Today Mark gave his valedictory speech, reflecting on his 15 years representing the Greens in the South Australian Parliament. The following day, other Members of the Legislative Council and House of Assembly made speeches to reflect on Mark's time in State Parliament and to wish him well for his future endeavours.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: With some sadness, I move:
That this council—
1. Notes the upcoming retirement of the Hon. Mark Parnell MLC after 15 years of service to the people and Parliament of South Australia;
2. Recognises his role as the first member of the Greens to be elected to this parliament; and
3. Wishes him well in his retirement and the years ahead.
I shall use the privilege of being the mover of the motion to be the one who sums up, with concluding comments after the Hon. Mark Parnell has spoken.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I would like to begin by thanking my colleague of 11 years, the Hon. Tammy Franks, for moving the motion to allow me to make some final reflections on my time here in parliament before I officially retire at the end of next week. It was a great day back in 2010, when Tammy was first elected and I was no longer the Greens shadow minister for everything. Having only half the portfolios is a much more civilised arrangement. Tammy and I are very different people, but as a team I think our complementary skills mean that we have collectively been stronger and more effective in representing our party than either of us could have achieved individually, so thank you Tammy.
Now, after 15 years as a member of state parliament, I have decided it is time for me to retire. As most people now know, former senator and Adelaide city councillor Robert Simms has been chosen by our party to replace me. It is my hope that Rob will be sworn in when parliament resumes in the first week in May.
To begin, I would like to reflect on some of the highlights and the lowlights of the last 15 years in state parliament from my perspective. When looking at political careers, people usually start with the official record. What important jobs did the member do? Were they a minister or a shadow minister? Did they chair important committees? Did they get a fancy white car and driver? Did they get lots of bills passed?
The public record will show that I do not tick too many of those boxes, but I reflect on my time here differently. My first job, as I saw it, after being elected back in 2006 was to normalise the Greens as legitimate and respected political players in this state. Our party was fairly new, and I was determined that we would be taken seriously both inside and outside parliament.
As the first Green elected in South Australia, I was aware that I was very much an unknown quantity and there were a number of stereotypes to dispel. I can tell you that as a lawyer, an economist and a planner I did not fit the stereotype very well of what people imagined a Greens MP would be like.
In the early days, I spent a lot of time chasing media and looking for opportunities to get the Greens message out to the community. Of course, the dilemma is that one can spend so much time chasing radio, TV and print opportunities that there is little time to do much else and you do not actually get much done. With the advent of social media, it also became apparent to us that a huge part of our support base never opened a newspaper, did not watch the TV news and only listened to the radio for music, so in more recent years we have tried to be more targeted in communicating with South Australians.
The second thing I was keen to do was to make a mark as a serious legislator. It is often not very exciting work, and it rarely makes headlines, but it really is so important to get our laws right. In my first speech back in 2006, I described how working as an environmental lawyer and advocate I was continually coming up against bad laws that stood in the way of good outcomes. That is why I was so keen to get into this place, where they made the laws, so I could try to make them better. Whilst Greens bills and amendments did not always find favour, enough of them did to convince me that it was worth the effort.
Also, in the four terms of parliament in which I have served, the Greens have shared the balance of power in the upper house in every one. I have worked through three terms of Labor government, as well as three-quarters of the current Liberal administration. As we all know, the government of the day has not controlled the Legislative Council for 50 years—not since the 1970s. This means that all our votes count, which in turn means that the Greens take legislation very seriously.
On those occasions where the opposition fudges their responsibility to properly scrutinise legislation, the Greens have been prepared to step in and do the job for them. This is the role that we played back in 2008 during the lengthy WorkCover debates. We undertook a massive amount of consultation with injured workers and their representatives, and then we put a lot of their experiences on the public record. Yes, it took a long time and it resulted in a record that I never aspired to, but it was important, so I make no apology, other than to the staff, whom we kept at their workstations until 5am one Friday morning.
In relation to the big issues facing this state, I think we have made important progress in some areas, but in others we are going backwards. With climate change, I am proud to have been part of this state's leadership in decarbonising our energy sector. I am encouraged that over the last 15 years the debate has shifted from, 'How will we ever survive without coal-fired power?' to 'What will we do with all the excess renewable energy that is now being generated?' Do we need promote energy intensive industry? Do we send excess power interstate over an interconnector, or do we convert it to hydrogen to use in vehicles, in industry or for export? I think the answer is all of the above, but how that debate has shifted over the last 15 years. It is remarkable.
Of course, the fossil fuel industry is still powerful, and they are making a few last gasps at relevance backed by some dinosaurs in Canberra, but the trajectory is clear: we will achieve zero net emissions, we will generate nearly all of our electricity from renewable sources, and we will be driving electric cars, trucks and utes in the not-too-distant future.
