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Thursday, 27 May 1993
Page: 1599

Senator PARER (12.13 a.m.) —I recognise the time of night and I would like to speak at greater length about the retiring senators but I did not think I could let the opportunity go without saying a couple of words. One of the nice things about being in this place is that it gives one the opportunity to meet some very fine people. One of the sad things about it is that we are saying goodbye to some very fine people tonight. I would like to touch on a few of them. I cannot touch on them all simply because of the limitations of time.

  When I came to this place eight years ago Senator Peter Durack was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. I will not go into his most illustrious career, which I understand spans some 22 years in this place. Of all the people I have met in my life, wherever they are, I do not think I have met anyone with the integrity, principle, wisdom and commonsense of Peter Durack. He will be a great loss to this place, not just to the Senate itself but to the individuals who have been counselled by Peter in the past.

  By way of a small story, there was a time not so many years ago when I was under threat of being sued by one of our colleagues in this place for defamation. I thought I would seek Senator Durack's advice. All I could hear over the phone was this roar of laughter as he rolled around the floor. I said, `It's all right for you, you're not being sued'. He said, `Don't worry, you haven't said anything defamatory; it is common practice by this individual to threaten to sue people'. It was all right for him; he was not about to lose his house. In retrospect, the counsel was very wise.

  I do not know what one can say about Shirley Walters that has not been said. Here is a person who believes in the great values of life. She is a great patriot and a great Australian. She believes in the family and the real dignity of women, not the phoney dignity by the extremist feminists.

  She was referred to, I think quite improperly, by Senator Evans as the epitome of Tory conservatism. If that is the case, Shirley, you have a lot of company in Australia. Even though there are people of a higher position in the political field who do not know who they are, one thing we cannot say about Shirley is that she does not know what an Australian is. Congratulations, Shirley.

  When I came in here, Austin Lewis was the shadow Minister for industry, technology and commerce. I have always said that Austin called a spade a shovel. I can very well recall his tackling Senator Button with great gusto because he recognised the fact, which Labor governments often do not recognise, that governments cannot pick winners. I can remember Senator Lewis attacking Senator Button for attempting to pick winners. People should realise that companies are very expert at picking winners, and a lot of them go bust, too. As sure as the sun rises and sets, governments cannot pick winners. One of the nice things I found out from Senator Lewis is that he is retiring to Queensland. Let me say to you, Austin: you must have recently read The Getting of Wisdom.

  I thought I would touch very briefly on Senator Peter Walsh. It was a great pity that Senator Walsh spoiled what was otherwise a very fine speech. But as you come so shall you go. Senator Walsh came in here and attacked the then government of the day. He had what he called a dirt file. I always thought that Senator Walsh had a great intellect and he did not need that to make his point. I believe he would have achieved a lot more without it.

  My first experience with Senator Walsh was on Estimates Committee C with my colleague Senator Brownhill. We were a little bit in awe of Senator Walsh because we had heard all the stories about him. In practice, even though he had a lot of the bravado, a lot of the thumping of the chest and a lot of the macho image, he could in fact be a pussy cat. I have to say this about him because of his remarks. I can recall that on an estimates committee there was a certain Democrat who had the habit of driving us all nuts, as they all do from time to time. This fellow used to come in with piles of pieces of paper. He was not on the committee. I will not mention his name. He would come in and Senator Walsh would abuse the hell out of him so that he would start trembling at the lips and he would put all his questions on notice and go away. But the next day he would come back with another pile of questions. I recall one day Senator Walsh scribbling on a piece of paper which came down to me from the attendant, and it said, in a sort of pathetic way, `I've tried being rude to this bloke. What do I do next?' I can recall writing on the bottom, `Try harder, Peter; I know you can'.

  Senator Walsh likes to look on himself as being a Chifley type of Labor person. He was written up in the media as being a person who was one of the last remaining socialists. From all the readings I have done on Senator Walsh—and he writes under the name of Cassandra in the Financial Review—it seems like he opposes the wastage of middle-class welfare, he opposes government waste, which came through very strongly on the estimates committee I was on with Senator Walsh, and he is very critical of the new class and those people in society who would like to see greater expenditure without development. My belief is that Senator Walsh has conned the media but he has not conned anyone in this place because we know that that is not the prerogative of left-wing socialists; it is more the prerogative of the Liberal Party. So perhaps we might lay that one to rest.

  I should like to say farewell to my other colleagues in this place, Senator Powell, Senator Aulich and others, and wish them well in the future. I would like to refer very briefly to Senator Sowada. Senator Sowada has been beyond reproach, particularly to me in my dealings with her as a member of the shadow ministry in the last Parliament. I have found her a very intelligent lady with a keen mind who lays all her cards on the table. There is not an ounce of deviousness in her.

  One might claim that she has not been here long enough to have been corrupted by the chattering class, to which I heard Senator Walsh refer tonight but which I believe is an invention of John Stone. Where Walsh is the new class, Stone was the chattering class and part of that vocal minority that is not content with the dreadful state of our economy as it is but would destroy it altogether. I suppose in a way Senator Sowada has been fortunate. I wish her well in whatever role she adopts in the future.

  I say farewell to all our departing colleagues. Again, I particularly thank the colleagues with whom I have enjoyed a very close relationship here: Shirley Walters, Austin Lewis and Peter Durack.

  I might mention a little point about Shirley that I earlier forgot and which I should mention. Even though I look upon Shirley as being one of my closest friends in this place, it did not mean that when I went into the party room with a proposal that she did not like that she did not tear me into a thousand bits. One day I can remember her getting stuck into me in front of everyone. I did not expect this from Shirley. She said to me, `You have gone out and said something without taking it through this party room and that is a cardinal sin'. I remember going up to her and in a lame voice saying, `Shirley, I thought I would seek forgiveness rather than permission'.