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Tuesday, 10 February 2015
Page: 366


Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (19:20): I rise tonight to speak about a particular journalist who, in my opinion, is very fearless. I know on this side of the chamber some of my colleagues have copped some flak from her. Probably some on the other side have as well. I refer to my friend Adele Ferguson. Let me tell you a bit of history about Adele Ferguson. She started at the Adelaide Advertiser under the very capable eyes of one Piers Akerman. Then she became the senior business commentator at the Business Review Weekly magazine. Adele is also a columnist and business writer with The Australian and a senior business writer and columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Adele Ferguson is fearless. I have seen the work she has done. I have seen the people she has taken on. I have seen the people who have been knocked down, cheated and robbed who she has highlighted in her many, many reports.

Let me talk about one example—her fearless articles on the CBA financial planning scandal after meetings with whistleblower Jeff Morris. With ASIC stalling on action for 16 months, that then lead to the Senate inquiry into ASIC backed by all sides here in this chamber. No less than some 600,000 Australians, as I said in a previous speech today on the PJC committee report, have been written to to see if they have been basically dudded. Because of one journalist, now 600,000 Australians have been written to.

Through many tremendously courageous reports and research by Adele Ferguson and the hard work she has done, hopefully many Australians will be treated much better in the future and compensated for wrongdoings. I can assure you that there are still many that must come forward before various committees because we have not heard the whole story as yet. Adele Ferguson then did a combined TV program with Four Corners, with Fairfax and the ABC doing that report.

It was a tremendous honour on the last day of sittings last year that I went to the Walkley Awards, along with Senator Dastiari, to sit at Adele Ferguson's table. Prior to that, she had won a Kennedy Award back in 2013 and in 2014 took out the Gold Kennedy Award. In 2013 she took out a Walkley Award for her business report and this year took out the Gold Walkley Award, the highest honour in any media awards in Australia. Adele has won many awards and probably has to extend her house to fit in the trophies for the great work she has done. She has become a very good friend of mine and is someone I trust totally in confidence to do her job. I think that between us we have achieved a lot for the Australian people. Some of her other awards include Quill Awards over several years.

On the long weekend in January, they threw a surprise birthday for me. I had no idea it was on. That is what happens when you turn 60—your children, your wife and your staff all get together and plan a surprise. When I came home from mass at seven o'clock on a Saturday night, I wondered what all the cars were doing at home. It was an honour to have Adele Ferguson and her great husband, Christian, travel from Melbourne to Inverell to be part of that surprise.

Adele Ferguson, I salute you for your wonderful work. I think it is downhill from now on because, when you are a Kennedy Award winner and a Walkley Award winner, you are at the top of the Mt Everest of awards. You have earned them, you have deserved them, and we honour you for the great work you have done. I hope you remain there because you are tenacious and courageous, you have taken on crooks, you have received writs, you are fearless, you are bulletproof, and the great work you have done has brought justice to many Australians. We cop a bit of flak on this side from journalists, and sometimes we deserve it and sometimes we do not. I have had a few words with a few journalists who got it wrong and they have apologised for it. Adele Ferguson, I make this five-minute speech in honour of you for the wonderful work you have done for the Australian people. I am sure there will be many years of good journalism coming from you through your fearless hard work.