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Wednesday, 13 February 2002
Page: 216


Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) (5:08 PM) —This is an opportunity for us to say a few words about two colleagues, one of whom has just retired from the Senate and one of whom is about to retire. Jocelyn Newman recently retired and Brian Gibson, as he mentioned in moving the address-in-reply today, will have retired before we meet again in this chamber. This is an opportunity for us to recognise with appreciation what they have contributed to the Senate and to public life in Australia.

Jocelyn Newman and I have worked together in this place for a considerable period of time. She came in 1986, from a strong professional background. Actually it is a very varied background, as not only a lawyer but a business woman—and, somebody told me, a pea and potato farmer. That could only happen in Tasmania, of course. She was a strong community worker and, I think she would like to say, a soldier's wife, a mother and a whole lot of other things that enabled her to have a great breadth of experience and talent to bring to this place. That was quickly recognised in the shadow ministry. She was, at various times, shadow minister for veterans affairs, which was an area she greatly loved; defence, science and personnel; the aged; status of women—another area where she had a great commitment; family; health; and defence. She is obviously somebody who was recognised early for her talents and was given significant responsibility in opposition.

When you look at her early contributions in the Senate, you see the strong values that she brought to this place and the causes that she was going to fight for during the years she was here. I remember in her first speech she talked about her commitment to our federal system of justice, to education, to family life and to social security, but in particular she talked about responsibility. If there are two words that, in my experience of Jocelyn over a long time, encapsulate her attitude and her contribution, they are `responsibility' and `duty.' She saw that she had a major responsibility as a Tasmanian senator, as a shadow minister and, later on, as a minister, but she also saw that she had a duty to the Australian people that she was performing in this place.

She was appointed Minister for Social Security, Minister for Family and Community Services, and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women. She spent a considerable time as the only woman in cabinet, which gave her an extra responsibility which she represented very well. Some might say that she may have been one woman, but she more than matched all those males on gender issues.

She and her husband were, I think, the first example of a husband and wife who served in a ministry in the Commonwealth. Her late husband was, of course, a minister in the Fraser government—


Senator Faulkner —Joseph and Enid Lyons.


Senator Abetz —Another good Tasmanian example.


Senator HILL —It comes with Tasmania. It took a long time for there to be another example. But it was a succession with the Lyonses, whereas this was a little more difficult to achieve—if I can put it delicately, with no disrespect to the Lyons family.

She mentioned what she sees as her highlights, and I think they are worth putting on the record at this time. They do not surprise me at all. They are: firmly placing welfare reform on the agenda and delivering a directional statement that made clear the government's intentions on reform of the social security system; the establishment of Centrelink, the most significant reform of public sector administration in the history of the Commonwealth; and restoration of public confidence in the administration of Australia's social security system. She did all three, and that enormous achievement would be enough for her to be recognised as a very significant contributor to public life and public reform in this country. Jocelyn has, of course, not had it easy, with bouts of serious ill health and also the death of her late husband while she was serving in a ministry. But, in typical Jocelyn style, she battled on, performed her duty and continued to be an excellent contributor to the government.

I also want to mention other areas of interest to Jocelyn. I mentioned defence. Like all Tasmanians, she has a particular interest in rural and regional affairs and is also very involved in and committed to the education of gifted and talented children, something which I think is often neglected in this country. I mentioned her passionate interest in women's issues. I remind honourable senators that Jocelyn was a founding member of the women's shelters in Hobart and Launceston. She was also an early member, if not a founding member, of the Women's Electoral Lobby. Outside of her political world and her family, gardening was, and remains, a great interest of hers. She was a member of the Federal Executive of the Australian Garden History Society. Her inspiration has been her family and the sense of duty that she shared with her husband, through service life and the commitment of that form of service. This has all contributed to the career of a politician who I believe has made a very significant contribution to this Senate, to Australian government and to public life in this country.

Apart from all those things, she has been a good friend of mine and a good supporter. Within the party, within the Senate and within cabinet, we have had a few battles in which we have found ourselves on the same side and, more often than not, we have won in the end. I think it has probably been her help that has enabled that to be achieved. I wish Jocelyn all the best in her retirement— she deserves it. In my view, her retirement will be a significant loss to the Liberal Party, to this Senate and to Australian public life.

Brian Gibson has not been with us for as long. What do they say about Brian? People have said, `He's a nice bloke. You couldn't find a more principled man.' Somebody once said to me, `Brian Gibson is far too good for politics—far too good to be a politician,' and I sometimes think there was an ounce of truth in that. Brian came to us with a strong academic background, with a degree in science, in forestry, an arts degree from Melbourne University, and having studied management at Harvard Business School. He had worked within Australia and internationally. I do not think everyone knows that he worked with the United Nations. As I understand, he studied management at the Harvard Business School in Switzerland and then worked with the United Nations in Jamaica. He is indeed a worldly person.

In the areas of forestry and agricultural matters, which were really his professional strengths when he came here, there is nobody with a better knowledge in this parliament than Brian. He has been recognised for his contributions to the forest industry. In 1988 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the forestry industry when, as President of the National Association of Forest Industry, he was prominent in forestry matters in Tasmania. His business career included being Managing Director of Australian Newsprint Mills, Chair of the Hydro-Electric Commission of Tasmania and Councillor of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. (Extension of time granted)

His contribution, apart from being a really decent fellow whom you could rely on at all times to give you sound and fearless advice, has been predominantly in the business and financial accountability areas. We will all remember his contribution to the new tax system and his contribution to enhancing the audit capabilities of the parliament. He served for a while as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, and did that ably, I might say. I would have to say, putting it in its most mild form, that he was a touch unlucky in the circumstances that ended that when he was certainly on the rise within his parliamentary career.

I wish Brian a long, happy and enjoyable retirement and I want to be recorded as particularly appreciating the contribution that he has made to my party, to this Senate and to public life in Australia.