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Valedictory Speech – Kerry Finch

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The outgoing member for Rosevears reflects upon his life and his time in the Tasmanian Parliament.

The Legislative Council seat of Rosevears goes to the polls on 1 August. The elections were delayed from what would have been their normal slot, meaning incumbent Kerry Finch stayed in Parliament a little longer; at least, as the ‘Father of the Parliament’, he was well used to being there. Tasmanian Times here presents the text of his valedictory speech to the chamber and wishes him well in the next phase of his life. As he pointed out to us, he is stepping down from the Tasmanian Parliament but not quite retiring.

Mr President thank you and fellow members for your kind words about me and from several weeks ago and I’m happy to have this opportunity for my final speech in the Legislative council to thank you face to face.

Last year I announced I would not stand for the 2020 election to give independents particularly, the opportunity to establish their teams, get out in the community, establish their credentials and have the best chance of being in the mix on election night, which of course we now know is the 1st of August.

I felt it was time for a fresh face in this chamber and the right time for me to move into a new phase of my professional life.

I commend all candidates on the way in which they have dealt with the interruption caused by the Covid 19 global health pandemic. It must have been very frustrating. And my best wishes to my successor. I trust that persons journey will be as enjoyable as mine. And best wishes to the Member for Huon.

After a little over 18 years I am the longest serving current member of Parliament, referred to as ‘The Father of the Parliament’. I was asked whether there was ever a Mother of the Parliament and I said ‘stay tuned’. There has been one in the British parliament.

Brylcreem boyhood.

Whilst I have become known for my current role and my media career, so much of who I am could be sheeted home to my very humble beginnings in Fern Tree on kunanyi/Mt Wellington.

What would those people of my childhood…let alone Mum and Dad…think of me being portrayed at number 725 in the Long Room at Parliament House? Unbelievable!

I was the youngest of 6 children and life growing up might have been viewed as “not easy” by outsiders. My dad Clyde, served in the Navy for 12 years from 1932, the Depression years, through the Second World War and returned home in 1945, damaged, as so many were. We lived with that reality as a family.

Those challenges I think add to your strengths, resilience and your understanding that hurdles can be overcome. Mum,Beryl, who we called Jo, was able to forge a family life for us in spite of adversity. But life was like that for “baby boomers’ and their parents. Not Robinson Crusoe!

Interestingly…growing up in Tasmania at that time gave me a sense that I could be whatever I wanted to be. Prime Minister? Sure….but it was up to me. That would be a mindset that I would like to instil into every young Tasmanian. I clearly remember as a 13 or 14 year old, not concerning myself with ambition, but wanting just to be a personal success…to be happy with me.

I followed in the footsteps of Errol Flynn by going to Macquarie Street Primary and passing the ‘Ability Test’ to go to Hobart High School. The headmaster was C Dwight Brown, a wonderful educator. When we came to an agreement that I should leave the school, he told me that he was at HH with Errol Flynn when he was expelled at 15 for dropping 2 eggs from the landing of the quadrangle on to the headmaster’s lectern below as he was conducting an assembly. The final straw.

At 18, the youngest capital city breakfast radio announcer in Australia.

So at 15 down to the CES for the offer of 3 jobs, one of which was a control operator at 7HT Hobart. I said “I’ll take that job until something better comes up.” Jobs were not an issue in the early 60’s. Not something I’d recommend to today’s youngsters.

My early mentor at 7HT was Barry Ferber, an excellent broadcaster who ran an announcing school. He instructed me ‘Don’t try to be anybody else…don’t try to be something you’re not.”

Another lesson that has served me well, particularly when I nominated to stand for Rosevears, was reinforced at my first gathering of my team of friends. Two came out of the woodwork to offer help, journalist Mike Howe who I have mentioned in the House and Phil Martin, who at that time was Head of News and Current Affairs at SBS Television. Both were at that first meeting and when I sought advice, both said “Be yourself” and that advice helped to relax me. I could do that.

 

In Parliament

History shows that I was elected in 2002 ahead of the 8 other candidates. So, the new learning curve begins.

I didn’t really see myself as a politician…more a parliamentarian and a representative of the people of Rosevears. As an Independent I could keep an open mind on issues until I had heard all the arguments. There is no point in making up your mind until you’ve looked at all the facts and ramifications. If you lock yourself in to a position you won’t hear from those who may be contrary to the way you’re going.

