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Thursday, 21 February 2008
Page: 1225

Mr LAMING (12:21 PM) —We remember also a colleague of Helen Mayer, that being Leonard Joseph Keogh. He is a predecessor of mine in the seat of Bowman. Over an 18-year period Len was the classic, traditional local member. I was lucky enough to meet him during the last two or three years, in my first term. Unfortunately, Len passed away in October last year. He was remembered at a very large congregation and service at the Star of the Sea Catholic Church at Cleveland on 17 October last year. Former members from both sides of the political divide gathered there. I quote substantially from a speech delivered by his son Michael. Len received the classic Brisbane Catholic education at St Laurence’s from the Christian Brothers. He gained his junior certificate in 1947 and became a structural draftsman at the Evans Deakin shipyard. He completed a certificate in structural engineering drafting in 1950 and worked for several firms before starting his own, a concrete firm, which he retained up until he entered parliament for the first time.

Len had an extraordinary history of service to the ALP. Obviously, it began with his joining in 1949. A decade and a half later, like so many first-time politicians, he was given the almost impossible task of running against a formidable opponent from the other side of politics—in this case Jim Killen, in 1966, in the seat of Moreton. That was a very difficult election given the Vietnam War was a major issue that year. But, like so many determined individuals, Len stood again, this time in Bowman, and was successful. He was the member for Bowman for six years, from 1969 to 1975, and then for a second stretch from 1983 to 1987. In that time Len saw an extraordinary series of changes in Australian politics federally and also the hegemony of the National Party in Queensland. Len returned after politics to a life in local government as the then Chairman of the Redland Shire Council from 1991 to 1994, prior to that job shifting over to become that of mayor. He was also the Chairman of the South West Queensland Electricity Board.

It is worth remembering that Len in fact came from a political family. His father, John, of Irish background was the Mayor of South Brisbane prior to 1927, when the two Brisbane councils were amalgamated. John ran unsuccessfully against William Jolley of the bridge fame. It was a great passion of Len’s to one day also be a mayor of his southern Brisbane area. He was chairman but the term ‘mayor’ was not created until after he had left public office.

He was born in the Great Depression. His son Michael gave, in the eulogy delivered by him, a fantastic description of life for a young boy in the 1930s. I would like to read that into Hansard:


for the Keogh family—

were spent going to Grandma’s at Sandgate, and-the Broadway picture theatre at Woolloongabba. He was in the Church Youth Club and played tennis. He was also a keen fan of the cricket. Family holidays were spent at Margate. He joined the school cadet corps and watched his older brothers go to war whilst the girls worried at home.

Len’s first job was as a cadet draughtsman at a shipping yard ...

A very earthy beginning. As we would later see in his maiden speech, he had a real focus on some of the big picture issues of infrastructure and of hospitals and universities, which we realise now not only involved important forethought but were very important developments for Queensland given the rate of population growth.

Len met his lovely wife, Joan—who lives today in the suburb of Ormiston—at the famed Cloudland, where, according to reports, he literally swept her off her feet. What better story can there be of this couple than that they already had six children under the age of nine when Len first ran for politics. He was to go on to run 11 times for public office. That can only speak as an extraordinary tribute to his wife and his children. As I said, Len was not successful the first time, but that defeat did not deter him, and that quality became very characteristic of Len Keogh.

Throughout his career he noted the difficulties faced by talented members of the community who aspire to public representation but who, despite their qualities and hard work, lack the backing of large organisations or, as we refer to them now, factions. He wanted parliament to be truly representative of the wider cross-sections of the community, and I think Len Keogh represented just that. He knew that healthy democracy requires the voices of ordinary people to be heard and acted upon. When we think about our parliamentarians, that debate about diversity continues to this day.

Len was the traditional politician, taking calls late at night like a family GP. He had the understanding of the needs of people. I would like to read into Hansard the names of a number of groups of which he was patron: the Yurara Redland art group; the Redland Indians baseball club; the Redlands cricket club; the junior rugby league club; the Redland and Capalaba soccer clubs; the ‘Muddies’ cricket and rugby union clubs; the Alexandra Hills Australian Rules football club; the Capalaba, Cleveland, Birkdale and Wynnum scouts associations; and the Cleveland Guides. You do not see too many free nights there to spend at home with family.

There was a plaque on the wall of Len Keogh’s office with the quote: ‘Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.’  It reflected on the fact that there are many unsuccessful men with talent, that unrewarded genius is almost a proverb and that there are many educated failures, but that persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. As his son Michael recalls, Len’s persistence and determination were abundantly evident in his battle against prostate cancer. He never gave up trying every possible treatment, with his family at his side to provide loving support and encouragement. He was a gentle and amiable man. He has a record of a lifetime of dedicated and diligent service to the Redlands. He will be missed by everyone who lives in our area.

Debate (on motion by Ms Grierson) adjourned.