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Monday, 13 October 2008
Page: 5769

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) (3:33 PM) —by leave—I move:

That the Senate records its deep regret at the death on 29 September 2008 of Dr Glenister (Glen) Fermoy Sheil, former Senator for Queensland and places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his wife in her bereavement.

Dr Sheil was born in Sydney in 1929 but spent his childhood moving around Australia, attending schools in Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, before studying medicine at the University of Queensland. In 1955 he married another medical student, Dr Marjorie Sheil. The couple spent the early 1960s living in London, where they both completed postgraduate medical studies. Dr Sheil went on to qualify as a specialist physician, concentrating on cardiology and geriatrics. After returning to Australia, he opened his own private hospital in Brisbane.

In his maiden speech in 1974, Dr Sheil recalled that the catalyst for his participation in politics was his passion for health policy. It seems that he had a strong passion to oppose Labor health policy, but he obviously did it with a great deal of personal commitment and with a strong background in the area.

When he ran for the Senate in 1974 and was placed at the bottom of the Queensland Country Party ticket, he campaigned around Queensland on the issue of Medibank and managed a surprise victory for the 10th Queensland Senate seat. Dr Sheil resigned from the Senate in 1981 to go into project management. But he was drawn back into politics by his strident opposition to the Hawke government’s Medicare scheme and was elected to the Senate again in 1984. Very few of us would contemplate making the same mistake twice, Mr President, but Dr Sheil did. On 20 December 1977, he was sworn in to the Executive Council, having been nominated by Prime Minister Fraser to be the Minister for Veteran’s Affairs—but he did not get there. The Prime Minister subsequently withdrew the nomination, following publicity given to the senator’s views on apartheid, which ran counter to the then government’s policy. His swearing-in as a minister did not take place, and Dr Sheil’s appointment to the Executive Council was subsequently terminated on 22 December. I think he will always have a place in the history of ministerial appointments in this country.

He is remembered for making a very significant contribution to Australian public life as a National Party senator for Queensland. He served on a number of committees, including as the Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce from 1976 to 1981 and as a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare and the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs as well as the Senate Select Committee on Health Legislation and Health Insurance. Dr Sheil participated in parliamentary delegations to China, the UK and Ireland and attended the 1978 CPA conference in Jamaica. The senator served three times as the Country National Party whip in the Senate between 1981 and 1990.

In addition to being a vocal proponent of private health care and a critic of the Whitlam and Hawke governments’ health policies, Dr Sheil was outspoken on a wide range of other issues, including education, wheat deregulation, tax policy and immigration. While serving as a senator, Dr Sheil started up the interhouse tennis competition, I am reliably informed. He was obviously a very talented sportsman, having received the Royal Agricultural Society’s sportsman of the year award in 1956. He represented Queensland in tennis, rugby and squash—quite an achievement. He was a foundation member of the Queensland Rugby Union Club, the Brisbane Tennis Association and the Queensland Cricketers Club, as well as a life member of the Queensland Lawn Tennis Association. He was a very active man in all facets of his life and very committed to public affairs.

Sadly, Dr Marjorie Sheil passed away in 1989, and, in 1990, Dr Sheil retired from the Senate. He continued his work as a medical specialist and proprietor of the Fermoy Private Hospital in Brisbane. He was a life member of the Australian Medical Association—Australia’s strongest trade union—and a chairman of the Australian Leukaemia Fund, raising $1.5 million for a new bone marrow transplant unit. He was also an ardent monarchist and was elected as a Queensland delegate to the 1998 Constitutional Convention, where he led the Queenslanders for a Constitutional Monarchy group. I wonder what he would make of Malcolm Turnbull being the Leader of the Opposition now! He clearly maintained an ongoing strong interest in public affairs. In 2002 he published a book, A companion to the Australian Constitution on understanding the Constitution. Dr Sheil is survived by his second wife, Elizabeth. On behalf of the government, I offer her our condolences on her loss. Dr Sheil was obviously a very significant senator. He made a large contribution both here and in public life more generally. I am sure the Senate will endorse the regret that I have expressed on behalf of the government at his passing.