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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Page: 6970


Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (19:10): I rise this evening to acknowledge the service of six retiring coalition senators who in the last week have given their valedictory speeches and will finish their terms on 30 June this year. In particular my comments relate to Senator Nick Minchin. The other senators—Barnett, McGauran, Troeth, Trood and Ferguson—we will miss enormously, in particular Senator Trood, from Queensland, who I think we did not get to see the best of in this parliament. He gave a compelling valedictory speech last week.

Senator Ferguson, from my state of South Australia, has been a stalwart of the Liberal Party in South Australia for many years. He gave a tremendous valedictory speech last night. I thought it summed up the man and his service to our party. He has indicated that he will continue his involvement in the South Australian Liberal Party in years to come, particularly in the regional areas where he has done so much fine work over such a long period of time.

I want to spend some time this evening acknowledging Senator Nick Minchin's contribution to this place, to Australia and to the great Liberal Party, and the legacy that he leaves. I have previously made comments in relation to former Prime Minister Howard and former Treasurer Costello, acknowledging their service, and it is only just that I also do so for Senator Minchin, who was an extremely important part of one of Australia's best governments.

Senator Minchin was Minister for Finance and Administration for six years and delivered surplus budgets in each of those years. He continues to be someone who stands by his convictions, and there is no greater virtue in public life than in being someone who stands by their convictions, whether they are popular or unpopular. Many of the issues that Senator Minchin has pursued in his long career have not been what you would describe as popular views. He stands proudly by his views, which is compelling about Nick and the way in which he has gone about his career.

The Liberal Party, unfortunately, loses some people too early. I think Nick could have gone on and I wish he had gone on. I am personally very disappointed that I will not get to serve longer in this place with Senator Minchin. He started his career in the Liberal Party here in Canberra in 1977. I think he mentioned June 1977 last night, which coincidentally is the month and year of my birth. That gives an indication of the longstanding commitment Nick has given our party and this place.

Senator Minchin was a state director in South Australia, he was deputy federal director of the party and he was part of the Liberal Party administration that led us to a sensational victory in South Australia in the early nineties. He was also an enormous part of the intellectual fabric of our party in 1996 when we came back to government. He was very closely associated with the leadership of the former member for Mayo, which was an interesting time in Australian politics and a period that I am sure helped develop Senator Minchin's political antenna. His has one of the great political antennas in this country.

I am indebted to my very good friend Senator Scott Ryan for the description of Senator Minchin he gave last night. He said:

I am not quite Senator Minchin compliant. I am not a monarchist and I do not necessarily share his sympathy for the car industry. But those of us who might describe themselves as free trading, tax-cutting federalists have no greater inspiration.

That is a perfectly reasonable description and so perfectly put by Senator Ryan, and that is how I see Senator Minchin. He has contributed enormously to this party. He has contributed in ways that many people would never understand. I personally owe him a debt of gratitude for the advice he has offered me over a substantial period of time. I have not always agreed and I will not always agree with Nick's views but on many I do, particularly those outlined by Senator Ryan. I pay tribute to Nick and his five colleagues who are entering retirement by choice or by force.