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Wednesday, 13 February 2002
Page: 231

Senator FERGUSON (6:31 PM) —My contribution will be somewhat brief, because much has been said and I do not think it needs to be repeated ad nauseam. I am also very pleased to be following Senator Conroy, because Senator Gibson and I followed him for months and months on the GST committee, and if it was not for Senator Gibson I do not think I would have stayed sane. It was very appropriate that Senator Conroy should express those comments just prior to my speaking.

Senator Calvert said it is a sad day for Tasmania that we have lost two senators, and we are speaking about two senators on this occasion. In fact, it is more than a loss for Tasmania, because it is a loss particularly for the Liberal Party and also for this whole chamber. I did not know Senator Newman as well as I have known Senator Gibson, but all the time that I have been here I have known the contributions that both she and her husband, Kevin, made to the Liberal Party and to the parliament, both serving as ministers and both representing Tasmania in a way that they could be proud of. I know that Tasmanians were proud of the way the Newmans represented Tasmania to their very fullest ability.

I am very sorry that Jocelyn is not here today; I think she may be around the place somewhere but she is not in the chamber. Senator Newman can be very proud of her contribution to this chamber. Certainly we in the Liberal Party owe her a great debt of gratitude because of the work that she did, initially as the only woman member of the first Howard cabinet. She was someone who made a significant contribution. I want to place on record my appreciation of what Senator Newman did for this chamber, for this parliament, for this government and for the Liberal Party as a whole.

I want to turn now to my good friend and colleague Senator Gibson. I notice someone said `Senator Gibson AM'. I have to tell you I do not know much about the a.m., because Brian gets up far earlier than I do and runs for miles, but I did know him extensively in the p.m., which was after lunch! Senator Gibson has been one of my great friends in this parliament. I served with him on a number of committees. Back when Brian first came here, we were involved in economics and he eventually took over the economics committee that I chaired for some five or six years. Indeed, through all the last years that we were in opposition prior to coming into government, the concentration was on economics and tax reform.

I remember Senator Gibson's tax task force, which I happened to be on because I was chair of the economics committee, and those 660 submissions, the people we met and the way that we actually shaped what was to become the policy. I know that if we had been able to get through parliament all of the things Brian would have liked to have had in the ANTS package, we would have had a much better system than we have now, because Brian worked on it extensively and every time he made a decision relating to taxation he did it with everybody's interests in mind. It was never what was best for a certain section of the community; Brian always looked at things in a fair way. The recommendations that came out of that tax task force resulted from nine or 10 months of concentrated effort. Then, once we won the election, we were part of the GST inquiry, which meant another 10 months, and we went all over Australia on that committee.

I think Brian's lasting legacy to this place is the outstanding work that he put in to the economic status of the nation, to taxation reform, to the context with business. He was a dynamic parliamentary secretary, always wanting to change things for the better, always trying to improve the system we had, to make it better, to make it easier for business, to make it more fair and equitable. That was his sole aim. I think that probably tells us about the nature of Brian Gibson, who came to this place after a lifetime in business. He came here with the experience of knowing that one had to take some hard knocks during life. Life's experience makes people better senators—I am quite sure of that. Brian, I think I am right in saying you were 55 or 56 when you came to this place?

Senator Gibson —Yes.

Senator FERGUSON —He had a whole career and lifetime behind him before he entered the Senate, and I think that experience showed in every single decision he made while he was here and in the way he tried to influence us within the party. I am quite sure that Brian will never be recorded by historians or the media as someone who made this outstanding contribution to the parliament, because he will not be remembered for his speeches or startling comments. All he ever did was work hard and try and make sure that everything he did was improving this place and the way that Australians can live. There are not many people who come to this chamber with only those objects in mind. Certainly Senator Gibson did.

He has been a great friend, and I am sure he will remain a great friend. I have enjoyed his company. I know this will not be the last time we see him; we just will not see him quite so regularly, which means I will not lose to him quite so often at golf—it will save me quite a bit! Pauline is also a golf enthusiast, and it probably should be put on the Hansard record that she lopped four strokes off her handicap last week. That probably has not been in Hansard before. In the future, Pauline and Brian will have an enormous chance to enjoy their life together, something which the separation of parliamentary life does not allow people to do. Brian, both Anne and I wish you all the best in retirement. I am sure retirement for you will be very busy. We look forward to seeing you many times in the future. May your future be a happy one.