A Tribute to Hon Gary Roy Nairn AO — Condolence Motion Motions

I rise to make a few brief remarks.

My colleagues have covered much of Gary’s background, his education and his service before, during and after parliament. I wish to comment on three personal observations.

Firstly, we have a couple of points of connection: we both left the lower house in 2007 thanks to Kevin 07 and that campaign. We had the privilege of working with John Howard as prime minister, and I had engaged with Gary on a number of occasions in that process, and developed a respect for him and the way that he worked.

Secondly, he had a close relationship with the prime minister, to the extent that when the Socceroos in 2006 were playing against Croatia in the World Cup, at some unearthly hour of the morning, the Prime Minister said to Gary the night before, ‘You should get a few colleagues to come around and watch the game.’ So Gary did a bit of a ring-around. I was one of the few people remaining here to attend a committee meeting the next day, so Gary and I ended up with the prime minister.

There is a famous photo which constituents still send me on occasion, saying ‘You’re that bloke!’ Gary is sitting on one side of John Howard, with me on the other—wearing one of John Howard’s tracksuit tops because it was a bit cool at 5 o’clock in the morning—and John Howard is leaping in the air as Australia scored the first equalising goal against Croatia. There’s a point there where he and I will be forever connected through that, at least in image.

But the main thing I wanted to comment on was that, during that time, having left the military and come into the parliament, I was looking around at the people who were working, looking at people that I saw as role models.

There were the obvious ones like the prime minister and John Anderson, but one of the things Gary taught, through the way that he worked, was—to use the soccer analogy—that he played the ball and not the man or the woman. He was very focused. He was very passionate.

He would pursue things with vigour, but he always fought on the basis of the issue. He didn’t attack people. He was respected.

He sought to find common ground to get outcomes that were good for his community and for the nation.

So, as a fairly new parliamentarian at the time, Gary was one of the people that I looked to as a role model for how to be a parliamentarian, not a politician just with an eye on the next election—to go right back to Abraham Lincoln and Burke and some of the statements that they made—but with an eye on the next generation.

That was how he worked.

We saw that as he continued with his duties as he mourned the loss of his wife, Kerrie. That was a very difficult period for him. He continued with his empathy for other people. He mourned, he grieved, but he still served and was empathetic. He still worked with dignity. There’s a lot that people from all sides can learn from someone like Gary and the legacy he has left.

Vale, Gary, and my sympathies to his current wife, Rose, and his children, Ben and Deborah.