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Monday, 23 May 2011
Page: 4038

Mr TRUSS (Wide BayLeader of The Nationals) (14:09): The Nationals have lost one of the great legends of our party with the passing of Ralph Hunt. Ralph worked tirelessly for the people he represented and stood strong on the issues. He was always a gentleman, as other speakers have mentioned, and he certainly earned the respect and the admiration of his colleagues across the political divide. He was one of those people who graced every function he attended. He was an adornment to the causes that he represented and he always undertook his representation with dignity and decorum. Nonetheless, he was a fierce champion for rural and regional communities. He was noted for his loyalty and his dedication and his integrity. In any fight, those are the attributes of the people you want on your side.

As others have mentioned, he was born in Narrabri. He became a local farmer and grazier at Collarenebri. Between 1956 and 1968, he was a councillor on the Boomi Shire Council and held the position of vice-president for six years. His father, Claude, was one of the key figures in the establishment of the Country Party, particularly in northern New South Wales. Ralph had a significant career within the party organisation. He served as state and federal president of the Australian Country Party and played a pivotal role in establishing the Young Australian Country Party, particularly in New South Wales.

In June 1969 he won the seat of Gwydir in a by-election. He was appointed Minister for the Interior in the Gorton-Anthony ministry in February 1971 and held that position until the defeat of the government at the 1972 election. Upon winning the 1975 federal election, Ralph was appointed as the federal Minister for Health in the Fraser-Anthony government. In December 1979 he was made Minister for Transport, and that portfolio was extended in 1982 to include construction. He was Deputy Leader of the National Party between 1984 and 1987.

Ralph was also the federal treasurer of the party for more than 12 years and was instrumental in the redevelopment of the party's secretariat here in Canberra, John McEwen House. He retired in February 1989 and was honoured for his distinguished contribution to public life by being made an Officer of the Order of Australia. Ralph was honoured for his 60-year contribution to the Nationals at our federal conference in Canberra last year.

We all knew him, and we knew him fondly. As the Leader of the Opposition said, he was someone you could go to for advice, and he was particularly keen to nurture young members of parliament and to tell them of some of his own experiences. Lessons learnt from Ralph Hunt were good lessons and lessons well worth learning.

At this time, the Nationals in particular extend our deepest sympathy to Ralph's wife, Miriam—'Mim', as she was known to her many friends—and their three children. I would particularly like to thank them for giving us all so much of Ralph's life and the energy and commitment that he contributed to public life, to the Nationals and to regional Australia.

The SPEAKER: As a mark of respect, I invite honourable members to rise in their places.

Honourable members having stood in their places—

Debate adjourned.