The big issue which began not long after my election was the pulp mill…it was to pervade my career for the next 10 or 12 years.
I was not opposed entirely to a pulp mill for Tasmania – closed loop and chlorine free had a pretty good ring to it – rather I was opposed initially to the government and Gunns moving away from the RPDC process and bringing it through Parliament…and then the location in the Tamar Valley. Do a plan B and put it at Hampshire was my mantra.

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At one stage I delivered the largest petition ever presented to the Tasmanian parliament, of people opposed to the location: 21, 360. Don’t try to beat it because the staff have to count and verify every signatory.

As a follow on later we spent our 4 years on the Tasmanian Forest Agreement which attempted to draw together all the players in the forestry industry.

Some of you will remember the debate when the Member for Huon moved a motion to send the result off to a committee…I had had a gutful of the issue, so divisive for our community, and I spoke vociferously against the motion and said if it gets up I won’t be on the committee…well it got up and I had a break for the coming January, while everyone else went through that political process. A strange process for me.

Suffice to say that we don’t have a pulp mill and we have a re-structured forestry industry which offers a different future.

In 2006 we had the Beaconsfield Mine rockfall when Larry Knight died and Todd Russell and Brant Webb were rescued. That unfortunate event put Beaconsfield on the map around the world, particularly for the stoicism of the mine people and the community and has resulted in the magnificent Museum at Beacy as a tribute to mining in the area and that event. And as we’ve heard recently, could be mined again.

Kerry Finch

A young Kerry Finch on the right, despite his claims to be the one in the middle.

One of the special debates here was the Same Sex Marriage Bill in 2012 and 2013 and I was happy to stand up for the principles of tolerance and a fair go. Social justice has been a very big theme of my work here with support for the Civil Relationships Bill 10 years ago, anti-discrimination, expungement of criminal records and support for gender diversity. For me…no-brainers.
My re-election in 2014, against a candidate who strongly opposed the Bill, showed that the people of Rosevears and Tasmanians agree with those values.

2014 was a very demanding but interesting campaign. One of the reasons was that my opponent signalled a challenge in November, so it was a long campaign. Carole and I put together a letter for distribution to as many households as possible. We printed and folded 15,000 of those and delivered personally 10,000…and I posted on social media a photo of the shoes that I wore with holes all through the soles. As was mentioned at the Declaration, I won the pre-polling votes, the postal votes and every booth in the electorate….even AgFest where all the heavies of the opposing party person were on display.

I have always been supportive of the Indigenous community and reconciliation. There are strong recollections for me of the Cape Barren handover, one of the Jim Bacon visions and fulfilled by Paul Lennon. Chairing the Inquiry into the handover of larapuna and Rebecca Creek was an honour and always going to be difficult. That’s the way it worked out.

And then there was my desire to re-name my electorate kanamaluka, the palawa kani name for the Tamar Estuary which covers the length of my electorate from Launceston to Bass Strait…that was unsuccessful.

I have presented speeches and recently I gave my take on ‘Uluru, Statement From the Heart’. And the line that resonates with me is “Don’t think about losing 200 years of YOUR history; think about sharing 60,000 years of OUR history. We are moving slowly towards reconciliation, but out of little things, big things grow.”

There was the sadness of Vanessa Goodwin’s passing. I remember calling on her when I wanted to discuss elder abuse. She made the trip to Launceston as Attorney General to meet some of my constituents and we had a long conversation about that. Another time we had the problems with wombat mange in narawntapu and the West Tamar. She came to investigate and secured a grant for the people at Kelso who were working on the issue. Vanessa herself worked quietly on issues…not banging the drum or pumping up her own tyres.

There is a raft of words to describe the type of person she was….we know the qualities she had. She was an exemplar for the work we do and the type of people we need in Parliament to set a good example of how we should conduct ourselves. We’re very low in trust levels when assessed by the public.

Back in the day as studio manager at 2KM Port Macquarie.

Don Wing and I reminisced recently about how special she was to work with and recalled our trips to investigate our Select Committee Inquiry into tourism. She was wonderful company particularly on the trip to New Zealand, which I might add was very fruitful for our report. One particular memory was being in Wellington at the same time as Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Vanessa found out where she was staying and wanted to catch a glimpse of her as she returned from the NZ Parliament. So there we were…Vanessa, Don and myself, like three groupies, sitting on a bench, waiting for her car to arrive. It did, we saw her go in to the hotel and too quick for us to call out to her…but Vanessa was happy just to see her.

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With the very human and down to earth way she conducted herself, Vanessa set the bar very high. We will not always reach the VANESSA bar but it is a good thing to strive for.

