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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 2907

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (17:09): I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate for this courtesy. Tonight the coalition salutes the service of three outstanding colleagues. All senators have made substantial personal sacrifices to serve their communities and nation—more so, their families. We, the senators get involved in the issues of the day. We are passionate. We are committed. The family and those around us are often the conscripts. To the conscripts I say: thanks for lending us your senator. We in the coalition have no doubt that you will recognise the full contributions they have been able to make as being as worthwhile as we do.

I turn to Senator Troeth. When I first joined this place my office was next to that of a senator of whom I had not previously heard. I assume Senator Troeth had not previously heard of me either. Nevertheless, she was the first senator into my office and schooled me and acclimatised me to the Senate, for which I am grateful. Those first few weeks, in helping me to orient me, she was most gracious and kind, and it was very beneficial to me. At the time, I was struck by Senator Troeth's personable-yet-no-nonsense style—traits that made her the effective senator we have come to respect.

Her 18 years of service will be remembered for many things, including her passion for the rural community and her very distinguished service as a parliamentary secretary in the agriculture portfolio. Her knowledge and detailed understanding of the levies for various horticultural sectors was phenomenal, her advocacy and capacity beyond question. Her commitment to innovation was greatly valued by the sectors. And, of course, those qualities are what gained her her endorsement in the first place some 18 years ago—an endorsement which was solely based on merit.

In entering the Senate she immediately spoke of the importance of the Senate, rejecting the unfortunate references to this place by the then Prime Minister. She spoke of her passion for the rural sector. She spoke of her commitment to serving the people of Broadmeadows, willingly going out to Labor heartland to serve the people whom Labor had disenfranchised. She spoke of government intervention in the rural economy doing more harm than good and then quoted a certain person in support of that view. That certain person happens to have been one Ross Garnaut, who has now re-emerged in the political spectrum.

Senator Troeth is a principled person. She lived by her first speech when she said:

… we must never lose sight of the fact that political morality means more than just winning, political compassion means more than just clever speeches and ministerial responsibility means more than membership of the right faction.

Senator Troeth has lived by those principles. She crossed the floor and she spoke out, but she has done so with dignity and courage. I trust that when I crossed the floor I did it with half the poise, decency and principle with which Senator Troeth did. Once the issue was over, it was over.

Senator Troeth, whilst being independently minded, was nevertheless a team player and a solid contributor to the fight. In her first speech Senator Troeth quoted GK Chesterton:

In the end, it will not matter to us whether we fought with flails or with reeds. It will matter to us greatly on what side we fought.

I know on what side I am fighting, and there is a great deal for which to fight—

Senator Troeth told the Senate. There is no doubt that Senator Troeth knew which side she was on, and fight she did. And, unlike her beloved Hawks last Saturday night—sorry; I could not not mention that, being a Geelong supporter—she usually did win.

Senator Troeth leaves of her own volition and can be well satisfied that she did herself, the Liberal Party, her state of Victoria and the people of Australia proud. Senator Troeth, to refer to the last bit of your valedictory speech, you have succeeded. On behalf of the coalition, we all wish you very well for the future. I turn to my Tasmanian colleague Senator Guy Barnett. Politics is a rollercoaster ride and people make their judgments on us as individuals and, in this place, more importantly on our parties on a particular day. There is no doubt that if that particular day were today Senator Barnett would have been re-elected. Regrettably, it was not to be in August last year.

Senator Barnett styled himself as the can-do senator in his very first speech. And that he was. It was a big call, but he lived up to it. His electorate work and his committee work were both exemplary and he showed a committed work ethic. I think Senator Ian Macdonald might just beat you on the number of speeches on government docu­ments, but you ran a very close second. But I might call it for Senator Barnett on adjournment speeches. They covered all manner of issues and, to his great credit, no issue was too small or, indeed, too big.