I am excited and encouraged by the direction we are taking. However, it is disappointing that so much of it has come not from good government policy but in spite of it. My main disappointment is how much faster we could get there if we had governments fully on board. That is the message that the schoolkids who are rallying and striking for climate action are giving us, and we need to listen carefully to them.
Personally, one of the things I am most proud of is securing the original 20-year feed-in tariff for rooftop solar power. A dozen years ago, solar panels were expensive, and they were less efficient, so we knew that we needed to give the industry a leg-up in its formative years. The result of the Greens using our balance of power and holding out for a better deal was that South Australia led the world in the uptake of solar energy. Now the subsidies are not needed, and the panels are paying for themselves, bringing down the cost of power for South Australian families.
In other policy areas the results have been less encouraging. The loss of biodiversity across this country is a national disgrace, species going extinct at an alarming rate is unacceptable and what remains of our intact native vegetation is still under increasing pressure. In terms of social justice and fairness, I think it is a mixed bag. There have been some important reforms, but the growing insecurity of work and the growing gap between the most wealthy and everyone else is still a blight on our society and our economy.
I am glad that now we acknowledge traditional owners at the start of each sitting day in parliament, but we still have a long way to go in addressing social and economic disadvantage for our First Nations people. The disproportionate incarceration rate and the tragedy of children as young as 10 in juvenile detention urgently need to be addressed. We need to raise the age of criminal responsibility and develop alternatives to incarceration.
One area where I am proud of our reforms is in relation to our electoral system. The removal of the ironically misnamed fairness clause from the constitution recognises that there are now more than two parties in this democracy, and the system should be fair to all. The removal of the electoral lottery of group voting tickets and preference whispering in the upper house is another reform that the Greens achieved and which make our electoral system more democratic. All preferences are now in the hands of the voters, where they should be.
When I went back, Mr President, to my first speech in 2006, it was a sobering exercise to revisit what I said I wanted to achieve. Fifteen years ago I railed against the prevailing transport policy of successive governments, which sees road widening and freeway projects as solutions to congestion. They are not. Traffic expands to fill the available space.
Now, I accept that I have had very little success on that front. Billions of dollars in my view are still being wasted on unnecessary new roads, whilst a modest new bicycle lane in the city is axed because it might interfere with the on-street parking outside a bingo hall.
In relation to major projects there are still plenty of examples of bad public policy where special treatment is given to special mates for their special projects. As I used to explain to my university classes back in the 1990s, if you are big, you get exemptions; if you are really big, you get to write your own laws.
The legislation to facilitate the Olympic Dam mine expansion and to exempt that ill-fated project from most state laws is a case in point. The Greens asked dozens of questions; we moved dozens of amendments, every one of which failed.
I am not usually a person who revels in schadenfreude, but I will confess to one occasion. We were in the closing stages of the debate in committee on the Olympic Dam expansion bill. It was the evening session after dinner, and word came to me in the chamber that the top BHP Billiton executives from London were here in Parliament House with the Premier. They had bottles of expensive champagne on ice, and they were ready to pop them as soon as the bill passed. I was also told that they were under some time pressure to get flights back to London.
Whilst the final outcome of that bill was inevitable, I suddenly found that I had many more questions to ask than I had originally anticipated, and only once the executives had left the building did the bill finally pass. I confess to that now. But the rest, as they say, is history. The biggest hole in the ground ever to be dug on the face of the planet and the economic saviour of our state turned out to be a mirage.
In 15 years I have been happy to get behind the good projects and a call out the bad ones. In the last parliament we saw the ridiculous notion that South Australia would become rich beyond measure if only we would agree to host the world's most toxic and long-lived radioactive nuclear waste forever. That project failed every test: it was dangerous, hopelessly risky economically and a further insult to our First Nations peoples, who have suffered so much from dispossession and displacement, including as a consequence of the nuclear tests at Maralinga. Thank goodness the citizens' jury listened to the First Nations representatives and they helped kill off that ridiculous project.
I would now like to make a few reflections on my parliamentary colleagues. One thing that often surprises people outside politics is that genuine friendships and respect can exist across the political divide. Politics is not just the unedifying and quite often embarrassing spectacle of question time. Most of the time, debate is respectful and focuses on getting good policy outcomes, albeit from very different perspectives.
My experience is that I have genuinely enjoyed working with the vast majority of people here in parliament. I count many of you as friends and I have enjoyed our interactions in the chamber, in the corridors and in the never-ending meetings and committee hearings. I have appreciated the support, the decency and the humanity of my fellow MPs, the staff of the parliament and, in fact, most of the people I have had the pleasure to work with over the last 15 years. I am leaving this place with many more friends than foes.
