Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (17:51): I want to associate myself on the record with all of the remarks made about my three retiring colleagues. Their speeches tonight were so very much 'them'. They were very fine speeches. They are very fine senators and very fine people. Each in his own way has made a real contribution to their state, to the Senate and to the nation.

Nick Minchin surprised me with the quality of his leadership. I have always been very close to Nick's predecessor as leader and, because of the idiosyncrasies of the South Australian Liberal Party, which I have never understood, I have never bothered to have much to do with Nick. But, in leader_ship, he showed what a wonderful, caring, no-nonsense leader he was. He was one who never hogged the limelight. He so ably did everything he had to do, and that has been remarked upon tonight. I did follow Nick to the death in the trauma of the climate change debate that confronted our party a little while ago.

Fergie has been a wonderful friend to so many here. His rural knowledge and background appealed to me when he first came to the parliament and the days of the Lees meetings, which were so very important to so many of us. His understanding of and leadership in the Senate will always be remembered as distinguished. His love of fine scotch and a good South Australian red is something that we have all shared in, thanks to his generosity, and his role in parliamentary democracy is recognised beyond Australia's boundaries.

I was one of his few supporters in our party room on the question time issue and I pledge, Alan, to continue your campaign, although I will not do it with your aplomb, your patience, your sensitivity or, I suspect, with as much success as you had. But I will keep going on that, because I agree with you. I hope that in your retirement you will be able to watch question time and see that it is a worthwhile episode. I thank you, Alan, on the record, for the time when I publicly criticised our new leader Alexander Downer. You never told me, but I know it was your influence with Alexander that allowed me to remain on the front bench and so perhaps gave me whatever career I had in the ministry. Thank you very much for that. I appreciate it. I think Nick might have had a little bit to do with that, in the background, as well.

For some strange reason I have always felt very close to Julian McGauran. It is quite strange because we are diametrically opposed, philosophically. He is a Catholic as well and I am an Anglican. Worst of all, he was a member of the National Party! I like JulianI always haveand his speech tonight shows why. I inherited his office when Julian had his three out years from the Senate. That was interesting. We had our Liberal-National tussles over the years and that very memorable campaign in northern Victoriawhich I promised I would never mention againbut I was more delighted than most when Julian eventually saw the light and joined the Liberal Party. I can never quite understand the Victorian Liberals on what they did to you, Julian, but that is another issue. Had that been a bit better, you would have been with us for the future.

The brevity of our speeches tonight, and I guess I can speak for everyone, is not because we do not have a lot to say about the three retiring senators but because we are on a time limit to try to give everyone a chance to say something. My best wishes to all three retiring senators for the future.

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