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Monday, 19 June 2000
Page: 17607

Mr RUDD (6:09 PM) —As one of the new chums in the class of 1998, I did not have the privilege of knowing Greg Wilton for as long as those who are members of the celebrated class of '96. But by the end of last year he had become a good friend.

One of the interests that I shared with him was his longstanding and abiding interest in Asia. It seems there is practically no part of Asia that guy had not backpacked to at some point in his life. He knew more about that continent than I do. In fact, this year we were to travel to China and Korea together and it was only at the last minute that he had to withdraw from that particular visit in late April-early May.

What I remember most about Greg in the time that he became my friend was—a point about him which many other members have referred to—his simple generosity. In a place whose very definition is competition, he was a guy who actually would take time. He would give you the gift of his time and the benefit of his ideas in an age when it seems no-one has any time anymore, whether it was the stuff we have talked about here—how you run a mobile office, on which I now have the Queensland patent, or the question of bikes in schools, and the entire Queensland bike retailing industry now owes him a considerable debt. But beyond those things it was just simply having the time to stop in the corridor and not give you the impression that he had to rush by, a rare gift in this place where we are always too busy to stop.

The other thing I would like to mention in this debate—something which most other members have also referred to—is his extraordinary love for his children. You could not visit Greg's office, that eyrie at the other end of the caucus room, without being taken on a tour of the photographs of the children. For me it is inconceivable—as others have said in this debate—that he could have had any idea in his head to have done those children any harm.

The last thing I would say is that after I returned from the visit to China and Korea on which he was supposed to accompany us—and I knew he had had some problems—I remember sitting down with him here and asking, in the usual Australian way, `How's it going, mate?' His response was, `Fine, fine, fine. Everything's okay. Everything's on the mend.' But the thing I ask myself about that exchange is this: have we reached such a stage in our language and in our demeanour with people where, when we ask the question, `How are you, mate?' anyone we are talking to actually believes that we are interested, wants to hear the answer and wants to hear that there may be pain and there may be difficulty? Have we reached such a stage in the economisation of our exchanges that, once again, time becomes all commanding and we are not seen as being interested in the wellbeing of another human being? I will miss him. He was not just a good bloke. He was not just a great mate. He was, as many others have said in this debate, a good man and a good representative of his community. He was one of us. He was our comrade and he was our friend, and we will miss him.