Page 425 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 14 February 2017

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Bernie witnessed and oversaw immense changes at Hansard, including the introduction of computers and voice recognition. He established a cadet reporter training program at the Canberra College of Advanced Education. He was executive coordinator of the centenary of parliament, a member of the Macquarie Dictionary panel and the style council, the Australian Journalists Association, and a member and one-time president of the Commonwealth Hansard Editors Association. He was inducted into the hall of fame of the Shorthand Reporters Association in 2004.

After his retirement Bernie was actively involved in recording and transcribing oral histories for the Museum of Democracy at Old Parliament House, the Royal Canberra Golf Club and the National Film and Sound Archive. When he retired Bernie’s children, Amanda and Jamie, had a star named after him at the International Star Registry.

After my election to the ACT Legislative Assembly, one of the first people to congratulate me was Bernie Harris, and 30 years after going separate ways after our soccer involvement, Bernie and I renewed our friendship over numerous lunches and dinners at his favourite place: the Royal Canberra Golf Club.

Bernie started working for Hansard when Sir Robert Menzies was Prime Minister, Mr Arthur Calwell was Leader of the Opposition and decimal currency was still two years away. Bernie and I were able to share stories about his major passion, parliament and Hansard, and the now legendary people he rubbed shoulders with. He gave me his first video of his presentation about the humour of Hansard. I, in my new role as an MLA, finally started to have a better understanding and appreciation of Bernie Harris and his dedication and life-long passion to his profession.

I thank Bernie’s children—daughter, Amanda, and son, Jamie—for supplying me with additional information that I have been able to include in this tribute, and offer them and Bernie’s sister, Ros, my sympathy and that of his former colleagues in this Assembly—Tom Duncan, Max Kiermaier, Celeste Italiano, Andrew Snedden and almost all of the current ACT Hansard staff—for the sad loss to the Harris family.

I felt the last word should go to Bernie Harris this afternoon. I quote from his wonderful presentation on the humour of Hansard, which summarises Bernie’s respect and deep feelings towards his parliament:

I just want to say—and I may be a bit emotional about it—when you walk away, look at this building and think of our democracy and what it means to all of us: how fortunate we are to live in a country like this, which can have an election and change of government with no problems and where a Prime Minister can compliment the Leader of the Opposition and where life goes on. Just think of this building, think of the great people who have been here and think of what it means to have this system of government. We’ve never had a civil war and we have never had an incursion—bar what happened in Darwin and Sydney Harbour. If I am emotional about it, it is because I am proud.

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