Page 1684 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 3 May 2005

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education minister, to go to migrant classes in schools and see kids in, say, years seven to 10, all together learning English and learning things about their new country, Australia. That benefited those students. That is, of course, something that still happens in our schools. That is just one of the many great legacies Al Grassby has left us.

We have some 160 different nationalities represented in Canberra now. I wonder if we would have the pleasure of having so much diversity in our community and all the benefits that go with it were it not for the sterling efforts of Al Grassby, ably assisted of course by Ellnor and his family.

To Ellnor, Gabriella and Khedra, I send my sincere condolences. Only very recently I had the pleasure of seeing Al—just before he died. As I said, he loved going to events, he loved to party, he was gregarious, he liked a good time, he liked to drink and he loved people. I was at the Spanish Embassy about two weeks before he died. Al was not well then but he was still his gregarious self. He had to sit down a lot more than he would have in his younger days, but he was still very much the life of the party, still the delightful person I had known for a number of decades. Ellnor of course was there. They were indeed a great team. To Ellnor: I think Australia has lost a magnificent man—an excellent bloke.

MS MacDONALD (Brindabella): A couple of years ago at Berkelouw’s book barn in the Southern Highlands, I picked up a copy of a speech given by Al at the opera house when he was Minister for Immigration. In this he outlined his vision for Australia as a multicultural society. Shortly after purchasing it I saw Al and told him that I wanted him to sign it.

One of the things I like to do is collect copies of speeches and political histories, generally of the Labor Party. I cannot confess to collecting any from the Liberal Party side of things. Where I can, I like to get the author to sign them. Sadly, I never got my act together but I will always cherish my copy of that speech.

I am sure it must have given Al and Ellnor a great sense of satisfaction to see Australia blossom into the very rich society it is today but, of course, there is always more to be done. Many people have risen today and talked about the work that Al did. Dr Foskey mentioned how we owe thanks to Al for having got rid of the white Australia policy, if for nothing else.

Al, together with Ellnor, gave Australia the pointers on how to be the rich society we are now—one that has a much more open and welcoming attitude to different cultures than the Australia of the 1950s that Al came back to after the war.

Al’s lunches were famous for their good conversation, company and length. I regret that I never made it to one of Al’s lunches. I understand Ellnor has decided to continue those lunches and I am looking forward to being one of the participants. I will have to make sure I block out the afternoons in my diary to get along to them. I am quite sure Al’s spirit, humour and panache will be present at those lunches.

We all know that Al was a man who was short in stature but I do not think there is doubt in any of our minds that he was a giant in the life of this country. Al Grassby helped to create—in fact, it could very well be argued, as I would argue, that he created it—the

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