My parliamentary mentor, Don Wing. What an Independent exemplar he was! He was the President here for 6 years from when I first arrived…and I recall his frustration at not being able to represent his electorate fully on the floor of the chamber and how, when he decided to relinquish the position, he spent the next 3 years doing exactly that as a wonderful Independent.

Now that Don has gone from the Chamber and I’m about to go…it’s safe to tell the story of a very special night featuring the Scottish group Fiddlers Bid and former Treasurer David Crean. The 6 piece Fiddlers Bid from the Shetland Islands were in Tasmania for 10 Days On The Island and staying at Wrest Point. Don Wing stayed there too and invited them to come to Parliament House the next night for dinner and…bring your instruments. Most of us gathered in the dining room and not only were we entertained by them but also a good old country song by David Crean. We adjourned to the President’s rooms but because David had access to this chamber, in we all came, Fiddlers Bid gathered at the far end and played their traditional Shetland fiddle tunes whilst we relaxed and soaked up the atmosphere that this theatre provided. The celebration continued back in the rooms and it was quite hilarious when the next morning the Usher of the Black Rod announced “Honourable members, the Deputy President” so we were left wondering what fate may have befallen our beloved host.

He has assured us that it was a faulty alarm clock back in his bedroom. The music was out of this world and music that subsequently has been heard all over the world.

There has been so much committee work to detail here but one highlight for me would be as Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Community Development. When the Member for Murchison initiated the Government Administration Committees, there was often a reference to the problems of combining the 2 houses for committee work but it was not a problem for me as Chair…even when we had Cassy O’Connor, Brett Whitely and Brenton Best as members. What a mix!

Another would be my Select Committee Inquiry with Don Wing and the Member for Windermere into the Statutory Management Authority for the Tamar Estuary and catchments. It didn’t get traction then but is being put under the spotlight lately.
A lot of committee work and always enjoyable, albeit at times challenging.

Constituent work has always been a high priority for me. Medicinal cannabis, palliative care, wombat mange, West Tamar Highway safety and safety generally. I have always been a passionate supporter of the tourism industry, the health of the Tasmanian devils, the Deviot landslip issue has been close to home and of course I strongly support the arts community, education in all its facets and my connection with the sporting club for people with disabilities, New Horizons, has been an important part of my parliamentary and personal life.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has always been prominent in my thinking for the enhancement of our roles here…whether promoting, being on the executive or representing the Tasmanian Parliament in Australia and overseas. The highlight being the trip to Westminster for the 100th celebration of the CPA. The theme was ‘Women as Agents of Change’ and I presented a speech with that title at the conference.

We had a slow start to female representation in Tasmania after Dame Enid Lyons went to Federal parliament in 1943. Two women, Amelia Best and Mabel Miller were elected to the House of Assembly in 1955 and now we elect women to all tiers of Government as a matter of course. I’m very proud of the fact that we were the first Parliament in Australia to have over 50% female representation.

Voters of both genders trust women candidates now and we must encourage women in to politics and elsewhere in the Tasmanian community where important decisions are made. It’s worth noting that of the six candidates for Rosevears four are women!

Improving public health has been a focus and I particularly enjoyed supporting Gary Fettke and his concern about our intake of sugar…through his website No Fructose. Low carb/high fat diet…get into it!

Thanks

Thanks must go to the many sporting clubs that have included me as a board member, supporter, Patron and spectator. The Launceston Football Club, Launceston Little Athletics, the Tornadoes, the Bridgenorth Football Club, the Three Peaks Race, the Birrallee and Districts Pony club and so many more.

Another momentous development in Rosevears was the Beaconsfield Child and Family Centre. We were the beneficiaries of being the first in Australia and it has been a huge success story for us. I was pleased to be involved on the committee almost from the get go. I came on board when we missed out on the Mine Disaster money and the committee was able to then convince the Federal Labor Government of its need.

Being a representative of the community has given me some great opportunities, particularly promoting our talented people. Most notably this was achieved through the Tasmanian Talent Team which comprised Don Wing, the indefatigable Suzie Clark, Di Bucknell and myself. We sent Di Briffa, John de Jong, Tom Ward and Ben Austin to the Expo in Japan 15 years ago and then assisted pianist Ben Austin and counter-tenor Nic Tolputt with their individual music careers. Sports people include boxer and World Champion Daniel Geale and Commonwealth Games Weight lifter Jenna Myers. Through the Exeter RSL Community and Sports Club, with me as Patron, we have assisted a lot of promising young sports people to travel around Australia for competitions.

