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Monday, 13 October 2008
Page: 5772

Senator JOYCE (Leader of the Nationals in the Senate) (3:46 PM) —I want to add to the remarks of both the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate in regard to Dr Glen Fermoy Sheil. My correspondence with Dr Sheil was mainly by phone, generally around preselection time. Being an honorary life member of the National Party, he assured me that I had his vote; I suppose because I am here I must have had it.

Glen was born in Sydney on 21 October 1929, the son of William and Agnes May Sheil. His father was CEO of Mount Morgan Mines and he attended a range of schools including Benalla High, Hutchins School in Tasmania and the Southport School in Queensland. Later he attended the University of Queensland, where he attained a degree in medicine. He was also a very prominent rugby player—in fact, he played rugby for Queensland. Apart from practising as a doctor he was also the owner of the private hospital at Auchenflower and a company director.

Dr Sheil was good friends with—and had as a patient—Sir Robert Sparkes, a long-term president of the National Party, and this assisted in his attaining preselection for the Senate. Dr Sheil was elected to the Senate in 1974. As Senator Minchin pointed out, he won the final 10th position in a battle with Mal Colston and a gentleman from the DLP—Condon Byrne, I think it was. He lived in interesting times. He resigned in 1981 to run for the seat of McPherson on the Gold Coast. There were discussions at the time about a certain preselection and preferences deal, but Dr Sheil and the Nationals stuck to their guns rather than do the deal. As a result they lost the seat. This goes to show, I hope, the consistency in beliefs of who you deal with and who you do not. As part of his campaign for McPherson he was known for walking the whole length of the Gold Coast. After his failure in McPherson he did, however, manage to make it back to the Senate in 1984, as No. 4 on the National Party Senate ticket. He was part of the pinnacle of the National Party’s representation in the Senate, when the Nats sent four senators, just from Queensland, down here: Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen, Dr John Stone, Senator Ron Boswell—who is still with us now—and Dr Glen Sheil.

Dr Sheil was a fanatical sportsman. He loved rugby, squash and tennis, and he was—as has been pointed out—the Royal Agricultural Show National Fitness Sportsman of the Year in 1956. He was a foundation member of the Queensland Rugby Union. It would be wrong not to mention some of the colour that made up Dr Glen Sheil. He was known for having strong views and for not being at all afraid to express them—sometimes repeatedly. This is a time that may have passed from us in politics, which is a shame. One such view was his belief that the starvation of the Bantu people in Africa could be averted by a diet of rabbits, something which he knew a lot about, owning, as he did, a rabbit farm called Thumper Industries. Glen was the shortest-serving minister in the history of the parliament, after endorsing apartheid and suggesting its merits for Australia. In fact, Glen never actually got sworn in after his appointment. He was—as was pointed out—part of the executive council, but he was never actually sworn in as a minister. This is part of the colourful tapestry of politics. We are here in varying philosophical shapes and sizes. Though we may not agree with the views of others we know our nation is truly free when such views are extolled and the only cost is to ministerial prospects.

Glen was known by his colleagues as being a good doctor. He never had children but was married twice. His first wife, also a doctor, Marjorie, passed away in 1989 after suffering breast cancer. Glen then married a second time, to Elizabeth, the daughter of the VC winner Lieutenant Colonel Charles Anderson. Dr Sheil believed in the right of gun ownership—that it was vital for the freedom of Australia. In early political speeches he managed to do other extraordinary things, such as read the Lord’s Prayer in nine different South African languages. Dr Sheil voted with the Democrats against the deregulation of the domestic wheat industry, but he was also National Party Whip from 1980 to 1981, 1985 to 1987 and for a short period in 1990. Dr Sheil was the first chairman of the Southport School Foundation—it is one of the oldest private schools in Queensland, and possibly in Australia. Dr Sheil was highly energetic, and a capable and colourful character who will long be remembered. In true National Party form he was contentious, articulate and not scared of being forthright in his views, or of accepting the costs that his convictions and views brought.

In a day when preselections are scripted, views are sanitised and we are delivering pallid, boring exposes so as not to cause any waves, Dr Glen Sheil could not have survived. But in an environment where Australia had broader political shoulders and people had more fortitude to truly present their views as they held them, regardless of the consequences, Dr Sheil flourished. Such was the colour of this person. Dr Sheil’s passing gives further passage of Australian politics into the sanitised, boring, pallid porridge of predictable views and predictable lines out of predictable people from a central office run by pimply little boys who have never had a job away from politics.

I did not share all of Dr Sheil’s views. Dr Sheil was a pro-choicer; I am a pro-lifer. Obviously on that one we had vastly different views. Dr Sheil was a monarchist, gun lobbyist, pro-choice advocate, doctor, senator, husband and rabbit farmer. I do not agree with all that Dr Sheil was but I hope that the better aspects of his character have found favour with God.

Question agreed to, honourable senators standing in their places.