Tag Archives: eulogy

“Selfless Shine Above The Selfish”: Barnaby

8 Apr

To a humble blogger whose most fervent core belief is that “PRIDE is the root of all evil”, Senator Joyce’s column in the Canberra Times resonates strongly:

Selfless shine above the selfish

Easter, Queensland’s state election is over, Parliament is out, time to relax with the family.

Relaxation is essential but in so many careers our life is like climbing a cliff continually reaching for that next foothold or crevice to pull us further up. If you stop too long you will cramp and fall off and if you have reached your top, well then, it is all downhill from there.

At the triathlon in Mooloolaba last week the general aim of competitors was to do a PB. At work, a career implies aspiration, as the alternative is regret. How many colleagues in the coffee room tell you that they are aspiring to a lesser job on lower pay? Spiritually, have you ever come across someone who told you they actually did find enlightenment but got bored with it in favour of banality?
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Relaxation, like sleep, is an elixir on so many levels. So I am in Forster-Tuncurry ”relaxing”. At church on Sunday the local parishioners asked what I was doing. I told them I was ”relaxing with the family” which can be an oxymoronic juxtaposition. Some of the parishioners were ”relaxing” as well; some had been relaxing for years.

There are a lot of businesses that are very busy here helping people relax. To relax, apparently you have to consume lots of stimulants such as coffee, served at many shops up and down the main street.

You have to be eternally vigilant that you don’t go from purposeless relaxation to exercising as you go for a walk. Just as dangerous is reading the paper in which you may find a philippic written by some column troll and you will be taken back to work to write your rebuttal against this oxygen thief.

Then there are the questions you ponder as you stare at the ocean – what is the right proportionate mix of all these component parts; career goals, physical health, spiritual depth and how does one make sure that it is does not crowd out the most important responsibility to your family. How much is the appropriate amount of guilt you should feel before you are stirred from the slumber of ”there is more that I can do but I really cannot be bothered”.

Senator Judith Adams was a great example of an unselfish determination to serve. While some at Judith’s stage of life would have been content with relaxing, Judith instead took on board the major challenge of federal politics. Judith would have known her fate, but she worked until the end.

Born in Picton, New Zealand, she migrated to Australia and worked as a nurse. Judith began serving in the Senate in 2005 at the age of 62. I started then, too, I was 38. She was pro choice; I was and am pro life. Judith was a regional Lib, I am a regional Nat.

On so many levels we were likely to lock horns, but we didn’t. In 2008, I was honoured to attend the funeral of Judith’s husband, Gordon, a former Royal Flying Doctor pilot. Judith was a very matter-of-fact, practical and driven woman.

Politics is a job where you have the unfortunate experience of working with colleagues who die. Good people. It is the flip side of people like, and I will say it, Craig Thomson. I will say it because some drag the office down while others raise it up. A person can respect their public office while being completely at odds with a lot of what you believe in, but they conduct themselves in such a manner which deserves nothing but respect. Judith was such a person.

My recollection of Judith will be her intense interest in the lives of regional Australians. She committed to the task knowing she was never going to be a senior office holder. The reality is that many of the wider public would probably not even know her name. The strength about Judith was that this was not what was driving her.

She just wanted people to have their lives affected in a way which made things better for them. She didn’t want the fuss and the bother of the laurels. Even when she was going around on her electric wheelchair in Parliament, she always said that this was only temporary and that she was getting better. I have a sneaking suspicion she realised the truth but just didn’t want the attention to distract her from her job for others.

Barnaby is right.

Barnaby: “Fitting Farewells To Life In The Senate”

24 Jun

Senator Barnaby Joyce writes for the Canberra Times:

Valedictory speeches are like writing then delivering your own eulogy. With the Senate changing to the Greens in the next fortnight, the eulogy metaphor in this instance is quite pertinent.

We like to think that the world will stop spinning momentarily on our passing in reverence to the great benevolence of our public office, but the reality is it doesn’t. Former United States president John Fitzgerald Kennedy rarely enters our consciousness, so the meagre contribution that we think will change the world is unlikely to earn the laurels of posterity.

The celebration of vicissitude, from private to public life, that our election brings is a false dawn, a self-indulgent naivety. The reality is that the course of politics generally appears to be guided by an invisible force that will have its way regardless of our singular political efforts or despite them.

If someone asked me to describe politics, the personalities and the legacy they leave, it would be this: thixotropic.

Nick Minchin was the dominant figure throughout his career but the broader public became more engaged with him towards the latter end through his battles with a colourless, odourless gas. He was typecast as mad right so you might have been surprised to hear that he opposed the invasion of Iraq.

My anecdote of Nick is best summed up in this. A man lying on his back, behind his desk, listening to an oratory on CD, as he stood he said to me, ”Yoga for your back, Lord Monckton for your mind.”

Guy Barnett, what does that name mean to you? If I said he was a No1 pro-life advocate, does that make you feel happy, mad, ambivalent or querulous? Judith Troeth was a counterweight to Barnett being a pro-choice advocate. These debates on conscience are by far and away the most heartfelt. The quality of the debate is leagues better than the standard fare. It is amazing how quality improves when your words really do have an effect on your colleagues. I am always bewildered when people say that conscience votes are hard because you have to make up your own mind.

Alan Ferguson was a clear example of the pragmatic farmer who despised flashiness and had the fortitude to stand against the tide on populist issues, a beacon of common sense, even if it required crossing the floor from the chair, a neat trick. He kept to his principles to the end, proposing in his valedictory speech that the farcical event that question time has become should be abolished. I agree with him on this. It’s merely a cathartic experience that delivers neither a question nor an answer. It is not even good theatre. If you want to see a proper question time watch Senate estimates.

If a valedictory speech was to win a prize as a piece of opera then Julian McGauran’s would, right down to the intrepid pauses and the final bow with his hand on his heart. Sections of his career could have been written for Carmen and the close erred towards a scene by Puccini.

Russell Trood met his political execution, an inevitable result of being No4 on a ticket, with exceptionable grace and dignity.

Labor is also losing senators Annette Hurley, Dana Wortley, Steve Hutchins, Michael Forshaw and Kerry O’Brien. Hutchins and Forshaw are the traditional faith, family and the Labor Party senators. I don’t think I would be stretching it too far to say that they have a more authentic concern for the issues of working people than the opportunist, placard-waving Greens. Yet, regrettably the Greens gain the ascendancy.

Some valedictory speeches are sad, some like careers are non-descript, some are never given because of disgrace, pique or death in the job. Most speeches are a retrospective of the deliverer’s career with a final flourish for Hansard as to what they believe they have achieved. On that basis the reality is that the high points that really have changed the course of our nation easily fit into the allotted 20 minutes, with plenty of time left for stumbling gags like the best man’s speech at a country wedding.

Such is life for all of us; small cogs in a big, big wheel in a machine that would probably keep working if the wheel dropped out and rolled down the hill into the lake. Valedictory speeches, the oral graveyard of senators, that intrepid tribe of self-proclaimed indispensable people.

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