Tuesday, 8 December 2020
Madigan, Mr John Joseph
Senators, on 25 August I informed the Senate of the death, on 16 June 2020, of John Joseph Madigan, a senator for the state of Victoria from 2011 to 2016. In a somewhat broken year, there had been some delay until we could address this. I would like to welcome his family, who are attending in the chamber today, who are now able to attend due to the lifting of travel restrictions on our home state of Victoria. I call the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
by leave—I move:
That the Senate records its deep regret at the death, on 16 June 2020, of Mr John Joseph Madigan, former Senator for Victoria, places on record its appreciation for his service to the Parliament and the nation, and tenders its sympathy to his family in their bereavement.
Earlier this year I, along with other senators, was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of former senator John Madigan. Elected as the first senator for the Democratic Labor Party in 37 years, John was a humble and down-to-earth blacksmith and boilermaker from Ballarat who fought to improve the lives of average Australians.
Born on 21 July 1966 in Melbourne, John was one of four children to John and Patricia Madigan. Growing up in the Melbourne suburbs, John's interest in the blacksmith trade started at an early age. He would reminisce that at around age eight or nine, during his paper round in the suburb of Caulfield, he would stop and watch Bernie Dingle, a local coach builder, wheelwright, blacksmith and horseshoer, at work. Mesmerised by what he saw, John would return to watch night after night. The flying of the sparks intrigued young John, who, recognising that coach building, wheelwrighting and blacksmithing were dying trades, turned his attention to welding and boilermaking instead. His fascination with the trade led him to Newport TAFE, where he undertook an apprenticeship in structural steel fabrication. From Victorian Railways to his own blacksmith's forge at Hepburn Springs, in the Victorian Central Highlands, John spent 28 years working as a blacksmith and boilermaker.
Becoming a politician was not something that was on John's list of things to do. But, during his childhood, politics was never too far away. He grew up in what he called a DLP family. As a young boy he handed out how-to-vote cards for the DLP. In 2006 John became a member of the DLP. A few years later, after being persuaded by DLP old believers and his wife, Teresa, he decided to run as a Senate candidate in the 2010 federal election. It is safe to say that John's election to the Senate in 2010 came as a surprise to many. He joked that at 11 pm on election night, when the ABC's Antony Green announced, 'We appear to have a DLP senator', many would have been searching the internet for a reference to this 'new and obscure group'. The DLP was, of course, far from being new or obscure.
In July 2011 John entered this chamber as the first DLP senator since 1974. He referred to himself as 'the most outside of outsiders—a tradesman and a member for the DLP, an oddity and a leper'. They were his words. But he was a strong supporter of the manufacturing sector, true to his values and a voice for Australian workers and farmers in his community.
Throughout his time in the Senate, John remained connected to his original trade as a blacksmith and boilermaker. He would load up one of his many beloved one-tonne utes with his portable forge and would give blacksmithing demonstrations at primary schools across Victoria. His was perhaps one of the most practical examples of constituent and electorate engagement that any member of this place has ever given in reaching out to schools and communities. It was a lot of work but John gained enormous satisfaction from connecting, particularly with young people. Many people, he said, would laugh at this and ask: 'What's the point? Blacksmithing is a dead craft.' To this, John responded: 'But that's not the point. I do it because I hope it gives young people hope. It's about showing them they can do practical stuff with their hands. It's about engaging with our next generation of community leaders.'
I have particularly fond memories of spending a day with John in rural Victoria around his beloved Ballarat, of visiting a local school and seeing a program designed to engage young people in trades and the passionate conversations had with John about those issues. We travelled on to visit Ballarat business Gekko Systems together, and we talked about the engineering processes and manufacturing opportunities that a company like that was delivering in supplying equipment to mineral-processing businesses and the policies necessary to support further manufacturing activity.
John, indeed, started the Australian Manufacturing and Farming Program to help narrow the divide between politicians and working Australians. His advocacy for them to me and the trip that he took me on were examples of his willingness to bridge those gaps wherever he could. The aim of the program was to give politicians the opportunity to visit factories and farms and to get a better understanding of our industries and the lives of those who worked there. He launched the program in late 2011 with former senator Nick Xenophon and the Hon. Bob Katter MP—'the three amigos', as Bob would often refer to them.
