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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 14075

Ms ROWLAND (Greenway) (12:17): I rise to pay tribute on the occasion of the passing of a great Labor man, whom you will know, Madam Deputy Speaker Owens: Brian Thomas of Blacktown. On Remembrance Day I received the news that Brian had passed away. Brian was the FEC campaign director in Greenway, and he was also the President of the Lalor Park and Districts Branch of the ALP, which has been my branch since I joined the Labor Party 23 years ago. Brian had been president of that branch for longer than I can remember, and I do not recall him ever missing a meeting, other than that which occurred in the month leading up to his death, when we realised that he was very ill.

Brian was a wonderful husband to Judy. He was a wonderful father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Unfortunately, as is often the case after people have passed away, you realise at their funeral how wide their family networks are and how much they are loved by so many people whom you have never met. Judy and Brian were two names that you would always use together: 'What are we going to do about this? Brian and Judy will take care of it.' 'Who are you going to sit with at the dinner? Brian and Judy will be there.' They were very much coexistent throughout their lives and were two people who loved each other so very much.

I did not really get to tell Judy at Brian's funeral last Tuesday, but Brian and I would spend a lot of time together. You spend a lot of time with people you campaign with. Judy, he was so proud of you. Judy had a career as a very skilled professional surgeon's nurse. One of her highlights before she retired was being sent to Rome, at the express selection of some very skilled doctors, to teach people how it was all done. It was one of those stories about how skilled Judy was that Brian would always tell me, even though he probably knew he had told me a hundred times before. As to Brian himself, I always said to him, 'Brian, you punched above your weight in getting Judy' because Brian's career was as a professional truck driver. It was a hard life, and a long life.

Brian became involved in the Labor movement when he decided to put up his hand to become a TWU organiser. His love for the Transport Workers Union was absolutely second to none. He loved that union so much. He would tell me stories about his time on the road and it was his influence that led me to become such a big supporter of the Safe Rates campaign. He would tell me about the guys he would see on the road who would juice themselves up to meet the most unrealistic deadlines. He would tell me a story about the issues of safety on the road. There was one time when he just had to pull over during the night to ring Judy and say, 'You had better come and get me. I can't drive any more, even though I am pretty close to home.' Then, another time when he had to put on the brakes—he saw into the eyes of a baby in a baby's capsule in a car that had just stopped suddenly in front of him. He got out shaking and just said to the driver, 'The first person who saw my rig coming at them was your baby.'

He was so diligent with respect to prosecuting the case for truck drivers' safety that even after he retired he founded the TWU veterans so that he could make sure that he kept going to worksites. We did that. One of the last photos of me pregnant, earlier in the year, was with Brian—my tummy was out to here—at a worksite at a depot in Blacktown, talking about safe rates. He worked like an absolute Trojan on the 2010 election campaign and in the years leading up to that, including when I was on council, and in every single state, federal and local government election Brian was there.

When you get to make your first speech in parliament you have the opportunity to mention a couple of people and quote from them. People often quote from famous people; I quoted from Brian Thomas. I was always thanking him for everything he did for me. He said, 'You know, I'm not doing it for you, I'm doing it for me. I am doing myself a favour so that I have a Labor representative.' Brian, I will miss you terribly. I will always picture you in a comfy tracksuit. I dedicate this speech to you and I dedicate the term of the new parliament to you, Brian. (Time expired)