Page 1678 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 3 May 2005

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immense and I extend the deepest condolences of the ACT government to his widow, Ellnor; daughter, Gabriella; and other members of their family.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition): On behalf of the opposition I rise to join in this condolence motion about Al Grassby and extend our sincere wishes to Ellnor; to his daughter, Gabriella; and to his grandson, Khedra.

All Australians have probably heard of Al Grassby. That cannot be said for many politicians. No matter what you thought of his politics, I think it is the way Al approached life that endeared him most to Australians. He was not a man who stepped back from life; he was a man who embraced life and then just took it forward. While Minister for Immigration, he became famous for wearing his colourful ties. I quote something he recently told the Age newspaper:

The ties came with the Whitlam government because I decided that we were liberated from a dull and colourless past to a new and colourful Australia. And it just went from there.

And, well, didn’t it go! Whether you agree with the full content of that statement or not, I think the memory most Canberrans would have of Al is the man about town with the ties and the clothing who had an opinion on everything—a man who was able to sell his opinion and back it up.

You did not have to agree with Al but you were always in for a good argument. I think it was the passion he had for life and for being himself that people will remember. Cameron Murphy recalled the story of the day when a young Al Grassby took his British Army private’s uniform to an Italian tailor to be remade. You can see it happening. You can just imagine him turning up on parade—the only guy with a tailored army uniform. For those of us who have served, army uniforms are not the most glamorous items of apparel. You can just see Al taking matters into his own hands, because that is what he always did. I do not know whether that came from his Irish mother or his Spanish father, but the combination of pure Celtic bloods—the Celts crossed the Irish Sea and were in both Spain and Ireland—certainly was with him in the passionate way he approached things.

Al was a man who travelled. He had a world view and I think that helped him in his time as a minister. He certainly saw the light that Brisbane was not the place to live and, having searched the world, decided that southern New South Wales, and ultimately Canberra, was the only place a man of his stature could be. That shows the knowledge and good judgment of such a man. He achieved much in his life. He was a state member, a federal member and a federal minister. There are not too many people who can say that.

I think the reforms that the Chief Minister has outlined are a testament to Al. For me the one that really stands out is the repeal of section 64 of the Migration Act 1958 to 1966. That was the last of the old discriminations against the indigenous people of Australia. It is something he should be remembered for for a long time.

I have on my bookshelf at home one of his books entitled Six Australian Battlefields which, written with Marji Hill, looked at different episodes in Australia’s history,

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