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Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Page: 405

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (12:07): On indulgence—Peter Veness was just 27 when he died. At 27 years of age, we are told, the world is at your feet, you are learning constantly in your chosen career, you may be meeting or sharing the early years with the love of your life or you may be travelling the globe. Dying should not be on this list. Peter left behind a young wife, a loving family and many, many friends. His eulogy was filled with loving family memories, funny stories and his love of his journalistic career.

Peter Veness covered a lot in his short yet accomplished career as a journalist. Described by his colleagues as someone who embodied many of the best things about the craft of journalism, and renowned for writing about the plight of the common man, it really made his heart sing. Peter had a knack of bailing up politicians and asking questions few dared to raise. He wrote on elections, political spills and scandals. However, he was once quoted as saying that he believed the best story he ever wrote was about a farmer doing it tough, a story he got by striking up a conversation with a random guy at a pub out in the bush.

Journalism is a tough job. It has long hours, late nights and early mornings. You are often perceived as the bad guy with a habit of elaborating the truth and being heartless. Peter Veness was a truth teller and he had a big heart. The Nationals leader described Peter as one of those genuine nice guys who always had a beaming smile and time for a chat and laugh, but he always had a job to do, a job he did very well.

Peter was a regional boy. He went to school in Batemans Bay and completed high school in Gilgandra before starting his communications degree at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst. Peter then started out at the Bathurst Western Advocate newspaper in 2004 and remained there until he became a member of the Australian press gallery in 2006. He joined Australian Associated Press in April of that year. He was described as eager and tenacious, and these attributes served him well when he fought the good fight, a long battle lasting three painful years. Peter wrote poignantly of his illness in 2009. In this he emphasised his love for his then fiancee and soon-to-be wife, Bec—the woman of his dreams, as he called her. He wrote of how he intended to relive a fond childhood memory and I quote:

I have recurring memories of being dunked by waves on the NSW south coast where I spent my childhood nearly drowning and spitting out sand.

Despite the pain in my back from a biopsy on my spine, I am going to drive down the mountains from Canberra to the sand and let one giant wave hit me, drag me under the white foam and bash me.

It's a silly memory, I know, but I would regret not doing it if it is to be for one last time.

Sadly, Peter succumbed to his rare brain cancer on the night of 15 January 2012, taken too soon, far too young. His death reinforces the fragility of life and the fact that cancer does not discriminate. Vale Peter Veness; may you rest in peace.