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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14753


Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (16:09): I too wish to join with colleagues in recognising the wonderful contribution of John Herron to the life of this nation, and to speak on the motion moved originally in the House by the Prime Minister. When John Herron came to this place in 1990, he already had had a very substantial career. He was, as I recall, in his late 50s when he was elected to the parliament as a senator for Queensland—a role he fulfilled for more than a decade. He'd been the chief surgeon at the Mater Hospital Brisbane, he'd been president of the Australian Medical Association's Queensland branch and, indeed, he was also chairman of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the Queensland branch of the college of surgeons.

John Herron coming to this place was the mark of a man who had already contributed, if that's all he did in his life, the work of a great Australian. But he came here and continued to contribute as a member of the Senate. He was part of that wonderful influx on our side of politics in 1990. In 1990 people like Peter Costello, the Kemps and others were part of the new membership of the parliament, and John Herron was certainly a very distinguished part of that group.

When I joined them, as an honorary member of the class of 1990, having come here in a by-election in 1991, I soon made friendships with many of those great parliamentarians, including John Herron. I worked with John closely in a number of areas but particularly in the development of family policy, whilst we were in opposition in the early 1990s. Through various meetings and discussions, and through policy forums and the like, those deliberations led to much of the policy, in the social space, that the Howard government adopted and put into operation when we came to government in 1996. John Herron was a great contributor to that process.

The other thing, which is probably forgotten now and which John Herron made a significant contribution to for all members of parliament, was the hours of the parliamentary sittings. John, being a surgeon—and I recall there were a couple of other doctors here at the same time, whose names I can't recall now—was, I know, involved in this. He thought it was absolutely ridiculous that we were sitting until at least 11 o'clock at night on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights. Often, particularly towards the end of sessions, we would sit until three or four o'clock in the morning. The first fortnight I came here, I think, we sat until two, three and four o'clock in the morning on about five out of the six or seven nights of that first fortnight. I said to Andrew Peacock, on returning to Melbourne on the plane, 'I'm not sure how I'm going to survive more than a month here.' John Herron and others were keenly aware of the adverse impact this had on the health of members of parliament and, therefore, on their ability to perform their duties, on their relationships with others and, indeed, on how they could humanly perform. Through a campaign that he and others were involved in, the hours of parliamentary sittings were changed to something more reasonable, like they are today, compared to what they were in those very early days.

John was the minister for Indigenous affairs. He had a remarkable interest in Indigenous people in Australia and made a great contribution to that in the Howard government. It's been noted by others, of course, but his involvement in Rwanda and the searing experience of that—and his advocacy for the International Criminal Court—having seen the atrocities being carried out in that nation, was something that stayed with him all his life. He came back and tried to make some contribution not just in terms of national policy here in Australia but also in the way the international community treats such atrocities.

John Herron served for over a decade in the Senate. He also served as the president of the Queensland Liberal Party on two separate occasions and maintained a lifelong interest in the affairs of our side of politics. Along with other great Queenslanders of that time—and I think of the late Warwick Parer, for example—these were men who brought a substantial contribution to the parliament from their previous lives, whether it was in business or, in John Herron's case, in medicine and surgery in particular. They were gentlemen. They were people who had strong views but they were also very civil in the way in which they conducted themselves. They were well liked all across the parliament, regardless of one's political persuasion. That provides a great role model to all of us as to how we conduct ourselves: passionate about issues but civil in the way in which we reach out to each other on different issues.

I'm delighted to be able to say these few words about the late John Herron: a remarkable gentleman, a great parliamentarian and a wonderful Australian. To Jan and to all his family—particularly Willie, who I knew while she was working with John Howard under the Howard government—I extend my condolences. May he rest in peace.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs Wicks ): I understand it is the wish of honourable members to signify at this stage their respect and sympathy by rising in their places. I ask all present to do so.

Honourable members having stood in their places—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the Federation Chamber.