator Minchin is a giant of a man.

But I also discovered in Taiwan that Senator Minchin is a 'full spectrum warrior'. While there, Nick and Kerry Minchin succeeded in charming my wife, and beguiling her into a foul conspiracy—the aptly named 'China Study'.

This China Study is the tome that is deployed by evangelical vegetarians to snare the unwary. My wife was targeted by the Minchin Militia, and from Kinmen Island to Taipei, Liberty was steadily converted to the doctrines of vegetarianism.

I should have understood immediately that this Minchin assault on my living standards was a part of a sophisticated Liberal Party PsiOps. And so, despite my protestations to Liberty that 'I love vegetarian food too, it goes well with a good steak', and 'Darling, tobacco is a plant', I soon found myself living in an ever more doctrinaire vegetarian environment.

Senator Minchin, the full spectrum warrior, had diabolically interfered in my household.

And so, as I munched unhappily on carrots, lettuce, brussel sprouts, legumes and pumpkin, and the days became weeks and then months, I knew I had felt the long reach of Senator Minchin.

Senator Minchin is not the most wicked vegetarian to have lived, but he is the one who succeeded in converting my wife, and so he will always be the most wicked to me.

Finally, on a more serious note, I know that Oliver's near tragedy and his courageous recovery have occupied your thoughts and prayers, and those of Kerry. His fellow cadets and the staff at ADFA have been delighted and inspired by Oliver's recovery—a recovery they regard as miraculous. Clearly, he is the formidable scion of formidable parents.

My very best wishes for the future.