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Monday, 29 November 2021
Page: 6844

Senator WALSH (Victoria) (17:49): I thank Senator Sterle for his words earlier. I know that all of our thoughts are definitely with him today. I would like to join colleagues in recognising the contribution and the passing of Senator Alex Gallacher. It was as a new senator in 2019 that I met Alex, as part of the Senate Economics References Committee, of which he was chair. My reflections on Alex come from my experience of entering this place just two years before Alex's time here came to an end. I have a few memories of Alex that I'd like to share with the chamber and with Alex's loved ones, who may be listening to, or reading later on, the speeches that are being given in his honour today. They are memories of someone who combined complete dedication and commitment to the people he came here to represent, with an absolutely unique larrikinism and irreverence.

One of my first experiences of Alex's particular brand of irreverence was when doing Senate hearings together during lockdown in 2020. Hearings were conducted remotely, with senators and witnesses participating online. In one such hearing Alex appeared in a peaked cap, headphones on, with a very impressive bookshelf against the wall behind him. So far, so good! Impressive bookshelves were a feature of remote meetings and hearings in 2020, but Alex, of course, went one better—he had a large automobile in the background as well. I heard a voice over the feed of either a witness or the secretariat, asking, 'Is that a senator in a garage?' It was indeed, car in full view, and from his garage Senator Alex Gallacher declared those hearings open.

On that day, and really every day, Alex approached his work here with a completely unpretentious disposition, sprinkled with a fair amount of an 'up yours' attitude. He had an attitude of good humour alongside the hard work, commitment and dedication that he showed for the people he represented. I have similar recollections to those of Senator Patrick, of spending many a late night at Senate estimates in economics committee hearings with Senator Gallacher. As a new senator, I found the Labor question pack something of a lifeline to keep my head above water and stay afloat. For Alex, it was more of a guide at best. Occasionally, it was something to flick through whilst leaning back in his chair getting ready for the next witness, much as one might casually flick through a magazine at the supermarket counter before proceeding to the checkout and leaving the magazine behind.

As has been noted, Alex relied on his own preparation, and he was the same here in the chamber. When Alex spoke in the Senate, he usually did so without notes, prosecuting his points admirably and always with passion—passion for the workers whom he proudly came here to represent and whom he never left behind. I think this is what Alex's colleagues will remember the most. He really never forgot where he came from. He never forgot who he went into parliament to fight for. He never stopped being that union organiser on the hustings, representing people working hard in an essential industry, doing the long hauls overnight while the rest of us slept. It was in this chamber, in my first few weeks here, that Alex sat down next to me with a clipboard—a former union organiser, so I knew I was about to be signed up for something. For some weeks I had worn it as a badge of honour that I had not signed up to any of the various parliamentary friends' groups on offer in the early weeks of the new parliament. I'd let them all fly by in my emails. But then Alex sat down next to me that day with a pen and a piece of paper and looked me straight in the eye, and to this day I am a card-carrying member of his beloved Parliamentary Friends of Road Safety.

To the end, Alex was always on the side of working people—his people—and I was one of many of Alex's colleagues who joined online to pay my respects at his funeral remotely. As a proud life member of my own union, I was deeply moved to see that Alex was making his final journey under the protection of the flag of his union—the Transport Workers Union. A life spent standing up for working people is indeed a life well lived. A life spent as part of the collective of the labour movement is a life of service to others, and for that life of service I pay my respects to Alex today and extend my condolences to his family, his friends, his union and his best mate, Glenn Sterle.