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Monday, 18 August 2003
Page: 18694

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) (2:10 PM) —Today we mourn the passing of a journalist, and we mourn the passing of a friend. In politics the two do not always go together, but they do in the case of Ian Henderson. We will miss his straight shooting, we will miss him because he was conscientious and we will miss him because he had humour. As someone said today, he had a mischievous but never malicious bent.

Ian worked his heart out for the Labor Party over many years. When he could go no further in that, he switched to journalism. Michelle Grattan always thought it was one of her coups as editor of the Canberra Times to bring Ian out of active politics and into journalism. After she made that announcement, she rang me. I was then the economic spokesman for the Liberal Party. She told me she was appointing as a journalist the assistant national secretary of Labor and asked us to give him a fair go. I remember saying to Michelle that it was impossible to turn the Canberra Times into a more pro-Labor paper, even by employing the assistant national secretary.

Many people were sceptical that Ian would make the transition. I was one of them, but I was wrong. In years to come, when we complained about economic coverage, I would always point out that the fairest person in the gallery was the former assistant secretary of the ALP. He was fair and he was decent. You could count on him to give you a whack if you had done something wrong, but he would report favourably if something good had been done. He always stood for good economic policy. He was never asham-ed of that. He always stood up for what he con-sidered to be in the national interest, and he did not let politics override that. He was, I believe, in the finest traditions of journalism. He was very good company over dinner, but when we had dinner neither of us ever forgot that he was always on the job. One had to be careful with Hendo.

I contacted him earlier this year to see how he was going. He was then making a recovery, and he told me that he had set the day for his return to journalism as budget day. I remember saying to him that most people took sick leave to stay out of the budget. He wanted to come off sick leave to get into the budget lock-up. It became a little marker for his comeback. And he did come back. I saw him in that budget lock-up. He reported that budget lock-up, and he did a good job.

We hoped that he would be back with us for good, but it was not to be. It was only a brief reprieve from a grave illness. But I think it was good for this alone: if nothing else, coming back enabled him to realise how widely he was respected and loved around this place. He was a credit to his profession and to his family. Our sympathies go to his partner, Fiona Hamilton, his parents, Albert and Norma, and his sister, Lesley. On behalf of the Liberal Party, we pay them all—and Ian—our respects.

Honourable members—Hear, hear!