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Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Page: 4386

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (17:39): I just want to make a short contribution. I sat for many hours with Senator Back around a committee table on the rural and regional affairs and transport committee, with Senator Heffernan chairing—and anybody who knows former Senator Heffernan will know how long our regular RRAT meetings used to be! I miss our RRAT meetings now that I am no longer a member of the committee.

Senator Sterle: We're having one tomorrow. You can come too!

Senator SIEWERT: That's okay. I have plenty to do tomorrow, thank you very much, Senator Sterle! It was one of the committees I always enjoyed so much, because everybody around that table all agreed. Whether we were coalition—Nationals or Liberals—Labor, Greens, or, later, Nick Xenophon, when he joined the committee, we all had the same focus. Sometimes it was hard to know who had the strongest position on particular issues like biosecurity, for example. We were all together. We also had some very vigorous discussions. I remember, Senator Back, the one about live cattle exports, where we all gave as good as we got. Although we had vehemently differing views, I appreciated and valued the courteous way that Senator Back always kept on issue, and we did not get personal in that debate. We had some fairly fiery meetings of the committee and also when we were at the hearings.

I also remember participating very keenly in the committee when we were looking at how to get more people working in agriculture—and agricultural scientists, in particular. I should declare that, having an agricultural science background myself, I had a particular interest in this. Also, Senator Back worked in the department of agriculture in Western Australia, a very good department in its day, and I also worked in that department, so there were many people we knew in common. When Senator Back first started in the Senate we would go, 'Oh, yes, I know that person'. We both have a love of agriculture and want to see agriculture succeed, particularly in our home state of Western Australia. We have a lot in common, working on the same issues, and we want to see more people make agriculture their profession, because there are very serious issues in this country in that area.

Senator Back, you mentioned and commented very strongly on the issue of cancer in firefighters. We were heavily involved in that. It was one of those very important occasions in this place where we all agreed and we worked across party lines to deliver an outcome. I have said in this place before that it is when we do that sort of thing that I love this place the most—when we are working together on issues to achieve outcomes. That was another one where we did that, and, as you have said, we produced a very good outcome there. Again, on issue of veteran suicide: you were right in commending Senator Lambie for bringing that issue to this place. It is a very serious issue, and I think that committee is doing very important work. The reporting deadline has now been extended to August, and I am sorry that you are not going to be here for that. I was rereading some of the evidence just the other day, and there was some really important evidence given to that inquiry. Again, it is a situation where we are all working together.

Senator Back, you have always contributed to those areas where we can work together. We have had our strong disagreements. I have bellowed across the chamber at you on many occasions—I freely acknowledge that—but I have also valued the time we have worked together and the time we spent on the plane on those long trips. Through those I have learnt of your strong love and support for your family. I really hope that you get to spend a very long time with your family, in whichever country they happen to be at the time, with Linda by your side. I got to know her during that time as well, so, as I said to you in the chamber, please give her our love. She has been there every step of the way. I will miss you; this place will miss you. I wish you good luck into the future and hope you spend, as I said, many long years with your family.