I rise to support the motion. I also rise to speak as not only a fellow senator of Senator Parer but, more importantly, as a friend. Like many, Warwick Parer’s death has come as a huge shock and even more of a shock to his family and those closest to him. I offer them my deepest condolences. May the
knowledge that he is remembered by so many of us as a colleague and a great friend be of some comfort to them.
Warwick Parer was a true entrepreneur who fiercely believed in the Liberal essence of what it means to be a Liberal—enterprise, strong national growth. It
was to the community’s benefit, therefore, that he was also interested in public life and had a strong sense of wanting to contribute his vast experience wrought in the commercial world. That is what drew me to him as a friend, because it was this sense of responsibility for community that informed his goals and his actions in this place.
Warwick Parer was a great asset to the Senate and was in a unique position to hold the resources and energy portfolio as minister from March 1996 to
October 1998. He had a distinguished career in the mining industry and could easily have continued to be an industrialist without putting himself through
the rigour of public life. Even after he had asked to go to the backbench and he did not want to be considered for a ministry, he continued his work in
public life as chairman of the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee and as a member of the Rural and Regional Affairs and
Transport References Committee before ultimately retiring from the Senate. And he left the Senate, as I think we would all like to, at a time of his own
Warwick Parer’s ministerial role was preceded, however, by shadow portfolios and committee work during 12 long years in opposition. Again, Warwick’s
commitment to public life during this darker period politically shone through; it is always easier—and my colleagues will agree—to find motivation to
strive when in government and everything is on your side. But when you are plugging away day in day out, without acknowledgement, that is a true test
of commitment and character— and Warwick Parer had both in spades. He certainly never shied away from the hard stuff. In my former life in the fishing
industry, when Warwick was Minister for Resources and Energy, I got to know him well. He understood the issues faced by the industry, particularly the needlessly complex regulatory processes at that stage that had nothing to do with the management of the resources and the protection of the environment.
Warwick was a tough man. I remember being involved with him over the convention for the conservation of southern bluefin tuna. At the time, in my view—and it is a shared view—Japan had a very recalcitrant position; they wanted to have an additional quota of scientific take, so we continued to take southern bluefin tuna. There were plenty in government who I tried to persuade at the time to try to persuade Warwick to move our position just a bit because it seemed to all of us at the time that the world was all about compromise. He said: ‘Enough is enough; we’re not moving on this. They can’t do it. We ain’t shifting.’ As a consequence, a pretty tough decision at that time in that environment led to the CCSBT being a really meaningful document.
Warwick prevented other parties from bringing their own quotas to the table—and it went on and on. They were all really tough decisions, and I admired him very much for that.
I also admired him for his very strong commitment to ocean policy—and I guess that is where we found an affinity. There is much about Warwick’s public life that has left a rich legacy—for example, his commitment to the conservation of the Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean. Much of the work that was done there was about everyone visibly seeing the effect. But Warwick said to me, ‘Nigel, if we’re going to have a sustainable fishery, this is a greenfield site in a real sense and we can get this right.’ At the time, I represented a whole spectrum of people for whom, in a commercial sense, that was not everything they needed to hear. People always say bilge comes out and there is this and that happening and there is bycatch. He said, ‘We need a fishery that prohibits all of those things.’ I said, ‘Mate, it’s pretty tough to have a boat that does not leak. We’ve got seals on our propellers’—and all that sort of technical stuff. He said, ‘You’ll be able to fix that, Nige’—and we did. If you are in the Patagonian toothfish fishery, there is not a hole that runs outside of your boat. There is no bilge; there is no bycatch; everything has to be retained. Because of his toughness and his capacity to negotiate technical
matters and state his ground we knew that we would find technical solutions to the problems.
Whether it was forestry policy, fishing, mining or some of the regional forest agreements, Warwick brought common sense to the issue as well as what I would consider to be a very intellectual approach. I certainly admired how, in the most difficult of circumstances, he was able to use those values. He understood the importance of jobs and exports and he was certainly a warrior for working Australians. I can vouch for his absolutely abiding devotion to his spouse, his children and now his grandchildren. He was a champion for Queensland, and a champion for his fellow country men and women in Australia from all walks of life. This was recognised when he was appointed as a member of the Order of Australia in 2005. We have lost a truly gentle man. I can say with a degree of certainty that both sides of politics will mourn the loss of his capacity for friendship across the political divide. He will be
missed. Vale dear friend, Warwick Parer.
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2014-03-17 Warwick Parer condolence.pdf