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Thursday, 10 May 2007
Page: 162

Mr HARDGRAVE (11:21 AM) —It may assist the committee if I take a couple of moments to also reflect on Jeannie Ferris. I agree with the member for Casey. I know the member for Blaxland would agree too: as former parliamentary staffers, you get a feel for a variety of things across a wide spectrum.

Mr Slipper —Were you a parliamentary staffer?

Mr HARDGRAVE —I was, member for Fisher, and we are delighted that you have joined us for this debate. I enjoyed my time in that capacity, having been in the media myself for many years in Brisbane radio and television, after having started my radio career at my MacGregor State High School, which is now in my electorate. But when I met people such as Jeannie Ferris and Tony Smith, the member for Casey, there was a deal of common ground, although I suspect that they probably viewed me with a bit of suspicion because who I was working for was probably sitting on the other end of the pew in the Liberal Party broad church. But there is no doubt in my mind that Senator Jeannie Ferris was never afraid to speak her mind. I sat immediately behind her in a fairly integrity-ridden corner of the government party room. The member for Fisher is there, the member for Mitchell is there and the member for Murray is there.

Mr Anthony Smith —I must shift!

Mr HARDGRAVE —Yes, you must shift, member for Casey. It is a very good part of the world. David Fawcett, the member for Wakefield, is there and we have the member for Kalgoorlie behind us. The member for Kalgoorlie and I have a timbre in our voices which seems to travel a little further, no matter how we try to whisper a comment or two.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hatton)—I have noted that in respect of both of you.

Mr HARDGRAVE —Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I simply record with an enormous amount of public humiliation that I was rebuked on a number of occasions by Jeannie Ferris, who was also known to make comments about a few people on occasions. But I think the only thing that I can say very clearly for the record is that Jeannie, as the member for Casey said, did take differences of opinion in her stride and with good humour. She saw a lot of those things as a challenge in the robust cut and thrust of this place. No matter how many times I was rebuked—about three or four times; and I sort of fell into a shell, believe it or not, each time I did it, because I did not want to upset her by any measure. From the time I first met her at coalition staff meetings in the early nineties to the time I last saw her six or seven weeks ago, there was no doubt she stood for something. I think no matter which side of politics we happen to be on, and which particular part of our sides of politics we adhere to, standing for something is an important element in this place.

I think the biggest sword I ever crossed with Jeannie was about my constant and ready rebuke of the other place being the B team. When the red lights flash, as they are in the chamber right now, people touring in this place say, ‘What does a red light mean?’ I say, ‘When the red light flashes something is stopping generally; when the green light is flashing something is going.’ Jeannie hated hearing all of those things: ‘You have no idea how very hard we have to work to secure the government’s agenda through the Senate.’ As the Treasurer always said, on a good day we might have a majority—and Jeannie Ferris, as the government whip in the Senate, had that responsibility. There could not have been a better person to vest that heavy responsibility in and the Prime Minister was right to appoint her to that position.

As can often happen in these condolence motions, there has been a little bit of levity in my contribution which Jeannie would have enjoyed. I think the one thing she would not have enjoyed is the fact there was no time limit imposed because, for Jeannie, it was all about the bells, it was all about the time, it was all about getting there and always adhering to the standing orders and the procedures of the parliament. As I think all the whips in this building know, Jeannie often instructed, ‘Do not use the elevators during divisions; use the stairs.’ Jeannie was very motivated to serve, and serve she did. To her family, to those closest to her and to her staff, I just want to add my voice of sadness and enormous respect for Jeannie Ferris.