I think of some of the projects for which Senator Barnett was responsible in our home state of Tasmania: from the skate park in Queenstown to the aquatic centre in Launceston he helped develop that much-needed and lasting infrastructure which will bear testament to Senator Barnett's com­mitment to active lifestyles. He championed local causes: as he mentioned, to get the VC medals to Tasmania, digital radio, helping the locals after the east coast fires, the medical services in Ouse and Rosebery—and the list goes on. He also championed national issues: NetAlert, the definition of marriage, the volunteer sector, health issues, our cultural history and the importance of the Bible and the chaplaincy service. As Chair of the Waste Watch Committee, Senator Barnett excelled.

Being senators for Tasmania, we know our only strength is by hunting in a pack to get the best outcomes for our state. Senator Barnett was an integral part of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team. He will be missed by his team mates and the Tasmanian people. I am not so sure that the media will miss him. His incessant media releases, whilst always considered, got a fair share of hits and coverage. Up to the very last, Senator Barnett has been active in the party room, in the electorate, in the committees of this place and in this place itself. Given our pending reduced numbers, the coalition will have difficulty in filling all roles. Losing such a prodigious worker will make it all the more difficult.

In his first speech, Senator Barnett courageously tried to pre-empt his political epitaph. He said:

I would hope that at the conclusion of my political life the people who stand in judgment will say that Guy Barnett had a can-do attitude; he encouraged others to achieve their dreams; he was effective and a pioneer; he cared and had compassion; he had a passion for life and a vision for his state and his country; and, finally, more than his work, he loved his wife and family.

Senator Barnett, all those things about you are true, but they will not appear on an epitaph just yet. I have a funny feeling that it is a little bit too early for that and a few other bits and pieces might be added in another chapter which will be written later in your life. But epitaphs aside, all of the descriptions, which Sir Humphrey-like you courageously set yourself, you have lived up to. You can feel well satisfied that you lived up to the high benchmarks that you set yourself. But, more than self-satisfaction, the Liberal Party members and the people of Tasmania you represented share that sense of satisfaction with you, as was so overwhelmingly displayed at your testi­monial dinner on 4 June. All the best and, as you get on your bike literally for the Tour de France, take a well-deserved break and ensure that you do employ all those talents you have in the future for the betterment of our community and society. I am sure you will. On behalf of the coalition, we wish you every success for the future.

Honourable senators: Hear, hear!

Senator ABETZ: Last but definitely not least, I turn to Senator Trood. If I might opine, like a Queensland predecessor, former senator John Herron, Senator Trood looks like you would imagine a senator should look—distinguished. Not only does he look distinguished but he has distinguished himself. His election victory in 2004 gave the coalition the fourth seat from Queensland in the Senate—an amazing result. For us on this side of politics to get a university type is a big thing these days. To get them to run and then get elected seems nearly unbelievable.

It is no surprise, given Senator Trood's background, that he expressed in his first speech great insights into Australia's educational needs. Whilst being from the tertiary sector, he nevertheless had a broad view of educational needs generally, noting the need for enhanced technical and further education. But it was Senator Trood's expertise in foreign affairs where he most distinguished himself. Never having served on the committee, I understand it is a committee well sought after by many colleagues as a must-get committee, if one can get on to it. So I did wonder how it was that a relatively new senator was able to get onto that committee and chair it. When you realise that there are 50 pieces of work that have been authored by Dr Trood in the area of foreign affairs and that he was a member of the Australia Indonesia Institute and a whole lot of other organisations, you understand that he was the most qualified person in this parliament to be sitting on that committee. The expertise that you, Senator Trood, provided to us in that area was very beneficial not only for our side of politics but for the Australian parliament generally. Indeed, your concern about our relationship with Indonesia is very important as we currently consider the boats going backwards and forwards—or that are not or should not be going backwards and forwards—between our two countries in relation to the cattle trade and also in relation to illegal entrants.

So Senator Trood's expertise, style and demeanour—if I might say so, especially on one occasion as Acting Deputy President that he may recall—will be missed by us on this side. Senator Trood, we wish you well. You have a clear body of expertise that we trust will not be lost to the Australian community and that you will be able to put to good use. We wish you all the very best for the future as well.