Bill's Speeches

STATEMENT ON INDULGENCE: PASSING OF MICHAEL GORDON - CANBERRA - MONDAY, 5 FEBRUARY 2018

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I thank the Prime Minister for his words just then.

And I want to thank all of Michael’s colleagues for the tributes they’ve penned over the past few days, beautiful words for a man who gave us so many of his own.

Mr Speaker

That mournful digital ripple started spreading on late Saturday morning, early Saturday afternoon – those sad phone calls.

“Have you heard?”

“Can you believe it?”

“Do you have X or Y's number, so we can tell them the sad news? They'd want to know”

I'm sure many had the same reaction that I did.

I thought: “Not Mick. So much to do. So much to look forward to”.

Shock would best describe the reaction. But even in those first moments, we also knew what we had lost.

He was a person of complete integrity. Absolutely trustworthy. An honest soul - and a compassionate one.

Mick took the best side of everybody and I think he believed in the fundamental decency of politics.

You knew if you told him something, it wouldn’t mysteriously pop-up somewhere else.

As a journalist, he never chose to put himself in the centre of things or make himself the star. He wasn’t interested in sensationalism or sneering, he was a genuine reporter, he cared about the story.

He was an understated, earnest man. Who, in his understated, earnest way gave the reader the respect of intelligence.

When an article had Michael's byline, you knew that what was written was sincerely believed - and to be believed.

And if he was critical of you, it was genuine, you were being weighed and measured by the very best.

I count myself lucky that I knew Mick well enough that I could ring him up and receive his good and honest advice - even if it wasn't what you always wanted to hear.

In those conversations - and I know many of us shared them with him - he was a man who saw the whole picture, whose craft was distilling his panoramic view into a snapshot where not a single word was wasted.

I think he was at his very best when shining a light into the dark corners of our nation’s soul: from the shocking allegations on Manus, to the daily injustices facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Without Mick’s courage and intellect, his capacity to be both recorder and translator – I don't believe those issues would have receive anywhere near the attention they warrant.

In particular, I want to pay tribute to the way Mick wrote about the First Australians. Not from the air-conditioned comfort of a Canberra office - but out there on the ground. He planted himself in the red dust and he absorbed the wisdom of people who live with disadvantage and strive every day to overcome it.

There was no cynicism in Mick’s work, no long litany of hopeless cases or lost causes. He didn’t shirk the hard truths but he found the joy, the hope and the optimism too.

I think he had a gift for describing our universal humanity – and therefore invited us, the reader, to share responsibility.

Mr Speaker

The press is fundamental to nurturing our democracy and to holding our parliament accountable.

The quality of our national debate is in part defined by the quality of journalism. And in the end, great journalism depends on great journalists.

Michael Gordon was genuinely one of those.

I think he will be recorded as one of the great journalists of the generation - and of any generation. 

It is such a terrible shame that we are all denied the Third Act of his writing life. And it is so sad that Mick, and his family, have been robbed of the long days of leisure that he so thoroughly deserved.

Our love and condolences to Robin and his family.

May he rest in peace.


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