It’s that time of the six-year electoral Senate cycle again, where departing senators give their valedictory speeches outlining what they’ve accomplished and how their political dreams were crushed, delivered with a hefty dose of nostalgia, wisdom and a dig at their foes. We’ll be covering most of the speeches in coming days, but first up we have departing South Australian Liberal senators Nick Minchin and Alan Ferguson as well as Victorian Liberal senator Julian McGauran, all of whom delivered their speeches yesterday …

Nick Minchin: The 30th of June will, in my case, bring to an end not just 18 years in the Senate but 32 years of full-time involvement in politics. Unusually for the conservative side of politics, I have spent virtually all my working life serving the Liberal cause rather than, perhaps more sensibly, pursuing a career in the profession for which I was trained: the law. My 18 years in this place were preceded by 14 years serving as a full-time professional officer in the Liberal Party at both state and federal level, and I must say it was superb training for my years of service in the Senate.

The transition I made from the Liberal Party’s professional wing to the parliament is also not common. I remain only the second Liberal Party state director in the history of our party, after John Carrick, to serve in the Senate. I do note with pleasure that former state directors David Kemp, Petro Georgiou and Scott Morrison have made the transition to the House of Representatives, serving there with great distinction.

It has, of course, been an enormous privilege to represent my state and my party in this place for almost one-third of my life. One of the British parliamentarians I most admire, Enoch Powell, wrote in his biography of Joseph Chamberlain, ‘All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.’ There is, regrettably, much truth in that maxim — which is why I am retiring now, while the going is good, in the hope that it is only my political enemies who will claim that it applies to me.

I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have enjoyed a political life that has enabled me to serve at the highest levels of government available to a senator. Unburdened by the levels of ego and ambition which weigh heavily upon so many of our colleagues in the other place, I have instead been the beneficiary of chance, luck and being in the right place at the right time. — read the rest of Minchin’s speech over at The Stump

Alan Ferguson: It gives me great pleasure to follow my good friend and colleague Senator Minchin. Had I been in the chair, I probably would have enforced standing order 187, because I have rarely ever heard senator Minchin read a speech. I am going to enforce it on myself. I read my first speech when I came into this place and have tried ever since not to read another one. I think it is one of the most abused standing orders in the whole of our book of standing orders, and I might have a little bit more to say about that later.

I am advised by the clerk that since Federation, in the last 110 years, there have been 551 senators. I have served with approximately 180 of them — one-third of the senators since Federation. I say ‘approximately’ 180 because I have counted them three times in the Parliamentary Handbook and come up with a different figure each time. Had I counted them a fourth time and got a different answer, I am sure I would have got a call from the Prime Minister asking me to be federal Treasurer!

I guess I could reflect and say: how on earth did I ever get into this place? I have to tell you it was by accident. You might wonder why. I can tell you that in early 1992, when I was president of the South Australian division of the Liberal Party, I never even had a fleeting thought about entering federal parliament. I had thought about a parliamentary career, stood unsuccessfully for a state seat and then went on and served the party in South Australia as president.

The South Australian Liberal senators at that time — Senators Hill, Vanstone, Teague, Chapman and Olsen — were all younger than me, so I could not see much prospect there. We had already selected our Senate ticket for 1993, and senator Minchin was in the third spot. My local member, Neil Andrew, was younger than me and looked like being set for ever — and a wonderful friend he has been over my life. So in early 1992 there was no contemplation. I had thought about running for the upper house in South Australia, where some of my good friends said I could have decayed in comfort. — read the rest of Ferguson’s speech over at The Stump

Julian McGauran: Mr president and senators, now that my hour has come to give my final speech in parliament, some 24 years from when I gave my maiden speech in Old Parliament House, now a museum of politics past, I can do no better than to repeat what all speakers say at their valedictory: it has been an honour.

With all its ebbs and flows, the pressing on every human emotion, the responsibility, tension, exhaustion and exuberance that come with politics, I can honestly say I have never driven up Commonwealth Avenue to Parliament House and not felt a buzz, or a sense of that honour. I feel it as much today, on my last day, as I did on my first day. Indeed, I recall, on my very first day, entering King’s Hall of Old Parliament House, very early in the morning, and the first person I saw was Bob Hawke, the prime minister.

He recognised me, knowing the publicity that surrounded my defeating — with DLP preferences — the former and notorious communist John Halfpenny. He propped and came toward me with a big smile and ‘Gooday’. His expression said it all: better you than Halfpenny.

That was my first lesson in Labor’s infamous factional wars. I thought I was off to a good start. But, not long after, Labor and the media were giving me hell for placing sponges over badly wired and overly noisy bells in the office. Unfortunately, my act coincided with me missing a division. — read the rest of McGauran’s speech over at The Stump

Peter Fray

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