Tuesday, 17 June 2014
Parliamentary service is a privilege. I will have served 31 years and 118 days when my term expires on 30 June. Hansard notes that I have made over 1,100 contributions. Now is the time to dismount and hand over the reins. I have enjoyed my time in parliament, every minute of it. I have enjoyed the friendships I have made on both sides of the House.
Everyone comes into this place with the very best of intentions to do their best for this nation. To be part of this great Australian institution, the federal Parliament of Australia, is an absolute privilege and honour—to represent Australians from all walks of life. While it is a privilege, it is also a great responsibility.
I have always tried to represent the people who have elected me. In my first speech on 25 May 1983, I committed to being a voice for small business, primary industry and family values. I believe I have kept my promise and stood by those commitments. It is important to have these views heard loud and clear in this parliament.
I have faced the people seven times, running on a separate ticket, going for that third and last conservative position. It was only the last time I ran that I had the luxury of a joint Senate ticket. Having to pick up that third conservative seat focuses the mind on representing your constituents and delivering for them.
Small business is the heart and soul of Australia's have-a-go, egalitarian society. Farming and fishing are small businesses, too, even though they have some extra, unpredictable factors like weather and world prices thrown in.
I understand small business. I believe this has stood me in good stead throughout my parliamentary career. I was an agent representing manufacturers from the southern states. My original contact with the parliamentary process came when deregulation of trading hours was being debated in Queensland in the early eighties.
I was asked by 16 retail peak bodies—pharmacies, butchers, grocers and others—to take a deputation to the Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, to oppose the deregulation of trading hours. We told the Premier that deregulating trading hours would destroy small business, would destroy country towns and would destroy family life.
To make my point, I said: 'Premier, if you un-restrict trading hours, these people will have to work on Saturdays and Sundays. They won't have a family life, and they won't be able to go to church on Sunday.' His reply was clear: 'That would be a desecration of Sunday.' He said it would never happen while he was Premier, and it never did.
After that delegation, I was the contact point for small business, representing them at a state level. That deputation of 16 retailers eventually led me into successfully running for the Senate in 1983.
I do not have a formal degree, but there can be no better qualification for serving in parliament than actually having run your own business. The microbusiness of R Boswell & Co employed nine and taught me how a business must run, to keep control of spending, the interaction between staff, good times, hard times, making sales—because that keeps your staff in jobs. It was a great training ground.
Because I understood it so well, I joined many fights in this place and battles on behalf of small business. Labor Senator Chris Schacht and I successfully amended the Trade Practices Act so you could not substantially lessen competition in a substantial market. That amendment changed the face of business in Australia. It was a big win for small business.
There is much more work to be done on the competition policy. The coalition has established a review with wide terms of reference. Small business will be making strong submissions, as will the dairy industry and other primary industries.
Recently, Woolworths were reported to be trying to pass costs on to fruit and vegetable growers to fund Woolworths' Jamie Oliver TV advertising campaign. This is the sort of thing the ACCC should have the power to investigate. It is wrong for Woolworths to demand growers pay Woolworths' advertising bills. The ACCC must be given the legislative teeth to balance market power and assess the claims made by food processors, farmers and other contractors. It must be given the teeth to take court action under section 46, on the abuse of market power—something it has never had. Also, we must have an 'effects test': that is, based on the effect of anticompetitive behaviour, rather than trying to prove intent. I wish I was going to be here to drive that debate.
I know that Bruce Billson, the Minister for Small Business, is going to receive a buffeting on these issues from big business and their friends—but he has to stay strong, stay the course, and continue to stand up for the rights of small business, and I am confident he will do so.
Just last month, the major chain stores were pressing on with their everlasting quest to further deregulate trading hours, this time under the pretext of helping the federal government reduce red tape. I told the party room that trading hours are a state issue, nothing but tears for us and to keep well and truly out of it.
A strong voice in the party room is so important. This is the advice I always give new parliamentarians. You must speak up in support of your cause in the party room. Drive the debate in the party room.
One of the hardest battles I ever successfully fought was to maintain pharmacies as standalone businesses—owned and operated by pharmacists—and not incorporated into supermarkets. Recently I had to remind my Liberal colleagues in the joint party room of the statement of their founder, Sir Robert Menzies, in 1970. He said:
Australian Liberals are not the exponents of an open go, for if we are all to have an open go each for himself and the devil take the hindmost, anarchy will result and both security and progress disappear.
Just keep remembering it. These are prophetic words. The Liberal Party founder was saying that deregulation is not the answer to all problems and the free market will not always produce the best outcomes.
Let me talk a little bit about primary producers, the backbone of the National Party and people of whom I am so fond. They include farmers and fishermen and others who represent the very best in Australian character, physically courageous, battling the elements and the unforgiving environment and prepared to work hard in remote locations to create wealth for the country. These people reflect the true Australian spirit of taking a risk, having a go and persevering when times are tough. Working with my colleagues, we have had some great wins for regional and rural Australia. I think of telecommunications, Roads to Recovery, sensible management of marine parks, work on behalf of the sugar, banana, ginger, pineapple and tobacco growers and helping beef producers retain control of sustainability issues.
A highlight of my career—and something that benefits everyone living in rural and remote areas—was bringing modern telephone, email and internet services to the bush, services on a par with those in the city. I was reminded recently of the importance of telecommunications in the bush. Sadly, someone I knew was killed in a car accident on a remote stretch of road in Queensland. However, the other occupants of the vehicle, some of whom were hurt, were able to telephone for help. Getting a telephone signal would have been impossible in that part of Queensland 15 years ago.
On marine parks, a major achievement recently for the coalition was to reverse Labor's and the Greens' planned bans on fishing in 2.3 million square kilometres of water in 40 new marine parks right round Australia. This was a huge win that saved literally thousands of jobs. Under their plan, from 1 July, just a couple of weeks from now, not only professional fishermen, and some are in the gallery, would have lost their livelihoods but also charter-boat operators, tackle shops, seafood processors, wholesalers, ship's chandlers, repair facilities, and other suppliers of goods and services. Prior to the September election, I worked closely with professional and recreational fishing groups, especially the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation and its CEO, Allan Hansard. Guided also by my colleague Senator Richard Colbeck, the Liberal-National coalition developed a policy to keep the marine parks but remove the fishing bans till scientists could take a sensible look at how these parks should be managed. In government, we kept our promise and have removed the fishing bans. I am enormously proud of that achievement.
I have always opposed the destructive behaviour of powerful, well-funded local and international environmental activists. They make their living by frightening people into believing that the environment is being threatened one way or another by the activities of our farmers, fishermen, miners or even Aboriginal communities. I am proud to say I have given the 'big environment' groups a bloody nose on more than one occasion. This includes maintaining Aboriginal access to minerals and other resources in Cape York by standing side-by-side with people like Noel and Gerhardt Pearson and Richie Ahmat to stop World Heritage and Wild Rivers legislation on Cape York. I share their aspirations to see a strong future for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in Far North Queensland, on their own land, and not force them to be welfare-dependent. I am enormously pleased and proud that this very morning the Federal Court of Australia found the Wild Rivers declarations for the Archer, Lockhart and Stewart Rivers were invalid. This is a magnificent victory for the Aboriginal people of Cape York. This process began in 2009 and 2010 with questions on notice and a Senate inquiry that exposed the lack of due process by the then Labor government in Queensland, and provided material for the successful court action. It is a great demonstration of the effectiveness of the Senate system. I worked closely on this issue with Terry Piper from Balkanu. I welcome Terry and Richard Aiken, Chairman of the Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, to the gallery on what has been such a wonderful day for them and all the Aboriginal people of Cape York.
I am also proud of having helped keep the beef industry out of the clutches of World Wildlife Fund and other environmental activists. Don't have any doubt: the World Wildlife Fund wants to ultimately control how seafood, timber, beef and every other primary product is marketed in Australia and round the world. I have detailed their schemes before and won't repeat them now. My Queensland colleague Senator Barry O'Sullivan shares my deep concern about the activities of WWF. Together, we were able to drive debate on this issue, engage the rural media and alert cattle producers to the threat they faced. It gives me enormous satisfaction to have seen beef producers get together on 23 May and begin to develop their own industry-driven program to verify sustainability of Australian beef. This will mean our red meat customers won't have to go to organisations controlled by the WWF to verify sustainability. This is a major achievement and a very important win for primary industry.
I have always been a voice for traditional family values and a defender of the unborn. I have stood up for these values in debates on issues such as abortion, RU-486, stem cell research, pornography and euthanasia. Politics is an honourable calling but will remain so only if politicians have the courage of their convictions. In 1988, I tackled the League of Rights, a far-right-wing, anti-Semitic organisation I saw as trying to exert influence over the churches and other areas of society
For me, this was a defining moment: to be taken seriously, you have to stand for something. In the fight of my life, against Pauline Hanson, I risked everything to stand up against her aggressive, narrow view of Australia. Defeating Pauline Hanson and One Nation in 2001 has been my greatest political achievement.
