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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2357

Senator SCHACHT (Minister for Science and Small Business and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Science) (1.44 a.m.) —I was not intending to speak until Senator Richardson gave me a mention and recollected a number of events. However, I will now say that Senator Richardson's contribution as a minister has been an excellent one, both for this government and for the people of Australia. In my view, it ranks as more than equal to his considerable achievements as a member of the national executive, the national conference and as a state secretary to the New South Wales branch.

  However, in the long run it will be Senator Richardson's ministerial achievements that will be remembered, and quite rightly so. Although, on an anecdotal basis, as people interested in Australian Labor Party folklore and history, we will remember the stories, it is the ministerial achievements of Senator Richardson, which he and others have explained, which will be an outstanding record of which he can be proud.

  It is true that in the past I may have sinned vis-a-vis Senator Richardson on some issues of a factional nature. But overwhelmingly it has to be recognised by a number of us who were on the national executive in those, I will not say heady days of the early and mid-1980s, sometimes scary days, when the Labor Party was coming to terms with the fact that we could be forming a long-term government at the national level as well as having many state Labor governments, that Senator Richardson played a major role in ensuring that we got used to the idea, not only that we should win occasionally, but that we should win often. As he said today at his press conference, there are millions of people out there who live better lives by having a Labor government, particularly a national Labor government, in office.

  I do not care to count or remember all the critical votes at those conferences or national executives, particularly on so-called interventions into various state branches to try to resolve problems, but what they were about was the Labor Party becoming a truly national organisation with a national aspect. He did mention, with Senator Harradine, the famous case of expelling Bill Hartley for which I moved the motion. It is an action I have never regretted, because I believe it showed a maturity in the Labor Party, that we were serious about how we should govern ourselves, so we could show the people we could govern them adequately and properly. I do not think anybody in the party since that day of expulsion—even those who voted against it then—have ever regretted that that expulsion took place, because Mr Hartley was just out of step with the traditions, the rules and the policies of the Labor Party. They were tough decisions which were properly taken at the time. I agree with Senator Ray that the best speeches I heard Senator Richardson make were as a member of the national executive in—unfortunately, in a sense—a closed meeting when he spoke with great passion on those issues and made a great contribution that had a great effect.

  Richo, I will miss you. I will miss your style and panache. I will miss your abuse occasionally. I will miss your jokes and one-liners which sometimes can be so politically devastating to those of us on the receiving end. Fortunately, most of the time the other side was on the receiving end of them, and that has been a great contribution to the public presentation of the Labor Party and the Labor government. So I look forward to seeing you around from time to time, and when I am stuck in an estimates committee I will be thinking, `That rotten bloody Richardson is playing golf while I am stuck in this estimates committee for several hours'. I think you are lucky in getting out of all of that. Richo, to you and your wife, Cheryl, and your family, all the best for the future. I have enjoyed the very many years, now close to 20, where I have had an association with you through the Labor Party. They have been the best 20 years for the Labor Party and I have been greatly glad to have been associated with you in those great 20 years.