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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 437

Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (18:03): I rise to contribute a statement on indulgence on the passing of former member for Greenway—

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 18:03 to 18:19

Mr HUSIC: I rise to contribute a statement on indulgence for the former member for Greenway, Russell Gorman, or Russ as he was regularly known, who passed away on 3 January this year, aged 90. Ordinarily, my friend and colleague the member for Greenway, Michelle Rowland, would lead this contribution, but she has just welcomed a new member of her family and is obviously unable to attend the sitting of parliament. She was particularly keen to record her condolences, as well, for Russ.

Both the member for Greenway and I remember Russ well, having both grown up in Blacktown. Russ was one of the first federal MPs we had ever gotten to know when we first joined the Labor Party back in the early nineties. The member for Greenway has often remarked that Russ had worked hard for the Labor Party and for the Blacktown City area before he moved to federal parliament in 1984, and she noted that Russ was very active in the local community and a great support to many people in the Greenway electorate, covering community groups and many local organisations. I certainly remember attending my very first Young Labor event in Russ's office back in 1989, when it was located in Westpoint Blacktown, and I have known him over that course of time.

He was truly a member for Western Sydney. He used to say: 'I come from the school of hard knocks and I studied at the university of experience. I came from the gutter and could return there, but I will be taking a few with me.' He certainly had a lot of earthy sayings and anecdotes and he would always share them with whoever was in earshot. When in parliament, Russ chose to sit in the back row of the chamber, under the Speaker's gallery, next to the chamber entrance from the executive wing. There was some method behind that decision: he figured he could buttonhole the Prime Minister or any other minister on their way in or out of the chamber and make his constituent representations directly to them. He campaigned, as has been said to me, on the smell of an oily rag. In fact, he became a self-taught offset printer and then applied those skills to print his own election material at his home garage, even in the early hours of the morning, sometimes to the annoyance of his neighbours. When he would get any grief from them he would say, 'Well, if I am awake, they may as well be.'

Steve Frost, who worked in Russ's office when he was in federal parliament, remarked to me, 'As a staffer, Russ treated me like a son whilst I was working with him, opening up experiences and opportunities that few other staffers had the opportunity to enjoy.' Russ was very generous with the constituents who visited Canberra, always taking time to entertain them in the members' guests dining room. He was a very old-school politician, in the full breadth of that expression. He was not afraid of getting people offside trying to achieve what he believed was right, fair and just. He also loved to tell a joke and would have a crowd in stitches.

As a young Labor Party member myself back in that time, I remember his reports to the Blacktown branch of the ALP. He was always direct, avuncular and straightforward. If he did not know an answer to a tricky question, he would be blunt in acknowledging very quickly that he did not know the answer, but he would always follow up with branch members. That is one of the reasons why he was so well regarded among the branches within the Greenway electorate—bearing in mind that he was first elected in 1983 into the seat of Chifley but, through a redistribution, he then became the member for Greenway in 1984. Russ never professed to be a perfect person; he was very frank about himself, his place and his approach to things. What you saw was what you got with him, and people held him in very high regard for that.

I know he is going to be missed by family and fondly remembered by others, and I extend my condolences to those family and friends. I know that there will be a lot of people in the ALP in Western Sydney who would want those condolences recorded in parliament. May he rest in peace.