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Monday, 18 August 2003
Page: 18695

Mr McMULLAN (2:13 PM) —I welcome this unwelcome opportunity to speak about my friend and colleague Ian Henderson. I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for giving me this opportunity. When Ian was first sick in March, Alan Ramsey wrote:

He is one of the most gentle, least venal, most loyal friends of my life, as well as one of the most painstakingly professional journalists and political staffers.

Let me say something I say very rarely: in this matter, Alan Ramsey speaks for me.

He was one of that most Australian of characters: he was a good bloke. I do not know anybody who did not think so. We all had arguments with him—I have had arguments with him, on and off, for 25 years—but that was part of his strength. He had strong views, he argued for them and he was passionate about them whether they were, as the Leader of the Opposition said, his passion and commitment that led him to South Africa and that fantastic and unique experience which he had or, as the Treasurer correctly said, his advocacy and argument for good economic policy. He was a man of integrity. I knew him as an opposition staffer and as a government staffer. I appointed him as assistant national secretary of the Labor Party and when I left the National Secretary position, he acted in that position until he lost the subsequent ballot.

Effectively, that was one of the things which triggered a decision, some years later, to leave working for the Labor Party and to go into journalism. He sought other positions and came to the view that he had contributed all he could and, to my great surprise, he went on to be a journalist. I had never expected it and was not sure how he would go, although I knew that he had tremendous intellect and the capacity to write quickly and accurately, the likes of which I had never seen in a political staffer. He was very successful writing for the Canberra Times, in which I, of course, take a particular interest, and then subsequently for the Australian, where he made the move across to be a political correspondent. He then moved to the ABC. The biggest challenge for me was contemplating the possibility that Ian would master the technology of modern radio. As much as he was a friend, he was not one of the great technological literates of our time but he seemed to manage that with his usual commitment and those who know say that he did very well.

He was a good friend and a fine companion over dinner—particularly if he had cooked it because he was a very fine cook and very keen on cooking. I remember that he had a great passion for music, which he used to debate with as much vigour as he debat-ed economic policy with some of us. He debated music particularly with former Prime Minister Paul Keating and they shared many interests and argued often. He was more than a political staffer and more than a journalist: he was a person committed to good policy and to our democracy. This was reflected in the people who went to see him. I went to see him on several occasions. I am aware that former Governor-General Bill Hayden went to see him, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke and many of my colleagues. A number of people on the other side made inquiries about him—as did the Treasurer. On at least two occasions the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations visited him, and I know Ian was very grateful for that. His family and friends were very grateful that that bridge across a political divide could be spanned for him in those difficult times.

Our democracy thrives on the commitment of people to ideas and to their fair and honest communication and nobody contributed more to that, in all his various capacities, than Ian. As a friend and as a contributor I, along with all my colleagues, will miss him. I send my condolences to all the people who stayed by his side so wonderfully throughout his illness: to Fiona, to his parents, to his very dear and long-time friend Margaret Ward—she was always there every time I went to visit, and I am sure she was there when everybody else visited—to his sister and to all those in this building and around the country who knew and loved him. We will all miss him.

The SPEAKER —Not only the chair, but clearly all members of the House would want to be identified with the warm remarks so effectively expressed by the Acting Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Treasurer and the member for Fraser.