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Last year was made special for me with my appointment as the Parliamentary representative on the Frank MacDonald Memorial Prize which is a wonderful involvement with the RSL and the Education Department taking 6 grade 9 students to the Western Front in Belgium and France to embrace the history of the First World War, Australia’s contribution and the aftermath.

One thing that stood out in my mind was that on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, British troops suffered 57,470 casualties. There were 19,240 killed. 37 sets of brothers died. Day One! Terrible! Those six young people, the two teachers, our RSL rep, our leader and our guide were of the highest order and will be forever in our collective thoughts.

I might also highlight the honour I have had to organise and be the guest speaker at the Anzac Day ceremonies at the Exeter RSL for about the last 15 years. Thanks to President Arthur Kingston and his committee. I very much enjoyed coaching the leadership group at Exeter High in public speaking to be our junior guest speakers each year at Exeter and Beaconsfield on Anzac Day.

One point I must make is the benefit of electorate tours. They’ve gone off the radar a bit lately but I have always found those tours most beneficial to broadening our understanding of what is occurring in other members electorates around Tasmania. I would encourage members who have not organised one to find out how it’s achieved and it will pay immense dividends for you in your community connection.

I couldn’t let this opportunity pass without reflecting on the Special Interest speeches.

When I first came here, I looked to see where I could project my electorate, my special people and myself in to the Chamber. I felt the obvious one was through the Special Interest Speeches. Since I started on them I have only missed one over the 18 years and that was they day of my heart attack and I had to phone the Member for Hobart to not only present my speech but also host the family who had travelled south for it, to lunch. It was Michael Booth of Riverside who was the first Tasmanian to run a marathon on the seven continents of the world including Antarctica. It was to promote organ and tissue donations as a tribute to his daughter Allison. I’m so pleased that others have recognised the value of Special Interest speeches and supported the increase in presentations from four to six. Nearly always full now.

I’m going to wrap up now Mr President, first by repeating what Don Wing said here on his departure. It has been an honour to be part of the Legislative Council family. Thanks to my friends from all walks of life and political persuasions who supported me during my campaigns in 2002, 2008 and 2014. We’re coming together on election night 2020 to reminisce.

When I was first elected Tasma Howell guided me but only for a short time. She came from a time when she was the EA for six Northern members. It was .6 of an FTE in 2002 and over time it was increased to 1 FTE. A blessing! Dianne Bucknell was with me until 2014…a good friend and then Suzie Somann-Crawford. Thank you all for running my office so brilliantly.

I’ve had tremendous assistance from my very special friend, Mike Howe and as his daughter described him ‘the erudite intellectual’. Jim Anderson, the esteemed Lawyer, was a guiding light with his wife Bunny until a couple of years ago and thanks to my technical supporter, Ross Crawford.

Kerry Finch addressing the LegCo for the last time as Member for Rosevears.

This is where it gets hard by mentioning names and worrying about leaving someone out inadvertently. Sufficient, I hope, to thank our unflappable and solid Clerk David Pearce and all the excellent staff who support us so generously with their friendship, courtesy, support, care and management during our time here.

Our Hansard people, who will be relieved of the duty of chasing up my quotes, the library and research staff, always on call with the best timely and accurate information. The catering staff, both dining room and the bistro, with the Legendary Mandie Donnelly at the helm. And our often unsung heroes downstairs in the IT department with Peter Hancox…always helpful.

During my time there have been four outstanding Presidents, each with their own skills, knowledge and passion for the job. Don Wing, Sue Smith, our first female President, our all round ‘good bloke’ Jim Wilkinson and now our gregarious Craig Farrell, notably the first President from a political party. A feather in your cap Sir.

To my constituents of Rosevears…thank you for trusting in the novice who put his hand up in 2002 and enabling me to grow as a community representative in state Parliament. I’ve always felt welcomed, safe and accepted for what I have tried to achieve for the betterment of your lives in our special part of Tassie , the West Tamar and for Tasmania generally.

The future…well it’s about Carole and my family with Brian, Adrian and David and more quality time with our grandchildren.
Shoring up my superannuation with our property development in West Launceston to stop us being a drain on the public purse…
And reflecting on the enriched life that Tasmania and it’s people have given me.

Thanks colleagues.

Source: Tasmanian Times https://tasmaniantimes.com/2020/07/valedictory-kerry-finch/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=valedictory-kerry-finch

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