Condolence motion – Alex Gallacher

It's a great honour to speak at the condolence of a person that I worked with, Alex Gallacher. For Paola, for Caroline, for Terry, for Ian, for Frank and for the grandchildren, I offer the sympathies of this parliament and so many of our colleagues.

Alex was a fair dinkum guy. You know people in this game, you know the people who play on the other football side, and, although your job in here is to compete, you know the people who are fair dinkum and play by the rules, and Alex was one of those. He was also passionate about rural and regional affairs. I remember him wanting to decentralise sections to Port Augusta, which I think he was on a unity ticket of one on. But the thing about Alex that I found is he was a person who never deserted his Labor loyalties—they were red hot in his blood—but you could negotiate with him. He didn't carry on with trivialities and rubbish. If he thought a deal needed to be done, he would go outside into the courtyard and—unfortunately, a bad habit for so many of us— have a cigarette and have a yarn about how you could try and see your way through something. That, I think, is a very admirable trait, to be able to think that we are here for our nation, not just some form of puerile parochial game.

In his industry, living out in the country, as so many of us are aware of, one of his former good mates from our side Senator 'Wacka' Williams shared a common bond—both being truck drivers, they both understood how that worked, and they both had some very similar habits. It's an industry, of course, that takes you away from your family and takes you on the road and in which you sleep in your cabin, stop for fast food and pull over at service stations. I've never been a long-distance truck driver, but obviously I'm very aware of it, being on the same roads as them, eating the wrong food and trying to break down the monotony of those miles and miles and miles, what they call white-line fever, by whatever you could do—any break, anything that broke the monotony, anything that could keep you looking forward to what was 40 kilometres ahead. Of course, that attracts you to things such as smoking.

Today I think what was so powerful about Alex is that he had a life before he was a politician, and he brought that with him. So few these days come into this parliament with the life that Alex had lived. Living a life outside of politics—very similar to Wacka Williams—means that he had the capacity to cut through the BS and just get to the issue and understand, with the sort of empathy that comes from being a person of wider life experience. He was, and had been, a person who had laboured, and it's a great loss—it is a great loss.

What was also admirable about Alex was that he didn't aspire to higher office. He aspired to do his job. He wasn't the Prime Minister. He wasn't a minister. He wasn't the Leader of the Opposition. I don't think he was ever a shadow minister. And you could see that in him. He wanted to do the hard work that the Labor Party required of him, and he did the job that was given to him, and he did it with a smile on his face. Sterlo and I started at the same time. I've been communicating with Sterlo and I said, 'Tell me three things about him.' He said, 'He loved his family; No. 1.' He loved his family, he loved golf, and it sounds like he also loved the capacity to be part of trying to direct this nation.

In closing, I don't know whether Alex was a man of faith, but I thought of something in thinking about him. It's from Corinthians. It's 15:10 and it goes like this:

  • But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

I believe that Alex, whether he had a faith or not, is with Him who looks over all of us.