Thursday 14 June 2018

Hansard of the Legislative Council
Gregory Raymond Hall MLC - Recognition of Service

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, I stayed back last night to put something together but ended up with bits and pieces, particularly of the media coverage he has gained since his retirement.  Much of that reflects the impact he has had - how he felt about Tasmania, his job and his community.  Greg has been a good communicator with the media and has always pursued good, strong issues.  Greg probably counts the Meander Dam and the Lake Highway among his major achievements.

The latter, now called the Highland Lakes Road, used to be like an old goat track, and it was dangerous because of the amount of traffic on it.  He kept on about it so much that Paul Lennon said, 'Get this bloke off my back and get it done.'  Greg felt the Meander Dam needed to be built for the farmers and people in that area, and that was a long, drawn-out process.

Mr Dean - He was absolutely right; it has proved tenfold its value.

Mr FINCH - It is liquid gold. 

There were issues recently about us combining to talk about the way ballot papers were presented to voters at election time.  The member for Windermere might remember there was confusion because there was guidance at the top of the ballot paper and then a separate guidance at the bottom of the ballot paper.  It was one of Don Wing's quibbles that we highlighted to the Electoral Commission, but to no avail.

Ms Forrest - Also the use of the term 'independent'.

Mr FINCH - Yes.  To be able to use 'independent' on the ballot paper.  There are probably other examples I could refer to.  Mike Blake has flagged the possibility of changes being made to ballot papers; however, that has not happened yet.

Mr Valentine - The changes to ballot papers - the independents?

Mr FINCH - No, this is the other one about combining the two instructions - '1 to 20' on the ballot paper, but down the bottom, it says you must fill out five.

Mr Valentine - Take out the ambiguity.

Mr FINCH - I think an ordinary person would walk in, read the top instruction and by the time they are down to the last instruction say, 'No, I have already done that. I will not bother with all that.'  For some people it is painful enough to go the booth without having to read all the details.  Our idea was it should be moved to the top so people could read the information first.

Greg also felt that hundreds of primary industries department jobs should be moved.  Jobs were moved - an election promise to move 65 jobs from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment from Hobart to Launceston, with a further 35 to Devonport.  He wanted that to go much further, arguing that the bulk of the department should be moved to Launceston.  He often reflected strongly on that issue.

The other issue was the Ashley Youth Detention Centre, which the member for Launceston mentioned.  Greg was always a strong advocate for his community in respect of that issue.  He chaired the select committee inquiry into the centre's operations.  With the suggestion that a new prison should be built, he advocated strongly that the prison should be in Deloraine, to support people from Deloraine employed at Ashley, as it is now.  He also felt Deloraine was a strategic location for the prison, for people from the north and the north-west to access it and for families to visit to help prisoner rehabilitation.  While that suggestion could be perceived as being self‑interested, it was a strong suggestion and we will see what unfolds.
Greg would say we should not to worry about all the serious things and get down to the business.  I wanted to reflect on his career because while he was a terrific fellow to be around ‑ good‑humoured - there was always a strong, serious side to his work.  He did not let his guard down often, but you knew when he was on his feet here or talking to the media that strong issues were preying on his mind. 

Another one issue he had was the size of parliament, particularly in the other place.  He was a strong advocate for the restoration of House of Assembly numbers to 35.  In 2010 the state's main parties agreed to investigate restoring the size of the lower House to 35 members.  The Liberals later abandoned the idea, saying it was no longer a priority.  As far as Greg is concerned, we are more often seeing the situation in which that should come about, and I am in lock step with him on that issue. 

We have talked about the redistribution process, and we know the problem he had with this change of electorates.  I will not labour that, but he had a good hit out over that redistribution process, that it did not reflect the interest of the communities involved.  My perception is that Apsley and Western Tiers could have been retained by a tweaking of numbers.  I know that is simplistic; it might have been something the Electoral Commission gave a lot of thought to.  I do not know what process the commission went through, but I thought simplicity might have been the key, without this discombobulation for Greg and the member for Apsley.  I am sure the member for Prosser would disagree with me entirely because of the opportunity it created for her to become the representative here.  It is what it is, but it was unfortunate that Greg's last months - almost a year - in this place were soured by that change of circumstances.

