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Monday, 18 June 2018
Page: 3082

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (16:06): by leave—I move:

That the Senate records its deep sorrow at the death, on 21 May 2018, of Donald Jessop, former senator for South Australia, places on record its gratitude for his service to the Parliament, and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

Fiercely independent and committed to his home state of South Australia, former Senator Donald Jessop's unique personal background and keen policy interest ensured that he made a big mark during his time in the parliament. Born on 21 June 1927 in Unley, South Australia, to Lindsay and Margaret Jessop, Donald was educated in Unley High School before pursuing optometry at the University of Adelaide, where he secured his formal qualification in 1949. In April of that same year he married Barbara Maughan, beginning what would be 69 years of marriage that brought three children, Meredith, Lynne and Michael, followed by an impressive extended family.

Donald's first years spent practising took him throughout regional South Australia, including postings at Port Pirie and Jamestown. In 1955, he set up his own practice in Port Augusta and, notably, founded the first Royal Flying Doctor Service optical clinic, becoming the well-renowned 'flying optometrist'. This furthered what would be a lifelong passion for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and medical care throughout remote and regional Australia. Donald's professional profile and community mindset led him to become a prominent member of his local community, taking on roles as a justice of the peace and channelling his energy into the Apex volunteer service clubs. Such was his dedication to the Apex cause that he would later become a life member of its association in recognition of his extended service.

His strong support among locals helped his election to the Port Augusta City Council in 1960, a role that he fulfilled until 1969. Donald joined the Liberal Party after settling in Port Augusta and often self-identified as a reluctant politician. Contesting the 1966 federal election, he faced a daunting challenge. Grey had been in Labor hands since 1943. Undeterred, Donald traversed the sprawling electorate, which then accounted for some 84 per cent of South Australia's landmass, in a small plane lent to him by a friend and won the seat off the back of an impressive 7.8 per cent swing. Despite working hard as the member for Grey, Donald was unsuccessful in seeking re-election at the subsequent federal election, in 1969. However, his departure from the political scene was short-lived and he was elected to the Senate at the 1970 federal election—the same year as Sir John Carrick—formally commencing his term on 1 July 1971.

In Donald's maiden speech as the member for Grey, he had been quick to note that he was a new hand, and, as such, focused on those issues that were most relevant to his electorate. By contrast, his first speech in this chamber, delivered only a few years later, struck a very different tone. As a senator, Donald wasted no time in laying out his policy vision, which included his concerns about the plight of the South Australian wine industry, for which he was a reliable advocate. He also used his new platform to champion the efforts of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, calling for greater public resourcing of its good work and that of medical centres across remote and regional Australia.

Over the years that followed, Donald was dutiful in the service of his state and never shied away from sharing his honest thoughts on matters affecting South Australia. He also took up a number of causes, including his fierce advocacy for Australia's national highways and railways. Notably, he pushed for upgrades to the Eyre and Stuart highways as well as for the construction of the Tarcoola-Alice Springs rail line, which was established during his time in the Senate.

Taking to the pages of The Canberra Times, in November 1978 Donald penned an article titled 'The satisfactions of serving on a Senate committee', in which he identified the committee process as being the most satisfying aspect of his work. Donald's active record within the committee system speaks to that conviction, and he used it to pursue a range of policy priorities. In particular, he relished his service as chairman of the Standing Committee on Science and the Environment between 1976 and 1983, which allowed him to indulge his keen interest in science policy. Among many Senate committee roles, he also served as the inaugural chairman of the Standing Committee on Appropriations and Staffing between 1982 and 1987.

Donald's parliamentary service reached its end with his defeat at the 1987 federal election. By that time he had made a name as a unique parliamentarian, known for his fierce independence of mind. It says something of the seriousness with which he took his position that, following his departure from the Senate, fellow senator for South Australia Grant Chapman spoke of him as 'a stout defender of the Senate's constitutional role'.

While Donald returned to optometry in the years that followed, his political interest was undimmed and he often posted letters to the editor of The Advertiser. Outside the walls of this place, Donald's other lifelong passions remained: Australian rules football, tennis, swimming, choral music and, of course, his large and loving family. To former Senator Donald Jessop's wife, Barbara, their children, Meredith, Lynne and Michael, their 11 grandchildren and their 17 great-grandchildren: on behalf of the Australia government and the Senate, I offer my sincerest condolences.