In 2015, during an appearance on the ABC's Q+A program, John referred, in his passionate argument for Australian manufacturing, to submarines as being 'the spaceships of the sea'. This reference gave John an almost cultish following for a period of time, for those who may recall the various images and, indeed, I think even T-shirts that that reference spawned. In 2015, after troubles within the DLP, John decided to start his own political party, John Madigan's Manufacturing and Farming Party. However, it would last only briefly, until the 2016 election, when, after six years in this place, John would retire from politics.
During his time in the Senate, John was committed to advocating for those Australians who felt their voice had been lost. Known for his determination to do the right thing, John stood for what he believed in, no matter what it cost him personally. When asked what he wanted to achieve during his time in parliament, John said:
All I worry about at the end of the day is being true to myself, true to my family and friends and putting my head on the pillow at night. And when I leave parliament, whenever that may be, that I will walk out with my friends, my family and my faith intact.
John achieved that. Faith was incredibly important to John. He was a devout Catholic whose faith inspired others to be better and to do better.
It is a tragedy that, at the age of 53, John was taken from us and particularly from his loved ones far too soon, after a battle with cancer. He leaves his wife, Teresa, and two children, Lucy and Jack, who, along with his mother-in-law, Carmel, are here with us today to pay tribute and to celebrate John's life and achievements. We thank you for doing so. We thank you for the patience in waiting to be able to be here in this troubled year.
On behalf of the Australian government and the Australian Senate, I extend to you, John's loved ones, and all those who cared for him, our sincerest condolences and gratitude for sharing him with the nation and with us.
I rise on behalf of the opposition to express our condolences following the passing of John Joseph Madigan, a former senator who passed away so young, at 53. I start by conveying, and on behalf of the opposition, my personal condolences and sympathies to his family and friends, and I welcome the members of his family who are here today with us.
I don't think John Madigan would mind me saying that he reminded us of a different time—a blacksmith by trade who represented the Democratic Labor Party in this place, a party that had risen to prominence under the guidance of activist Bob Santamaria in the 1950s and had lost its last Senate seat in 1974. I hadn't even arrived in Australia. Yet Mr Madigan served in this Senate in the second decade of the 21st century. He did so grounded in the values that had endured from his early life and that had been borne out in his career, and from these he never wavered.
His family said in a statement following his death:
He was a generous and compassionate man who gave his life to the greater good and had great faith in the people of Australia. He considered his time in Parliament a privilege and he sought always to discharge his duty to all Victorians, regardless of their political persuasion.
In addition to this generosity and compassion, John Madigan showed great respect to others—respect to colleagues, even when we disagreed, and respect to this institution. That was something I appreciated in him greatly, even on those occasions when we were not in agreement.
John Madigan did not adopt the DLP; he was born into it. He grew up in a loyal DLP family in Melbourne and he joined the youth group run by BA Santamaria. Prior to his entry into the parliament, Mr Madigan completed an apprenticeship in structural steel fabrication and worked as a blacksmith and boilermaker from 1983 to 2011. As my colleague Senator Birmingham said, this was a choice of trade that came about after being fascinated by a local blacksmith in his youth. He undertook his apprenticeship and then worked for a decade in Victorian Railways, where he was also a proud member of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, or the metalworkers as we would colloquially call it. Following this, he relocated to the town of Hepburn Springs, in the Victorian Central Highlands, and there he set up his own business in the same trade. He lived there with his wife, Teresa, and their children, Lucy and Jack, who are here with us today. It's also where he passed away.
Before his election, John Madigan held senior leadership roles inside the DLP. He was vice president of the state branch in Victoria from 2008 to 2009, and then its president from 2009. In the same year, he also became vice president of the federal DLP. John Madigan served one term as a senator for Victoria. He was elected in 2010, commenced office in July 2011, and was then defeated at the general election in 2016. Of the re-emergence of his party in federal politics, he joked that it had been 'a long time between drinks'. As a teetotaller himself, I suppose he had the patience to bide his time.
From the outset, John Madigan sought to give a voice to the workers, families, farmers and small businesses with whom he engaged. He felt many had been alienated by decisions of successive governments in the opening up of the Australian economy to the world. In this vein, John Madigan's commitment to manufacturing was a constant theme throughout his time in the Senate. He consistently returned to it, grounded in his own personal experience. He argued, 'The great economies of the world have strong manufacturing bases.' He wanted to see government doing more—much more—to support and invest in Australian manufacturing.
