Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 September 2017


Wilson, Mr Rod

8:09 pm

Photo of Barry O'SullivanBarry O'Sullivan (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight to reflect upon the life of a friend and fellow political traveller in Alexander Rodney Lockie Wilson, known affectionately to all as Rod Wilson. Rod passed away less than a week ago. He was a pastoralist, a cattleman of serious note, having built very substantial interests in that sector with his wife, Sylvia, and members of their family.

Rod was a political activist. I had known him for more than 35 years. He was a fellow traveller. Rod was a giant within the movement of the National Party of Australia, both at our state level in the state of Queensland and at a national level. He was a community leader, having resided in the Callide and Central Queensland area for most of his life. Rod and his family, including extended family, have made enormous contributions to those communities over that period of time. He also provided very clear leadership over the decades in agripolitics as well as general politics. I have memories of any number of speeches or groupings and activities organised by Rod in his capacity as one of our leaders in that part of our state. His influence was enormous.

Rod was a very fair and measured individual who had a very practical and very, very acute political intellect. He demonstrated often that he was before his time in work that he had done around issues that we now refer to as workplace health and safety. Long before that, the people who worked for him and Sylvia and their family, and indeed members of the broader community, were in the core of his mind as he developed measures and practices around pastoral enterprises that he owned with an emphasis on improving the safety and working conditions of those people. He was responsible for many innovative designs and process changes that have been adopted by so many in that industry. He was a pioneer in developing the use of hydraulic mechanisms that were used in double-decker cattle trucks so that cattle on the top deck could be loaded and unloaded safely using that system. He also had done a bit of work using some innovative engineering adjustments around the design of windmills. I know a number of my colleagues here and those who are not present have had to do the laborious job of pulling bores. Rod designed features around bores and windmills that made that job so much safer. He was an early adopter, for example, with the use of solar energies and retrofitted bores at great expense very early when that innovation of the use of solar pumps and solar energy came into the marketplace for use in pastoral pursuits.

With his wife, Sylvia, Rod built what I think could be referred to as a cattle empire with their daughters, Zoe and Eliza, and their son, William, and their broader family. Rod always acknowledged the contribution of the people who worked with him. They had built a very substantial business, and very frequently, being blessed with those things that come with being a successful businessman, Rod would reinvest not just his time and energy but also financially in the community. And there were other pursuits where he and Sylvia shared the goodness of life that they'd been blessed with.

Rod will be remembered as an individual who had great strength of character. He was a tall and quite imposing man, quietly spoken and very measured. His intellect and intelligence were often very evident in the delivery of his arguments, which were always well structured and very persuasive. Rod was a man who did his homework on issues. He thoroughly understood his subject matter before he put forward his arguments. He will be remembered also for his integrity and his honesty. He and Sylvia, and their entire family, were enormously respected in the communities in which they lived, which I referred to earlier.

Rod also had a great sense of humour. When his darling twin daughters, Zoe and Eliza, were born, he put an ad in Queensland Country Life in which he referred to 'welcoming two spring heifers'. Sylvia, I understand, has never forgiven him for that, but nonetheless it was entirely consistent with Rod's way of life and his sense of humour. He will be remembered as a giant of a man and he will be remembered for his contribution and serious influence around state and national agricultural policy. He was a leader in the field, and for my party, the National Party of Australia, he was responsible for building and maintaining a very significant presence in Central Queensland. He had great influence and was very respected by our political movement there.

If I had had the opportunity, which I did not, to ask Rod how he would like to be remembered, I am quite certain that his answer would have been very simple. He would have wanted to be remembered, clearly, as a very good and sound member of his community through life, but he also would have wanted to be remembered as the magnificent husband, father, and grandfather to eight grandchildren that he was. He is missed greatly by members of the Calliope and Central Queensland community. He is missed greatly by members of the inaugural National Party of Queensland and the National Party of Australia. He will be remembered for his legacy of policies and initiatives that he drove and nurtured over many years. It's only been in recent months that Rod, very unwell and battling a condition that eventually overtook him, rang me about labour reforms in agriculture—about how people who would otherwise have difficulty getting employment because of age or disability might be accommodated by changes in policy that would make it easier for them to be employed.

Rod, you will be well remembered for all the things that I have spoken about and much, much more. I wish Sylvia, the children, the grandchildren and Rod's extended family condolences on behalf of all of those in our political movement over a long period of time who came to know Rod and work with him. I felt it was important that a contribution as significant as his be recorded in the Hansard of our federal parliament. I just hope that Sylvia and the family are able to confront Rod's loss and find peace in the knowledge of the enormous contribution that this man made to our state and, indeed, to our nation.