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Thursday, 4 June 1987
Page: 4047


Mr BILNEY —While endorsing all the remarks about the various people who have helped us in this Parliament, I want to say a few words, on behalf of all South Australian members, about Ralph Jacobi, on his retirement. I am reminded by his very good friend, the Minister for Science (Mr Barry Jones), to include him in those remarks as well. Ralph is my next door neighbour both electorally-our electorates are joined-and here in the Parliament.


Mr Porter —No, he lives in South Australia.


Madam SPEAKER —This is the time for sweet and light.


Mr BILNEY —He has been an extremely good friend not just to me but particularly to me in the time I have been here. When I first went into Ralph's office I noticed there were two mottos framed on his wall. One was a telegram from Chris Schacht on the occasion of the 1980 election. Chris, who was then the Secretary of the South Australian Labor Party, shortly to be a senator in this place, sent him a telegram saying: `You are the candidate who took least notice of any advice that I gave on how to conduct your election campaign but, nevertheless, best of luck'. The second thing that was on Ralph's wall was a little framed motto which read: `Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable'. Those two things seemed to me to be motives of Ralph's life in politics. So far as the first motive is concerned, his independence within the Party, he was an extremely loyal and long serving member of the Labor Party but he was not one to be dragooned or to support questions without thinking. He had a very independent cast of mind. I am reminded of the line from Gilbert and Sullivan about the politician who became secretary of the Queen's Navee and who always voted at his party's call and never thought of voting for himself at all. Ralph was not that kind of politician. He was a man who worked things out for himself, who thought things out for himself and often very deeply and in a way that informed the minds of many others within his Party. He was not a member of any of what are called factions in our parliamentary Party. Indeed, he loathed and detested factionalism with a passion, and I am sure he still does-I hope he is listening to this. That was the first thing, Ralph's independence.

The second motif of his life to which I referred was `Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable'. He was always a great electorate parliamentarian. He worked extremely hard on behalf of his constituents and put his talents and energies, which were considerable, at the disposal of ordinary people, pensioners, returned servicemen and women, in particular, but indeed anybody who came to see him. That loyalty to his constituents, his hard work on their behalf, was rewarded by their loyalty to him and particularly in a couple of tough elections, 1975 and 1977, when he was opposed by Steele Hall, whom I saw here earlier on. He survived those elections, which were very hard work for Labor members.

In parliament, he had the highest standards of integrity, standards to which any parliamentarian would be proud to aspire. He pursued issues with doggedness, with energy, with conscientiousness, particularly companies legislation, insurance fraud and taxation reform. These were things that I am sure he was led to not by some sort of academic feeling about them but because harm had been done to his constituents by the depredations of companies, insurance companies that went broke and so forth, and he pursued them relentlessly in the interests of ordinary people who had been hurt by their operations. It was very much a case of `Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable'.

Ralph had no enemies on a personal level in this place. He was what my Scottish ancestors would call a bonny fighter; he fought hard and he fought fair. He had many interests besides those I have named. One, in particular, is his great interest, his passionate interest, in foreign affairs. He is a scholar of an amateur kind in the Middle East, in Arabia, a great reader and somebody who made that part of a very full and varied parliamentary life. Personally, I will miss Ralph Jacobi more than most, not just because he sat next to me and not just because our electorates are next to each other. I will miss his wise advice and the friendship of a great parliamentarian. Ralph, as we all know, has not enjoyed good health in recent years but I am sure everybody in this place would join with me in wishing him a long and happy retirement. We are consoled in our Party only, I think, by the knowledge that he will be succeeded in his electorate of Hawker by a woman, Madam Speaker, as charming and personable as you-Elizabeth Harvey, the Australian Labor Party candidate for that seat. I conclude by saying, perhaps as Ralph would himself say, and I am addressing this directly to him, Madam Speaker: `Keep your head down, old son'.

Question resolved in the affirmative.