Ms Rattray - It was pretty much nine months of a really difficult time for Greg.

- Absolutely, it was not a good process at all.

Ms Rattray
 - You were sitting; you know how hard it was.

- Greg reflected on it and so have you, member for McIntyre, formerly Apsley.  There will be more because it was such a disappointment for Greg.  He will be out on the farm ploughing hard or riding his bike harder with the memory of that negative aspect in his life.

He also talked about the great divide, as far as people were concerned, in the Tasmanian community.  It is a population out of kilter, with 70 per cent of the population dependent on income from the government, whether by way of benefits or working on government contracts.  As a consequence, a large proportion of the community depends on the public purse rather than on the fruits of private enterprise and not making the connection between their standard of living and the source of wealth.

Greg, as has been acknowledged, was a great advocate for people on the land, in our rural community.  That will be lost, to a certain extent - no, I am getting around to the Leader.  Greg took up the cudgels and drove those issues as deputy president, as chair of committees and as the member for Western Tiers and then McIntyre.  He had that hands-on experience of the land.
Our Leader is also in the same situation, so I am sure those cudgels will be handed on and you will be able to represent that part of the Tasmanian community as strongly as Greg did over his career.

Mrs Hiscutt - I did hope that to be my intention.

Mr FINCH - Good on you.  That is what we are here to do.  We are here to give voice to the communities we represent.  While we take a generalised picture of all that is happening, we have experience in those specifics.  The member for Mersey is here.  He will notice I am wearing dots today.  He did say when I first wore this tie, 'Some people have difficulty wearing dots and you are no exception.'

Mr Farrell - It doesn't stop him from wearing shower curtains, though, does it?

Mr FINCH - Where was I?

Mr Valentine - It is as wide as the Brooker Highway, though.

Mr FINCH - While there is a bit of frivolity, we were talking about the tricks he got up to ‑ but nobody has mentioned the date rolls that used to drop on your head as you opened your office door.  Had he got out of that habit before you arrived here?

Mrs Hiscutt - Yes.

Mr FINCH - Right.  I copped many a date roll on the scone.

Ms Rattray - You were special.

Mr FINCH - I got special treatment.  Some might remember that Greg and I spent eight or 10 years walking every morning.  Generally it was from here over the Tasman Bridge.  He would often suggest that it might be an easy way out for me when we were up on top of the bridge.  I alerted the police to the fact that if I fell off the Tasman Bridge, they should investigate and interrogate Greg Hall first.

That time together, walking and talking, was very good.  We shared many good thoughts and moments about families and those sorts of things.  Greg never tried to influence my thoughts on the political process or issues.  Of course, in some areas of discourse we might say, 'How are you going with this?' or 'What are you feeling about this?', but we never sought advice or instruction on how to go about things.  Greg never talked about issues; it was quite refreshing and good for me not to have deal with that sort of discussion when we were only getting some recreation and some physical activity.

Nicknames - mine was Honk.  I thought, 'What the hell is that all about?  Where did he get "Honk" from?'  On my office door was 'Hon.' followed by abbreviated 'K. Finch' - 'Honk Finch'.  I said, 'Come on, give me something a bit more flamboyant - at least Honky-tonk', but, no, he did not waver so I was stuck with Honk, which, when we sat here next to each other, he wrote all over my material - all over my speeches and folders was 'Honk Finch', with an odd insult or two.

When I think back on the debates we had here, Greg was always a very strong contributor.  He always looked to get that first possie to implement his thoughts on the issue.  I appreciated that, because that would give me something to go on and you could build your arguments and presentations around either agreeing or disagreeing with him.

