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Wednesday, 13 February 2002
Page: 228

Senator CALVERT (6:18 PM) —It is certainly a sad day for Tasmania when I have to stand here and say farewell to two fine Tasmanian senators. To do credit to them in 10 minutes is not quite fair, but I suppose when one looks back on what has been said today one can see that there has been a fair summation already of the expertise of both of them. So I will be as brief as I can.

It does not seem like 13 years that I have been working with Jocelyn Newman as a colleague. As has been said, Jocelyn was a woman of many talents, and arguably the most senior Tasmanian politician of all time—having had control at one stage of 40 per cent of the Australian Commonwealth budget. That gives some idea of the workload that she had, and the reforms that she made. References made to her work by people on the other side tonight are a fair indication of how respected Jocelyn Newman was. I remember her reflecting to me about farming. She said, `Don't talk to me about farming; I used to go out there feeding my pigs in my gumboots.' That that same person could be hobnobbing with leaders around the world and putting Australia's point of view just shows the wide breadth of talent and ability that Jocelyn had.

As I said earlier, it is a sad loss. My first memories of Jocelyn are from 1987 when I was first drafted into the Liberal Party as No. 5 on the Senate ticket and we were travelling around Tasmania in a bus. I was very humble to be with people like Brian Archer, John Watson, Shirley Walters and Jocelyn Newman. I got to drive the bus. Of course, Brian Archer and John Watson got to sit down the back, and Shirley Walters and Jocelyn Newman got to argue about who sat up the front. I have to say that Jocelyn usually won. I remember one day driving through Launceston when Shirley said, `Go left at the next turn,' and Jocelyn said, `Go right at the next turn,' so I went straight ahead and they both tackled me and said, `What did you do that for?' I said, `When you make up your minds about which way we are going to go, we'll continue our journey.' That was my first glimpse of what strong politicians, particularly on the female side, we had in Tasmania. I do not think my view on that has changed since then. Shirley Walters, in her own way, was quite tough as well. They had one driving force and it was this: whatever we did had to be for Tasmania. In later years, Jocelyn was a champion not only for Tasmania but also for women and for good government in Australia. There is no doubt that there has never been a finer cabinet minister from Tasmania than Jocelyn Newman.

I understand that in her retirement Jocelyn is here in Canberra, busily tackling her garden. Two loves of her life are her garden and her grandchildren. I am pleased to see that she is retired in Canberra with both of those. She has gone from cracking down on welfare cheats to cracking down on weeds in her garden, and I wish her well in that respect. I am sure she will do that with just as much vigour and enthusiasm as she did when she was in the very senior position she held.

I think we all know what a great team she and Kevin were and what they did for Tasmania. They will be legends in the Liberal Party for their support of that party and for what they have done for Tasmania. I do not really think that we can put into words how much the loss of Jocelyn is going to be. I wish her well. I am sure that we will see a lot more of Jocelyn one way or another and I hope everything goes well.

As far as my good friend Brian Gibson goes, I think I knew Pauline before I knew Brian because Pauline used to ride a horse next door and I got to know her when she was trotting past on her horse. I did not know Brian from a bar of soap. I was sitting on the plane one day coming to Canberra and he introduced himself to me. Little did I know that what he was doing was bleeding me to find out what all this Senate business was about because he had made up his mind that that was where he wanted to come—and he did. I think we heard this morning, from what Brian said, just what a practical businessman he was. He knows exactly what should be done and where we should be going. Given both the quotes he made this morning from the ACIL report and from Alan Wood in the Australian—this is really only a dream—if we could put Brian with half a dozen decent businessmen in charge of Tasmania for a couple of years without any obstruction from some of these minority groups around the place, I am sure we would find that the balance sheet for Tasmania would improve very quickly over the next two or three years, because that is the sort of calibre of businessman he is. We have already talked about his forestry background and the fact that for his work in that area he was awarded an AM. Being the chief executive of ANM for nine years—

Senator Harradine —OA, isn't it?

Senator CALVERT —I have got here Order of Australia, yes, or AM. A member of the Order of Australia, to be perfectly correct. Looking at Brian's first speech in this place, he said:

Being responsible for managing a manufacturing company is a good position from which to observe and understand the Australian economy ...

Brian certainly did that, and he certainly brought that expertise into this place. The significance of his victory was not lost on the leadership and we know that he was given charge of the ANTS package and all that went with it. I recall seeing Brian's latest piece of work, the final report on mass marketed tax schemes that he has just completed. I know how hard you worked on that, Brian. I just hope that the government takes that on board and uses it as it should be used.

One Senate insider—I heard this from the Leader of the Opposition here today—described Brian as one of the Senate's finest committee chairs. A senior staffer described his style as even-handed. He is not a shouter or screamer; he is quiet and yet very effective. We have heard those things said today. The 660-odd submissions you had on the ANTS package must have been quite horrific, Brian. I think it was only your cool head and commonsense that prevailed. Riding shotgun over that coalition tax reform system was a great effort and helped us out considerably.

Another commentator in this place said that often the love of golf has provided fertile ground for cross-party relationships and Brian has a fine touch in building up the necessary groundwork using common interests. From personal experience, I can tell you that when Brian retires one thing he could possibly do is take up being a professional golf coach because his golfing ability in recent weeks has been quite good. In fact, I expect to see his handicap reducing very quickly over the next few months.

Another colleague recently said that Brian Gibson often jokes that he is trying to make a decent senator out of Stephen Conroy. We might hear about that a bit later on.

I think one of the biggest losers in Tasmania with Brian's retirement will be the business community. Your relationship with the business community in Hobart and all round Tasmania, your fundraising efforts for the party and just being there are things that will be very difficult to replace. Your views are shared by like colleagues on the Modest Members, and you are quite a significant contributor to that group.

Time is running short but, on behalf of Jill and myself, I voice our best wishes. I have already said a dozen times what great friends you have become. We will see a lot more of you and I will be able to tell you what is happening in this place. A senator who may be speaking later today said:

It is trite to say that every senator brings something to the Senate, but Brian Gibson brought qualities and abilities and a background which is not shared by many. In my view, his loss will be noticeable and will reduce the quality of the forums that he operated in.

That colleague might be talking later in the debate. That is a fair indication of just what your colleagues in this place think of you, Brian. (Time expired)

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Knowles)—Before I call Senator Conroy, I acknowledge in the gallery former senator Warwick Parer and welcome you back among your friends.