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Wednesday, 30 June 1999
Page: 8008

Mr ANTHONY (8:43 PM) —Today has been a very significant day for the National Party; today in less than three hours and 15 minutes we will lose two of our senators—Senator Bill O'Chee and Senator Sandy Macdonald, one from New South Wales and one from Queensland—who have served with distinction their states and indeed our party. We wish them well, as they took up the fight in one of our darkest hours prior to the 1998 general election.

Of course, today is also the day that Tim Fischer announced that he would be stepping down as Leader of the National Party, as Deputy Prime Minister and as Minister for Trade. I would like personally to pay a tribute to Tim—to the courage and strength that he has shown in his stewardship as leader of our party and particularly in his role as Minister for Trade.

Tim is a thoroughly decent individual and I think the acclamation today by both sides of the House, which is rare, demonstrates the respect in which he is held. He has an unorthodox style. He certainly can be easily underestimated, and I think he was in earlier days. His is a canny ability to cut through messages, particularly in his very effective way as trade minister. There was the courage he showed in our darkest hours in the National Party when, after the budget deficit that we had to rein in, we had very low commodity prices and areas of drought and flood. Of course he was also under pressure subsequently as a result of the issues that came out of left field, particularly the guns issue, Wik and the onslaught of One Nation. It was during that period, which was very divisive for our party, that Tim stood up and held firm, and he is to be commended for that.

Question resolved in the affirmative.