This is a principle that we in the Australian Labor Party agree with, although at times we would differ from former Senator Madigan on how this might be achieved. He advocated for the re-establishment of worker and farmer cooperatives and for strengthening regional banks and credit unions as a first step in revitalising regional Australia, accompanied by a commitment to decentralising our industries and the public sector. One area of local manufacturing about which he was particularly passionate was shipbuilding. I recall him, in 2015, asking questions of the then deputy leader of government in this place, former Senator Brandis, about the failure of the Abbott government to commit to the development of our local shipbuilding industry through a local build of Australia's future submarines. When asking former Senator Brandis whether he would also commit to purchasing an Australian made T-shirt he was holding in support of Australian manufacturing, jobs and charities, Mr Madigan made the following comment:
Minister, two of the things I believe in are that a country is what a country makes and that submarines are spaceships for the ocean.
Not only was 'submarines are spaceships for the ocean' perhaps his most memorable quote in his time as a senator—the slogan first came to light in an episode of Q&A earlier in the year and even made it onto T-shirts themselves—but this statement went to the heart of his philosophy. 'A country is what a country makes' was foundational to Mr Madigan's political ideology. For the record, former Senator Brandis replied that he would proudly advocate for Australian industry, including by wearing such a fetching garment. But I don't think he followed through on that commitment.
Mr Madigan was also a vociferous opponent of free trade. This was something on which he and I were out of step, but I am prepared to acknowledge that on this he had views that were not completely friendless within the Australian Labor Party. Whilst I didn't agree with his views on these issues, I always respected that he wanted the same outcome that I also sought: a fair and prosperous life for working Australians.
His commitment to fairness went beyond the material conditions of working people and included refugees who sought asylum in this country, as well as multicultural communities who were discriminated against. So, whilst he was an economic nationalist, he did not sound a jingoistic or racist bell.
Despite being a member of the crossbench, for whom committee positions are harder to come by, John Madigan served on many committees, including the Joint Statutory Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, and chaired the perhaps very famous Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines. His sincerity and passion for those who found his committee to be an important outlet for their grievances was not doubted.
Mr Madigan finished his service as an independent senator, having fallen out with others in the DLP in 2014 and, as Senator Birmingham said, forming his own political party, launching the John Madigan Manufacturing and Farming Party, through which he sought to tap into the 'increasing discontent among voters, particularly in rural and regional areas, about the mainstream parties'. He sought to give greater prominence to farmers and manufacturers as the backbone of the Australian economy. This echoed the commitments he made in his first speech, when he spoke of his desire to represent 'Australians who feel that they have lost their voice and that no politician from either side of the fence could give a damn'—to use his words—'about their future or the future of their families and communities'. However, this new political venture wasn't sufficient to return him in the 2016 election, and there his journey as an elected member of the Australian parliament ended. I understand that, after briefly joining the Country Party, he was recently welcomed back into the DLP, which seems fitting for the prominent role it played in his upbringing and his political career.
John Joseph Madigan was a man of strong convictions, and this meant we didn't always agree. On issues from trade policy to marriage equality, we would find ourselves on opposite sides of the argument. But, as I acknowledged in the debate on the Marriage Act Amendment (Recognition of Foreign Marriages for Same-Sex Couples) Bill in 2013, Mr Madigan contributed his views in a respectful way.
Following his passing, his son, Jack Madigan, sent me a moving note, sharing his own and his father's reflections, and I want to thank Jack. At a time of his own grieving, it was a distinctly generous act and it displayed a dignity and kindness that would have made his father proud.
John Joseph Madigan was a genuine man. He was a decent man and he was an authentic man, and, perhaps most of all, he was true to himself, which is the aspiration all of us in this place should have. So I again on behalf of the opposition express my sympathy and condolences, following his passing, to his family and friends.
I rise to offer the Australian Greens' condolences to John Madigan's family and, in particular, his wife, Teresa; and his children, Lucy and Jack. I think John, in this place, created a wonderful opportunity for many of us who worked with him to confront some of our own ideas on issues and talk about ways in which we could find a common connection. I was going to reference the quote about submarines being 'the spaceships of the ocean,' as Senator Birmingham and Senator Wong have. While that one may have made it onto T-shirts, the phrase that I often heard John say in the work that I did with him was 'but Jesus was a refugee'. Over and over again, in the work that we did collectively to find a fairer and more compassionate approach to refugees in this country, John was steadfast in his conviction about compassion and in his faith. He would often say: 'Don't forget, Sarah; Jesus was a refugee.'
