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Wednesday, 13 February 2002
Page: 244

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) (7:28 PM) —I thank the Senate and I thank my colleagues, particularly the new very competent Deputy Whip who has juggled a very difficult list this afternoon. I know how she feels! I want to associate myself with the comments about Brian Gibson and Jocelyn Newman. I have not checked their biographies—so, Brian and Jocelyn, if you are watching, this is from the heart. They are, without fear of contradiction, two giants—not in the sense of physical stature, I hasten to add, but in their standing amongst us their colleagues and in their achievements in the parliament and in their communities.

It has been my lot to inherit from Brian much of his considered work as an outstanding contributor to committees. In particular, it falls to me to try to bed down some aspects of the 21st century tax system that we now have in this country and to which he made such a significant contribution in that extensive committee investigation into a new tax system. I have also inherited the work of the Senate reports on the mass marketed schemes. It will once again fall to me to draw from the work of that committee to try to find a balance between promoters of tax aggressive schemes on the one hand and more hapless investors on the other hand.

I also want to acknowledge his great business acumen, which has been evident throughout all of the work he has done in parliament and which I have particularly noted as a fellow committee member on the Joint Standing Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, where he was always a voice of reason and always brought his expertise to bear. His business acumen will be sorely missed. He is a capable, most able senator whose promotion to the executive, as many have said, was well deserved but all too brief.

Jocelyn Newman, as many have noted, has had a most illustrious career as the first woman in the Howard cabinet and as a distinguished Minister for Social Security. I will just pick out one of her contributions: her contribution in reforming the welfare system was nothing short of a landmark in this country. Building on the McClure report, Jocelyn Newman, although not particularly well herself and having suffered the loss of her beloved husband, had the vision, the energy and the drive to push through reforms that focused on building the potential of every Australian, looking not at what people cannot do but what they were capable of, what they can do. It has revolutionised our thinking about welfare as a hand-up to the genuinely needy and not a hand-out.

I have been very honoured to serve as Jocelyn Newman's representative for the status of women in New South Wales. Jocelyn was a pioneer, as indeed have been many of the more senior women members in parliament. She never kicked the ladder out behind her. She was always one who encouraged those who came after her. I must say that I am personally so proud of her achievements.

To Brian and Jocelyn: we will miss you because you took the time to mentor and advise those of us who were much younger in the sense of coming into parliament much after you. Your experience and your wisdom and your friendship were available to us all. We say au revoir but not goodbye to Brian and Jocelyn: two great Australians, two great Tasmanians, two great parliamentarians and two much loved and respected colleagues.