Other members will remember that on one of the best and interesting debates, we worked into the night.  We were debating the Relationships Bill, which had three elements that were quite dramatic, with tough, groundbreaking decisions that were going to make history.

We had four cameras installed in the Chamber - one each from the ABC, SBS and the two commercial stations -

Mr PRESIDENT - You did not know which one to look at.

Mr FINCH - I stood about here both times.

The debate was a very good and challenging, we worked into the night and it was gruelling.  We were all very tired; the President happened to be caught in a moment where he had dozed off and the SBS cameraman swung his camera around and had a shot of him snoozing.

A mate of mine, Phil Martin, was head of SBS News and Current Affairs in Sydney and I gave him a call and said, 'This is a very serious debate.  While that might have been a good shot, I hope it does not appear in any sort of news story we might garner out of this process because it would have been a frivolous comment on what was going on here.'

In the voting process, there were three elements to the Relationships Bill; we agreed to two and voted unanimously against the third.  It was controversial, but we voted strongly for two of the elements.  Sue Smith, Greg Hall and I were the three votes needed to get those two elements across the line to support the Labor bloc then.  Five were in the bloc at that stage.  The three of us voted with Labor and were described as 'progressive conservatives'.

Member for Windermere, do you remember the progressive conservatives?  Greg paid quite a price when he went back into his community.  He was given a shellacking in his community for voting that way.Ms Forrest - They re-elected him.

Mr FINCH - Yes, absolutely.

Mr Valentine - The percentage was 81.95.

Mr FINCH - No.  Win some, lose some, but you have to have the courage of your conviction to vote the way you feel probably in your heart and with thoughts of your electorate in your mind - the bigger picture with Tasmania in mind; bigger again with Australia in mind.  It was a good example of that process.

The third element was whether, if two women had a child using in vitro fertilisation, both mothers' names would go on the birth certificate.  At that stage we could not accept that.  I said to Michael Aird 'Well, two out of three ain't bad', and he accepted that.  That element was brought back two or three years later and passed unanimously.

Ms Forrest - And applied retrospectively.

Mr FINCH - Right.  A very interesting process for this Chamber, with Greg strongly involved in the debate.
I do not want to go on with too much 'gibby-gobby' as Greg often referred to the contributions we sometimes made, but of course there is always the thought he was a Vietnam veteran.  For some of the younger members, that occurred before you came into this House.

That was a tough process but Greg bore it well, even though, as he said, he thought about it every day.  He never laboured it with us and we were not aware of the impacts.  I have a brother who went through a similar situation, and that stuff stays with you.  Greg dealt with it well.  It never pervaded his work here.
Greg's sense of humour was always to the forefront.  I appreciated the fact that when we walked out of here, it was a different thing altogether.  It was about conviviality and being part of the Legislative Council team.  It was a good reflection of Greg's personality and the way he conducted business here, which is the way we do.  I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on some of those things.

The last one is the time of the powder.  Greg Hall put talcum powder into the then member for Nelson's umbrella - that is the problem with being President, you are not referred to as the member for Nelson in this Chamber or as its representative - and on a very rainy day, out went the member onto the steps here, put up the umbrella -

Ms Forrest
- After he got his shoulders wet.

Mr FINCH - Yes, it was the full bunger.  Up went with his umbrella and down came the talcum powder, all over the aforementioned member for Nelson.

Payback did come.  I was in Greg's office when it occurred.  His office was downstairs where Mark Baily is now.  The bells were ringing; he was checking his desk, opened the drawer to ensure nothing was left there, and a little talcum powder bomb - an apparatus that contains a lot of talcum powder on a trapdoor with a rubber band - flicked powder all over him.  Puff!  You little beauty!  That was a great memory.  He was late coming into the Chamber that day.

I salute Greg Hall.  He was good fun and is a good friend.  I hope his transition back into private life is a smooth one.