I will now say something about the National Party. The Nationals are as important as ever in representing rural and regional Australia and small business at a time when primary industry is playing a vital role in sustaining the Australian economy and jobs. I have been a proud member of the National Party since 1970. I have been loyal to them and they have been loyal to me. Loyalty is a hallmark of the National Party. It comes from that time-honoured tradition of helping your neighbour when things are tough—and its spirit carries through to today. It was the National Party that the farmers, fishermen and miners called on last month, when the diesel fuel rebate was under threat, in preparation for the federal budget—and under threat it was; believe me, there was no subterfuge about it. The rallying call went out to the National Party from the mining industry, the farming industry and the fishing industry—and the diesel fuel rebate stayed.
While there have been great achievements in the past three decades, there is always more to do. Each of us in this place steps in, and out, on one page of a continuing history; it is for others to write the future. There is still much to achieve; the job is never-ending. For example, we have to ensure that independently owned post offices receive enough income to maintain the vital community service they provide. We must abolish the carbon tax and the renewable energy targets. I was the first member of the coalition to speak out against the carbon tax. I believe also that RETs are costing Australian jobs; you cannot have a manufacturing sector if you have high energy costs.
I am handing over the reins to Senator Barry O'Sullivan and Senator-elect Matthew Canavan, who is in the gallery, to carry on. I am confident they will represent the enduring principles espoused by The Nationals for more than 100 years. I know they will provide a strong voice in the party room and in parliament. They have big shoes to fill—Earle Page, Doug Anthony, Flo Bjelke-Petersen, "Black Jack" McEwen and many others—but I believe they are up to the job. The party has been written-off more than once but it endures because it is needed. I have tried to mentor new members in the Senate and prospective candidates because, good or bad, there is no teacher like experience. On reflection, one of the things that has given me the greatest pleasure is seeing Barnaby Joyce emerge as a statesman, a fine minister, a future Leader of the National Party and a future Deputy Prime Minister.
One of the great joys of being in this place has been working with my fellow members of parliament. There are too many colleagues, past and present, to mention them all. However, it has been a special privilege to work with former leader John Anderson, with whom I remain great mates, and with our current leader, Warren Truss. Warren shouldered the burden of leadership at a very difficult time for this party and has done a wonderful job. It is a feature of Warren's leadership that he allows vigorous party room debates, another tradition in the National Party, and he has the total loyalty and respect of everyone in the party room.
I must single out John Howard. In delivering gun control, he took the most courageous action I have seen in my time in politics. Every time I hear about another gun massacre in America, I know that bringing in those gun control laws was the right thing to do and I give thanks for his courage and leadership. He also understood small business and the ethos of the bush. John Howard was the best Prime Minister the Nationals ever had.
I have also enjoyed working with senators on the other side of the chamber—people like John Button, Peter Walsh and Chris Schacht—and, on the crossbench, Brian Harradine, John Madigan and Nick Xenophon. For 18 years, I had the privilege of being Leader of the Nationals in the Senate. This position gave me enormous leverage to achieve things for regional and rural Australia. The role is now being ably filled by Nigel Scullion. Nigel has a real feeling for his role as Minister for Indigenous Affairs and is doing a wonderful job.
Parliament has been like a second home to me. We spend approximately five months of the year here, and the parliament has been made more hospitable and homely by the officers and staff. Whether they be Comcar drivers, library staff, clerks, committee staff, Hansard reporters, attendants or dining room staff, they all give their very best to make our life as easy as possible.
I also want to pay tribute to another group of people who play an essential role in parliament and, in fact, an essential role in the protection of a transparent and vigorous democracy, and that is the media. I have known many journalists in my three decades in parliament and they have been thoroughly professional. At this time, when some of the icons have left and others are approaching retirement, I say to those journalists coming through that they have a great tradition to uphold.
No parliamentarian is ever successful without personal staff who are completely dedicated and committed to the cause. I have been particularly fortunate in the people that have worked with me over the years. Joanne Newbery started with me in the first year and remained for 23 years. She was a great speechwriter, tactician and friend. In fact, she did the work on the Wild Rivers. Prue Regan was another one who started with me when I began. She was a solicitor, she was able to interpret legislation, and did some spectacular work. Prue's maiden name was Page. Her grandfather was Sir Earle Page, the first leader of the Country Party. The National Party is in her DNA. My present staff are here in the advisers' box. They are all great people who have worked really hard because they believe that, through parliament, changes can be made. I thank Lisa Gambaro, Yvonne Tran, Martin Bowerman, Geoff Harrison and Peter Newbery for the wonderful friendship and hard toil they have put in.
I want to give particular acknowledgement to Mike and Pam Tyquin in the gallery. Mike helped me establish
my own manufacturer's agency business all those many years ago, and he helped me again in a tight campaign with those famous roadside signs: 'Ron Boswell. He's not pretty … but he's pretty effective.' I would never have got here without Michael.
I also want to acknowledge David Goodwin, Isaac Moody and Damien Tessman. They are all here tonight with their families. I believe their time will come and they too will represent the people of Australia in this parliament.
I especially want to acknowledge my gratitude to Lady Flo and the late Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, both great Queenslanders. Sir Joh did so much for Queensland, including building up the mining industry and getting rid of death duties. They both displayed complete support, loyalty and friendship to me throughout my political career.
My wife, Leita; my daughter, Cathy, and her husband, Kent; and my grandchildren Sophie and Will are all here tonight. Cathy, Kent, Sophie, Will and my other grandson, Tom, are the delight of our lives. Thank you, Leita, for the wonderful support you have given me. You were always there to encourage me, to lift me up when things went wrong. I always looked forward to coming back to a peaceful, tranquil home after weeks in parliament, travelling or campaigning. I could never have got to the Senate, nor remained here as long as I have, without you.
Someone who is not here tonight is our son, Stephen. He passed away when Leita and I were on a parliamentary trip to Taiwan. He was proud of me being a senator and we miss him every day. We wish he could be here now.
In the Senate, I have always sought guidance and help from my God, and I acknowledge He has always had a guiding hand on my career. In the parliament of Australia, in the assembly of His people, I have always received constant help, and I offer my thanks.
Ultimately, politics is about the power to endure. I go from this place undefeated, at a time of my own choosing, the sixth longest-serving member of the Senate.
I will end with these words of Saint Paul: 'My time of departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight. I have run the race. I have kept the faith.' Thank you very much. God bless and goodbye.
Almost two decades ago, I entered this place. Not for a moment have I regretted that decision. Everything about this place—its history, its culture, its officials, its very special place in our parliamentary system, the engagement with colleagues from all sides, and the committee system—have combined to make it a workplace like no other. I am privileged to have played a part.
Let me turn to some of the more personal aspects of my time in Canberra. Firstly to my wife, Fran Marsh, who has served every moment of the three Senate terms with me. She mostly served her time in Perth, working as a lawyer and raising our two daughters, Gabrielle and Georgia. Fran did an excellent job, and the girls have matured into beautiful, intelligent, well-balanced, capable young women, knowing they have been well parented and loved. This December I will be attending Gabrielle's graduation from the ANU—the first such ceremony during the girls' education that I have been available to enjoy and, more importantly, to attend. Western Australians are used to fly in, fly out parents but a term of 18 years has been a big ask. Fran has accepted and answered the call on all fronts. I thank her for the love, the support and the patience.
We live in the federal seat of Curtin, and our girls attended a local school. It was common knowledge at the school that one of their parents was a politician working in Canberra. After continual queries they finally agreed that, yes, they were Julie Bishop's daughters. Playing that card allowed them to bask continually in the glory from whichever side was in government. Seriously, though, it will not be news to anyone in this chamber to hear that all time in politics is served by the entire family—particularly so out of Perth, Western Australia, the most remote capital city in the world.
Next I wish to express my thanks to those staff who have served with me. As you all know, politicians do not work in isolation. I am very pleased to say that most of my staff were 'stayers'. In particular, I sincerely thank Sheryn McLaughlin, Marie Dias, Marie Liau and Peter Reece, for their loyalty, dedication, patience, expertise and contribution throughout my three terms. There were others during that time of course, and I mention two, Amanda Dowling and Lydia Roberts, who had integral roles in my office. I thank them also. Again, to all my staff, I particularly say thank you for your patience.
For many years I worked on the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee and, in more recent times, the Senate Economics Committee. For nearly all that time, the secretary of both committees has been Dr Kathleen Dermody. She is a remarkable woman. Her professionalism, expertise, counsel and support is exceptional. I signed off on many reports, possibly hundreds. In nearly all cases I explored ideas and came to conclusions after consultation with Dr Dermody. I value her input greatly and simply say thank you.
Colleagues, too many to mention, come and go as is the nature of our occupation. I have enjoyed working with colleagues and opponents alike. I thank those men and women for their contribution, their friendship and their support. I have just a quick word regarding Steve Hutchins, former senator from New South Wales. In his valedictory speech he relayed the story of telling one of his daughters that he was due to meet the Bishop at the Holy Grail. She remarked to her mother, 'When did Dad get so religious?' I have to confess that I too have missed our late night prayer sessions at the Holy Grail led by 'Father' Meldrum.
