Two Milestones event, Ayr, Saturday November 28, 2015

My role today and something that I want to do, is to thank you firstly for coming along but particularly for all the help you’ve given Lesley and I particularly over our entire married life and my life even before that. I certainly want to thank all of you for helping me achieve two milestones which we’re celebrating today.

The most important event in my 70 years was succumbing to Lesley’s advances and taking her as my lifelong partner. And that was originated through basketball and Young Liberals and many of you might remember those days. Many of you wonder why right throughout my life Lesley has stuck it out so long and I do want to acknowledge that everything that I have achieved has been achieved in a partnership and I certainly wouldn’t have achieved what I have, and reached  these milestones, without Lesley.

My speech as a politician will be relatively short – 20 minutes or half an hour, so please keep drinking and eating the food as it comes around.

My life has been divided into three twenty year periods. The first period of my life was at school and law; the second 20 year period was at law and business and the community, and local politics, and the third, my 25 years in politics and federal parliament. 

And I did want to acknowledge each and every one of you because you’ve all played a part in allowing me to achieve what I have.

I do want to briefly mention and thank friends and groups of friends who are here today and who have supported me and had an influence on my life over all of those years.

Unfortunately I can’t mention you all by name but you will recognise the part that you played, and I do want to sincerely thank you all.

Before I do that, a couple of sponsors announcements. This is an eclectic group and some of you may not have known each other as you walked through but by the time the 3o’clock curfew comes, or the midnight curfew, which ever group you are in, that you have met some new friends.

Everyone has a colour-coded badge so you will know where everyone fits in.

Secondly, the party will go on and on and on, but for those of you who have to leave, please leave  when it suits you.

Thirdly, I am a politician and we’re always trying to raise some money and as David mentioned, not that many of you could read, this is a no gift, no cost party but if you felt inclined to put a $50 note in the bin upstairs, that is going towards Noeline Ikin’s campaign in Kennedy and something that I am desperately keen to see happen this time. Noeline is here, and she is a wonderful person and she will change the face not only of Northern Australia, she will change the face of Australia in the years ahead.

I wouldn’t be here today without the love and support of my extended family and I acknowledge Marcia and her late husband Don who were very good to us when we were first married, and Marcia’s now become one of our very special friends, as well as Lesley’s sister.

Can I just note that every single one of Marcia’s offspring is with her today and its lovely for Marcia and I take that as a great credit and feel very honoured  by that.

My side of the family, I have my nephews Geoffrey and Peter and their wonderfully tolerant carers, Lorelle and Vicki.

My surviving siblings, who can’t be with us today but they are planning their own celebration for me in Brisbane in a fortnight’s time.

I first arrived in Ayr in 1957 as a 12 year old and I met some people then who are here today and I am delighted to say that Carol Eathorne (I am going to use their names as they then were ), was my first fancy dress ball partner in Grade 6 – I think she asked me - but it might have been the other way around. And the next year it was Lyn Tait who was my fancy dress partner, so I particularly remember those two from those very early days back in 1957-58. And also, a guy who you will see a lot more of later today, who even in Grade 6 could make a piano talk - Trevor Mitchell was again one of those who was with me in Grade 6 when I first came here.

At High School I am proud to say I was always elected form captain every year and in the final year School Captain and Phillip House Captain and I want to thank those of my classmates who we could find and who are here today whom I hope might have voted for me in those positions, but even if they didn’t, they’re still welcome here .  And I want to acknowledge just some of them, particularly Janette McNeil, now Jan Smith, Kerry McAlister, Jennifer Eales, Janice Holm, George Cody, the trouble is if you say some, you miss some. Its lovely to see some of those guys from my high school days  here. That’s the high school that’s just across the road for the visitors amongst you. I couldn’t really leave the school too far.

My basketball career at school exploded when I was asked to join a local club called Rebels, and Rebels, at the time, had not lost a game in five years. And its tremendous that some of the immortals of that original team, Tommy Archer, Jimmy McConnachie and Clive McCall are with us today and that was a very important part of my life.

My basketball career went downhill after that, until I was forced out of basketball by necessity for my parliamentary attendance. But over the years a lot of people played in our team, particularly I remember John Scott, Nev Dickinson, Mark Haines, Jeff Payard, Dougie Lena, Peter Henderson, Tony Chandler who all played with us, and a couple who played against us and I name the Eathornes and  Caldwell in that category.

My second 25 years started in 1963 when I started work at Groves and Clark as an articled law clerk to Frank Clark, and I’m delighted to see here today Pat Clark, or Pat Lawson as she is now, who was working there when I first started, and also Teresa Leggio, who started work the same day at Groves Clark in 1964.

