A speech given in support of a motion of condolence for the Hon Dr Bob Such MP
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:36 :31 ): Of course I am going to get emotional; I am sorry. I have known Bob Such for the 20-odd years I have been active in politics. I first got to know him as the shadow minister for education, employment and youth affairs when I was an active Young Liberal, and I was one of many young people with whom he engaged in his policy discussions.
Bob had a great passion for that role, which he was to take into government following the landslide election of the Liberal Party in 1993. As someone who served on the state executive of the Liberal Party during the mid-nineties, Bob would, from time to time, represent premier Brown at meetings. Our most memorable meeting followed reforms to firearm ownership laws in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre when the Liberal Party received a large number of new membership applications in a very short space of time, all in the seat then held by the deputy premier and minister for police, the Hon. Stephen Baker. I think I will leave my remarks on the proceedings of that meeting at that.
Bob's relationship with the Liberal Party was to be a casualty of the difficulties the party had in the 1990s, but I am pleased to say that I always maintained my friendship with him—in many ways because he was such a thoroughly decent human being that it overcame whatever party loyalties might try to dictate. When I entered parliament in 2003, he was one of the most welcoming of my new colleagues. We subsequently served together on the Environment, Resources and Development Committee where he was a valuable and experienced member. During this time, he initiated inquiries into many things, including natural burial grounds, as he had been approached by a couple who wanted to provide this service but the existing rules would not allow them.
Bob was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005, and he won that battle. He became an advocate of men's health checks and was very supportive of others who fought that disease. Bob and I were to come across each other regularly through our mutual interest in the environment, and particularly in relation to trees. There is an organisation called Treenet which holds an annual symposium in Adelaide every September, a full day session of presentations on all sorts of topics in which both of us participated, and I think the Hon. Mark Parnell and the Hon. Rob Brokenshire have as well, followed by practical sessions at the Waite Arboretum.
Bob was a member of the management committee of Treenet from February 2007. Treenet founder, David Lawry, OAM, has told me that Bob attended every management meeting in person or by phone almost without fail. David and his wife Julie visited Bob and Lyn about six weeks prior to his passing, and I think it is true to his character that David says Bob was more concerned about David's health, him being a cancer survivor who has recently undergone surgery, than himself.
Treenet has helped to educate many of us in this place about the benefits of trees as part of our biodiversity in reducing the heat island effect of cities in summer, stormwater harvesting and improving the mental health of local residents, to name a few. I know that Bob's thinking was also shaped by Professor Chris Daniels, who has presented in many public fora in his area of expertise, urban ecology, about the importance of our backyards to the ongoing health of our local native species.
In this context Bob and I worked together to try to educate the government about its significant tree laws (and I also acknowledge the Hon. Mr Parnell), which still protect some of the wrong trees while exposing some of the most beneficial to being more easily removed. Bob organised meetings with the minister's office and much correspondence, and in that I acknowledge his staff, Barbara and Linda, who in meetings where we would be discussing these things he would refer to them and ensure that they would type up some letters for his signature.
Bob's genuine interest in his community has been mentioned many times, as people remember him since his passing on 11 October. He saw himself as a servant and would frequently survey his constituents on issues so that he would genuinely represent his electorate. As his wife Lyn has publicly described him, Bob was a great ideas man. While Bob was known for his campaigns on voluntary euthanasia and speed cameras, his motions on the Notice Paper included a whole range of issues including parole, litter, nano materials, food standards, ADSL broadband and anti-social behaviour.
It is worth noting that Bob tabled a private member's bill in 2012 to put in place a better regime to regulate puppy farms, which is the precursor to the bill that has now been tabled in this place. Bob was a prolific writer of letters to his colleagues in parliament and he was still writing letters to the paper after his diagnosis earlier this year. He regularly appeared on radio, especially in recent years on FIVEaa, and Leon Byner gave a touching tribute to Bob on 13 October, two days after Bob passed.
I spoke to Bob on the opening day of parliament in May. He thanked me for a gift of some native plants which I knew he and Lyn would enjoy, given their love of nature. He also advised me not to delay getting early health checks, something which I will certainly take on board. That was the last time most of us were to see him, and it is so sad that this illness took him so soon. We will miss him, and our thoughts are with his family.