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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2353

Senator LOOSLEY (1.22 a.m.) —Mr President, a number of people in this evening's debate have made reference to Graham's political qualities. I agree with the remarks passed by Senator Ray and with much of Senator Faulkner's contribution. I want to say a few things about that in a moment. But I begin by saying that I have known Graham more as a personal friend over the past 20 years. Not many people could say that for two decades they have known someone who has been as warm and as generous in that friendship. Graham has a Trumanesque quality about him in that he gives absolute loyalty to people. He asks it of people in return, but he always gives it. He is always concerned about people and their families—how the children are faring, how the family is at home. He understands the pressures. I know that Cheryl, who is in the gallery, understands the pressures as well.

  I actually thought I knew Graham before I met him. I had known of him by reputation for quite a while. I found it extraordinary, when I walked into a local government campaign meeting out at Ramsgate in Sydney in the winter of 1974, that Graham knew me by name even before I had been introduced to him. He was a very sharp political figure even at that time.

  Over the ensuing years I have grown to know him as the most formidable person in Australian politics, and I have had the privilege to know a great many very able people: Prime Ministers Whitlam, Hawke and Keating and Premier Wran, among a number of other very gifted individuals.

  Graham had two great mentors in Labor politics—John Patrick Ducker and Neville Wran. He has been able to blend the capacities that those two people brought to politics to an extraordinary degree. He took John Ducker's intuition about the labour movement and Neville Wran's electoral judgment and mixed the two capacities. I remember we were at lunch with Gary Punch in 1977, in one of those Chinese restaurants down Dixon Street that Graham and John and a lot of other people would know so well. I remember Graham saying to Gary Punch at the time that his job was really to read people. And that was not a bad description, because it made—

Senator Faulkner —Was that in the years when he went across?

Senator Richardson —Yes, it was.

Senator LOOSLEY —It was actually. I do not think I have told this story before. Reading people was not a bad way of describing how he developed a political approach at the time. Graham has been part of the changed political culture both within the Australian Labor Party and within the national political environment. I was saying to him earlier today that, if we look at what has happened between 1983 and 1994, the best measure of the changes over the years is that when Graham came into this Senate federal Labor governments were something of an aberration, perhaps even an oddity. We were elected at times of national emergency, be it depression or war.

  We have now become the party of government during the decade of the 1980s going into the 1990s with five successive wins, and that was achieved only on the basis of an extraordinary change in Labor's political culture, emphasising that some things had to change in terms of our platform, in terms of our campaigning and in terms of our leadership. On questions of leadership, something that has never been written about the change that occurred in 1982-83 when Bob Hawke replaced Bill Hayden and in 1991 when Paul Keating replaced Bob Hawke is the toll that it took on Graham in terms of managing and directing those events. He has a very gruff exterior; he is always very confident. I saw behind the door from time to time just what a toll it was taking on him in a personal sense, but he persevered.

  John Kerin said to me just prior to the 1993 election that what differentiated Graham Richardson from a great many other people in politics was that he was always prepared to do the hard things that no-one else was prepared to do. That did not make him popular and he did not always want to do it, but he understood that certain things had to be done, Mr President, as you appreciate. In football parlance, it was making the hard yards, and there is no harder political forum in the country—with the possible exception of the ALP national conference, though I am a little in doubt about that—than the New South Wales ALP annual conference, as Senator Faulkner would see from one perspective and Senator Richardson and I would see from another perspective. For the past two decades, Graham has always been one of the key speakers, always in the difficult debates. I do not know how we are going to report to our respective colleagues, now that Senator Faulkner has let the cat out of the bag about manufacturing the occasional difference.

Senator Faulkner —Only on some occasions.

Senator LOOSLEY —Yes, on some occasions, and then not being seen lunching after the debate. That has always been important too. But in terms of the very difficult debates, Graham has always been one of the early ones to the microphone. Speaking on the floor of the Sydney Town Hall with 1,000 involved and noisy delegates and several hundred spectators, particularly on a Saturday morning during an administrative committee debate or a rules debate on a Sunday morning, is an experience not to be missed. We will miss Graham Richardson at Wrest Point in Hobart in September. Room 1002 had already been booked in his name. That will have to be changed.

Senator Richardson —I may still be there.

Senator LOOSLEY —I remember room 1002, Mr President, as I am sure you do from a previous incarnation, for meetings around the clock, for celebrations. I am sorry Senator Ray is not here because I have never told him that we actually found one of his delegates in room 1002 the morning after one of our celebrations.

  Senator Richardson has been a unifying force in this government. There is no doubt about that. He has been one of the reasons we have held together right across the board amongst the different interest groupings and the different personalities that make up the federal parliamentary Labor Party. He is now part of the process of political regeneration we have seen since 1983. Just as Neville Wran took that important decision, he has chosen his own time to go and I think he has chosen well. For more than a decade he has been a definition of political authority in this country, but I have known him as a person of great honour and it has been my very great privilege to call him friend, which I shall continue always to do. To Cheryl, Matthew and Kate, all the very best.