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Tuesday, 15 March 2005
Page: 100

Senator TROETH (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources) (7:24 PM) —I too would like to add my sentiments on the departure from the Senate of Senator John Tierney, from one JT to another. I am sure that we will not have seen the last of you, John, and we hope to see you around the corridors in your new incarnation. Both in and out of parliament you have been an extremely active campaigner for not only the progress of education but also the progress of information technology.

When I first came into the Senate in 1993, because of my previous experience as a teacher—and I have always been gratified by the fact that you and I have come from an education background—I joined what was then the Senate committee for employment, education and training. The element of workplace relations was a later addition. I think one of the first inquiries we did in those three years that I was in opposition was our famous inquiry into long-term unemployment, when, if you remember, you and I trailed around the countryside on a Labor Party led inquiry into the causes of long-term unemployment. Of course, in those years, unemployment stood at over 10 per cent. I am delighted—and you would be equally gratified—to see that in your time in the Senate unemployment has gone down to 5.1 per cent.

As Senator Knowles remarked, even with your foresight about information technology, the spectre of mature aged unemployment certainly raised its head. We had several representations saying that people over the age of 40 may well regard themselves as being on the scrap heap. I am very glad for both your sake and mine that that is obviously not true, but it is interesting that nowadays this is still a question for debate as we decide what to do about that.

John, you will also remember that that particular committee was famous for the Tierney-Troeth amendment, whereby we decided that you and I were quite capable of holding hearings with simply ourselves present rather than with any other party in the Senate. That lasted a couple of weeks—at least until we got back to the Senate and it was overturned. But, if I recall, we had some very productive hearings during which you and I were able to add substantially to the knowledge of that Senate committee. But that was not your only inquiry on that committee. You have also dealt with youth employment, Austudy, adult and community education, early childhood education, Indigenous education and higher education, so I think it could be said that you have actually covered the field.

You, like me, have also been a patron senator in a regional seat. You and I know that looking after the candidate that you are presented with and fronting all those early mornings and late nights and keeping the party’s chances alive in what are often quite difficult seats for us nevertheless teaches you a great deal about grassroots campaigning. So it should never be said that senators are in a room of their own with no knowledge of real politics, as it were. You have been a wonderful campaigner for the Liberal Party in the Hunter region and you have certainly kept the Liberal Party’s picture and policies alive and well in that region. We should all thank you for that. It is an arduous job and I do not know that one is always thanked to the extent that one has put work into it.

You have made a tremendous contribution to the policy area of education, and I do thank you for that. You have also had your other interests in the environment, communications, IT and the arts. You have also been the parliamentary representative on the Council of the National Library of Australia from 1992 onwards as well as the parliamentary representative on the Council of the Australian National University from 1996 to 2000. We should all thank you for that.

I have always been pleased to see Pam so frequently at the Senate gatherings and I thank her very much for her company, which we have always enjoyed. I think with our two respective large families we have always had a lot to talk about—the joys of having a large family never cease, as we all know. So thank you, John, very much. I will be sorry to see you go and I sincerely wish you all the best for the future.