And there are others around, and I can’t mention all of them, people who used to boss me around when I first started work and they still do now.  Lorraine Henderson, Jean Wilshere, Marie McMullen and a few others.

Its pleasing to see Barry, one of my partners in law or was before I went into Parliament.  Barry Jones and his wife Aileen, and a special mention to Marcia Bird, I haven’t seen you Marcia, but Marcia’s husband Tom was the junior partner when I started as an articled clerk, and its lovely to see Marcia here today.

I should also mention Jim Hunter, who joined the firm when I left, but I’d previously known him as a fellow practitioner in Bowen, and I’d known him as the husband of the Liberal candidate in Bowen back in the 1980’s. There are some of the legal fraternity from the north who became good friends of Lesley and mine through a lot of boozy legal conventions, all tax deductible I guess, over many years and I particularly mention Judge Pack and his wife Wendy, and Peter and Jenny Roberts. 

I joined Apex, the young man’s service club, and made a lot of life-long friends there, many of whom continued to support me over the years, when I first ran for State Parliament, and still form, I might say, the core of the Burdekin branch of the LNP, people like our current branch president, Nev Dickinson, Peter Henderson, Mark Haines, Bruce Barrett, other Apexians too, Peter and Carmen Spence, Con Sexton, Mark Haines, who was also in the Liberal Party, Paul Thaler, Bill Watkins, who many of you will recall flatted with me when we had Starty Mellick’s flat and it was party central up there, long before we were married of course. And many of you will remember the wonderful parties we had there.

My school interest in debating encouraged me to join the liberal Party in 1964 to support John Pearce’s first Liberal campaign in the Burdekin in 1964. And I’m delighted that John and Kay Pearce have found enough time to get away from Brazil to come to the party here today because they were really part of the beginning of my political career as a campaign worker back in 1964. I’m also delighted to see Bill and Wendy Muguira here who were also very much a part of the Pearce campaign.

I continued on with Young Liberals after that and we played hard at both parties and at politics in the early years. The Young Liberals was such an important part of my life and I’ve done whatever I can to encourage young people into politics and into the party and I might say that has been very useful to me in many of the senate pre-selection I’ve had since those days, and they have been a solid core of support for me.

I am delighted to have with me here today the president of the Young LNP here, all the way from Brisbane, Jack Piggott. Jack thanks for coming up. I also want to note a number of people from the YLNP in Brisbane and Townsville who are carrying on the job, I should mention the Townsville YLNP who continue winning and just won the student elections at JCU yet again. So congratulations to them.

There are also many here who helped me in my first tilt at an election in 1983, against the favoured National Party candidate, and I am delighted to see the favoured National Party candidate who actually won the election, Mark Stoneman, here with his wife Joan, and lovely to have them here.

But since those days, its been tremendous to see so many of my real friends help so much.  Again, I can’t mention them all, but Tony Chandler, Neville and Elvie Dickinson, Peter and Lorraine Henderson, Lorraine and Pat Neville, Carol Wallace, Mary lynch, old friends like John and Sandra Dwyer, all the way from Maroochydore to be here today. The Mensingas from Atherton, the Frazers from Yungaburra, Jim Ferguson from Bundaberg, and there are many others, but I did just want to particularly mention those.

I do also want to as well recognise – and I do apologise this is taking so long, but these people have all meant so much to me over the years, but I do on this one occasion that I have, as at my funeral I won’t be able to talk so I’ll get it out now. Right at the start of my political career a young lady came up to Ayr and said I want you to re-start the Liberal Party and run for State Parliament and I’m delighted that Carol Cashman is here with us today. Carol subsequently went on to have a long and distinguished career herself as an Alderman on the Brisbane City Council. She first came here as a Field Officer for the Liberal Party in 1981 and talked me into running for a seat that was soon to become vacant, and my political career moved from there. 

At this stage I also want to make mention of those who back in the pre-selection of 1979 supported an unknown solicitor from way up in North Queensland against a field of very high profile, quality candidates from Brisbane – I think there were 18 in all at the time, and with the help of them and a lot of others I won top spot on the Liberal ticket. And I particularly also want to acknowledge David Fraser who has come all the way from Brisbane to be here with us, Ian Prentice ( I don’t think Jane was around then), and Con Galtos  - I’m not sure that you ever voted for me, Con, but you’ve been at every pre-selection so I take it that you did.

My first attempt at a public elected office apart from my school campaigns came in 1979 when a group of us stood for Council on a platform as strange as and as new as, to build a civic theatre and a library in this town. I’m delighted to see my first running mate in that campaign, called the Progressive Action Team as I recall, Beth Honeycombe, and then Dan Nicholls joined our team in subsequent years.

