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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6157


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (14:03): I want to thank the Prime Minister for his words and join him in offering heartfelt condolences to Joe's family. It was in 1969 when Labor and Liberal contested the seat of Perth, and it was Joe who won the federal seat of Perth against Fred Chaney. He was very proud that his campaign featured what he claimed was the first television ad in Western Australian politics. Years later, he was still delighted and walking people through the storyboard: 'There was a lady who asked: "Who are you going to vote for?" She'd said she'd vote for Joe Berinson. They said, "Why?" And she gave some fine reason about this fellow. Then we had Kim Beazley Sr, and they asked him why he thought people should vote for me, and he said because I would be a very good addition amongst our people in Canberra.' Then they switched onto Jill and Linda—they were only six and 4½, respectively. They were asked: 'Do you think people should vote for Joe Berinson?' They had learnt it so well, they were able to say, 'Yes,' and 'Yes.' They were asked why, to which they replied, 'Because he's our dad.' He really loved that.

Following Jim Cairns's resignation, Joe joined the Whitlam cabinet as the Minister for the Environment. There hadn't even been a proper Department of the Environment until 1972, and Joe said he was no committed greenie. But, ever the voracious reader, he quickly gained a reputation for being across his brief and for his well-informed questioning of his colleagues' cabinet submissions, or, as Gough put it, he made a nuisance of himself.

Then came the Dismissal. Joe's story captures the bewilderment and chaos of 11 November 1975. He said, 'After lunch the bells rang for parliament to assemble. I went and sat in my seat on the front bench, next to Joe Riordan. Joe turned to me and said: "I suppose you've heard. The big fella's been sacked." It was an indication of how naive I was that I said, "You mean Gough sacked the Governor-General?" He said, "No, the Governor-General has sacked Gough." It must have taken me 15 or 20 seconds to absorb. I just sat dumbfounded until I said, "If Gough's been sacked that means we've been sacked, too." Joe said, "That's right," and that was the end of my ministerial career.'

In that same year, after many years of part-time study and flights across the Nullarbor, balancing his parliamentary paperwork with legal books and lecture notes, Joe obtained his law degree. In 1980, when he returned to public life in the Western Australian Legislative Council he went on to serve as Attorney-General for 10 years and under three premiers, as we've heard. After politics, Joe became president of the Jewish Community Council of Western Australia, carrying on a lifetime of service to his faith and to Carmel School in particular. His legacy as a cabinet nuisance lived on in the school's AGM. The principal wrote in his tribute to Joe: 'The only audience questions that the board were apprehensive about were those posed by Mr Berinson.'

I think, though, that the final words belong to his family. They said, 'In life he did that which is asked of man: act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God'. May he rest in peace.

Question agreed to, honourable members standing in their places.