This speech is to indicate support for the motion on the passing of the Hon. Ren DeGaris. The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK adds her condolences to his family and friends.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I rise to support the motion on the passing of the Hon. Ren DeGaris. I too had my experiences with Ren. I first joined the Liberal Party in 1990 and became a member of the party’s governing body state council in 1992, which is where I would have first come across him. He is the sort of person who was a legend in those days, and I think will remain in our history books as a legend whose reputation preceded him. I remember people pointing him out to me when he would go towards the microphone and say in hushed tones, ‘That’s Ren DeGaris.’
I too received advice from Mr DeGaris when I became Young Liberal president in 1995. I was—like all preceding Young Liberal presidents and subsequent ones, for many years at least—a recipient of his book Redressing the Balance. There were not too many people who wrote me letters trying to educate me about certain things in the party, but that was one that I did receive, and I would often receive other correspondence out of the blue from him too if I had made some contribution on policy debate. So, he was never backwards in coming forwards in expressing his views.
He was on my college as a state councillor, as has been said by a number of people here. He was on the state council of the Liberal Party for many years. He was on the first electoral college that I stood for when I was standing as a candidate for an unwinnable position on the senate ticket, which was 1997. When you are running for an unwinnable position you are not expected to do a grand tour of the country. In the Liberal Party, at least, when we have pre selections it is never a foregone conclusion and so the expectation is that you go and visit everybody, but I was not expected to visit on that occasion.
So, I made a phone call to Mr DeGaris and it was a very short conversation. You can never be too sure, if you are ringing someone whose views you do not think concur with yours, whether they will detain you on the phone or how you will be received. He was very frank, which I appreciated, to be honest. He said, ‘Michelle, I don’t like your views and I’m not voting for you,’ clunk. Having been the victim of people who detain you on the telephone, I have to say that his approach was much appreciated. As they say in politics: only believe the people who say they are not voting for you.
My last contact with Mr DeGaris was, I think, in 2003 when he was very much frailer. He was at a fundraising barbecue at Mitch Williams’ place, and I must say that on that occasion he was much more sanguine. He is a legend in the Liberal Party and he will be remembered for his contribution, and I would like to add my condolences to his family and friends.