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Thursday, 23 June 2005
Page: 65

Mr JOHN COBB (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services) (1:35 PM) —by leave—There was one thing said this morning which I did not really agree with. It was said by John Anderson himself—that he was not a totally committed politician. Perhaps it depends somewhat on your interpretation of what that means. To me it means—and certainly in John Anderson’s case it is correct—that he came here because he had a desire to set things right or to fix them. After all, that is what politics should be about. Perhaps the Deputy Prime Minister meant that he did not necessarily believe in politics for its own sake. Certainly he came here as somebody with an absolutely total commitment to making things work and fixing them. Although he came here in 1989, I think he stood for the seat of Paterson prior to that. When he took over the seat of Gwydir from Ralph Hunt, who I know very well, Ralph said to me: ‘My successor, John Anderson, is somebody who will do things for the National Party. He will certainly do things for the parliament.’ If you listened here today, it did not matter what side of the benches people were talking from, John Anderson has done something for this parliament. He has set a standard for decency that I suggest will never be bettered while ever we all remain in this parliament or this parliament stands, as indeed it should for many years.

As a cabinet minister—which John Anderson has been for all the time he has been in government—he did two things early on as the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy and then as Minister for Transport and Regional Services: he held a rural economic summit and, later, a regional summit. Those two summits did enormous things for country and regional Australia. The first one brought out things like the Regional Solutions program and Networking the Nation. It identified the problems. The Prime Minister referred earlier to the fact that things were damned tough in the bush when this government came to power. In relation to the two summits I have referred to, John Anderson identified the issues through the summit delegates. I was a delegate to both those summits when I was in agripolitics, and they clearly identified our problems. What has happened since then has clearly shown that John Anderson listened and, because of that, the government listened to what he said.

The National Rural Finance Summit and the Regional Australia Summit delivered things like Regional Partnerships, which I now have the honour of looking after on his behalf. It did those things which helped regional people feel better about themselves and actually helped them in an enormous way to help themselves. John Anderson is totally committed to having an Australia that is dependent not on welfare but on itself—on its own resources and doing things. That is exemplified in everything that he led this government to do as a result of not just coming into power, but finding out what country Australians really needed.

The resources that have come into play in regional Australia in the last nine years—especially, I would have to say, in the last six years—certainly have been due in no small measure to what he has done. Whether it has been in water, infrastructure or whatever, John Anderson has led us to it. I believe he has led this party in an exemplary fashion. He has been, certainly to someone like myself who knew him in a previous life, a man totally of his word. I remember during the debate over native title, when those of us in western New South Wales got very frustrated about what was happening, that John Anderson obtained from the Prime Minister a commitment that the government would pay for any court cases to do with it. After that legislation became law, John Anderson held the government to that commitment. As a result, those in western New South Wales were able to take themselves away from it. Nobody really knows what native title is to this day, but they were able to get themselves out from under what many saw as a threat.

Most of what needs to be said has been said. John and Julia and their family have, thankfully, a lot to look forward to and a lot to remember. Anybody who has served with him, whether in this party or elsewhere, will never forget it. The thing that I have to go back to is that John Anderson set a standard for decency and for being straight that will never be matched in this parliament.