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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2347


Senator ROBERT RAY (Minister for Defence) (12.48 a.m.) —Mr President, tonight's adjournment debate, of course, is a de facto valedictory, and they are usually started off by noting a long string of achievements of the outgoing senator. Seeing that this is the first time—and probably the last—I have ever spoken in a valedictory, I do not intend to follow that course.

  I will say to Senator Richardson that I will miss him—and I will especially miss him and his company at question time. I suppose it has often been pondered up there in the press gallery, watching Graham and me talking at question time, whether are we plotting this or that. I have to reveal what we have been doing over the years, even though it may devalue people's opinions of us.

  Half the conversations have really revolved around Graham's view and my differing view of the batting abilities of Dean Jones and Steve Waugh. That war has been going on for several years. It got to its peak about a year ago when we were arguing about who had played the most test matches. I claimed that Steve Waugh had played more test matches than Dean Jones, and vice versa. After a 40-minute argument in between the odd question from the Democrats and others, I picked up the chamber phone, rang my office, who in turn rang the Australian Cricket Board, who in turn rang us back and said, `You are both wrong. They have both played 45 tests'.

  I will also miss the fact that we will not be here discussing the latest Tom Clancy novel or the latest film. I will miss the repartee. I will miss the ascerbic assertions and sardonic asides that often go on and make question time bearable. Thank you for moving and allowing Senator Cook to sit here for my next few years in the Senate, Senator Richardson.

  I must say for the record that I first met Graham Richardson in 1972. He was a newly appointed organiser for the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party. One of his first missions for the New South Wales branch was to be sent south to see the Mexicans and attend a conference of the Labor Party, Victorian style. He was sent down to observe what the real hard men of the Left were all about—the George Crawfords, the Bill Hartleys, the Bill Browns and the rest of them. So Graham came down and sat at the back of our conference and watched the neo-Stalinists from the Labor Party in Victoria. I am sure when he went back home to New South Wales to report to brother Ducker and others he probably reported along the following lines: `Well, you are absolutely right to tell me how bad those mad lefties are. But let me tell you our right wing allies down there are to the left of the steering committee in New South Wales'. He was totally horrified.

  I would also have to say that one of my next major contacts with Graham was in the 1981 state election. That was the year of the second Wranslide, if you like. On election night I think Graham actually drove me down to the election night tally room. I was not very well known up there. I remember standing amongst a group of people and, as the flood of votes came in and more and more seats fell to the Labor Party, increasing their already massive majority, a very noted left winger of the New South Wales branch looked at the board and said, `This is a perfect election result. We have won extra seats and Don Day'—who, incidentally, was a right winger, `has lost his seat'. Being a dutiful citizen of the Right, I reported this conversation to Graham Richardson who was then general secretary. But as the night went on, Don Day's figures improved and, in fact, Don Day eventually won. There was another candidate, a left wing candidate called Gorrick, in the seat of Hornsby, who had an early lead which disappeared as the night went on. As we got in the lift to leave that night and the lift doors were almost closed, this left winger was walking towards us. Graham Richardson said, `Perfect election result. We have increased our majority and Gorrick lost'.

  I think Graham's first caucus appearance was also very notable. At the time I was a scrutineer. Scrutineers, as a returning officer would say, used to hand out the ballot papers. Being the Senate scrutineer, I would hand them out only to senators and someone else would hand them out to the Reps people. I saw Graham Richardson about four down in the queue, and only House of Reps in front of him. So I very quickly filled in his ballot paper, folded it, and as he came to me I gave him his ballot paper. As he walked away he saw that he had already voted. Just as he got six feet away I said, `We do it a bit differently up here, Graham'. I am not sure whether he believed me or not.

  The only time I have been embarrassed by Graham Richardson was in about 1984-5. I had the great honour then of chairing Estimates Committee C. Who could forget the hours we spent on Estimates Committee C? Graham did not hold any formal position in the parliament. When I was in his office one day I said, `Look, Graham, you really need some chairing experience. I offer you the chairmanship of committee C'. What really embarrassed me was that Graham was so grateful. He said, `Thank you for that sacrifice. I really do appreciate it'. Four days later, after 30 hours of the estimates committee hearing which Graham chaired, I got a ring at the Labor Club from one of his staff members to ask if I could come back and give him an hour's relief in the chair. I thank Graham for taking over Estimates Committee C—I am sure he learned a lot through it.

  We have been in a lot of debates together. I recalled one earlier this evening—quite clearly, people in this parliament know it. There was a very intensive debate on the uranium issue, and Graham and I were on different sides. As the debate got closer, we agreed at least to sit down and discuss what the final vote would be so at least we all knew. So we went through the list name by name, tick this way, tick that way; and we agreed on the complete way caucus would vote except for one remaining individual. We had one of these meaningless arguments: `Yes, he will vote my way', `No, he won't, he will vote my way'. We went backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. Finally, Graham Richardson said, `Give me one reason, one reason, why Dean Wells will not vote for the pro-uranium thing'. I said, `He was born in Hiroshima in 1946. How's that?'.

  We remember these times together though we tend also to remember the tough times and there have been plenty of those; Graham has referred to some of them. It is true to say that the national conferences of 1982 and 1984 were about as hard a school as one could ever go through. For that 1982 conference, over the five days I think we got nine hours sleep total. 1984 was no easier. 1986 was not so tough but, as Graham said, massively entertaining. The worst aspect of it was that the business observers sat through five days of boring conference. We told them the rules debate would not be interesting. They went home and missed the one great fight.

  We also went through many experiences—as one does in the Labor Party—on the national executive where probably Graham Richardson's greatest speeches were delivered to a very small and privileged audience. Some of the most impassioned and the most forceful speeches that he ever delivered were at the national executive. I know it is getting late so I want to conclude on this note. Everyone in politics on both sides of this house attracts labels and Graham has attracted many of those: `numbers man', `king-maker', and tonight I noticed `thug' was put in by one of his friends from the Sydney Morning Herald.


Senator Richardson —A great old mate!


Senator ROBERT RAY —But they reveal only one public view. They do not reveal the fact that Graham has a very strong intellect. They always try to cover it up by not mentioning that but he does have a very strong intellect. He is a very hard worker and he has a wicked sense of humour. Outside politics he is an avid reader, an avid attender of films; he has a very wide sporting knowledge. In other words, he is a human being; he is not just a politician but an all-rounder with all-round interests and that will equip him well for when he leaves life in the Senate.

  I have known Graham for 23 years and I can honestly say that in that time he has never once misled me, never once dudded me, and he has always kept his word. Whilst this is not a condolence motion, there can be no greater epitaph than that.