Members' Contribution : Retirement Of Hon Caroline Schaefer MLC And Hon Robert Lawson MLC

18 Nov 2009 archivespeech

This speech is in relation to the Members' Contribution : Retirement Of Hon Caroline Schaefer MLC And Hon Robert Lawson MLC.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (20:25): These occasions are normally reserved for members posthumously, so it is a privilege for us to be able to let our honourable colleagues know what we really think about them while they are still here to interject and rebut us if they so choose.

My leader (Hon. David Ridgway) has provided the catalogue of all the committees, including the printing committee and other luminary areas in which both those these esteemed colleagues have served. I would like to talk more personally. I have obviously known Robert Lawson for a fair while, having worked with him when the Liberals held the government benches and he was a minister. He was a very thorough minister, and I think the fact that he was such a safe pair of hands meant that additional portfolios kept being added to the list—from disabilities and ageing (which is when I joined him) to a whole range of others and, ultimately, in the Kerin government, being appointed Attorney-General. I think it should be acknowledged that he made a very fine Attorney-General, and it is very unfortunate that he did not get to serve longer in that role because he is very well regarded by the legal community and would have made a great contribution in that regard.

Working for someone who is very thorough is not always good for their staff, however—and I acknowledge his long-serving personal assistant, Raelene Zanetti, who is in the gallery—because it means that we are often called on to rewrite letters for the 17th time. Robert would receive drafts from his department which were never good enough, and the ones that we would draft were never good enough, and the wording had to be precise, exact and accurate, right down to the line. There would also be a number of occasions when I would accompany Robert to community functions when he had some very dry and brittle speech written on his behalf which he would almost literally throw out the window on the way to the function because it really did not express anything that would be of interest to the listeners. Since I have been here, he has been a great mentor to me; he is very loyal, his understanding of matters is very thorough, and I have always appreciated his advice and the great trust that I can place in his opinion.

Caroline is a member whom I have come to know much better while I have been a member and, while she often describes herself as a conservative country lady, as if that is to be some self-deprecating label, I think Rob Lucas described it very well, that is, that she has bucket loads of commonsense. We worked very closely together in particular during my previous stint with the environment portfolio and, when she said to me that she would be happy to take on some bills if I was overworked, I was completely delighted. With her primary industry background and experiences as former minister for agriculture, food and fisheries, Caroline had a very good understanding of areas such as animal welfare and the marine parks legislation. She handled those matters in good faith with all parties concerned and did a very good job in terms of seeking amendments that have greatly improved that legislation.

We have joked from time to time that we would form our own faction for people who actually read their briefing papers, and I will not reflect upon any particular members and name anyone who might not belong to that faction, but I have always found Caroline to be a very well-considered member who applies herself, is trustworthy in relation to everything you say, and will do things in good faith.

Both members have made an outstanding contribution. We all have relied heavily on them in our service, particularly those of us who have entered the parliament as newer members. We appreciate that they have been great custodians of the legislation of this parliament rather than choose the option of point scoring from time to time. We wish them both well. They and their spouses, Delysia and Roy, deserve a long and healthy retirement. We will miss their contribution.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.M. Gazzola.