Why federal politics rather than state? It certainly would have been more convenient going home every evening. My interests have been and are federal in nature, hence Canberra was always the destination. My work here has been in communications, veterans' affairs, defence procurement, trade, foreign affairs and, more latterly, economics. I took an interest over many years in two particular areas: military justice and defence procurement—a bit esoteric for most. These areas separately offered challenge, complexity, human emotion and the satisfaction of reform and justice. Sadly, I know that in the area of military justice, more public reform is needed. I see that military culture is changing. However, that change will not be complete until all of those senior officers and all of those senior NCOs who abuse their power are removed once and for all. We need young men and women to join the armed forces, confident that they are safe and protected and that they can advance in their careers without any fear of inappropriate treatment or behaviour from their peers, NCOs or more senior officers.
Some refer to the Senate in pejorative terms; as ineffectual and not of equal value to the House. The Senate accommodates a different facet of political life. I refer particularly to the unending committee work. Last week alone, I signed off on seven reports for the Labor Party. Next week I will deliver my final Senate committee report. It addresses, inter alia, the efficiency and effectiveness of ASIC. I thought my last six months in office would be relatively less demanding. However, while in the United States late last year, my Labor colleagues unanimously agreed that the chairmanship of that inquiry should be adjourned until I returned to Australia. Accordingly, the last six months have been hectic. I thank those Labor colleagues for their foresight and consideration. The inquiry has been fascinating and has captured public interest and a lot of press attention, and rightly so.
In some respects, the Senate committee system can be the final court of appeal. This report will engender close review of our entire financial services industry, the approach of major players, the utility of our public regulators and a new interpretation of the word 'inappropriate'. I commend that report in due course. The work of the Senate committee system will be fully on display.
Interests in the policy areas of defence, foreign affairs and trade require engagement domestically and overseas. I have led a number of delegations on defence matters overseas, primarily in the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom. I have come to appreciate the high regard in which Australia is held in all of these countries. They value our growth orientated economic system, the ability to invest in business, the excellence of our regulatory system and our capacity to offer serious policy advice. Time and time again officials have taken me aside and expressed private thanks on the part of their government for our contribution in a particular forum.
It is little understood in this country the significance of thirty years of continuing economic growth, commenced under Hawke and continued under all governments since. We are arguably the richest country in the world, certainly on a per capita basis. Growth has come from reform. Reform came from ingenuity, discipline and a policy focus. In the not too distant future this will be a country of forty million people and a net capital exporter. That will impose a different set of demands and our response will need to be more outward focused and less selfish. That will be our challenge and there is no reason it cannot be done. Our views are valued. Our views are sought. This facet of our contribution is undervalued here in Australia. It is with pride I have led these delegations.
I now turn to my home state of Western Australia. A friend, a once friend of mine, used to refer to his home town of Badgerys Creek as the 'centre of the Western civilization'. He said it in all seriousness and could never understand everyone's outburst of mirth. Ironically, Badgerys Creek has since become the focal point for airport development in New South Wales and its fame has spread. Similarly, Western Australia regards itself in the same terms, in all seriousness and without the mirth.
Some have noted that from time to time I use strong language to express disapproval of some decisions of my federal colleagues. Those comments were never accidental. They were considered remarks because I fear too many in our party choose not to understand Western Australia and hence dismiss lightly legitimate concerns. Labor cannot be in government whilst it holds a mere three federal seats out of a total of fifteen—soon to be 16. The head start is too much. It is akin to giving a 30-metre start to your opponent in a 100-metre race. This is a development only of the last ten years. In 2001 the Australian Labor Party held nine seats out of 14 in Western Australia, 60 per cent of all available seats—a remarkable effort in a non-manufacturing state where the majority of the population works in mining or service industries. Those six seats were given away for free. The challenge for Labor in the west is to revitalise and re-engage on terms attractive to the Western Australian community. Views in the Labor Party are relatively homogeneous. It does not matter if it is Victoria or Western Australia. The political views are remarkably similar. However, community views in Western Australia are different to those on the eastern seaboard. Why is this? The answer is simple. The size, distance and wealth of Western Australia means community views gestate and grow in a different context. Labor in the west needs to embrace our federal system and accommodate regional perspectives. That is our failing. The west cannot be ignored in our quest to regain government.
In the last few months there has been a radical turnaround in the polls. I for one did not expect such a quick return to favour. The question is whether this return is permanent or just a passing fancy. The answer to that question is in the history books. In early 1996, we made some critical decisions to run away from a lot of the economic reforms of the previous 13 years. Successive decisions in those 11 years of opposition led us further from the grail of continuing economic reform.
Mr Shorten and our front bench have done very well so far, very well indeed, and I congratulate them. I believe mere noise and total opposition to any and all government proposals will be ultimately self-defeating. Soon we need to prove our capacity to be in government in the short term. I say unequivocally, let the major opposition party lead the debate and be the opposition party—isolating the rest. I hold to the view that the party or parties that control a majority on the floor of the House should govern in both places. The same principle should have applied for the last six years and the same principle should apply again when we again occupy the Treasury benches. I wish Mr Shorten and Senator Wong all the best to in their respective roles as leaders. They have earned their opportunity to lead. That is the politics done.
Now turning to my personal future. I led my first strike forty years ago. I have been an activist in the labour movement all that time. Fran and I will move to the Northern hemisphere for six months. Work, study, travel, leisure will be the order of the day but not particularly in that order. Then, upon our return to Australia in December or early next year, I will be resuming employment in the private sector. I understand that a few of my retiring colleagues have similar plans. We will be wise and silent men and women at a distance. I wish everyone well. It has been a privilege. Thank you very much.
Bish, it is with some deal of regret that we are farewelling you from this place, mate. My colleagues from all sides of politics would agree that Senator Bishop has made a significant contribution in his time in the Senate. I make my comments without any mischief, but, Senator Bishop, many on our side of politics were surprised that you were not afforded the opportunity of the front bench. Certainly, with your talents and the high regard with which you are seen on this side of the place, we were not sure why that had not happened. Your capacity has particularly been highlighted by your service as the shadow minister for defence. You have just touched on the excellent work that I and many of us watched for so long in terms of justice. Coming from a garrison town, I can guarantee you that the circumstances that you have driven have really changed the culture across the Defence Force, so congratulations. One only has to turn to your parliamentary web page to see some of the value of the contribution you made to various committees. If there were an award for contributions at committees, Bish, you win that absolutely hands down.
Mark, as a friend and as a colleague, I have enjoyed many a drink with the deadly duo, with yourself and Hutchie, at the Holy Grail. We had plenty of prayers together and I enjoyed them very much. I wish you all the best in the future. You are a true gentleman.
Senator Boswell, I rise not to farewell my friend and my mentor, Senator Boswell, Bozzie, but because I do not think my friendship will change. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to his career that has spanned several decades across several governments. There are a few things about Bozzie that are inexplicable. Whilst I knew Bozzie quite well, I can remember the first time I came to parliament. I arrived at some hotel somewhere. I was a fisherman, but I knew how to get here. I got to the Ministerial Entrance because that is the way I had always come. Nobody knew I was coming. I was coming in here to see John Anderson. I arrived at the Ministerial Entrance—nobody knew I was going to be here—and Boswell appeared at the door. He swung the door open and said, 'Nige, come this way,' and we went through security—the normal stuff that I would get used to. I never gleaned an explanation about how he knew that I was arriving at the Ministerial Entrance at that time. He sat me down and told me that this was such an important task because of the changes that I could make to people's lives.
Bozzie has seen many events in this place since he was first elected in May 1983, but at the forefront he has always cared about what such events meant for his constituents and for Australians generally. I will go on to talk about his career more specifically, but it is impossible to talk about the man without talking about his political side. To Bozzie, everything is political. It is political and it is important because he cares deeply about ordinary Australians and how decisions impact on their day-to-day life. Whilst he sees himself as ordinary, I can assure you that he is not. Bozzie's influence and impact on the fabric of Australian society should not be underestimated, even if he considers himself, as he is, a truly humble man. He is a man of conviction and he has always worked away quietly—I have observed somewhat more loudly—but always for others. This humility and authenticity is something that we as politicians and representatives in 2014 can learn from.
As has been indicated, he led the National Party for nearly 18 years in this place. He has been a formidable leader and his leadership has been informed by his conviction that we all have a purpose in making the world a better place. I refer to his speech in the Senate on 25 May 1983, in which he tried to capture the essence of the National Party. He stated:
The National Party of Australia can trace its origins back to 1893 when the circumstances of the day demonstrated the need for a party to look after the political needs of the small businessman, the struggling settler and the people who wanted jobs.
These values have been at the core of Bozzie's approach to his leadership even today. They are values that are as pertinent as ever. He has been strongly motivated to speak for those in our community he considers voiceless, taking up causes that are not always considered fashionable. Some of us may not have agreed with all his views, but it is difficult not to admire a man whose convictions stem from a place wanting a strong and better future for generations to follow.