I spent 11 years on the Council and two of my original running mates, Beth Honeycombe and John Trace went on to be distinguished Mayors of this town, like the current mayor, an old school friend of mine who you heard from earlier, Bill Lowis. And Bill thanks very much for being here today, I know your time is busy, thanks for being here and thanks for your welcome to Ayr.

Can I also thank my nearest neighbour, Reverend Dway Goon Chew, who said grace for us today, a wonderful grace, thank you Reverend, I love Dway and his wife because they don’t complain when the noise runs across the road to their house.

David has mentioned Pacific Reef Fishery and John Maloney and again, thanks very much for being here John.

The biggest part of my life after Lesley, has been the Liberal Party and the LNP so its pleasing to see so many friends and supporters from many with deep involvement in the Liberal Party and LNP over the last 40 years.

Most of them were people with whom we fought many battles together, in some cases we fought battles against each other, but I’m delighted to say nowadays, all those battles are gone and we’re all very good friends. Now I can’t mention all of those but I do just want to mention a few – Phil and Lyn Warren, Lyn was the member for Barron River back in the dim, dark past and they’ve come all the way from Cairns and its lovely to see you here,  also from Cairns Fred Ariel, Trent Twomey, Julia and Matthew Crossley from Brisbane, Bryce Macdonald, Deputy Mayor of Innisfail, it’s lovely that you and your wife are here, Jane McNamara, our local big boss, Tom and Tina Pietsch, and all of the people from the Liberal Party in those days, not the least of which, of course, is Peter Lindsay, with whom we fought many a Townsville City Council battle for in those days.  I tried to get him to run for Federal Parliament, he wouldn’t do it.  I eventually twisted his arm, and he was there for a very successful period.

The final 25 years of my life (many of those Liberal Party and LNP things happened before I went into politics) but the last 25 years have revolved around our, and I mean our, time in federal parliament and from that position to further the future of the party, the Liberal party and the LNP, and the things I am passionate about. 

It would take more time than I have to talk about my days in parliament, the highs and lows of being a Senator and a Minister and all the wonderful people I have met and worked with, and suffice it to say I am delighted to see our local state members, George and Dale here, and my friend Ewen Jones, Jason Costigan who I’ve known in several categories over the years and I am particularly pleased to have old friends like Jane and Ian Prentice and former colleagues like Sue Boyce here.

I also want to thank the Attorney General George Brandis, who, as well as being the leader of the Government in the Senate and the Attorney General, is a long-time friend and sometimes sparring partner, but more often than not we’re on the same side. And George I thank you very much for making the effort to get here, I acknowledge this is a mid-weekend in a parliamentary fortnight sitting and its very difficult for people to get here so I particularly wanted to thank you for making that effort.

As well as all those things, George is responsible for security in our country so if you go to the toilets and find someone there with a suit on and a bulging pocket and something in their ear, don’t call the police.  They are the police.!

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, no-one in business or politics can exist without very good staff. Often staff can make and break you and any successes I’ve had in my life, I acknowledge that my staff has looked after me. Firstly as a solicitor in this town and then over the past 25 years they have had to make me look good.  One thing that I have always prided myself on doing, and always have, is that I pick good staff, and you’ll see a lot of them here today, and some of whom I’ll mention.  Phil Connole and Tim Johnston all the way from Melbourne, Damien Massingham from Noosa,  Michael Thomas from Cairns, Ryan Haddrick from Brisbane, Kylie Lindsay from Brisbane, Troy Reeves, Northern Territory, Gordon Terry taking a break from running the Australian Army for the weekend to come here, Max Tomlinson, Toby Barrett, I particularly want to mention Glenn Hurry and his wife.  Glenn didn’t actually work for me, he was a public servant who some say never work, but we had a long time together in the Fisheries area and I’m delighted to see you here today Glenn.  It’s a real surprise. Thank you very much for coming.

I mention my current staff, James, Matthew, Kylie, Lorraine, Laura, particularly Emma, who’s done a lot of work for this weekend, and specifically Marie, who towards the end of my working life, as she did at the beginning of my working life at Groves and Clark, has looked after me like a mother. So thanks very much Marie, for looking after me most of my life.

Can I just conclude by mentioning, without getting tearful, a couple of very, very special friends who’ve shared many of life’s journeys with Lesley and I, and that’s Tony and Juanita Chandler, Peter and Lorraine Henderson and Neville and Elvie Dickinson, they’ve all been wonderful friends for all of us since our early days, so thanks very much for being here.

So to all of you, from Lesley and I, can I thank you very much for everything you’ve done and the part you’ve played in the small successes we’ve achieved, and have helped me achieve these two milestones in my life. I am forever in your debt.  Thank you very much for coming along today and thank you for all you’ve done for me over those years.

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