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Tuesday, 24 September 2002
Page: 4744

Senator MOORE (4:21 PM) —I am very honoured to be able to pay respect to George Georges. I first met George Georges at a Palm Sunday rally for peace in King George Square in Brisbane. Already a legend in many circles for his outspoken views on a range of issues—including democracy, peace, conservation and many others—as well as his highly publicised relationship with the Australian Labor Party, George was quietly working the crowd, making sure that people were introduced to one another, making jokes with the crowd of retired trade unionists who loyally turned up for the action and then, of course, passing around the hat to help out with the cost.

George genuinely enjoyed meeting and working with people. He has provided enormous support and stimulation to a wide range of people. In his later years in Brisbane, George spoke very quietly, and conversations with him were very personal and private affairs. He shared his knowledge and his experience generously, and was always prepared to take the time to have a chat, talk about the lessons from his own colourful past and encourage people to `get into the fight— because, remember, it will always be a fight'. Funnily enough, in those conversations it was always noted by other people just who was talking with whom and when.

George was a socialist. He was proud of his beliefs, and they were tested thoroughly throughout his service in the Senate and on the pages of the Queensland media. He regularly talked about the need to go out and get those who were politically active and aware and, if there were no socialists there, to go out and encourage them to become part of the process anyway. George, though always ready to talk, did not believe in words alone. He was active in protest movements in the street. He was seen:

... standing arm-in-arm with people and fighting for their rights, not just in the House but in the streets.

He was arrested many times in street marches for the right to demonstrate. Many of us in Brisbane remember his presence at peace rallies, rallies for East Timor and trade union rallies—so many meetings—and somehow the activity was legitimised if George was there.

When I was preselected for the Senate, I was summoned for a chat at the Paddington Workers Club. In his favourite corner— where he could see everything that was going on and from where he had overseen the operations of the Workers Cooperative Society and the Paddington Workers Club—he held court. Some people compared this location to his Senate office, which was fondly remembered as a meeting place where local community groups, families, trade unionists and passers-by gathered to meet with their senator and his devoted staff, have a cup of tea and talk about what was really going on in the world.

George was not a comfortable companion. When you were engaged in a conversation, there was always a purpose: something was needed, George thought that you could do something about it and he was going to make you take action. In the conversations about the Senate, he advised me to get involved in committees—particularly the public accounts committee, because `that was where you found out where the dollars were and how it all works'. His key advice to me was to remain true to myself and my beliefs and to `remember where you came from'. All the media comments—and I know George would be thoroughly enjoying all the media comments and all the eulogies about him at the moment—now note his many campaigns, his left-wing credentials and indeed the fights that he was involved in, and note that he was true to himself and his beliefs.

Many people have been influenced by George—and I know Senator Jan McLucas will be talking about George at another time—his strength, his amazing sense of humour, his love of his union, the Transport Workers Union, and his passion for the rights of workers. This was evidenced in his activities in developing the Workers Cooperative Society and the Paddington Workers Club, where workers and their families could gather, enjoy good food and drink—because George always did—and be engaged in stimulating conversation. We share his passions, and our thoughts are with his family: Gloria and his many family members. He shared a particular relationship with Gloria, which he so beautifully mentioned in his final speech. We have lost George himself, but I know that we have not lost his spirit and hopefully we have not lost his tenacious devotion to ideals and the willingness to take up his fight. We miss you, George, but you are still with us.

Question agreed to, honourable senators standing in their places.