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Thursday, 10 May 2007
Page: 161

Mr ANTHONY SMITH (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) (11:15 AM) —I would like to associate myself with the condolence motion and follow the remarks of the Prime Minister, senior South Australian ministers, in particular, in the House, and others who have spoken here in the Main Committee before me this day. Jeannie was known and well regarded not only by all members of the coalition but, as has been made clear in discussion on this motion, by many members of the opposition and the minor parties in the Senate. Many have spoken before me about her great characteristics—her feistiness, her dedication to the policy causes she believed in, her wonderful personality. I saw all of those firsthand here, as a member of parliament. But I wanted to talk about my friendship with Jeannie, which began many years ago, before I was elected as a member of parliament, when I worked as a staff member for the member for Higgins, now Treasurer. I think we started work together on the same day in this building. I remember trying to find my way around—it was a fair while ago; I would have called myself young in those days, in 1990. I had just started work with the member for Higgins and Jeannie had started work with Ian McLachlan.

Mr Hardgrave —I was there too!

Mr ANTHONY SMITH —Indeed, the member for Moreton was there as well. She was very friendly, sought me out—she had never met me before—and said, ‘We’ve got to get together.’ Of course, Ian McLachlan and Peter Costello were old friends and had worked on so many cases together in the industrial relations field, and Jeannie had worked with them in her previous role at the National Farmers Federation. She was a great help to me in making me feel at home back in the early 1990s. She was a wonderful influence.

Her background, having worked as a journalist and in politics—and, I think the member for Moreton would agree, in agri-politics, if you could call it that, with the National Farmers Federation—stood her in very good stead and ensured that she did a very good job working with Ian McLachlan. I think I was 22 or 23 at the time. I was astounded by the way Jeannie always knew what was going on, as a result of her experience and contacts. We would often catch up around news time. It was pretty obvious to me that she was a very knowledgeable lady.

Jeannie entered the Senate after the 1996 election, and that is where most people in this parliament know her from. She had a very distinguished career as a senator. When people look back on Jeannie’s career, and they look back at her contribution, there will be no denying that she is somebody who always stood up for what she believed in. She was prepared to argue for the things she held dear. She was prepared to argue against her friends—and she was prepared to argue very strongly. We saw that particularly over the last couple of years in some key debates in the Senate.

I did not always agree with her. Sometimes I did and sometimes I did not, but she would always put her case very forcefully. If you had a difference of opinion after she had put her case forcefully, she was always cheery, always happy. Many in this debate have spoken about her wonderful smile and just what a happy disposition she had, and that is how we will remember her here in this place. Her untimely death has affected many of her close friends, particularly those from South Australia. I know she was particularly close friends with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Finance. In debate on this motion we should recognise her wonderful contribution and remember the wonderful person that she was.