Mr BROADBENT (McMillan) (11:19): A letter to Alby Schultz: Dear Alby. When I arrived back in this place in 2004 after a six-year sabbatical, one of two since 1990, you caused quite a stir when you rolled the captain’s pick for the agricultural committee chair. It seems you didn’t care for the rural expertise of the PM’s pick. You, along with Wilson Tuckey and Simon Crean, engineered a coup. This coup was unheard of in these contemporary times, when the PM’s choice is an automatic untouchable.
There was outrage and much gnashing of teeth in the corridors of power. It seems that nothing could be done; the deal was sealed by the standing orders of the parliament. To some, this was a career limiting move. To many, it was a show of absolute disregard for orders from on high. It was a decision fired by your passion for the importance of the parliamentary agricultural committee to regional Australia.
If that one act of defiance was not enough, you, Alby Schultz, welded yourself to my heart when you stood in the parliament and said that you did not agree with the stance I was taking in regard to the excision of the Australian mainland from the migration zone, but you applauded my bravery and upheld my right to speak my mind. Then you did so again, after a senior journalist told me that the reason they dropped a policy the night before instead of bringing it into the party room as was normal was to stop the party room tearing me limb from limb. My words to the party room were: ‘I woke this morning trying to think, “Is there anybody who could tear me limb from limb?” and you know, I couldn’t think of one person!’ Then I said, ‘There’s only one person in this room who could tear me limb from limb, and that’s Alby Schultz.’ Alby, you said, ‘No chance of that; I’ll be right beside you.’ I remember standing and saying to the room, in the words of an old song, ‘Hit me with your best shot—fire away.’ Not a sound was heard from one person—no attack speech; not a boo out of anybody. Job done, Alby. How I loved you that day.
That is why, when, in the party room one morning, you were about to knock another member’s block off after he made a smart alec remark, I was the first around to your office to see if you were all right. I need not have worried. You were fine—absolutely fine.
I am just writing to tell you I miss you, Alby. You were a real character with a capital C—a one-off, like Petro and Wilson. You just do not come across larger-than-life members of parliament who are utterly unafraid, who take life, policy and politics to the limit, and passionately pursue their purpose with pride and unending perseverance—individuals who are prepared to champion a cause, at any cost.
You know that little coffee shop in Cootamundra where you and Glo used to have coffee? Well, Bron and I ended up there having breakfast. We looked a bit funny to the girls in the shop, in dark suit and black dress, so they asked if we were there for your funeral. They said they were closing for the day for your service, and put a sign on the door. They reckon the IGA sold out of black stockings. There were more dark suits and black dresses roaming around Coota that day than the locals had ever seen—quite a lark; they had never seen anything like it before!
By the way, the girls in the coffee shop said: around there, you’re like everybody’s other father. Not bad for a politician, Alby, when the rest of us are looking a bit battered at the moment. I met one of your sisters-in-law and her husband from Melbourne. They really loved you, Alby. They came over and greeted us at the funeral. We felt very special.
Yes, Alby, I’ll miss you. Love to Gloria, the boys and those daughters-in-law you used to skite about. Hooroo, Alby.
PS: you know, they stopped the traffic in Coota as they drove you through the town; police cars everywhere.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the member for McMillan for what was an outstanding speech.