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’ve been covering these speeches as they come out and in the current round we have Labor Senators Steve Hutchins and Annette Hurley, as well as Family First leader Steve Fielding. Read Nick Minchin, Alan Ferguson and Julian McGauran’s farewells at The Stump.
Steve Hutchins: Cleaver Elliott, the then Deputy Clerk of the Senate, when asked what is a senator’s most important speech, said ‘It is the last, not the first, as it is a chance to speak to the future.’
My last speech is to be just that, a record outlining some of the decisions and experiences that are most memorable from my time in the Senate. I hope that, both for my family, who are here today, and for those reflecting on this period in Australian history in the future, this contribution is a valuable account.
I would like to clarify for the record the circumstances surrounding my decision to contest the No. 3 position on the New South Wales Labor ticket in the 2010 election rather than a more secure number. The New South Wales ticket at the last election was headed by Senator Faulkner, a senior government minister at the time, and in my view the most appropriate candidate to fill the No. 1 position. He should have headed the Senate ticket six years earlier.
At the time, my cancer was relapsing, I was very ill and had no desire to go through that preselection. However, the then general secretary, Eric Roozendaal, decided to put John and I through it. I might add, John did not know I was ill. My decision this time was simply based on love.
In June 2009, my lovely wife, Natalie, had gained preselection for the safe Labor seat of Keilor in Victoria. This decision was made by the national executive of the ALP and I was a proxy that day. I voted for her and, in doing so, knew that life would never be the same. Natalie was elected to the Parliament of Victoria in November last year. We have bought a house there and our son goes to St Augustine’s College. Once she was preselected, the die was cast. I was always heading south. — read the rest of Hutchins speech over at The Stump
Annette Hurley: It was hard work for me to get into the Labor Party. It took me six months to join the New South Wales branch in the early eighties. My flatmate and I were living in Petersham and did not realise that the impending preselection battle would make it difficult for us to belong. We did not fit into the then very rigid factional divide that characterised the New South Wales Labor Party, and no-one was keen to have us in the branch when they did not know how we would vote.
We eventually made it onto the books, although I was not very active in the party at that stage. The management of the merchant bank I worked for, Chase NBA, were a bit stunned that I was a member of both the Labor Party and a union. I do not know how they would have coped if I had been actually active.
When I did launch into politics in Adelaide about 10 years later, I stood for preselection for the state seat of a retiring member. Unfortunately that seat had also been targeted by a Labor member who had a very marginal seat on the other side of town and who became an independent when he was not preselected.
It was a rugged contest fought in the shadow of the South Australian State Bank crisis, and the independent was running very hard. I was under pressure from some senior Labor people to withdraw in favour of the independent, who they thought would win. The incumbent Labor government then made him a minister in their government. Sometimes you do not need enemies when you have friends. — read the rest of Hurley’s speech over at The Stump
Steve Fielding: I have always loved listening to stories. I love sitting around a campfire with my kids and telling them stories of my own childhood, growing up in a large family of 16 children. There is something about a story that allows others to be involved and allows others to be encouraged.
Stories draw us in and allow us to learn about ourselves and those around us. Stories cover every spectrum of life, weaving knowledge around movement and emotion. They can have kicks in their tails, sudden unexpected twists, or be as predictable as death and taxes.
As we all know, some stories based on fact are more incredible and stranger than fiction. My story belongs to the former category. My life has had some unexpected twists, including my election to the Senate in 2004, which for many was remarkable and a big twist in the tale. I will be forever grateful to the voters of this great country that is one of the oldest and most robust democracies in the world. It was a historic win, an amazing story in itself.
But today I want to share with you a story about another man, one who preceded me in this great place, the Senate. It is a story that has remained largely untold. I want to honour him, his memory and the role he played in my extraordinary transition from being just a man with a dream to a senator. — read the rest of Fielding’s speech over at The Stump