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Tuesday, 15 March 2005
Page: 106

Senator TCHEN (7:49 PM) —As a senator who has less than half the service of that that Senator Tierney has given to the Senate, it is probably not appropriate that I should be one of those senators saying anything at his going. However, I have shared three circumstances with him that give me some confidence in claiming a degree of acquaintance with his work and with him as a person; I think they allow me to say a few words on his second to last day here.

The first circumstance is that, even before I came into the Senate, in the wisdom of the Senate I was appointed to a number of committees, one of which was the Employment, Workplace Relations, Small Business and Education Legislation Committee. As it happened, that committee was conducting an inquiry into one of the numerous workplace relations bills I have seen in my time here. The first serving senator and colleague I clapped my eyes on was Senator Tierney. On that committee—I continued to serve on it subsequently—as Senator Evans has said, there was a cooperative effort undertaken by Senator Tierney and Senator Carr. Certainly I was very impressed by Senator Tierney’s knowledge of that particular portfolio, both in its aspects of education and workplace relations. He would always speak out confidently on those matters and he was always worth listening to. In the case of Senator Carr, he speaks out whether he knows anything or not. So that was an interesting committee to be on.

The second circumstance I share with Senator Tierney is to do with one of his main contributions to politics in Australia—that is, his electoral service to the Hunter region. In his case it was because of his surplus energy. He found that the demands of work in the Senate, on committees and in the chamber, were actually unable to satisfy him. So he spent a great deal of time nursing the electorates of the Hunter region. I spend a fair bit of time on electoral work in my duty electorates in Victoria as well, but, in my case, it is because I am pretty well not able to do many other things and that was the one thing I could throw myself into. I did learn a great deal from Senator Tierney.

There is one thing that perhaps not too many people know about and I hope Senator Tierney remembers it. As a member of the environment and heritage committee I was on an official delegation to New Zealand a couple of years ago, and Senator Tierney came along. On the official brochure of the program—it was actually prepared by this parliament, I think—all of us were described as senators for Western Australia or Victoria or New South Wales but Senator Tierney was described as a senator for Hunter. So that was an official recognition of his contribution.

The third circumstance that I share with Senator Tierney, with great honour on my part although not necessarily satisfaction, is the circumstances of our going. One thing I would like to say about Senator Tierney during the time I have been able to observe him is that he is a rare person in this chamber. I will make an observation: there is a bit of mongrel in every one of us, otherwise we would not be here. In politics, unless you can bite, you will be cast aside. The important part about working together with colleagues here is that, while you have that bite, you do not use it. Some people in this place use it quite indiscriminately and gratuitously. I am reminded of that by today’s press article about one of our colleagues who is about to leave and his comments about the Senate after his departure. It was a typical case of overuse of this mongrel part of one’s personality. What I would like to say about Senator Tierney is that, although no doubt because of his presence here he has that ability, in the six years I have observed him he has never had to use it. He has never had to call upon that. His standing in this place is based on his ability, his contribution and his personality. That is something I really admire. I think that should be something we all remember him by.