Crikey has a bit of a love-hate relationship with the controversial former Liberal senator and powerbroker Noel Crichton-Browne. One minute we’re being accused of running his agendas and the next we’re being pilloried for attacking him. Well, to celebrate the man, here is his legendary valedictory speech to the Senate which was delivered after a few drinks, although we’d never dare suggest the great NCB was drunk.
But that does not stop me saying there is no excuse for lack of dignity or grace in giving speeches. I was very sad tonight when Senator Knowles came in here in the most aggressive and unpleasant way, given that my family have committed themselves to her in a very personal way. When she could not afford to be a candidate, one of my dear friends paid her salary for 18 months just to allow her to be a candidate. That is the sort of thing that hurts not me but my wife and our children.
However, having said that can I say that I have only ever held this position for the Liberal Party in trust. When they choose to remove me or I move away, it is for somebody else to hold that trust. I have never taken the view that I have some mortgage on what the Liberal Party thinks about me, but something that I have become very conscious of in recent times — and it is perhaps not so conscious in the minds of other people — is how it affects your own family. My wife, Esther, said to me just recently, `Noel, you never asked me, “Did you want to go into politics?” I assumed that you would accept that I would go in.’
There is no secret we lost triplets. There is no secret that we lost a little boy of two years of age as a result of my insistence in respect of a Liberal Party meeting. It is no secret that my little baby, Andrea, who is now 24 years of age and having done law, resents the price she had to pay of having a father who was involved in politics. It is no secret that my son, who is now a pilot at 18, resents the fact that he was coerced into spending most of his time in politics. It is no secret that my little boy, Russell, who is now 20, bitterly resented the contribution his father made to politics. They found themselves in an environment which was so totally different to that of all their friends, all their relations and all their mates. When I first came into this parliament, they were babies. I have been here 15 years. My eldest child is 24 years of age. So they have paid an enormous price.
When Esther said to me tonight that she had never asked me not to give a speech, how could I not agree with her? I wanted to talk about the contribution I had made to some of my colleagues who are in here, how they got here and at what price it cost me personally to get them here. But my dear wife said, `Noel, be gracious, even if it’s not becoming of you.’ So that I am going to be.
Can I just say two or three things of consequence to me. Firstly, I say to you, Robert Hill, that I know how things have been tough for you. In all the time I have been in this parliament you have been my best friend. I always assume that the decisions you have made in respect of me have been in the interests of the Liberal Party and not in my interests; but how I care for you will not change.
I have never found the Labor Party–with the exception of Peter Walsh, who had a natural aversion to me–to be offensive, or unpleasant or unkind to me. I did an interview tonight on PM, I think it was, and I was asked about the Democrats. I said, `My problem is that I find Senator Kernot a very attractive–
Government senators interjecting–
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE — Doesn’t it say something about politics when they hit the table because you say that sort of thing. What does it say about the Liberal Party? I want you to think about that. What I was going to say was that she is a very articulate, intelligent, sensitive and wise person. To have spent all their time bagging her as they have for the last two months is not a sensible way of getting legislation through. Perhaps I got it wrong; but that was the question that was put to me.
Senator Patterson –Be reincarnated as a Democrat, Noel.
Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE –I am tempted to say something unkind about you, Kay; but you are not worth it. Robert, with respect, there is something that you can learn about being in government — that is, learn to deal with the opposition. Mr President, during my time you have been a very fair and reasonable President. I know it has not been easy for you, but you have done it in a way which I am sure the overwhelming majority of us respect. I conclude by simply saying that I do not leave this chamber in a conclusive way, but I leave it hoping to have made some sort of modest contribution.