Lest we rush to the conclusion that Senator Boswell is a man who can simply be characterised as conservative, his approaches have defied definition. For me, as for many of us here, he represents a real paradox. A social conservative but someone who is also a progressive, Bozzie has fought against the far right political movement in Australia, epitomised in the November 2001 federal election, when he refused to preference One Nation. He was able to compete directly with Pauline Hanson and retain his Queensland Senate seat and in the process removed the far right from the Australian political landscape—no mean feat. Bozzie's views on matters of race have always been informed by a basic sense of decency and fairness. When he believes in something strongly, he is truly an irresistible force.
In other areas, Senator Boswell has been a real warrior for family values. As he indicated in his speech, he has opposed human embryonic stem cells for research in Australia and advocated instead of adult stem cell research as a safer, pro-life way forward for this type of progressive science. In 2006 he secured a $22 million federal grant to establish a world-first adult stem cell centre at Griffith University in Brisbane. I have often wondered where Bozzie's inner strength and energy come from. I am convinced that he is driven by his sense of justice, because he is a man of deep faith. He sees himself a man for others, and all life is sacred.
There are few areas of national endeavour that Senator Boswell has not been involved in. In February 1998 he was chosen as the Nationals representative at the constitutional convention, leading the 'no' vote campaign for the referendum on whether Australia should become a republic in November 1999. As a counterpoint to this conservative stance, a decade earlier he campaigned to enable disallowance of mergers between large companies by changing the mergers test in the Trade Practices Act. Bozzie believed in promoting greater competition in Australian consumer markets and giving small businesses an ability to compete.
His other major contributions involved providing better communications for regional areas, enabling collective businesses and farms, campaigning against dumped and highly subsidised imported foodstuffs, providing exceptional circumstances funds for regional and rural dwellers during times of prolonged drought, securing assistance packages for the restructuring of rural industries like dairy, sugar and commercial and recreational fishing, and taking up the case for independent newsagents, service station operators, grocers, farmers, hoteliers and other small businesses in light of the growth of the large retailers. In this place he railed against the unions and academics across the other side who he considered did not understand small business. As always, he wanted to see the creation of jobs, jobs and more jobs, not, as he stated in the Senate, public centre pump priming.
I guess our bromance was really cemented in his support for commercial and recreational fishing. His indefatigable efforts contributed to the reversal of the proposed ban that would have locked out fishing from 1.3 million square kilometres of ocean around Australia. He urged instead for a rational and scientific examination of what was needed in marine parks to ensure genuine consultation. As ever, he was the voice of common sense and refused to bow to alarmism. That is his appeal; he is the everyman.
While in some areas, as I have already indicated, he was a social conservative, in many others I regard him as a visionary. When I first entered parliament he looked at me on that very same day and he said, 'I think you're pretty green.' He was right; I had an awful lot to learn. I have often spoken in this place about the importance of achieving reconciliation with Indigenous people based on promoting Indigenous business and industry. The way out of poverty for disadvantaged Indigenous people is real and meaningful work. But Bozzie was well ahead of me. In June 2006 he gave a memorable speech entitled 'Pathway for reconciliation' in which he said it all. His speech congratulated the Gidarjil Land Development Corporation, which was to take possession of Gaythorne Station. He also recognised Gerhardt Pearson of the Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation and Gay Voss from the AGL Petronas Consortium, involved with the gas pipeline project. In working together, Senator Boswell spoke of the group as achieving reconciliation of substance. I think it is apposite to read from that speech in 2006 which could just as well have been the current government's foundation on the way forward for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. He stated the handover of Gaythorne Station:
… is about not just handing land over but a workable future that goes along with it. Tomorrow puts in place the ability to forge a sustainable economic future for traditional landowners.
Maybe if you’re looking for a one word definition of reconciliation, you can look to “tomorrow” – one word that means a future for black and white Australians.
… … …
And hope can only exist where there is safety, education and employment.
Sound familiar? Today it would serve us well to go back to that fine speech, to reactivate that message of hope and reconciliation and to refocus on the government's current priorities that echo Senator Boswell's call to reconciliation of substance through getting kids to school, getting adults to work and creating safer communities. I know that every single parliamentarian in both houses would support those fine goals.
But it is Indigenous people themselves who have bestowed on the senator the greatest recognition for his work on wild rivers and their attempt to protect their rights to make decisions about their own land. In October 2013 Cape York traditional owners and Indigenous communities, along with Gerhardt Pearson and Richie Ah Mat, gifted Senator Boswell with a plaque calling him 'a champion of our people' for his work on the wild rivers. To appreciate how significant this gesture is one needs to understand that few white Australians ever receive such recognition, let alone a Nationals senator or member of parliament. It must be with some satisfaction that Senator Boswell was able to tell us today that Indigenous groups are celebrating the Federal Court win against development restrictions imposed by the former Queensland government's wild rivers laws. Again his efforts have achieved results.
Bozzie was never in this for recognition, that is for sure. I will share a short anecdote. It was a little bit like coming into parliament and not really understanding why I was there. I was involved in a Defence Force Parliamentary Program. I was in Timor and I was wobbling around exhausted and stumbled out of the jungle in a place called Vikeke. There were a few school kids running around. I put the pack on the ground, slowly recovered, had a few lollies and talked to the kids. Then I was talking to this guy who said, 'How's it going as a soldier?' I said, 'I'm not really a soldier, mate, I'm a dud, a fake—I'm actually a senator at home.' He said: 'An Australian senator? You built the school here.' I looked around and said, 'I don't think we did that, it might be foreign aid money.' He said, 'No, the Australian Senate built this.' I said I wasn't sure about that, but he went off, scurried around to a few blokes and then said, 'Senator Boswell.' I came back to Australia determined to work it out. 'Bozzie,' I said, 'what've you done? I went to this school and they reckoned you built it.' He said: 'Yeah, I did. My family and me invested in our future and built this school.' That goes to the stamp of the man, the sort of contribution that he is happy to make for others and have absolutely no recognition for it.
Before entering parliament, as we all know, Bozzie was a great salesman and he goes to great lengths to tell us that he was a manufacturer's agent, he sold paintbrushes, he sold rubbish bins to councils. I think he brought his sales pitch to parliament. He was an incredible salesman when he was here. Any of those who have been subjected to his 'We're going to do this' and who thought there was any other way would know exactly what salesmen were about. He remained faithful to his origins in keeping at the forefront of public debate the importance of small business and the independent retail sectors.
In his free time, of which there has been little, he has been a very keen yachtsman. There has not been a dull day when I have spent it with Bozzie. I would not mind a dollar for every time he said, 'Your mother only had to carry you for the nine months, Nige, I've had to carry you for 10 years!'—which would normally be the start of quite a long lecture about how I hadn't got it right. His MO since I have known him here is simply, when he comes up against any opposition, to just keep crunching at it until it crumbles. He is a Herculean political force.
I have another quick anecdote, and some in the National Party may recall this—it was one of those monumental Bozzie moments. We were gathered in his suite. He is not much of a drinker and he blames the fact he had a couple of sips of Scotch on my emergence in parliament, but we decided to have a scotch—if quite a few of the National Party people were around we would have a quiet scotch. There was a new bottle but, we discovered, no ice. So Bozzie said, 'Well, let's get some ice!' So Paul, the staffer at the time, rang the Hyatt and went to get some ice while we continued talking. The Hyatt deposited a $5 bag of ice in one of those caddies, so Paul came in with a caddy to much derision from Bozzie: 'You blokes would never survive in private industry. I was a paint salesman. When I want an iceberg …'
I thought that deserved a very well crafted bill to Bozzie the next day from the Hyatt—a very authentic bill for $450 for ice! It was going to be just one of those practical jokes that you play. The 'bill' went into his in-tray with the number to call for the Hyatt. Of course, it was my number, but I had forgotten that Bozzie doesn't use the phone—it was: push 9, 'Get me the Hyatt.' I arrived, after there had been explosions downstairs and panic calls, to see this fairly diminutive person from the Hyatt getting their ears pinned back. We settled it all down and Bozzie took it in absolutely tremendous humour—and I understand he still has that invoice.
I think it is only appropriate as well to acknowledge that Senator Boswell's achievements were as they were because Leita was always there. It is a partnership forged of many successes and also some of their sorrows. Their faith in one another and their ideals have seen them through ups and downs. Leita knows more than anyone that the reason Senator Boswell has continued to give of himself and his time to public life is because it is not really a job, it is a vocation—it is who he is. Leita has borne the sacrifice of having a partner who often belongs to Queensland, the National Party and sometimes the entire country. Sadly, I expect that in retirement not a lot of that will change. Helping and listening to others is just who he is, regardless of what position he may hold.
