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Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 4252


Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaMinister for Rural Health, Minister for Sport, Minister for Regional Communications and Deputy Leader of The Nationals) (19:29): It's a great privilege to stand here this evening in the Senate and honour a great man, but it does fill me with great sadness to be doing it so soon. While Dexter lived just 66 years, he made those 66 years count.

The Hon. Dexter Melvyn Davies was a man who lived life to the fullest and a man who gave so much to his family, to the National Party, to his friends, to his colleagues and to regional Australia. He is survived by his beloved wife, Leonie; his daughters, Mia and Emma; and grandchildren, Harry and Ella.

Dexter was born in Kellerberrin, a small farming town in the WA Wheatbelt in 1951. Funnily enough, Kellerberrin is where the Country Party was formed over 100 years ago. Dexter's heart remained in the Central Wheatbelt and in regional Australia. Indeed, his love for regional Australia led him through much of his life and his work. He demonstrated this commitment to the regions every day as a farmer, and later in his political and public service career.

Apart from his family and his sport—Dexter was a life member of his cricket club and served as his football club's president—his other great passion included making a difference to the regions. In 1980, Dexter joined the Nationals in WA, and this decision defined much of his future contribution to public life and the party. He served as the Nationals party president in WA for 10 years, as well as the federal vice-president for 12 years, including most recently from 2015 until he left. Dexter was the president of Nationals WA up until 1998, when he was then elected into the WA parliament in the Legislative Council, appropriately as the MLC for Agricultural Regions.

One of his personal qualities was his ability to connect with people from all walks of life, no matter their title, their age or their background. People felt like they could relate to Dexter, and felt he was an open ear. That's because he actually was, and I enjoyed many, many a late-night conversation following federal council or conference over the years. This is one of the reasons he was spoken of so fondly by those that met him.

He was the ultimate team man in politics, sport, family and life. The Nationals will miss Dexter's passion and particularly his wit and his generosity. He'll be remembered as a man of great honour and dedication, and a true champion of our small, but mighty, party. Dexter was one of the greats of our party, and it is upon his shoulders that the success of our party stands. I take inspiration from Dexter's life, his commitment and his words, and I would like to briefly share with the chamber some words he made in his inaugural speech, when he asked us all:

How long is it since each of us has devised a new plan about what we can do to help regional communities to thrive and prosper? How long is it since we worked hard to ensure that government resources and regulations are used to help people, not hinder them; that our children can get the best education in the local town; that there will be a choice of local jobs; and that there will be a doctor and local hospital; in other words, to create opportunity, not limit it, in this world of change?

Dexter, on behalf of the federal National Party, and as Deputy Leader, we want to lead the change you talked about. We pay respects to our dear friend and confidante and to a passionate regional Australian, Dexter Davies.

I'd also like to briefly mention tonight the passing of Peter Thompson. Last week, Australia lost a legend, and arguably one of the world's best golfers. He was the first Australian to win the British Open. He went on to win the open five times, and had top-10 finishes. He was the only player in the 20th century to win the open championship for three straight years. He was three-time captain of the Presidents Cup International, and he captained the international side to its only win over the United States at the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

Many may know that before he was a professional golfer Peter was a promising cricketer, and he even scored an unbeaten 150 for the Carlton club as a 15-year-old. But it was golf that he was passionate about. He designed a lot of golf courses, over 100, post retirement from professional golf. He was also made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to golf and entered the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988.

I love the sentence in which he best captured his life:

I've had a very joyful life, playing a game that I loved to play for the sheer pleasure of it. I don't think I did a real day's work in the whole of my life.

That sounds like a pretty good life to me.

He was highly regarded as the gentleman of the game. He passed away surrounded by his family. He was 88, and our thoughts, and those of the government, are with his family and friends, particularly with his wife, Mary; son, Andrew; daughters Deidre, Peta-Ann and Fiona and their spouses; and 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.