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Wednesday, 10 December 1986
Page: 3765


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition) —by leave-Mr President, I am very relieved that your wife, Lorna, is in the chamber. I can imagine that, if she were in Sydney and she turned on the radio and heard what Senator Walsh had to say and what I am about to say, she would immediately assume that we were on a condolence motion and that she had assumed widowhood. So I am glad that she is here to see you sitting healthily in the chair and having these comments addressed to you in your presence. The question about saying something about you tonight did exercise my mind because I thought: How can I possibly stand up and say anything other than positive, nice things about a member of the Australian Labor Party? I am glad that you have given me an opening. I can only say, after your reference to rugby football, that I am pleased to see that this is a Sydney swan song because the code is one which I think should be barred and I know that that will not endear me to you.

Mr President, I believe that in response to your comment that you have been privileged to have occupied the chair as President of the Senate it is appropriate to say that we in the Opposition believe that we have been privileged to have you as our President. I think you have brought to the office of President the precise mixture of qualities that is required to do the job to the satisfaction of both Government and Opposition senators and, I am sure, independent senators and members of the Australian Democrats. I think, first and foremost, you brought qualities of fairness which are essential if you are to have the trust of all honourable senators. I would like to thank you personally for that and I thank you on behalf of all my colleagues. I think you very genuinely were the President of us all. I would have to say that the only time I found it vaguely uncomfortable in addressing the Chair when you were in it was when occasionally, for some odd reason, I would find myself attacking the New South Wales Right and I would suddenly realise that perhaps I was addressing you in a way that you found quite unbecoming.

Mr President, I think you have ruled over us with great fairness and I think that is a great contribution to the Senate. We, as members of a party, are here purely because of our party endorsement; we are all involved in the activities of life of our respective parties. To achieve a balance between your partisan involvement in the Labor Party and your institutional role as President is something which is not easy. If you leave the presidency you will have set a very high standard for your successors to follow. I believe that the next President will really have to watch his p's and q's because he will find that he will always be compared with your performance in the chair. You have been here for 25 years. You mentioned that for 18 of those years you were in opposition. I cannot understand how you have maintained your balance and sense of humour after 18 years in opposition. I say with deep and personal admiration that I think that is a sign of your character. Bearing in mind the relative sweetness of Senator Gareth Evans these days now that he is in government it proves the point in a different way.

In acknowledging your contribution to this place, which the Opposition believes has been very considerable, I acknowledge, as Senator Walsh did and as you did in such a gracious way, the role of your wife. I have seen her put out only once and that was when you introduced me to her when I arrived here 12 years ago. I remember that you had been here for 12 years then and that she, of course, knew the place backwards. You introduced me to her and I addressed her as `Mrs McClelland' and she was very affronted. I think she thought it was a most inappropriate way for another senator to address her. I would like to acknowledge her graciousness over the last 3 1/2 years. She has joined with you in making all of us feel welcome in the President's chamber. No doubt she has been a major contributor to your own balanced approach to the difficult job that you have done on behalf of us all.

I also wish to mention your genuine interest in achieving greater efficiency in the Parliament. The Parliament consumes a lot of public resources. The Minister for Finance, Senator Walsh, who spoke earlier, has the responsibility on behalf of the Government of trying to ensure that this Parliament, like the rest of government, is conducted in as frugal a way as possible. In maintaining the balance between our institutional independence and the proper requirement of government that taxpayers' funds not be wasted you have shown a very nice touch. In your chairing of the parliamentary committee which looks at the Senate expenditure, again I think you have shown a proper concern for both the responsibilities of the Government, which we must all heed, and the responsibilities you have as President to maintain the integrity and independence of this Senate.

As I said, Mr President, if I go on talking it will sound like a condolence motion. Again, on behalf of the Opposition, I wish you very great satisfaction in whatever role you play on behalf of Australia in future. If I may personalise that a little, my own father left the Parliament in 1969. It has been a great joy to me that his life has been so full and interesting in the many years which have passed since his retirement. I can only wish for you and for Mrs McClelland the same great satisfaction and enjoyment which my parents have had in post-parliamentary life. I think that one thing you owe your wife, Mr President-one thing we all owe our wives-is a decent period after politics in which to give her some reasonable amount of domestic life; and I wish you well.