Bozzie, we will always miss your larger-than-life presence in this place. We have been honoured to work and serve with you. You so richly deserve to enjoy a fantastic retirement in good health, surrounded by your loved ones—Leita, Cathy and your grandchildren. I personally thank you for all your guidance, for transferring to me your great love of this nation and the National Party and your belief in a just and fair Australia, where people, no matter their colour or race, can enjoy the fruits of this country. Your legacy will endure in this parliament and beyond.
Can I start by thanking the Leader of the Opposition in this place for her forbearance in allowing the Leader of the National Party and me to speak first. Each senator who serves here adds something to the practice and debate and therefore every senator contributes to the good of Australia, regardless of the length of time they serve. Tonight we farewell two who have had distinguished careers and, if I might say, for a considerable period of time.
I must say that 18 years does not sound much in comparison to 31 years, but 18 years is a fair stint and I will address a few comments first to departing senator Mark Bishop. He has been here for three terms and re-elected twice to represent the people of Western Australia. He made a worthy contribution to this chamber, especially in the fields of defence, defence personnel and veterans affairs, for which for a period of time he was the shadow minister. Like Senator Scullion I will not go into the vagaries and the dark art of how the Labor Party chooses its front bench in government, but I believe that you were a talent that was overlooked.
Senator Bishop gained the respect of all the senators, including those on this side. He was clearly a very strong advocate for his state, Western Australia, and was willing on the odd time to speak out against the party line in his defence of Western Australia, which of course is in the finest traditions of this place, the Senate, the states house. I am sure one thing Senator Bishop will not miss are the long flights across the Nullarbor Plain, to and from Canberra
Senator Bishop, you were solid on some of the more important issues which we dealt with across the chamber. I simply say that I believe your replacement will share similar views in relation to those matters. I wish you every success for the future and thank you for your contribution.
I turn to Senator Boswell, a great senator, a fellow who is now the Father of the Senate and will continue to be so for only a few more days. Having served for 31 years, that clearly entitles him to the position Father of the Senate. He has seen six prime ministerships—I will not go into how many leaders of the opposition. He is the fifth longest serving senator since Federation. By any measure that is a remarkable parliamentary career—pretty good for a self-effacing senator who just says he is a humble paintbrush salesman. Senator Boswell always says that he is an ordinary bloke. Yes, he is. Can I just add a few letters before that: you are an extraordinary bloke. You really are. You have done yourself and your family proud by your contributions.
You are a wonderful colleague. The gallery bore testament to the sort of people that you are able to attract to this place to pay tribute to this your last speech. You had the fisher of men in Reverend Peter Rose, the parliamentary chaplain. You had the fisher of fishers in David Carter. And you had a whole lot of people in between, all anxious to be here to pay tribute to the wonderful contribution that you have made. I also note former senator Sandy Macdonald in the gallery, who I know was exceptionally fond of Senator Boswell. Sandy Macdonald provided me with a number of the one-liners that Bozzie used to deliver. The leader of the National Party provided the one that said, 'Your mother only carried you for nine months; I've been carrying you for years and years.' There was another one when he commented on Labor ministers who were in strife. He would say, 'Those whom the gods condemn they first turn mad.' In relation to his longevity as leader of the National Party he would say, with a few words deleted, 'But they still haven't realised that if they just keep voting for themselves I will just remain being leader.' He had a very good self-effacing sense of humour, but even when he had a cutting sense of humour to a colleague or those opposite it was the humour that was important—there was never any malice or ill will in the wonderful turn of phrase that this self-described paintbrush salesman brought to this place.
It is your character as well that I think has endeared you to colleagues right around this chamber but especially in the coalition. Will I miss Senator Boswell shuffling into my office demanding a question, and saying, 'Well, sorry, Bozzie, all the questions are already lined up—bad luck'? And he would say, 'But I've told The Australian. It's going to be on the front page tomorrow. It's got to be asked.' So the paintbrush salesman always got his way. One wonders if he employed those sorts of tactics to get pity when he sold his paintbrushes and rubbish bins. I do not know. But clearly you are very successful in every endeavour of your life.
Your speech this evening confirmed exactly the reason why you got into politics: you believed in things. You wanted to fight for things. You believed in people. You wanted to fight for people. Your first speech 31 years ago was full of that sort of content. Here tonight you gave us a whirlwind tour of all the ills of the world in relation to the ACCC, small business, fishing, farming, shopping hours, marine parks, the Greens, the renewable energy target, carbon tax—you name it, you went through them all. You touched on something else as well, and I want to dwell on this a bit. You did also dwell on your fundamental belief in the Christian faith and your commitment to the sanctity of life, be it at the very commencement of life or at the latter stages of life. In this place you were able to show to your colleagues the very importance of having a world view as a foundation for all your beliefs that then informed your moral values, and then how those moral values should be translated into public policy, into law and into regulations. That is why I think you stand out as a beacon amongst many of the colleagues here, because there was that consistency and there was that solid foundation. You knew exactly where you were coming from and what you were seeking to achieve.
You were one who wanted to change opinion polls, as opposed to some who are involved in politics who simply want to follow opinion polls. You did change the opinion polls. What is more, you also saw off from the parliamentary sphere organisations such as the League of Rights and One Nation. That took courage; that took guts; that took a belief that there were greater causes to be fought for other than cheap, short-term popularity. You did that so exceptionally well with great effect.
There are many Australians right across this country in all sorts of communities, be it in the Christian church faith communities, be it in the fishing industry, be it in farming, be it in the live export cattle trade. No matter where, you have friends all around Australia.
I still recall one day driving with my wife on the east coast of Tasmania and saying, 'I cannot believe this. No, it can't be.' Sure enough, it was Bozzie walking down the road in a pair of shorts and a sloppy jumper. You would not believe the sight. I am completely jealous of his hair. If I had hair like Senator Boswell, I would be combing it every day—unlike Senator Boswell. I think it sees a comb once a week! It is a great crop of hair he has.
That aside—I distracted myself—Senator Boswell, in the few times you spent in Tasmania with Leita and my wife, there was no doubt about your sincerity. You are genuine and you are authentic. You have a love of family. You made a wonderful tribute to your wife, daughter and grandchildren. We all know about them because whenever we sit down with you it does not take very long for the conversation with you to turn to family and how very thankful you are for them.
Bozzie, on behalf of all of your coalition colleagues I wish you good health and happiness. You can look forward to 1 July when you can look in the shaving mirror as citizen Boswell instead of Senator Boswell and can be well and truly satisfied that you served your nation, your party, your coalition and your state of Queensland. Above all, you have remained true to your faith. I simply say: God bless.
We have had a number of speeches and we are going to have a number more, as we have a real changing of the guard in the Senate in the lead-up to the end of June. Tonight I want first pay tribute to my Labor colleague Senator Mark Bishop from Western Australia. Senator Bishop was actually born in Adelaide. He completed his undergraduate degree there. I have forgiven him for leaving town and going to Western Australia.
I think those who represent Western Australia—and probably the Northern Territory, but I often think of WA—do deserve special thanks in this place because I think many people would think that if they had to do that sort of travel from Western Australia then they would rather go into state politics or do something different. Senator Bishop did reference that in his speech tonight and said that the reason he wanted to go into federal politics and not state politics was that he was interested in federal issues. I think everyone in this place does make a sacrifice for the honour of representing their state, but those from Western Australia really do pay a very big price in terms of time with family.
As has been said, Senator Bishop was first elected in 1996 and was re-elected in 2001 and 2007. He has made a comprehensive contribution to the Australian Labor Party and the Senate during his 18 years in the chamber, although I have to confess I was not aware of the Holy Grail evening prayers until tonight. I do note that his contribution has been extensive both as a frontbencher and in the context of an extraordinary amount of committee work.
There are four areas that I want to mark about Senator Bishop's contributions. Firstly, the enormously important work that he did in the areas of military justice and Defence procurement. He is a senator who understands Australia's place in the world and he has worked on the relevant committees. He is a senator who has a very good understanding of economics—and I want to come back to that—and he has been a passionate advocate for the state of Western Australia.
As Senator Bishop outlined in his speech, military justice and Defence procurement were areas that he had a great interest in. He certainly demonstrated that both as a frontbencher and in terms of his committee work. During the period in particular when he served on the front bench of the Labor Party—a time when Australia's military commitments were escalating—having someone like Senator Bishop to articulate Labor's support for our Defence personnel and for veterans was very important.
As has been said, he has given extensive service on those committees of the Senate and of the parliament. He is the Chair of the Senate Economics References Committee and previously the Economics Legislation Committee. Can I add a personal note here. As Minister for Finance and as the Minister representing the Treasurer, I was often grateful for Senator Bishop's intervention as chair when things might have got a little difficult in those committees. Certainly, I think as Chair of the Economics References Committee he made a very important contribution. As someone who has been involved in the economics portfolio for a number of years, I do want to say how much I valued the role that Senator Bishop played in this regard and the fact that he was one of the senators on Labor's side who I could turn to and say, 'We really need someone to speak on this issue and deal with this issue,' and he was able to do that.
