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Tuesday, 17 June 2014
Page: 3115


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (18:04): Can I start by thanking the Leader of the Opposition in this place for her forbearance in allowing the Leader of the National Party and me to speak first. Each senator who serves here adds something to the practice and debate and therefore every senator contributes to the good of Australia, regardless of the length of time they serve. Tonight we farewell two who have had distinguished careers and, if I might say, for a considerable period of time.

I must say that 18 years does not sound much in comparison to 31 years, but 18 years is a fair stint and I will address a few comments first to departing senator Mark Bishop. He has been here for three terms and re-elected twice to represent the people of Western Australia. He made a worthy contribution to this chamber, especially in the fields of defence, defence personnel and veterans affairs, for which for a period of time he was the shadow minister. Like Senator Scullion I will not go into the vagaries and the dark art of how the Labor Party chooses its front bench in government, but I believe that you were a talent that was overlooked.

Senator Bishop gained the respect of all the senators, including those on this side. He was clearly a very strong advocate for his state, Western Australia, and was willing on the odd time to speak out against the party line in his defence of Western Australia, which of course is in the finest traditions of this place, the Senate, the states house. I am sure one thing Senator Bishop will not miss are the long flights across the Nullarbor Plain, to and from Canberra

Senator Bishop, you were solid on some of the more important issues which we dealt with across the chamber. I simply say that I believe your replacement will share similar views in relation to those matters. I wish you every success for the future and thank you for your contribution.

I turn to Senator Boswell, a great senator, a fellow who is now the Father of the Senate and will continue to be so for only a few more days. Having served for 31 years, that clearly entitles him to the position Father of the Senate. He has seen six prime ministerships—I will not go into how many leaders of the opposition. He is the fifth longest serving senator since Federation. By any measure that is a remarkable parliamentary career—pretty good for a self-effacing senator who just says he is a humble paintbrush salesman. Senator Boswell always says that he is an ordinary bloke. Yes, he is. Can I just add a few letters before that: you are an extraordinary bloke. You really are. You have done yourself and your family proud by your contributions.

You are a wonderful colleague. The gallery bore testament to the sort of people that you are able to attract to this place to pay tribute to this your last speech. You had the fisher of men in Reverend Peter Rose, the parliamentary chaplain. You had the fisher of fishers in David Carter. And you had a whole lot of people in between, all anxious to be here to pay tribute to the wonderful contribution that you have made. I also note former senator Sandy Macdonald in the gallery, who I know was exceptionally fond of Senator Boswell. Sandy Macdonald provided me with a number of the one-liners that Bozzie used to deliver. The leader of the National Party provided the one that said, 'Your mother only carried you for nine months; I've been carrying you for years and years.' There was another one when he commented on Labor ministers who were in strife. He would say, 'Those whom the gods condemn they first turn mad.' In relation to his longevity as leader of the National Party he would say, with a few words deleted, 'But they still haven't realised that if they just keep voting for themselves I will just remain being leader.' He had a very good self-effacing sense of humour, but even when he had a cutting sense of humour to a colleague or those opposite it was the humour that was important—there was never any malice or ill will in the wonderful turn of phrase that this self-described paintbrush salesman brought to this place.

It is your character as well that I think has endeared you to colleagues right around this chamber but especially in the coalition. Will I miss Senator Boswell shuffling into my office demanding a question, and saying, 'Well, sorry, Bozzie, all the questions are already lined up—bad luck'? And he would say, 'But I've told The Australian. It's going to be on the front page tomorrow. It's got to be asked.' So the paintbrush salesman always got his way. One wonders if he employed those sorts of tactics to get pity when he sold his paintbrushes and rubbish bins. I do not know. But clearly you are very successful in every endeavour of your life.

Your speech this evening confirmed exactly the reason why you got into politics: you believed in things. You wanted to fight for things. You believed in people. You wanted to fight for people. Your first speech 31 years ago was full of that sort of content. Here tonight you gave us a whirlwind tour of all the ills of the world in relation to the ACCC, small business, fishing, farming, shopping hours, marine parks, the Greens, the renewable energy target, carbon tax—you name it, you went through them all. You touched on something else as well, and I want to dwell on this a bit. You did also dwell on your fundamental belief in the Christian faith and your commitment to the sanctity of life, be it at the very commencement of life or at the latter stages of life. In this place you were able to show to your colleagues the very importance of having a world view as a foundation for all your beliefs that then informed your moral values, and then how those moral values should be translated into public policy, into law and into regulations. That is why I think you stand out as a beacon amongst many of the colleagues here, because there was that consistency and there was that solid foundation. You knew exactly where you were coming from and what you were seeking to achieve.

You were one who wanted to change opinion polls, as opposed to some who are involved in politics who simply want to follow opinion polls. You did change the opinion polls. What is more, you also saw off from the parliamentary sphere organisations such as the League of Rights and One Nation. That took courage; that took guts; that took a belief that there were greater causes to be fought for other than cheap, short-term popularity. You did that so exceptionally well with great effect.

There are many Australians right across this country in all sorts of communities, be it in the Christian church faith communities, be it in the fishing industry, be it in farming, be it in the live export cattle trade. No matter where, you have friends all around Australia.

I still recall one day driving with my wife on the east coast of Tasmania and saying, 'I cannot believe this. No, it can't be.' Sure enough, it was Bozzie walking down the road in a pair of shorts and a sloppy jumper. You would not believe the sight. I am completely jealous of his hair. If I had hair like Senator Boswell, I would be combing it every day—unlike Senator Boswell. I think it sees a comb once a week! It is a great crop of hair he has.

That aside—I distracted myself—Senator Boswell, in the few times you spent in Tasmania with Leita and my wife, there was no doubt about your sincerity. You are genuine and you are authentic. You have a love of family. You made a wonderful tribute to your wife, daughter and grandchildren. We all know about them because whenever we sit down with you it does not take very long for the conversation with you to turn to family and how very thankful you are for them.

Bozzie, on behalf of all of your coalition colleagues I wish you good health and happiness. You can look forward to 1 July when you can look in the shaving mirror as citizen Boswell instead of Senator Boswell and can be well and truly satisfied that you served your nation, your party, your coalition and your state of Queensland. Above all, you have remained true to your faith. I simply say: God bless.