His ability to listen, to take stock of advice and then to very calmly put his position—whether it was in support of or in opposition to the person he was speaking or negotiating with—is, I think, testament to his strength of character. And there were many, many issues that John Madigan and I disagreed on, from reproductive rights to marriage equality and many others. But we found a common goal when it came to immigration policy and human rights. We often talked about the issues of Tibet. We often talked about the issues of refugees and asylum seekers and would find common ground on which we could work together.
Both Senator Wong and Senator Birmingham have referenced his absolute commitment to the manufacturing sector and the passion that he had for Australia to make things again. I think he was ahead of his time in many ways in relation to those issues, while harking back to the past and still being very clear in saying that there was a massive gap here in Australia and we had to get onto it. I think this year in particular has proven that perhaps, if we'd taken a bit more advice from John, we would have been making a few more things here in the midst of this COVID pandemic.
This chamber and this workplace force us to be oppositional with each other. It is the battle of ideas. It is where we have the contest of policy and where we have passionate debates about our convictions. All of my engagements with John Madigan were respectful, thoughtful and honest. John was no pretender; he was a real person. What he said was what he'd do, and what you saw was what you'd get. Sometimes, in this crazy world of politics, that is indeed incredibly refreshing. I would often find myself sitting in John's office talking about a particular motion or amendment that was coming up, and I was struck by his incredible calmness in dealing with things. Particularly in a period like this, at the end of a sitting period, when the list of bills was stacking up and the government was threatening gags and extended sitting hours, you'd walk into John's office and it was always dark—the lights were always down—and there was an instant calmness. Nothing seemed to throw him into a tizz, as we all know can often happen in this place, particularly when the pressure is on. Sometimes it was nice just to pop into his office and have a bit of a breather. I always appreciated the time he gave me and many others in this place to explain to him the position that we were coming from and the reasons that we were asking for his support. As I said, he was always respectful. In fact, he was nothing but a gentleman in this place, and I think that everyone would accept that. He didn't tolerate bad behaviour and, if he thought you had not behaved well, he'd say it and he'd say it to your face pretty bluntly. I always appreciated that.
His former staff member Chloe Preston still speaks very fondly of John. We've had a number of chats about the time that she worked in his office. She now works for Senator Whish-Wilson, so I think some of those conversations about fair and free trade have probably flowed through. I know Chloe is not here today, but she was incredibly saddened by John's passing. I want his family to know that she thought that he was a wonderful boss and she learnt a lot from him. Again, I extend the condolences of the Greens and my personal condolences to John's family.
I stand on behalf of the National Party to offer our condolences and sincere sympathies to Teresa, Lucy and Jack on the passing of their much-loved husband and father, former senator John Madigan. Very few people who pass through this place manage to do so without attracting a few enemies, but not John Madigan. It's been acknowledged here today—and you've heard from the raft and range of political ideologies—that John was a very fine representative for our home state of Victoria. He was a hardworking, decent man who always put service above self. If only we could all aspire to live that reality in our work as senators.
John won the sixth and last Victorian Senate seat at the 2010 federal election, becoming the first DLP senator to serve in more than three decades. He was among three rookie Victorian senators who took office on 1 July 2011. The others were former Greens Senator Di Natale and myself. I remember the evening of John's maiden speech in the evening—former Senator Edwards and I warmed the crowd up in the afternoon. John spoke about his work forging pinch-bars for Munro Engineering's post drivers, and he spoke of Australia's antidumping policy, Australian jobs, the economy and rebuilding our industry. He did that in 2011. How realistic and pertinent are those themes to us in the post-COVID-19 recovery era that we're entering! They are all issues of significance. I recall one occasion on which John rightly said in this place:
The strength of our manufacturing sector is directly related to the strength of our jobs market.
It could have been Black Jack McEwen uttering those words, and it's obviously a view that we in the Nationals share. If someone has a job, they have a sense of self-worth and they can provide for their family and contribute to their broader community. Senator Madigan made a lot of sense at the time—as do most, I might say, who hail from regional Victoria.
In April 2016, late in the evening during the adjournment debate, John spoke passionately about the impact that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was having on farming communities, particularly in North Central Victoria. He said:
…the Murray Darling Basin Plan is one of the largest negative, man-made impactors on our farming communities in the history of our country.