In that context, it is also the case that Senator Bishop has been an advocate for economic reform. He again referenced that tonight in his contribution. There is a lot of merit in what he says. I am one who does believe that Labor must always be the party of reform, both social and economic, and that is not always an easy task. Sometimes we do better and sometimes we do less well, but maintaining that capacity and will to reform is an important part of what it means to be Labor. I thank him for his continued advocacy for that proposition and that fact.
As I said, Australia's place in the world has also been a focus of Senator Bishop's work here, particularly in the context of the Senate and joint standing committees on foreign affairs, defence and trade. I want to reference also, again, Senator Bishop's advocacy for his state. I was interested tonight to listen to Senator Bishop talk about times when he has voiced disapproval at his federal colleagues. He said it quite well. He said, 'When I did, it was always considered.' One of the barbs or interjections Senator Abetz often throws at me is that, unlike the Labor Party, the Liberal Party values differences of opinion. We do value different views; we just do not agree with demonstrating them on the floor of the Senate chamber in a vote. But whatever people's views, and whether or not they agreed with Senator Bishop, we could always count on Senator Bishop and others from Western Australia to put a view about the perspective of the people he represents—and has represented for 18 years in Western Australia. And that is enormously important for our party.
I was elected to this place in 2001. Over the period I have been here I have seen the shift in the voting patterns that Senator Bishop has described, and we do have a responsibility on this side of the parliament to address that. So I thank him for his willingness to engage respectfully on those issues.
In relation to Senator Boswell, Bozzie is one of the great characters of the Senate. I went up to Senator Boswell after his speech and said, 'The place really won't look the same without you.' I was reflecting, as Senator Boswell spoke, on his election in 1983 and I was trying to think where people might have been at that time. I think Senator Birmingham is one of the youngest; he was probably in primary school at that time. Would that be right? I was in high school and probably only just starting to understand something about politics in year 9 or year 10.
So it is an extraordinary period of service from that election in 1983 through to now. He faced the people, I think, seven times. It is meritorious service to this place and to our country. I assume also, given the dates, that Senator Boswell must be one of the last senators—if not the last senator—to have served in the Senate chamber of the Old Parliament House. Senator Boswell, that is, perhaps, a mark of the generational change that your leaving this place demonstrates.
There are many things that can be said about Senator Boswell. I think he had one of the best re-election slogans I have ever seen: not pretty, but pretty effective. I thought that was fantastic. I disagreed with it, obviously.
Honourable senators interjecting—
I actually meant that I disagreed with the 'pretty effective' part, not the 'not pretty' part. Anyway, I am glad you took it that way.
There were a number of things that you said in your speech tonight, Senator Boswell, which really resonated. One of them was that you have been a strong voice in your party room. There is no doubting that. Sometimes, frankly, we have enjoyed that and sometimes it has been more difficult for us. You have really taken the maxim that one has to be a strong voice inside one's party as a core political creed.
Others have made more extensive contributions about Senator Boswell's service to the party and to the parliament, including his leadership of the Nationals in this place for some 17 years, which is an exceptional achievement, in itself. I want to focus my remarks on one aspect of Senator Boswell's career. He said tonight in his speech that politicians must have the courage of their convictions. I agree with this. Senator Boswell showed the courage of his convictions when he stood up against right-wing extremism. He deserves enormous credit for his stand against the far Right of the kind that was symbolised by Pauline Hanson.
Others have spoken—as has Senator Boswell—of the long fight against the far Right political movement, probably culminating in the 2001 federal election, which was the election when I was elected to this place. That was when Senator Boswell vindicated his position by refusing the preference One Nation. Senator Boswell competed directly with Pauline Hanson—the woman who famously said that Australia was being over-run by people who looked like me—and defeated her to retain his Queensland Senate seat, again relegating the far Right to the political wilderness.
That was a time when many in the then Howard government were countenancing accommodating these perspectives. Senator Boswell instead took a principled stand against what Ms Hanson stood for. As a senator who represented Ms Hanson's home state of Queensland, and as a national senator with a particular connection to many of the constituencies that Ms Hanson sought to influence, this really did take political courage. I can recall that there were backbenchers, and even some frontbenchers, in his coalition party at the time who did not rule out doing preference deals. Senator Boswell faced defeat at the hands of Pauline Hanson herself in the Senate race of 2001 but he said that he would refuse, point blank, to swap preferences with a One Nation leader.
I say to you, Senator Boswell, that for this principled stand you deserve not only my thanks but the thanks of the parliament and of the Australian people. At a time when debates about racism and freedom of speech are still present in this country I think all of us would do well to remember Senator Boswell's position. I wish him well in his retirement.
I again turn to my friend and colleague Mark Bishop. I wish you and your family all the very best for the future.
I rise tonight to wish our colleagues Senator Boswell and Senator Bishop all the very best for the next phase of their lives. Often those in this place think a lot about the sacrifices that people make in order to serve the country. We all, from our various perspectives, reflect upon the things we miss. I share the concern you have, Senator Bishop, about missing some important occasions that you would have liked to be at. I hope you enjoy the graduation that you will attend and the time that you are able to spend away.
I thank you for the work that you have done on committees over the years. Chairing committees is a skill that takes a while to develop and I think you have shown what it means to be an effective and diligent chair. So thank you for your work and good luck with your future.
Senator Boswell, you and I will disagree to the end on the environment, on the need to address sustainability and on global warming. But I do want to acknowledge the work that we have done together, particularly on biosecurity
That is something on which Senator Boswell and I have shared a number of Senate committee inquiries in the rural and regional committee over many years. As I said to Senator Boswell, we worked together on bananas, on ginger and on a range of issues through that committee, and Senator Boswell and I shared a common view about the absolute need to protect Australia from incursions of pests and disease coming from elsewhere and the incredible damage that it will do not only to our primary industry sector but to the natural environment when we see these incursions get away from us. I think I can speak for both Senator Boswell when I say that we have had extreme frustration about how this has continued to get away from us in some cases. The rust that is now spreading across national parks in Queensland, in particular, is one that I feel very strongly about. I know Senator Boswell will continue to have a passion about biosecurity, as will we, because we will not look after our environment in Australia nor protect our primary producers without it. So I wish you all the very best, Senator Boswell, for your future. I hope you really do enjoy the time with your family and community henceforth, and the same to you Senator Bishop.
Firstly—and briefly—to Senator Bishop, I have not served with you here for any length of time. But, as your name has been mentioned amongst colleagues, they have treated your character with great respect. It is often when those conversations happen without you—and particularly in this place in opposition—that you can take that with you. You are very well regarded, and I wish you and your wife the very best. I can see that your service to this nation will continue through another prism, and I wish you the very best in your retirement.
Whilst I have so much to say about Senator Boswell, I realised that time would not allow that. So I have afforded my chance to speak to Senator Boswell's beautiful wife, Leita. Whilst it is my voice, it is Leita's words that we will hear for the next couple of minutes:
"Love" was the instigator of Ron's life into politics spreading across some 50 years. It was our love for one another and our marriage that started the journey.
My father, Bill Beattie, was a fruit and vegetable grower, later becoming the then Chairman of the Fruit and Vegetable Growers. He was an active member of the then Country Party.
The very first political activity that Ron and I attended together was when Dad was awarded Life Membership of the then Country Party.
It was Dad and I who mentored Ron into the understanding, ethos and structure of the then Country Party. Now it is Ron who mentors others.
Ron joined the Country Party in 1974 and like everything he does became fully involved at every level. We both remain committed to the Party—although with a changed name, some 40 years on.
His passion outside of his immediate family, Cathy, Stephen and me and competitive yachting, was to advocate the needs of small business and fruit and vegetable growers to government.
With our blessing, he was a candidate for the 1982 Senate election, taking his seat in 1983 when Cathy was 15 and Stephen 13. Since then we've supported him on 6 separate occasions as a candidate for the Senate, and more generally with 15 Federal campaigns and 14 State campaigns. We truly were and are his "true believers", his cheer squad, and unofficial advisers.
Stephen as a young lawyer had a big role in helping Ron with his advocacy for small business. He explained to his father, the intricacies of the then Trade Practices Act—particularly Section 45 D—and the meaning of 'unconscionable conduct' in the context of small businesses.
Across the 31 years, we have not measured Ron's political life in the number of speeches, deputations, meetings, visits to towns and communities or the extensive advocacy work but in terms of our family milestones—exams passed, graduations, jobs secured, yachting, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, weddings, the birth of three darling grandchildren, Tom, Sophie and William, and, the tragic loss of our beloved Stephen to Heaven.
Like all husbands and fathers involved in the Parliamentary Service of our State and Nation, duty frequently calls them away at the time of special occasions. And, there have been many such occasions when Ron was elsewhere and we wished he was with us.
Although absent, we knew that wherever he was in rural and regional Australia, whatever he was doing, it was a worthwhile cause. Likewise, Ron knew that the family always stood firmly behind him.
The political journey is ending—and for us, it is with pride in Ron's role as a Senator for Queensland. We, Cathy, Kent, Tom, Sophie and William and I, proudly, lovingly and sweetly welcome Ron home.
