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Wednesday, 13 February 2019
Page: 391

Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (11:08): It is my great pleasure to rise to speak on this condolence motion. Sadly, it is a condolence motion, but it is my pleasure nonetheless to speak in honour of my former colleague and good friend Paul Neville. Paul Christopher Neville was the member for Hinkler for a long time. When I was a grassroots member of the Queensland Nationals I would see Paul at conferences, but I came to know him personally when I came to this place when I was elected in 2010. My office was sandwiched in between the then deputy whip Paul Neville's office and the whip's office of the member for Parkes. That office placement might have been a happy accident or it may have been designed to ensure that, as a new member—who they weren't so sure about—I benefited from the guidance of the elder statesman of the Nationals. In using the word 'elder', I do refer to the member for Hinkler, with no reflection on the member for Parkes. In that office placement, I had many occasions to experience the charm, the wit, of Paul Neville as he regularly held court in the whip's office, regaling us with joke after joke and story after story. He was one of the great raconteurs in this place, with an endless repertoire of jokes, most of which—most, not all—could be told in polite company and could be put on Hansard. The frog joke has been mentioned time and again in these speeches. I won't retell the frog joke, because it's already been recorded in Hansard. Paul told it in his valedictory speech to this place, so it will live on for posterity.

He was much more than a fine teller of jokes, though. What also will live on for posterity—people have referred to it—is the 77-minute speech, timed almost down to the second, that he gave at a function that the Liberal National Party held for Paul Neville in Bundaberg. It was his valedictory to his community, I guess. While others, as has been said here, started off drunk and ended up sober by the end of the speech, I, knowing Paul, had positioned myself right beside the bar so I didn't have that problem. For me it was a great speech. Actually I recorded the start of it, where he did another infamous thing that Paul was known for—he composed his own operatic-style song, about Sol Trujillo. If people want to look at it later—it just is Paul's wit—he actually sang the song in full and it's on YouTube, because I've uploaded it.

He loved his entire electorate of Hinkler and he loved the people that he served. He was a master at working his electorate. He took it when it was a marginal seat. He recalled to me the time when it was down to the wire and he was waiting days, perhaps even more than a week, for the result. As the person of faith that he was, he went down to his local church—I suspect it was the one that his funeral was held in—and he sat there in silence and just prayed. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen. It was then that one of his staff members actually walked in and told him that he had been re-elected. It was a very marginal seat, and he took it in the end to a margin of over 10 per cent. That was a reflection of Paul Neville and his abilities as an MP.

Paul wasn't a politician; he was truly a parliamentarian, one of the gentlemen of this House. That's what I will remember Paul for, and I'm not the only one. The member for Hinkler before Paul was mentioned earlier: Brian Courtice. He reflected on Paul's 20 years of successful election campaigning and he said:

Anyone who can hold the seat (of Hinkler) for that amount of time has considerable political acumen.

He achieved so much. He had his finger on the pulse and he understood politics. I think that his ability to win those elections was not because of his campaigning, although he did a lot of that. It was because of his reputation in his community and what he did for his community. He won in 1993, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010, and no doubt he would have won if he had decided to go on. I remember he was umming and ahing because he realised that he was getting on and he wanted to spend more time with his beloved wife, Margaret, who is just a wonderful, wonderful woman, and his family and his grandchildren, who he was just so passionate about. I've already regaled you with the fact that it came down to the wire—69 votes—in one of those elections. That was what he won by. After serving for those 20 years, he left on a high, having won every booth in 2010—it is a great reflection on any member of parliament when you carry the support of your entire community in every single place—and left that seat in great shape for his successor, the now member for Hinkler.

Paul credited much of his success to his beloved wife, Margaret. He described how her commitment from day one 'door-to-door, backs of trucks, stalls and markets and endless public meetings' helped him win every electoral battle that he went into. In 2013, Paul said:

It was her from-the-heart undoctored handwritten letters to the electorate that won me more votes than you can possibly imagine. You would go to a function after one of her letters went out and no-one would want to talk to me but they'd say, 'Is your wife here? How are the two sets of twins?'

They were a team. That's why I feel very sad for Margaret, losing her life partner. They lived that from-the-heart creed. My deepest condolences go out to Margaret and to all the Neville family. Yes, there were two sets of twins—Gavin and Gaye, and Peter and Paul—as well as Sally.

Paul was a man of regional Queensland, born in Warwick in 1940. He was passionate about the arts. That's probably one of the things people didn't know so much if they didn't know Paul Neville too well. He was the manager of the Moncrieff Theatre in Bundaberg, formerly the Crest Cinema. He managed the Bundaberg District Tourism and Development Board. He was, like me, a former state president of the Queensland Young Nationals.

Following his first election, he became the National Party whip from 1998 until his retirement in 2013. It's been said before that he was really engaged with his work on parliamentary committees, and that's been commended by speakers from the Labor Party here today. He served on a large number of committees. He was the chair of the Communications, Transport and Microeconomic Reform Committee. He was passionate about that. He pestered everyone, even his own side, about doing the right thing by regional communities when it came to communications. He was chair of that committee again when it morphed into the Communications, Transport and the Arts Committee, and also of the Transport and Regional Services Committee. He served as chair on all of those committees, and did a fine job in putting forth recommendations which changed policy and, ultimately, became the law of this land. The reform in radio is one of those.

To cap it all off, it was fitting that on Australia Day—sadly, after his passing—Paul Christopher Neville was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of his contribution to this nation and, particularly, to the Bundaberg community, which he continued to serve well after he left this place.

I will miss Paul. I will miss him immensely. I will miss the jokes—we even called him up at whips' drinks, after he was gone, to say, 'Hey, Paul, tell us another one of your jokes.' We won't be able to do that now, but we'll never forget. He was a great man.