STATEMENT ON INDULGENCE: BOB HALVERSON
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 22 FEBRUARY 2016
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Bob Halverson lived a tradition of service before self.
In the uniform of the RAAF, in this place, in the Speaker’s chair and as Australia’s ambassador to Ireland and the Holy See.
Always dedicated and always very much his own man.
Pre-selected for Casey without powerful backers or big money.
An imposing figure, tall and barrel chested – yet a warm and welcoming character.
An officer accustomed to command – but a representative committed to serve.
The proud recipient of an OBE, but a forthright Republican.
A fiercely loyal Party Whip, determined to act as an impartial speaker.
And it was on this last question, his resolve would be sorely tested.
When Bob was elected Speaker in 1996, Prime Minister Howard declared he wanted the new Speaker to be “as independent as possible”.
For his part, Bob pledged fairness and true independence from the chair.
He said: “I have a fair bit of clout.”
“And I will use it unhesitatingly”.
Regrettably, this very quickly brought him into conflict with his colleagues.
As the respected political editor of the Canberra Times put it, Peter Cole-Adams:
“Mr Halverson tried to be as fair as the Australian tradition allowed, permitting the Opposition to ask the occasional supplementary question, upholding the occasional Opposition point of order and instructing Ministers, again occasionally, to get to the point.”
“Even this was more than Mr Howard or his senior colleagues were prepared to tolerate,” according to Mr Cole-Adams.
Eventually, when the defiance in the chamber and mutterings in the corridors became too much for the health of the Parliament he loved – he resigned.
In a characteristically concise and honest statement, he told this place: “This is my decision, mine alone, and I am entirely comfortable with it.”
And having always said that when he stepped down from the speakership, he would leave the Parliament, Bob was true to his word.
Retiring from office, to then be appointed by the Howard Government to diplomatic service.
Ambassador Halverson was greatly admired in Ireland as someone generous with his time and honest in his views.
He won particular praise at home for using his strong connections with the Irish military to secure 100 members of their Special Forces – the famous Rangers – as part of the international peace-keeping effort in Timor.
I’m conscious that even after his formal political career had ended, Bob still acted as a strong mentor and role model for a new political generation, yourself included.
And even in the short time you have served as Speaker,I believe you have done great credit to the tradition and the principles of your fellow Member for Casey.
As has been said by the Prime Minister, Bob Halverson in his first speech in this place, reflected on the diverse and complex motivations that compelled honourable members to seek to serve in this place.
He said: “Mine were quite simple,”
“I believe our rights and freedoms must be protected - and I love my country”.
We salute Bob Halverson’s long life of service to the country he loved.
We offer our condolences to his loved ones and to his friends.
May he rest in peace.
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