But, I suspect, that the inner eye of the champion and competitive yachtsman will espy another challenge. In this case I will not be the instigator. Whatever it is, we will love and support him.
They are Leita's words, Ron.
I too rise to make a contribution this evening. I firstly also want to acknowledge Senator Bishop and concur with the remarks of our leader earlier that he certainly does have our respect, and I wish him very well for his future path. But I just wanted to make a few brief comments about Senator Boswell—or Bozzie. I first came into this place nearly nine years ago. As new senators would remember, you come in and you feel a bit like, well, where is the tuckshop and where do I put my schoolbag, and you are looking to those around you who have been here for a while for guidance as to how you do things. Bozzie was larger than life and we knew that he housed all of the knowledge of the world for us newbies—or that is certainly how it seemed anyway—and we very much looked to him.
I remember one particular day. When I came in, I think Bozzie sort of knew my name. I think for a while there I was 'the girl from New South Wales'. But there was one particular day after I had been here for quite some time. All you really want is some respect from Bozzie when you come into this place, and the day I really clearly remember was the day he called me 'mate'. That was when I knew I had really managed to get myself into the Nationals Senate team, and it really was a beautiful moment.
It is very, very hard to say no to Bozzie. Sorry, I am not using 'Senator Boswell'; it is very hard to say 'Senator Boswell'. It is very hard to say no to Bozzie. I remember one of my very, very early joint party meetings. I am not going to talk very much about what happened in there, but we were discussing an issue relating to ethanol. This was in my very early days. John Howard was Prime Minister. It was a big party room. This issue came up, and Bozzie said, 'You're going to have to speak on this,' and I remember being completely terrified. But you just cannot say no to Senator Boswell, so up I got, and it was the start of many a contribution.
Bozzie mentioned earlier that he was the first to speak out against the ETS, and he was absolutely right. I know because I was sitting there. It was during an MPI on a Wednesday, and I was sitting in front of him. Bozzie stood up and gave this great speech about the ETS—at that point, I had very little idea of what he was talking about—and that started a path that changed the course of history. For that, Bozzie, we all thank you for your leadership in knowing that what you were doing was right. We followed you, and we won. Thank you, Bozzie, for that.
Continuing on the theme of it being very hard to say no to Senator Boswell, it is hard to say no to him not only because he is like a steamroller—it is very hard to say no to Bozzie, as my colleagues know—but because he is very, very often right. We had an issue in the early days of being in opposition relating to some carbon sink legislation that was giving tax breaks to the big end of town. Bozzie understood this. We inherently, because of Bozzie's knowledge and understanding, came to learn very, very quickly that he was absolutely right. With that, we had a piece of legislation that was coming in here—I think it was a disallowable instrument. One of the phrases that has not been used that Bozzie used to use a lot was, 'I'm blowing the whistle; we're going over the top!' Bozzie said that and we all rapped with him—Senator Williams and I did—and we actually voted with the Greens against the other major parties. I subsequently got sacked from the front bench. Clearly it has been a long way back—thanks, Bozzie! But, while that had very serious consequences, it was absolutely the right thing to do. It was Bozzie that first pegged that that was the right thing to do. It was a wonderful thing to follow and walk with him when he blew that whistle and we went over the top.
Bozzie, we can only aspire to change the course of the nation's history in the way that you have. Even if we come some small way to changing the course of history in the way that you have, we will all have done very, very well. We love you. We will miss you. But your legacy and your spirit will be here with us always. Thank you.
Firstly, I would like to associate myself with comments of other colleagues across the chamber who have spoken in regard to the valedictories of both Senator Boswell and Senator Bishop—and of course with the words of Leita. Thank you for your words too, delivered so well by Senator O'Sullivan.
To Senator Bishop: this place takes you in different directions, sometimes of your own choosing and sometimes by appointment and the direction of this place, so I have not had the opportunity to spend a lot of time working with Senator Bishop, although I have done some committee work. His committee work has been mentioned by other speakers and should be recognised because he has been a really hard worker in committees. But I think the thing that I reflect on from his presentation tonight and my experience of him in this place is that he was always thoughtful. It was a very thoughtful speech that he delivered tonight. As he said, when he has made comments around even how he sees his own party, it has been a well-thought-out process. I wish him and his family all the very best into the future—I think he should be proud of his contribution over 18 years—and all the very best in the next phase of his life.
To Bozzie: like Senator Nash, it is hard for me to refer to him as Senator Boswell because basically he is Bozzie. That is how we all refer to Senator Boswell. My first meeting with Boz was in Tasmania in January 2002, after the 2001 election, where I was first elected. Bozzie was on his annual sojourn to Tassie, and he also had to turn the sod at the overpass to the Devonport Airport—a new overpass that was being constructed. Unfortunately, Bozzie got his days mixed up. He had to make a real rush from his place at Bicheno, in Tassie. There were a lot of frantic phone calls, and every time we phoned him he said he was about 30 minutes away. Deloraine must be a very big town, Boz! It took you two hours to get through it! When he arrived, he was busily arranging himself, being prepared. He was very gracious at the turning of the sod, where he acknowledged the new senator-elect from Tasmania in Senator-elect Robert Corbett! We have resolved those nomenclature issues.
A government senator interjecting—
It was close! What it demonstrates is that Bozzie has his own way of doing things, and I think that has been demonstrated by the presentations made here tonight. There is a Bozzie way. He said in his speech that you need to have the power to endure, and that is certainly a feature of Senator Boswell. Once he had the bit between the teeth, once he had the destination in sight, there was very little that you could do to divert him from the purpose. And that is the conviction that all of us have recognised in Boz. If he wanted to talk to you about something, there was no escape. He always found a way to find you, even if it was by pressing the button, dialling 9, and saying, 'I want Senator Colbeck.' There was no hiding. But he was persistent in his perspectives and, as Senator Abetz said, if he wanted a question up, he got a question up.
It is that persistence and perseverance and conviction that actually gets results in this place. So, Boz, congratulations on that, over a distinguished career. Senator Nash is right: we all love you. In fact, you've gotta love Bozzie. You just gotta love Bozzie.
I have really enjoyed working with you on a number of issues that were important to both of us. It was great to get results on things that were important. That is why we are here, to do things that are important for us but, more importantly, for our constituencies. You were always a great radar on your constituency and the people you came here to represent. You were always about getting results for them around the sensible use of our natural resources. I think that is a really important point to make. You were not about doing anything that was going to cause damage, but you wanted sensible natural resource use. You wanted to account for the people who were in those industries and to ensure that they had a fair go, along with all of the other considerations. So congratulations on an extraordinary career and to you, Leita and your families: all the very best, Mate, for the future. I look forward to catching up on the south island occasionally or perhaps overlooking the river in Brisbane. You have made a significant contribution. All the very best for the future.
Can I just pay tribute to Senator Mark Bishop, who has chaired the current inquiry into ASIC, which will report next week. Senator Bishop has done a magnificent job. He really got his teeth into it. He has done an amazing job in righting a lot of wrongs, to make things better for each and every Australian in the future. I wish Mark all the best in his travels and his new life. There is no doubt that he has made a great contribution in this place in the 18 years he has spent here.
To you, Senator Boswell: what an inspiration you have been. I had only been here for about three weeks of a sitting of parliament and I was made whip. I said to Bozzie, 'Bozzie, how long did it take you to learn the running of the Senate?' He said, 'I've been here 25 years and I still don't understand how it runs.' Those were great words of advice and it really filled me with confidence to take on the whip's job.
Senator Abetz made a point about when Bozzie wanted a question up. I was the whip and had to go to question time meetings. There was many a time that we had to jump the list and do what we could do for Bozzie to get his question up. And Bozzie was often very forceful when he requested a question. Others would agree.
He had some great sayings. One day, I was sitting on the opposition bench and he said to me, 'Listen here, Wacka, you've got to lift your game. I've carried you longer than your mother has carried you.' I turned around and said, 'That is absolutely wrong. I've been here eight months and my mother carried me for nine months.'
To sum up Bozzie: true grit. He is like a bull terrier when he sees a problem. He takes it in his teeth and he will not let it go until that problem has disappeared for those people in rural Australia, whom he has represented so strongly. He is a man of morals and principles. All I can say, Bozzie, is I wish you and Leita and your family well. Thanks for your great contribution to this nation. The first thing I am going to do, Mr Acting Deputy President, is change my mobile phone number because I think that, when Bozzie gets out of here, I will still get plenty of phone calls. Good luck, Mate, and congratulations on a wonderful career.
My contribution will also be short because I know others want to talk and Bozzie has a jug presentation to get to in the National Party party room. I first met Senator Ron Boswell over a decade ago, whilst lobbying about higher education reforms. He will not remember this very naive National Party student president, trying to convince him of the ills of the coalition policy back then. However, I will never forget him waving his finger at me and giving me the rules of the land. And nothing has really changed! A decade later I arrive and I still get the finger in the face and a lecture every now and again, which is probably a good thing.
