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Thursday, 27 May 1993
Page: 1508

Senator HILL (Leader of the Opposition) —If I might start where Senator Evans finished and join with him, both personally and on behalf of my colleagues, to thank the officers of the Senate and all of the staff. I will not mention all the separate officers and departments by name but I thank them for their fantastic support.

  I particularly reflect upon that awful period leading up to Christmas last year when intolerable burdens were placed upon officials in this place. Now is probably not the time to have a go at the Government's management of its program, even though it was largely the mismanagement of that program that got the Senate into that state. It was a matter of sadness for those of us on this side that we were not even given the opportunity before the Government moved the gag in the early hours of the last morning to say thank you to the Clerks and all the staff in this place for the help that they gave us during that difficult period. We do recognise that, even if at times we do not seem to appreciate you, Mr President. I appreciate the opportunity to be able to put that on the record now.

  I also want to refer to the sad news that you, Mr President, brought to us of the death of Mr Monro. On behalf of the coalition senators, I record our condolences to his family. Although I did not know him personally, I do know of the great help that he gave to Opposition senators who were mainly in the business of drafting private members' Bills and the like, and we very much appreciated his help and expertise.

  This is principally the occasion on which we say a few pleasant words about our colleagues who are departing and to give them an opportunity to say about us what they really want to say on this final occasion. I might take the reverse order and just mention the senators on the other side who are retiring and whom we wish to recognise for their contribution to the Parliament, and some of them to government, and to wish them well in their retirement.

  Regrettably, Senator Button is not here today, but we must recognise him for what, I guess, could be referred to as an enormous contribution to Australian parliamentary life and to government. He served here for 19 years. He was a shadow Minister for two years, industry Minister for 10 years, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate for three years, then Leader of the Opposition in the Senate the next three years, Leader of the Government in the Senate for 10 years and so one could go on. He certainly left his mark in that regard.

  I guess what impressed me most about Senator Button was that fine balance of a good sense of humour plus his intellectual capacity. The blend of that often helped to make this place more interesting. I recognised and appreciated that. I also appreciated the clear dedication that he put to his work in industry. We did not always agree with the policy he implemented but it was interesting to note the number of constituents who came to us in the course of having seen the Minister first and who commented on the fact that Senator Button, no matter how busy, was always prepared to listen and hear their cases and give fair judgment on their cases. That might be a lesson to Senator Evans in the years ahead. Constituents are important and it is worth listening to their arguments. I wish Senator Button well in his retirement. He is somebody who will be missed in this place and, according to some, has already been missed in this place.

  Senator Walsh, of course, is a great character in here—a fine political mind, as Senator Evans has said. He brought to this place a good political instinct which, I believe, is something to be respected. He has lots of courage and has always been prepared to say what he believed no matter what the consequences. That is something that we appreciated also. We look forward to what he will say later in this debate and we wish him well in his retirement from this place.

  I have served with Senator Giles on a number of committees. I have always admired her dedication to her causes which were never forgotten. She was always in there fighting for the issues that she believed to be of great importance and often neglected, particularly women's issues. I heard her the other day when I went to an Amnesty International lunch. She was first on her feet to demand of the speaker what Amnesty was doing about one particular important women's human rights issue. I think there are many Australians who should be appreciative of her contribution to the Senate during her period here.

  Senator Maguire should not be going, I have to say. The fact that you are is an indictment upon the Labor Party. It would probably be improper of me to say more than that as he will no doubt seek preselection and come back either here or at the other end in due course. We noted that practically through the whole of the last parliament when somebody needed to be called on at short notice to respond to an MPI in the economic area, so often it was Senator Maguire. We recognised his skills in that area. I particularly want to record what I think was important and that was the role that he played in the Senate foreign affairs committee, his chairmanship of that committee and some of its very significant reports in recent years that I think have, in themselves, made a contribution to improving Australia's international relations.

  I do not know Senator Aulich as well, but he has also brought a sense of humour to this place on occasions during Question Time. Terry, I wish you well.

  I probably know Senator Tate better than any of them through long associations on constitutional and legal committees. I presume that you are going, senator. I do concede that The Hague will enable you to continue your legal interests with the International Court of Justice and the association with Rome that I understand will be linked with it. This will enable you to present Australia's view to that high authority in a way that is in our best interests. We wish you well in Europe, Michael, and we hope that you will always have a bed for colleagues who might be passing through. That is one of the requirements of ex-parliamentarians who get these jobs. I just thought I might let you know that in advance.

  I do not think Senator Powell was all that well treated by her colleagues either. I had quite a lot to do with Senator Powell when she was Leader of the Australian Democrats. I found that I could always be confident of what she said to me. We developed a good relationship during that short period of time. I have always respected her dedication to her causes and I wish her well in her retirement.

  I do not want to say a lot about Senator Sowada because I suspect she might be back soon also. If you praise senators retiring at this time you often hear it back on a later occasion.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Better come back as a Liberal, though.

Senator HILL —She has shown a bit of courage and, I have to say, good judgment on occasion. I was reflecting on those times that she voted with us, Senator Macdonald, on very important issues of freedom of information and the like. She may not have been here long, but she has shown both courage and ability. If she is to come back, so be it. Senator Macdonald has given you an invitation and you might like to enter into some negotiations. If you decide not to seek to come back, we wish you well.

