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Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Page: 7167

Mr GRAY (BrandSpecial Minister of State and Minister for the Public Service and Integrity) (21:42): I rise to pay tribute to the Hon. Frank Walker, the former member for Robertson and a minister in the Keating government. Frank was Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council from 1993 to 1994 and Minister for Administrative Services from 1994 to 1996. Prior to entering federal politics, he served with distinction as a New South Wales minister from 1976 to 1988. In fact, he was the youngest person to be appointed as New South Wales Attorney-General, at 34 years of age, in May 1976.

Frank was born in Sydney and attended Coffs Harbour High School. He studied law at Sydney university and practised as a solicitor before being elected in 1970 as a member of the New South Wales parliament for the division of Georges River, at 32 years of age. Frank was also the first dedicated Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in New South Wales. This was a policy area for which he had great passion and for which he willingly endured pain. Frank worked hard through his political career to make a difference. He represented Georges River in the New South Wales parliament for 17 years, losing his seat in 1988, when Labor in New South Wales ran out of puff and the Unsworth government was defeated. Not one to give up on politics, Frank moved to federal and was elected as the member for Robertson in 1990. In his first term, he served on the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Community Affairs and Standing Committee on Procedure.

In 1993, he was appointed Special Minister of State. In this role, Frank played a critical part in the debate on native title following the landmark Mabo High Court decision 20 years ago. His dogged advocacy and his willingness to undertake the hard negotiations contributed to the passage of the Native Title Act in 1993. This followed his achievement in introducing land rights legislation in New South Wales 10 years earlier, in 1983. As history has shown, a workable scheme in native title administration is one of the landmark reforms that the Keating Labor government delivered. As Special Minister of State, Frank Walker also worked to deliver a tightened electoral disclosure system that improved our electoral disclosure laws, forming part of the framework that ensures that our political system is both clean and robust and one that can be supported by businesses and contributors, knowing full well that the disclosure system itself keeps our parliamentary democracy with a brand of transparency but also with a core of support that allows us to do our work. Frank worked very hard to deliver that reform. Following his departure from politics, Frank served on the Workers Compensation Tribunal then as a District Court judge in New South Wales.

The deaths of Frank's two sons, both sufferers of schizophrenia, brought pain that no parent should have to bear. Frank used the skills, connections and experience that he had acquired from his political and judicial career to improve the welfare of those suffering from mental illness. He was president of the Schizophrenia Fellowship of New South Wales until his death and worked hard to eliminate the stigma attached to mental illness and to ensure that people with a mental illness had access to information and services.

Frank's legacy in law reform, Indigenous affairs, native title, housing, mental health, social justice and electoral reform is a true testament to this modern Labor man. I extend my deepest sympathy to Frank's wife, Pamela, as I join with Frank's other Labor Party and parliamentary colleagues in bidding farewell to a dedicated, hardworking public servant. I commend this motion to the Federation Chamber.