He said that our basin communities in Australia were 'on the precipice of a national water crisis'. How very true.
John was a person who was prepared to back up his words with action. In 2015 he set up John Madigan's Manufacturing and Farming Party. As someone elected to represent a party of farmers and entrepreneurs, leading rural and regional manufacturing, this was a significant milestone in John's political career. On many issues, as others have mentioned, amongst them decentralisation, banking issues and the like, Senator Madigan and the Nationals were on the same page, particularly in our shared passion for agriculture and manufacturing. He always spoke about the importance of trades and the fact that Australian manufacturing was not on its knees. He said:
… we need to work towards enhancing the competitive advantage of Australian industry and not allow other countries to benefit at our expense through us supplying them with cheap energy at the expense of our manufacturers and food processors.
I recall that speech because he spoke of manufacturing businesses in places like Wodonga—Wilson Transformer Company and Seeley, for instance—and talked about the Australian Manufacturing and Farming Program industry showcase at Wodonga TAFE, and of a 'manufacturing meets parliament' event. I think we also shared important views around regional media and the role of the ABC in regional communities—that we needed the ABC to have not just a regional presence but a regional voice in their city boardrooms.
John and the Nationals were on the same page when it came to sticking up for our great, efficient, clean, green food producers. He was one of the great advocates and champions of buying local, buying Australian and supporting local manufacturing and local producers. He spoke very, very strongly during the debate on food labelling in March 2015. In fact, during that very debate my Nationals colleague, and deputy leader, Senator Canavan paid tribute to John's advocacy for better food labelling to benefit Australia's farm sector.
To my class of 2010 colleague former Senator John Madigan: you made a valuable contribution to our nation. The National Party in the Senate was honoured to have worked with you. I know there are former senators from our party—Senators O'Sullivan and Wacka Williams in particular—who really enjoyed going into battle with John on a variety of issues that I'm sure my colleagues will touch on. We're very proud to acknowledge an honest, hardworking blacksmith from Hepburn Springs who stood up for manufacturing, farming and family in regional Australia. Our condolences to his family and friends. Vale John.
I want to briefly associate myself with the very fine words that have been put on the record today in this chamber in relation to John Madigan. I offer my condolences to his family, particularly Teresa, Lucy, Jack and Carmel, and to other loved ones who miss John Madigan.
We've heard a lot about John Madigan being a man who represented another time in some ways, as Senator Wong said. I think that she meant that in a very good way in terms of some of the values he represented and some of the issues he stood up for. I won't go over those things, except to say that the DLP has been a very significant part of Australian political history. Of course, John will forever have the legacy as someone who, for at least a period of time, resurrected the DLP, as has been mentioned, many years after it was thought that they would never grace this place.
Apart from reflecting on John's background as a blacksmith and boilermaker, which has been done, I want to deliver a bit more of a personal message to his family about the time in which I got to know him and the character I saw. John was a man who loved his family, loved his country, loved his community and loved his state. He was a man of deep personal faith and conviction, and he was prepared to stand up for those personal convictions, even when they were unpopular, and he was prepared to advocate for them. He was hardworking, authentic, honest, compassionate and decent. 'A gentleman' sums him up. He was a good man. Those are the legacy items that his family can be most proud of. All of the other things he achieved in his extensive career, both prepolitics and in this place, it is his fundamental sense of decency that I believe they can be most proud of.
Senator Wong mentioned his great respect for the institution of the Senate. I certainly saw that. I think that was deeply held. He and I together often used to rage against the Greens. He would have a lot of arguments with the Greens, notwithstanding that Senator Hanson-Young talked about some areas where they had a fair degree of agreement. But he would rage against the Greens. In his respect for this place I remember him in hushed tones sometimes raging in particular about a couple of senators in the Greens. He was completely shocked that they would come into this place not wearing a tie. I point again to Senator McKim, who is backing up the case. I remember him saying, 'How can they come into this place and not wear a tie?' When I would occasionally walk into this place without a tie I was always a bit sheepish and hoped John was not looking unfavourably at me, as he was at my Greens colleagues. But that respect for the institution was deeply held and it was reflected in everything he did. The way he treated people was a reflection of who he was. Whether you were on his side in an argument or you were on the opposite side, he always acted with great respect to you as an individual.
There is a DLP official obituary. I'll just extract a small amount. I saw this and thought it sums up a lot of what John stood for. The DLP official obituary from Stephen Campbell says:
John stood up for the unborn child, the unemployed, the refugee. The little guy, in every sense, was John's major concern.
