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Tuesday, 22 May 2001
Page: 26700

Ms ROXON (4:55 PM) —I rise to speak on this condolence motion and to add my sympathies to Carol, the family and staff. I intend to speak only briefly, given that so many members have already said so much about Peter and his work, but I have a particular reason for wanting to speak, that being that we share a birthday. Whilst a birthday shared 29 or 30 years apart may not be seen as something that is very important, when you are a politician and your birthday is April Fool's Day, believe me, you cling to the fact that someone on the other side of the House also has this birthday. I want to add that as one of the many reasons that people in this House are expressing their compassion and concern today about the sad event of Peter Nugent's death.

Like many others, I also want to tell a brief story about my encounters, if you like, with Peter. The member for Hindmarsh said that she did not want to paint the former member for Aston as a saint, and she described him as a patriarch, but not sexist. I think Carol will enjoy the retelling of a story I have which clearly places Peter in the patriarch category and also highlights the order with which he thinks of things, which many other speakers have already described.

The story is from the delegation to China that so many members have spoken of. I was a very late addition to this delegation when another member was unable to attend. As I was a new member, a young member and an opposition member, it was very clear that in Peter's hierarchy—and probably everybody else's—I was fairly low down the scale on this trip to China. Peter was a very diligent delegation leader and felt that, when we were in formal meetings, it was important to introduce each of the members of our delegation and describe them in some detail. Having a little story of interest about each of them as he introduced them was his style to give a bit of colour to the delegation. There certainly was plenty of colour on that delegation by the time he had introduced the member for Prospect, the member for La Trobe, the member for Moreton, the member for Pearce and many others. By the time he got to me, it was a little difficult to think of something new and interesting to say. Much to my horror, he introduced me as coming to China to find myself a husband! Not only was I shocked then but I was more shocked when, after the meeting, I was promptly handed cards by all the Chinese delegates and not left in peace.

I am sad to say that Peter was not successful in his work, Carol. I am not using this as an opportunity to seek any offers, I might say, but I did think that was a story that was worth telling. Peter took it in a very good-natured way when I pointed out that perhaps that was not the most appropriate way for me to be introduced at future meetings. That encouraged him to do it several times more, but he did, nevertheless, take my gentle chastisement very well.

I did not realise the skills Peter had until I was in the position later of leading a delegation. Whilst many other people have lost a close friend, something I will carry with me in my future parliamentary career is knowing the importance, as a leader of a delegation and as a parliamentarian, of respecting that we represent the whole country when we travel overseas. Peter was very good at putting aside the partisan tensions that may sometimes occur. For those of us like me who perhaps did not share the views a number of others have expressed about the developments in Tibet, he was very tolerant in allowing us to ask questions and express our views, as we felt was important. He was very patient in the way he did that and he showed great dignity. That is something that many of us have obviously learnt from and will be able to continue to use in our future careers. I want to place that on the record and also pass on my condolences.