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Tuesday, 1 February 1994
Page: 114


Senator MICHAEL BAUME (11.20 p.m.) —Before I deal with the matter I wish to raise in this adjournment debate, which is the death of Frank Hardy, I would like to add my condolences to the family of Rob Jones and to say, as so many senators have said here, that he was a thoroughly decent, honourable and nice bloke.

  Also, before I get to the matter of Frank Hardy, I would like to congratulate you, Mr President, on your appointment and to say welcome to the firing line which I probably helped you into at one stage today. As you know, Mr President, we seem to get each other's phone calls quite often. I do not think there is much other confusion apart from the colour of our beards, but I would not mind if perhaps our wage packets were confused.

  In passing, I should also congratulate Kerry Sibraa on both his appointment and his excellent record as President of the Senate. He has been an outstanding Labor president in the very good tradition of Doug McClelland, and I feel confident that you, Mr President, will maintain that high tradition of Labor presidents. However, I am concerned about Kerry Sibraa. Someone who supports Manly cannot be all good. Kerry's departure leaves Mal Colston as the last of Labor's `75ers', those elected in the traumatic election of 1975.

  Brian Archer who has resigned from our side was the last of the Liberal senators elected in 1975 following last year's departure of Shirley Walters. However, there are three senators left on our side who were originally elected to the House of Representatives and were defeated but who were then resurrected into the Senate, proving there is a life after political death and it is in the Senate. Those senators are Senator Short, Senator Chapman and me.

  Senator's Archer's going not only removes one more link with that dramatic election time but also means the departure of a very decent, hardworking, honourable and able senator—a man who is totally trustworthy and a very good friend. There is no doubt we on our side will miss him very much.

  I now deal with the substance of my contribution tonight, and that is about Frank Hardy. Some might find it curious that a member of the Liberal Party should be providing this epilogue to a good old commo. He was an old-fashioned commo and proud of it. He did have his disputes with the Communist Party, but he still maintained his strong views about the inequities of the capitalist system, although he did enjoy some elements of the capitalist system.

  Frank and I were, if you like, old mates from the late 1960s when he was on an ABC television program with me for five years called Would you believe. He was a member of the opposing team, consisting of Frank Hardy, Noelene Brown and Len Evans, while on my side there was the late Cyril Pearl, Jackie Weaver and me. The chairman was Peter Lazar. It was an Australian history program. It gave Frank the opportunity on television to tell a lot of his Billy Borker yarns, which were certainly very Australian and which helped create a real Australian image for this very Australian program. I was very proud to be on the program during the full five years of its life.

  Frank was probably Australia's worst and most obsessive punter, apart from his enormous and quite justified status as an author. In particular, Power without glory was a seminal work. Whether it was right or wrong or whether it was the best prose in Australia is another matter, but it was a book that put Frank Hardy very much on the map.

  I got to know him as an obsessive punter perhaps uncomfortably well. For example, when recording our program we had screens on which various objects would be flashed as part of the program. In the down times Frank would organise the ABC technicians to put on the screen the end of whatever race happened to be running at Harold Park at the time, which was very distracting when we were trying to do a television program.

  He always had a good bet. Unfortunately, of his Sydney mates, I seemed to live closest to Harold Park with the result that often on Friday nights a taxi would arrive at my front door, Frank would rush out and say, `Have you got 50 bucks? I've got a certainty on the last and I'm out of money'. Len Evans, who lived at Greenwich, was the next nearest person so when I was not at home the same thing would happen to him. I have to say that Frank always paid us the money back. I am not sure whether he got it from winnings—I never knew of him actually winning on a race—but he was a great and entertaining colleague.

  He was, I might say, very determined as well. He was determined—and I have to be very careful about how I say this—to be the first Australian to use the magic word on television. He kept trying to do it on our pre-recorded program. We kept telling him, `Don't waste your time, Frank. All they have to do is edit it out'. But he kept trying.

  The Senate will be aware of the fact that in the late 1960s and early 1970s the airwaves were not quite as free as they seem to be now. He tried and tried and was enraged when, on commercial television, a female—I think it was Germaine Greer—actually dropped that magic word in an interview. We consoled Frank by saying that until it was said on ABC television it did not really count. So he kept on trying, only to be beaten by, I think, an Aboriginal chap talking about Northern Territory land rights. His enthusiasm for those causes—female rights and Aboriginal land rights—seemed momentarily to diminish because of his lack of success in this area and his being one-upped by them.

  The thing I recall most about Frank is his laconic method of telling Australian stories. He was, in fact, the champion Australian story teller. I remember the classic one he tried on our program—I think it is probably appropriate that we should end with such a typical Frank Hardy story—about a court case in Darwin in which the magistrate was slightly hard of hearing. The defendant, who had spent the night in the cells, was still inebriated. The crown prosecutor was asking various questions of the defendant. The magistrate could not hear anything and at one stage saw the defendant respond to a question from the crown prosecutor which related to what he was doing. The man replied that he was doing stuff all at the time. The magistrate leaned forward and said `What did he say? What did he say?' The crown prosecutor said, `He said, "Stuff all", Your Honour' to which His Honour replied, `That's very strange. I distinctly saw his lips move'. That kind of really Australian humour was what Frank Hardy was all about in those Billy Borker yarns. He created a real niche for himself in that area as well as in his more serious writing.

  He certainly created a massive impact on Australian literature, Australian politics and Australian television, and in his script writing and so on. He was a lively character. I think he was very depressed after his sister died some years ago; they were very close. I would like to convey my condolences to his family and acknowledge the significance of Frank Hardy's life.