I say to the Senate and to his family that that will forever be his legacy. I hope that in coming years the family will be able to reflect on that enduring legacy. On our nation's behalf I thank them for his service to our country and to this chamber. May he rest in peace.
On 16 June this year Australia lost one of its quintessential sons, a family man, a hard worker, a man of faith, a man of values—of timeless values, might I add—and a man of courage. John Joseph Madigan, a Victorian senator for too short a period, was all those things and a lot more. With former Senator Madigan, what you saw was what you got: sincerity, believability and a desire to be a genuine servant leader within his community. There were no manoeuvrings or duplicitous agendas for John. He either agreed or disagreed with a general proposition at stake; he was willing to talk and accommodate on the mechanics, but not on the fundamental principles.
Australian democracy should celebrate the fact that we had Senator Madigan grace the Senate. The blacksmith from Hepburn Springs came to the Senate and gave voice and expression to shared Australian values. Starting as an apprentice with Victorian Railways and a proud member of his union, he learned in the university of life, bringing an earthy and realistic understanding of social justice and the requirements and expectations of our fellow Australians from government as it developed public policy. Be it championing the sanctity of human life, manufacturing sustainability in Australia or concerns about China's human rights record, Senator Madigan was across the issues. His approach to his new-found and unexpected role as a senator was best summed up by him in his first speech. He said: 'We are the representatives of the Australian people, not their masters.' For Senator Madigan, that statement was not just words; it was meant with deep conviction, as he conducted himself accordingly.
Senator Madigan was the type of senator who had the potential of giving the labour movement a good name. I observed that Senator Madigan's seat in the Senate was one that had been previously occupied by Senator Harradine. He was by instinct a Labor man. Senator Madigan did tell us, 'I have often said that the best government for Australian is a good Labor government, and the worst is a bad Labor government.' As can be imagined, I agreed with him 50 per cent of the time!
I first met Senator-elect Madigan in 2010 in an office in Melbourne, as tired as I am now, with Senator Madigan in work clothes, using someone's office where the senator-elect had quoted a blacksmithing job and was discussing details. We used their coffee facilities to have a chat. His hands were callused, like the hands of all those who work so hard to build and keep our country going. I last spoke with him to discuss what, if any, protocols applied for his funeral—knowing his life was coming to an end. Between his departure from the Senate and his departure from this life, I had the pleasure of catching up with him for a coffee in Ballarat a couple of times with his family. There was also a substantial number of telephone calls—always genuine, always concerned, always offering insights and suggestions.
To his widow and children: some of us know the journey you've been through—the shock diagnosis, the battle to stay with loved ones, and yet the assurance of knowing a better place awaits. Whilst the Madigan family are listening from the splendour of the presidential gallery in this place, they know that their husband and father, who was an excellent servant of the people of Victoria, is listening from a gallery of exceptionally greater glory than here. To Mrs Madigan, Teresa; Lucy and Jack; and Carmel: thanks for lending John Joseph Madigan, your father, your husband, your son-in-law, to the service of this nation. He did himself and you proud in his service. May he rest in peace, and my condolences to you.
I too would like to make some brief remarks in honouring the service of Senator John Madigan and pay my condolences to his family and friends. Whenever John was going to leave us from this earth it was going to be too soon, especially given his contribution to many—his family and friends and others. His young age has meant that it has been far, far too soon for us. He was an enormously generous and compassionate man.
I only served with John for around a year in this Senate. I got to know him a little during a few inquiries and I was struck by how much work he did in his own community, with his church, and how much his strong faith informed him to be so generous and compassionate to others, no matter what their background. He did a stellar amount of work with young people, particularly in getting them interested in trades and other ventures. He helped overseas, I believe, with charity. His contributions to this country and to his community will probably remain unrecognised in public view because they were hidden from the normal political processes. It will be those people who will feel the loss of John more than anyone else, but his passing has also been a great loss to the political fabric of this nation.