As a daughter of a small business man, I did feel the negative impact of the big end of town. Thank you for all the work you have done for us and our kind. I, too, look forward to a positive outcome of our review of the Competition and Consumer Act.
To add to Senator Williams' comments, trying to whip Senator Boswell is like trying to whip fat-free cream. I had to get the dairy industry in there—I am from Victoria. A lot of effort, sweat and tears, no cream, no results at the end of it. But I guess after this time, he has actually earned it.
In addition to the question time no-show—it is in The Australian; I have to get it up—there was a no-show today, despite several requests to his office, 'Where is Senator Boswell?' When Senator Williams was whip, he would continually be on the back bench over there—he and I, making up the Nats back bench—doing the numbers on Wacka. If he did not get the question up, Wacka was going to be rolled and I was going to be inserted as whip. That threat was continually rolled out.
Another saying that I remember and you will probably understand the complete blank look on my face when he told me, a Victorian senator: 'McKenzie, you've got to pack in tight and ruck hard.' I had no idea what he was talking about and I know sport. I do now, because he has demonstrated it time and time again. A lot of the advice has been similar. Bozzie, you put the stake in the ground—that is what you have tried to teach all of us to do.
I respect and honour your faith in God, your faith in your family and your faith in our nation. It has been repaid in spades, because I think many outside this place in Boswell they trust. We will miss you. We will miss your rants about policy, how the cake should have been better, our lack of courage and the carrying time taken to make me a senator. It is a job not yet done; I understand that. The other advice that you have given me, I will keep close to my heart and hopefully be able to fulfil over my time here. I thank you. I was listening. And God bless.
In my three minutes I will try to pay tribute to a collective 49 years of parliamentary service—firstly, to Senator Mark Bishop, who I knew at law school. He was involved in the Young Labor Club and at that time I was involved in the Liberal Club. It was a youthful indiscretion. Some people do drugs when they are young; I just did the Young Liberals. We had a mutual friend, the late Terry Connolly, who was then a brilliant law student and a great Australian who went on to become the ACT Attorney-General in a Labor government and passed away all too suddenly a number of years ago when he was a Supreme Court judge. That was our connection.
I got to be reacquainted with Mark Bishop some 25 years later in this place, not realising that he was in the Senate and not realising that it was 'the' Mark Bishop I went to law school with. I have enjoyed our many discourses on public policy. I particularly enjoyed a session during estimates when he called 'Order', which I think became a YouTube sensation, when he banged the table so hard that Senator Doug Cameron's cup of coffee or tea just flew off the table. That was a magnificent effort. I think it was the most watched estimates session in the history of this parliament. It was a great effort. I do not think it is fair to say that Mark will be retiring. He has too much to offer in terms of good, common sense advice. I wish him and his family all the very best for the future.
Now to Bozzie. I did not have much to do with this bloke for the first five years here, until we were bonded as a result of an issue, and the issue was the way that licensed post offices were being treated both in the bush and in the city. I have to say—and, Bozzie, I hope I can get away with this—that I thought, 'He's past his prime. There's not much there. He is lobbying me about issues.' That was until I got to know him. Bozzie, you were and are magnificent in your advocacy for those small businesses—in your passion and tenacity. You have lost none of it in terms of your sharpness and fighting for those individuals. It is great that Angela and Phil Cramp, who run a licensed post office, are in the visitors gallery today. I think it is a tribute. They came down from Wollongong, because you are fighting for them.
Bozzie, I do have some bad news for you. You are not going to change your number, because I am going to harangue you about competition law. There is some unfinished business, and this person on the crossbenches will be following that through. It has been an absolute privilege to work with you. I have actually learned quite a few things from you in the last few months. I wish that I had got to know you better earlier on. I have thoroughly enjoyed working together and the friendship we have developed. I wish you and your loving family—the family that you love very much—all the very best.
I often find valedictories are rather sad and I often do not like them. But I am happy and, indeed, honoured to be saying just a few words about two fine Senate colleagues this evening. Senator Mark Bishop combines an astute intellect and a high force of personality with a great sense of purpose. Whether it is speaking eloquently about Fromelles or a more pointed debate on the economy, Mark Bishop is a very, very fine parliamentarian. I have to say that he is such a fine parliamentarian that, if I were persuaded to join the Australian Labor Party—and, thankfully, for everyone perhaps I will not be—I would be on his side. He has been a marvellous contributor to this place for as long as I have served in it. I will miss Mark, his contribution, his passion and his force of personality.
That brings me to my coalition colleague Senator Ron Boswell. I will really miss Ron Boswell. I have learned a big lesson knowing Ron Boswell, and that is: do not judge a book by its cover. I had heard a lot about Ron Boswell before I ever met him. I had heard a lot about Bozzie in the way you have heard about the Abominable Snowman or the Yeti. I thought he was some sort of mythical ogre for a while—until finally he turned up, more than 15 years ago. I was quite taken aback. I am not sure how to put this. He has a rather well-worn look. Whether it be his hair or his ties or his personal demeanour, he is unusual for a politician.
But I soon learned that appearances can be very, very deceptive. Behind this ruffled, teddy bear look and this sort of bucolic bonhomie that he effects so beautifully lurks a committed, cunning and sometimes very curmudgeonly political operative. He knows how the game works. He said it before that he is not pretty but he is pretty effective. Anyone who worked with Ron Boswell—as you did, Acting Deputy President Bernardi in late 2009 to force a change in the coalition's policy on the ETS—knows how truly persuasive and effective he can be.
I want to join this rhapsody of regret at Bozzie's departure with just a very quick story. In the 2010 federal election it looked for a long time as though I would not win. About four or five weeks out from the election I received a phone call from Bozzie. He said, 'Brett, it's hopeless, mate. You're not going to win. You’re shot,' and then he hung up on me and all I could hear was beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. About two weeks later—I suppose about three weeks before the election—I received another phone call from him. Bozzie said, 'Look you're hopeless and you probably don't even deserve to be re-elected, Brett; however, I might just have saved your bacon. I did it because at least you are probably a bit better than the Greens. I may have saved the day.'
Then, about three weeks later, on the Sunday morning after the 2010 election, I woke up—and I think it is fair to say I was 'tired and emotional'—and I looked at my phone and there were five missed calls. This was at quarter to seven on a Sunday morning, and I was not at my best. I thought, 'My God; who's rung?' It was Bozzie, five times. He had started ringing at a bit after six in the morning. I rang Ron back and I said, 'Bozzie, what is up? It's quarter to seven in the morning.' He said, 'Did you get elected? Did you win? Did you win? Did you win?' I said, 'Well, the ABC has projected that I will win.' He said, 'That's terrific. What happened?' I said, 'I got re-elected, Bozzie, on the final distribution of preferences, on Sex Party preferences.' I said, 'You worked pretty hard for those, Bozzie, didn't you?' He said, 'God, Brett, don't tell anyone!' I said, 'Well, it is all over the ABC website, Bozzie.' He said, 'Brett, there are only two things for it. You've got to do two things right away.' I said, 'What's that?' He said, 'You've got to ring up your mother right now and tell her you've been re-elected as a senator for Queensland, and then, when you've done that, you've got to go straight to church and beg God for forgiveness.'
Can I finish on this note. After 30 years of hard work on behalf of the people of Queensland, fighting for what is right, Bozzie said tonight the words that St Paul said to Timothy: 'I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith.' And the good Lord will surely nod and say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.' Thanks, mate, and thanks too from a very, very grateful country.
I rise tonight to pay my respects to Senator Mark Bishop, whom I do not know all that well, but I have watched him and how he conducts himself, and I believe he has been a credit to himself and to the ALP.
I know Senator Ron Boswell a bit better than I know Senator Bishop, and I rise also to add my voice to the chorus of voices congratulating Senator Boswell on his time as a senator. For the past 30 years, Senator Boswell has been an enduring fixture in this place. He began his parliamentary career in the old Parliament House and has become this place's longest serving senator. The people of Queensland have elected him again and again—a ringing endorsement in what is the ever-changing game of politics. Thirty years of service, dedication and representation cannot be summed up or glossed over in a few minutes. I believe Senator Boswell can leave this place with his head held high, knowing he has made a contribution to the past, the present and the future of our country.
I do not agree with Senator Boswell or the National Party on everything, but we do share some common ground. I applaud Senator Boswell for his work seeking statistics on the number of abortions in Australia and for his fight to uphold the traditional definition of marriage, amongst other things. I applaud his efforts to expose the financial fraud of the wind industry. I applaud his work defending farmers, fishermen and Australia Post LPOs amongst others. The banana industry comes to mind, and his support and advocacy for it in the face of overseas imports, as does his work to establish clarity around product labelling and his work in the horticulture industry to secure a commitment to a mandatory code of conduct. With Senator Boswell's departure, small businesses, co-ops and farmers have lost an ally and a voice for those who have not got a voice.
On indulgence, before we move to the next item of business, I would just like to take the opportunity to associate myself with the remarks about Senator Boswell. I have not had the opportunity to contribute to this debate. He is a fine exponent of the art of making the impossible possible.