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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1719

Senator RYAN (Minister for Education) —by leave-Mr President, I would like to add a few words to what has been said. It is very fashionable in some circles, not least within the Australian Labor Party, to criticise aspects of the Hawke Labor Government's performance on the grounds that it is not a traditional Labor Government, that it has not really done the sorts of things that people expect democratic socialist governments like ours to do. Of course, in we reject those criticisms but there is no better example of how we have as a government devoted ourselves to the traditional concerns of democratic socialists than what Don has done in the areas for which he has had ministerial responsibility. What has Don done? He has instituted enormously effective new programs for the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the disadvantaged and all of those extra 40,000 children who will be in his child care program. He has done all of those things without great fuss, without pomposity or high-flown rhetoric; he has just done them. Achieving all of those programs in co-operation with the States has been-I think any Federal Minister must say-absolutely fantastic. A lot of people are going to be a lot better off because of what Don has done. He is a democratic socialist both in his personal values and in his ministerial work. He is kind, decent and humane. In the 11 years that we have been comrades I have been the beneficiary of all of those qualities.

I was first elected to the Senate, in the less than halcyon days of December 1975, somewhat earlier than I had expected to be because events had not gone the way in which we thought they would. I was very green, very unprepared for what I had taken on, when Don spotted me at the first faction meeting we both attended. He could see straightaway that here was someone who needed a little bit of brotherly advice and guidance and he has given that to me ever since. So I have a lot to say thanks to Don for on a personal level. But I have also done him a good turn! Everyone in the Senate actually knows about it, I believe. When Don was a little less wasp-waisted than he is now, he was one day standing up at Question Time and was cruelly attacked by honourable senators opposite on account of that very fact. I sprang to his defence, as a good sister should, and remarked that I considered him to be quite spunky-a remark which was not meant to be heard by the Press gallery. But, as often happens with the wonders of modern technology and microphones, it was indeed heard. Don achieved national prominence as `the spunky senator', a fact about which he claimed to be immensely embarrassed but was, I think, quite pleased. Don has indeed been a very spunky Minister when it comes to doing the things that we expect democratic socialists to do. I am really sorry that he is going. Perhaps if we keep on saying nice things about him he will change his mind at the last minute.

Having had a bit of experience in diplomatic circles I know that he is going to be a fantastic success as an Australian ambassador and that Helen Knight, as his partner in this exercise, will also contribute a great deal. I hope to be one of the many who will be popping into the Hague. It is, after all, so convenient. It is on the way to everywhere. Don, thanks for reminding us so often of what democratic socialism is all about. I wish you all the best for your future.