John has gone too soon in political terms as well because, in some respects, the time has shifted now to suit John's principles and values. Some have remarked here that he was a reminder of a previous time, or a previous generation, in Australia. I actually think he was perhaps a harbinger of a renewed emphasis on the need for this country to return to cherishing its wealth-producing industries of agriculture, of manufacturing, of mining. John was sometimes a lone champion of those sectors, a lone voice for many who did not have someone to speak for them in this parliament. That was obviously informed by John's own background as someone who worked with his hands and who knew what was like to feel the pride of making something of worth and value to others with your own hands. He wanted an Australia that did not forget the importance of actually making things so that we can provide a service to others in our own community and to the world and, of course, also be in a position where we can build the products to defend ourselves and protect our independence, like the spaceships of the ocean, the submarines—another example where John was well ahead of his time. We are now building submarines in Adelaide and now everyone is talking about manufacturing. John was sometimes a lone voice on that particular cause a few years ago.
John also took up unpopular causes in other areas as well. He was a champion of the unborn, and I want to recognise the efforts he made in this chamber to bring forward legislation to protect those rights. Again, it was something he was criticised for but, in his own humble and softly spoken way, he would proceed on with his own principles and convictions on those matters. His passing is a great loss for us in this chamber on those causes as well.
I got to know John best when he chaired the Senate committee on wind farms, particularly their impact on local communities. John was an extremely grassroots politician. Being an engineer, he probably knew more about the technicalities of renewable energy than anybody else. But what most interested John was not the mechanics of the wind turbine but the impacts on human beings and their families of such industrial developments. So, during this committee inquiry, we actually went and spent a number of days going to people's own homes. I don't think I have been to a Senate committee inquiry where we have done the same sort of outreach. We went to people's homes, we went to their bedrooms—with their permission, obviously—and saw how closely they had to sleep to very large, noisy things. We heard their stories firsthand around their kitchen tables about how they were kept awake at night. Some people had sold their own homes or moved just to get away. His tireless work bringing attention to that issue has left the legacy of the National Wind Farm Commissioner, who I think is doing a good job to represent the interests of those who are impacted by very large developments and they, more than anyone else, deserve to have their views heard, listened to and acted upon.
As I said, John's passing is a great loss for us because he was a voice for those who often don't have a voice. It will be up to us now, those of us who share many of his philosophies and values, to amplify his messages—which have become more relevant in recent years—in the years to come. Despite John's passing, I hope there is some assurance that his legacy, his example, and his pioneering efforts in these fields will continue to be built upon in this place, thanks to his efforts. My great condolences go to all his family members. I share with Senator Abetz the strong view that Senator Madigan is looking down upon these proceedings, and I hope we can live up to his example and commitment.
I too rise to pay my condolences on the passing of John Joseph Madigan, who, sadly, left us at the very young age of 53. As a female, conservative politician in this place and having had an office close to John's, I got the opportunity to get to know him quite well and speak to him on quite a number of occasions about the things that were important to both of us. As I reflected on his maiden speech of 25 August 2011, it was about values of family and faith. Others have spoken about different parts and different things that he said during his maiden speech, but the thing that I really took from that speech was: 'This is a man whose background was about hard work—commitment, hard work and, most importantly, commitment to his family and to his faith.' Those values and beliefs underpinned what John did in this place.
We've talked about manufacturing, and, of course, in his maiden speech, he did talk about BlueScope. As a senator based in the Illawarra, BlueScope is very important in Australia, and Australian steelmaking is very important. Of course, we had occasion to discuss those things. In an article in The Canberra Times following his passing, he's referred to as a:
"Blacksmith, teetotaller, Democratic Labour Party Senator: he's a throwback to another generation, a time when things were done differently," …
It wasn't that things were done differently; it was a set of values and beliefs that John shared with us—that sense of family values and beliefs that I think are still very important to the silent majority in this country and which John so ably represented. He was, as others have said, respectful, a good listener. His quiet manner demonstrated his deep understanding of how our activities here affect the daily lives of Australian families.
But what I do want to say in relation to John, particularly when we talk about values and beliefs—and we have had conversations in recent times about politicians and conduct—is that John always conducted himself with the utmost respect to everybody. He was, as Senator Hanson-Young has said, a true gentleman. As politicians, I think it's very important that we live up to the values and beliefs that we tell the electorate we hold and that we promise to represent. There should be no difference between who we are in Canberra and the values and beliefs that we pronounce to our constituents and to the people that put us here. I know that John embodied very much the sentiment that he was a politician that said what he meant and meant what he said. He was a politician who abided by the courage of his convictions. I know that, in this place, that is often very, very difficult. But, for John, it was who he was, and that's what I admired most about him. Often, when you are honest and forthright and you do stand up for and have the courage of your own convictions, it is and can be a very, very difficult time and it is a difficult place to be. But, if you do have the strength of courage, as John did, to do that, then it does make it very easy. Therefore, he maintained the faith and trust that the electorate had placed in him, and I think that that is one of the things that we will very much remember about him.
