Page 1675 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 3 May 2005

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Tuesday, 3 May 2005

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am, made a formal recognition that the Assembly was meeting on the lands of the traditional owners, and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Death of Hon Al Grassby, AM

MR SPEAKER: May I acknowledge the presence in the gallery of Mrs Grassby, a former member of the Assembly.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs): I move:

That the Assembly expresses its deep regret at the death of the Hon. Al Grassby, AM, former Minister for Immigration, former member of the House of Representatives for Riverina and former member for Murrumbidgee in the NSW Legislative Assembly and tenders its profound sympathy to his family, friends and colleagues in their bereavement.

MR STANHOPE: There are few individuals who will leave this life having contributed as much, or touched and improved the lives of so many, as Al Grassby, the father of Australian multiculturalism. He may be best and most widely remembered for the sweeping changes to our national self-image he ushered in during his time as immigration minister in the Whitlam government, but those short few years were just an episode in a long and full life of advocacy, a life of sustained service and unswerving principles.

Similarly, the aspects of Al’s character that were so prominent during those high-profile years, in particular his ability to draw all kinds of people into his orbit and sweep them along with enthusiasm, do not paint a full portrait of the man known to many thousands of Canberrans. For these thousands, Al Grassby was not just a politician or former politician but also a family man, a friend, a stalwart of the Labor Party, a fine, true public servant, a republican and a Canberran through and through.

Al Grassby strode the political stage at a time when there were plenty of colourful characters populating the Australian parliament. On the Labor side alone Al had some fierce competition in the personality stakes from the likes of Gough himself, Fred Daly, Diamond Jim McClelland and Barry Cohen. Even among such company Al Grassby distinguished himself.

Perhaps it was his Irish-Spanish heritage that gave him the desire for a sartorial and personal flamboyance that was not common in Australian public life at the time. Perhaps it was this heritage too that made him understand the true potential of multicultural Australia and to comprehend the distance Australia would have to travel before it could truly accept and embrace a multicultural future.

Al Grassby’s public life began when he won for Labor the traditionally conservative rural seat of Riverina in 1969. He repaid his constituents’ faith many times over,

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