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Thursday, 10 May 2012
Page: 3148

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (15:50): I rise to make some remarks in response to Nick's final speech in the chamber. I think the speech highlighted what a loss he is going to be. It highlighted his strength and the contribution that he always makes to debates. I want to be clear, though: this is not a condolence. We do far too many of them in this place. In my view this is a very happy occasion because it is not often that we have members of this place go out on their own terms following a decision they have made while at the height of their career.

Nick resigned from the ministry late last year at his own initiative and has decided to leave the Senate to pursue a new career. I think it is a really happy occasion, because we see so few members of parliament go out in that way. Most are dragged out, defeated or stay far too long. Nick is an example of someone who has worked out that he has made a huge contribution and he needs to make a contribution in another field. Nick has had a fine Labor career. I was talking to him about it when he stepped down from the ministry. There are very few Labor members of parliament who can look back on a career where they have contributed so much, had such great experiences and been able to be a central part of political life in Australia. I do not want to run through Nick's career—it is well known to people—but when I came to this place Nick was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy and was given all sorts of tough jobs as a junior parliamentary secretary in the Keating government. He impressed me from the start with how diligent, competent, effective and energetic he was, and that was noticed by most people. As a result, Nick held senior positions in the Labor Party in opposition and in government. He was Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate for a period and held many portfolios in opposition and in government. But, always, Nick seemed to manage to find a way back to the finance areas and invariably to superannuation, both in opposition and in government. He was Assistant Treasurer, Minister for Small Business, Minister Assisting on Deregulation and also Minister Assisting on Deregulation and Public Sector Superannuation.

It is very rare to find someone in this parliament who is so closely associated with an issue. If you said to anyone out in the street 'Nick Sherry', they would say 'superannuation'. He has probably developed a reputation as Australia's leading expert in the field of superannuation and public policy—I am not sure about investment, but certainly public policy. It is a great credit to him that he has developed that reputation through using the opportunities in this parliament, both in opposition and in government, to pursue that interest and to contribute to the development of our superannuation system.

I remember in the early days Nick and John Watson going around the country as members of the superannuation committee. John Watson is another famous Tasmanian. Cheryl Kernot was a member of that committee at the start as well. Many of us served on it. In my view, it was the parliament's and the Senate's best committee, because it focused on public policy work three, four, five years out and was able to stay out of partisan politics and made a huge contribution to public policy. Nick made that contribution as part of that committee and continued it in government. I know that he will pursue those interests in the coming years.

Nick is still a young man. He is getting out at a time when he can pursue a new career and I know he is enthusiastic about doing that. I do not think he will have time to read more ancient history; I think he will be too busy. Some of the books he reads are quite remarkable. I am not sure whether anyone else in the parliament has borrowed them from him, but he has had a long interest in those things.

Senator Abetz: Bob Carr might.

Senator CHRIS EVANS: Yes, Bob might be able to take an interest, Nick, in some of the things that you have not been able to engage me in conversation about. As I say, it is a rather happy occasion that Nick has made the decision he has—not that we will not miss him and not that I have not relied on him enormously. He is a great team player and has been a great support to me in the Labor team. He is always someone you can turn to to do a job and you can rely on to do it really well.

He shows no greater commitment than as he leaves this place. Nick has agreed to chair a Senate estimates committee for us in a couple of weeks time as his parting contribution to the Senate. That is beyond the call of duty. I cannot name one other senator who would not have left the day before estimates started. To agree to a request and to honour a commitment to the whip to stay is, I think, a mark of the man. People outside would not understand what a sacrifice that is for the team, but those of us in here do understand. I think it is a mark of the man.

Nick, it is good to see many of your colleagues from the House of Representa¬≠tives here; I am glad they could find the place! For some of you, I know it will be your first visit—probably your last. The fact that they are here reflects the esteem in which you are held. I was going to check whether you are the last surviving parlia¬≠mentary member of the centre left group in the ALP. I think you were down to a group of one, so it might be the end of the group. At a time when factions were more prominent in the Labor Party, Nick was part of that group. As I say, he may well be the last.

It is a reflection on how well he is regarded in Tasmania that, despite that group inside the party fading in influence, Nick continued to get preselected, often through quite arduous campaigns around the branches of Tasmania. He was always able to get preselected because of his contribution and standing with the branch members in Tasmania. I know he is well regarded in Tasmania. I have always known he is a Tasmanian first and a Labor Party member second—as seems to be the case with most Tasmanians. He has been a great representative of Tasmania.

Nick, from my point of view personally, I am sorry you are going, because I rely on you and you made a huge contribution to the Labor team and to this Labor government, but I am also really happy for you that you have made a decision, that you have decided to pursue a new career and that you are going out on your own terms at the top of your game. I can speak on behalf of all Labor senators in saying that we wish you the best and that we hope to see you. I can assure you there will be no questions asked about lost super accounts following your departure from the Senate. All the members of the tactics committee who have had to deal with that over the years will be mightily relieved. We probably should have let him ask a question about lost super today! It reflects his ongoing interest in superannuation and his expertise.

Nick, thank you very much for everything you have done. We wish you all the best. As I say, you have had a great Labor career and we look forward to your progress in your new endeavours.

Honourable senators: Hear, hear!