In conclusion, Teresa, you; your children, Lucy and Jack; Carmel; and the rest of your family should be very proud of his service both here and to his community both before and after his time in this place. He was a decent, honest man, a man of enormous integrity. To Jack and Lucy, your father may not have been here a long time, but the values of family and faith that he espoused are the values and beliefs that live on in the silent majority in this country. Vale John Joseph Madigan.
I too am very proud to rise to pay tribute to the late John Madigan. John was very proud of his blacksmith heritage. As we've heard in this condolence motion, he was humble and he was a gentleman. He led the Democratic Labor Party back from the wilderness, winning the sixth Senate spot at the 2010 federal election. He was the first DLP senator to be elected since the defeat of Frank 'vote Mac back' McManus and Jack Little in 1974.
In his first speech, John Madigan himself quoted the expression 'It's been a long time between drinks.' He was very proud of his part in the re-emergence of the Democratic Labor Party, though, of course, as we know, he quit the party in 2014 to start his own party, John Madigan's Manufacturing and Farming Party. John spoke of his path to this place when only 12 months prior he was forging pinch-bars for Munro Engineering's post drivers. He paid tribute to the blacksmiths, foundry men and wheelwrights of his childhood for revealing the skills and wonders of their craft to a wide-eyed young lad.
I actually thought of John Madigan recently when I was at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat for the launch of their master plan, not far from where John died, in Hepburn Springs. With the support of some $10 million from the Morrison government, a grant to Sovereign Hill is establishing a centre for rare arts and forgotten trades, the craft centre, which will be a major piece of the first stage of its 20-year master plan. Of course, this celebrates the trades which John held so dear.
John was concerned about a lot of things in his community, particularly drugs. He said, and made this very clear over and over again, that they were a scourge of our society, causing devastation to families and individuals and causing untold harm to our economy and our industries. John was passionate about manufacturing and farming, and, along with Bob Katter MP and former senator Nick Xenophon, he formed what he described as the non-partisan Australian Manufacturing and Farming Program. It was in this context that I had some dealings with John, when I was formerly the member for Corangamite. He was really focused on helping senators and members to gain a better appreciation for the men and women whose hard work keeps this nation running.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott described John as a very decent man, with an old-fashioned sense of courtesy and respect. He served just one six-year term in the Senate, being defeated at the 2016 general election, but he made a very big impact, made a very significant contribution and clearly, from what we have seen in this debate today, is remembered very fondly around the corridors of this parliament.
I also want to convey my sincere condolences to John's wife, Teresa, and his children, Lucy and Jack, who paid tribute to their husband and father, saying, 'He was a generous and compassionate man who gave his life to the greater good and had great faith in the people of Australia.' John died way too young, at the age of just 53. My dad died at 58, so I know, Lucy and Jack, it will leave a very big hole in your hearts and in your lives to have lost your dad at such a young age. All of Australia has certainly a lost a great gentleman in John Madigan. May he rest in peace.
I'd just like briefly to add my remarks on this condolence motion. As we've heard this afternoon, John Madigan was a man who was decent, authentic, humble and respectable. He was always a gentleman who expected the highest standard of others because he applied the highest standards in this place. He was a man who brought to this place great conviction. While he was only here for six years, his presence has been deeply felt.
John Madigan came to this place with another important role, and that was as a staunch defender of our Australian Constitution. I engaged with John in working to defeat the Labor government's proposal to recognise local government in the Constitution. John was part of a very, very small group of senators who argued against Labor's referendum bill, voted against Labor's referendum bill and put their names to the official 'no' case against that referendum bill. As some of you might recall, the referendum was never put. The referendum had been defeated in the court of public opinion before Kevin Rudd put himself before the people in that vote.
So John Madigan came to this place and made a tremendous contribution, which I think has been recognised in the remarks of so many people from across the chamber. For my part, he helped preserve the Constitution, kept true to the idea of the federal compact between the states in making this Commonwealth, and for that I know that many, many Australians will be deeply grateful. I would also add my condolences to his family on their sad loss.
Question agreed to, honourable senators standing in their places.