  That leads me now to my colleagues. There are four of my colleagues who are retiring and who, I think I can fairly say, have made an enormous contribution to both parliament and politics in this country. Senator Durack has had 22 years in politics, Senator Walters 18 years, Senator Lewis 17 years and, although Senator Bjelke-Petersen has been in politics all her life, she has been with us in this place for 12 years. That is some 69 years in total of contributions to Australian political life that will end today. It really makes this quite a significant day in our political history.

  Senator Durack retires with an immensely impressive record. When one looks at his background, one finds that he was a Rhodes scholar in 1949, he had three years in the Western Australia Parliament, was a Fraser Government Minister for repatriation, the Attorney-General for six years, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate for five years, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate from 1983 to 1987, and then again from 1990-92. As I have said, that sketches a parliamentary career that is both long and incredibly impressive.

  No doubt others will refer to his period as Attorney-General, and I endorse what Senator Evans said. I think of this time as a period of reform. I think of the administrative law reform that he brought into effect by setting up the AAT. I think of the Human Rights Commission that he established and his early work in relation to a freedom of information Bill. I was reminded that even before being a Minister he did a lot of groundwork in relation to the Family Law Act as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. So one could go on. He was very much a reformist from the day he got here and throughout his period as Attorney-General. We owe a great debt to Senator Durack for his contributions.

  From a personal point of view what struck me about Senator Durack is the dignity with which he has always carried on the business of politics, his skills and his judgment, which has always been impeccable. If one wants advice, not only would one always get it from Senator Durack but one could be confident of that advice because it would be sound and sensible. I guess it could be summed up in the word `professionalism'. He is a highly professional parliamentarian, someone who can retire proud of his contributions and someone who retires highly respected within the community. Peter we today recognise, with appreciation, all you have done for Australia and wish you well in your retirement.

  Opposition senators—Hear, hear!

Senator HILL —The second of my colleagues I wanted to mention was Senator Flo, who was a legend before she got here. But nevertheless she has made her mark as an individual in this place. I remember her speeches on the family and on roads, and roads and on the family, and on roads and the family. She is a Queenslander from the beginning to the end. I think her last question today was a Queensland question, and I have no doubt that her first question in this place was a Queensland question also.

  She has represented her State with great determination and she has sought to advance the interests of Queenslanders. She has stood by her values constantly. She is somebody who we all respect. We are not sure exactly what she is going to do in her retirement, but I understand—

Senator Archer —Someone has to run the farm.

Senator HILL —I am told that Joh is into worm growing at the moment, so she might help in that industry. I gather her new book entitled Classic Country Cooking about traditional Australian fare is about to be launched. I doubt that there is anyone in this place—certainly not on this side and I suspect not many on the other side—who has not sold her pumpkin scone recipe at fundraisers, both for charitable and political purposes. Florence, we respect your family values that you have stood by and without fear continually promoted as important within Australian life. You have been a credit to this place and we will miss you.

  The third of my colleagues I wanted to mention was Senator Lewis. Senator Lewis is one of those examples in politics where he has been a bit unlucky with his time. It is unfortunate, we think, that we have been in Opposition for the last 10 years or so. If that had not been the case and Senator Lewis was retiring now, we would have been talking about Senator Lewis having been a government Minister for a long period. He served for over five years in the Opposition shadow Ministry. He served in a number of different shadow portfolios, such as communications and industry and he was Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate for three years. Austin can retire being proud of his contribution in this place.

  Again from a personal point of view, apart from Austin being a genuinely good type of person, it is his fighting characteristics that I will remember. Some of his speeches when he took on Senator Button on industry policy I will remember for a long time. We heard again today in his final question in this place a deep concern about the future of Australia, the future for those who are unemployed and the future of the young people of Australia. I think it would have been in Australia's best interests if he had had the opportunity to be industry Minister for some years and contributed to an economy that would have been much more sound than it is today. Austin, we thank you for your contributions and wish you well also.

  I did not deliberately leave Senator Walters to last. It is just the way that it worked out. I told my colleagues the other night, and I may as well share it with the whole chamber, that just as a matter of interest I asked Hansard whether it would get out the number of Senator Walters's recorded interjections. I have to say to you that, in the last two years alone, the sum is in excess of 580.

The PRESIDENT —Is that all?

Senator HILL —That is not including today's and yesterday's. When I came in this morning and looked at the red and saw that Senator Walters was there on an item of business relating to human rights and equal opportunities, I thought she snuck it in on me again. I could not believe that she had agreed to have it adjourned until after she had retired.

  We remember Senator Walters for her dogged determination. She is a fighter in anyone's language. I do not know that I have ever come across anyone with quite the application and determination that Shirley Walters has, and they are good qualities in politics. She has also come here holding strong values and she has been prepared to fight for those values each and every day of her parliamentary life. I guess most of us will particularly remember that in relation to the X-rated video issue. She was concerned about affronts to the dignity of women, she was going to fight to improve the dignity of women in that regard and she has fought constantly towards achieving that goal. Shirley Walters, everyone in this place will remember you. I think everyone will remember you fondly; certainly those of us on this side will. We will also remember you for your contribution to the Parliament and the way in which you so doggedly fought for your beliefs. We wish you well in your retirement.

  Honourable senators—Hear, hear!