The father of the NSW House says goodbye

Valedictory speech

Ron Dyer


The Hon Michael Egan (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council): ... I thank all honourable members for their assistance and co-operation throughout the year. In particular, I thank the eight members among us whose terms are expiring at the end of this Parliament and who are not seeking re-election.

There are two on the Government side, the Hon Janelle Saffin and the Hon Ron Dyer; there are three crossbenchers, the Hon Alan Corbett, the Hon Helen Sham-Ho, and the Hon Richard Jones; and there are three Opposition members, the Hon Dr Brian Pezzutti, the Hon James Samios, and the Hon John Jobling. All of them can be proud of the contribution they have made to the Parliament. I do not intend to make comments about each of them specifically, other than my colleague the Hon Ron Dyer.

As honourable members will be aware, the Hon Ron Dyer is the father of this House. I am one of the few members who was a member of Parliament when he was elected, so I remember his election to this place, taking the seat of the Hon John Ducker. It is 23 years since John Ducker left this Parliament. To some of us who were here at the time, it seems like only yesterday.

I have known the Hon Ron Dyer for a lot longer than he has been in Parliament. In fact, he was one of the first faces and names I got to know when I joined Young Labor in about 1965. We were on different sides; he was a right winger and I was a left winger, and I thought the only thing worse than being a National or a Liberal was being in the right wing of the Labor Party. Young Labor, or the ALP youth conference as we then called it, was a very unusual organisation. There were only about 100 of us in the whole of the State, and that was at a time when we thought, at least in our saner moments, that the Labor Party might be doomed and might not even see out the decade.

Young Labor comprised an unusual bunch of people, all of whom in their late teens were convinced that the world was in dire danger and most of whom were convinced that we could save it by the time we turned 30. We not only had to save it amongst all the external forces; we had to save it amongst one another, so we fought bitter battles. But I must say that the Hon Ron Dyer - and he probably does not appreciate this point - was my first introduction to economic rationalisation. We used to meet every second Tuesday in Labor Party headquarters in Elizabeth Street. One evening the Hon Ron Dyer moved a motion supporting the containerisation of our ports. I remember that my faction vehemently opposed that because it would cost jobs on the waterfront. So when the Hon Ron Dyer moved the motion I was outraged, like all of my other left-wing colleagues. I even took a point of order.

The President of Young Labor, whose name I think was Paul Keating, asked me what my point of order was. I said that the motion was out of order because it would cost jobs. He said, "That is not a point of order. Sit down!" However, during the course of the Hon Ron Dyer's speech I saw the sense of what he was saying. I had never heard the term "containerisation" before - I just knew it was bad because it was being moved by a right winger - but by the end of his speech he had not only convinced me that our ports needed to be containerised, he had also convinced me for the first time to break ranks with the Left. So that was the beginning of my life of economic rationalis