For me, there are two particular times that have touched me profoundly. The first was the love, care and support that Penny and I received from so many of you when our son, Mungo, died 4½ years ago. That was the most awful time imaginable for us and we were both touched at the kindness of so many people in parliament, including those with whom we disagreed on almost every political issue. In our deepest despair, it was a comfort to be touched by genuine humanity, completely divorced from politics.
The second time was when I ended up in hospital two years ago with a heart condition that resulted in a quadruple heart bypass operation. Again, so many members and staff showed enormous kindness, so much so in fact that I genuinely felt that I might actually be missed if I did not make a full recovery and get back to work, so I did both. For the record, I can still run 10 kilometres in under an hour and another ultramarathon is still on my bucket list. So I thank you all for that. To my parliamentary colleagues and all those who worked here, thank you for your friendship and respect. I will miss working with you.
Whilst on the subject of thanks, I want to give special mention to my staff. In particular, to my loyal and long serving Chief of Staff, Cate Mussared. Cate has been with me from day one in 2006. She is probably the longest serving Greens staffer in the country and she is a consummate professional. Cate's diligence, her attention to detail and her commitment to the highest standards of service to constituents and to the parliament has been a feature of her time here. In many ways, Cate has been in large part responsible for the good reputation that our office has enjoyed both inside and outside parliament over the last 15 years. So thank you, Cate.
I would also like to thank some previous staff members who stuck with me for long periods. In particular, Craig Wilkins, who worked with us for seven years before becoming Chief Executive of the Conservation Council. Also, Emily Bird, who was with us for five years and is now the office manager for one of the Greens ministers—I love that sound—in the Greens Labor Coalition government in the ACT Legislative Assembly. For the record, being part of government is still on our agenda in this state and I predict it will happen faster than most people think. I would also like to thank the dozens of other administrative and research staff, casuals, interns and trainees who have committed themselves to what we like to call 'the Green project' over the last 15 years.
Outside our parliamentary office, however, we have also been supported by the broader Greens family of members, supporters and voters. Only a few of us aspire to or reach public office and it is important that we remember that we owe our positions to a legion of unsung volunteers. These are the Greens members and supporters who staff the polling booths, knock on doors, develop policies, raise money and keep the party organisation going. We could not do what we do without that support. I know that many Greens members would have liked to come in today, but thanks to COVID they are watching proceedings online instead. To my Greens colleagues, thank you for your support and the faith that you have placed in me over the last 15 years.
My final thankyous are to my family. For the last 38 years, Penny and I have embarked on countless adventures and joint projects. Back in 1995, one of those projects was helping to form a new Greens political party in South Australia. From 10 people in our suburban lounge room, to getting candidates elected at every state and federal election since 2006, Penny and I have shared our love of service and our commitment to making the world a better place through parliamentary democracy. For 38 years, we have been each other's sounding boards, kept each other honest and called out BS where appropriate. Penny, I would not be here without your love and support and I could not have done this work for 15 years without you, so thank you.
A political life is rewarding, but it also comes at a cost. Families often miss out because the time and emotional commitment of the job can be overwhelming. To our grown-up kids, Ellie and Felix, thank you for hanging in there with us. You were schoolkids when mum and I got into this political caper and now you have made wonderful, independent lives for yourselves. Thank you for your love and support and thank you for coming along today. You were here at the start, so it is only fitting that you are here at the end as well.
As to the future, the most common question I have been asked recently is what am I going to do next? Before parliament, I spent 16 years working for non-profit conservation groups. It is a wonderful sector full of passionate community-minded people, nearly all of whom are volunteers, so I am looking forward to returning to my roots.
One project, though, that my Chief of Staff, Cate Mussared, and I will be working on over coming months is to prepare some civics training material. With 32 years of parliamentary experience between us, and another 25 or so years in the community sector, we reckon we have learned a few things that we can usefully share. The object of this project will be to help community groups and campaigners more effectively engage with parliament and with other arms of government.
I expect most members of parliament would agree how little most of our constituents know about the business of government and lawmaking. This is an observation rather than a criticism. Most normal people are busy making a living, raising their families and being part of their community. The business of politics and the workings of government appear remote and irrelevant to many until it impacts you or the things that you care about. It is then that people realise they have no idea how the system works. I hope to help fill that void with practical advice for campaigners on how to be more effective in dealing with politicians and public servants. So if your constituents start demanding more of you in the future, I hope that you will be able to in part blame me.
I will finish by saying a few words about my replacement. Late last year, Robert Simms was successful in a ballot of all Greens members to be our lead upper house candidate at the election next March and for any casual vacancy that arose. Many of you will know of Rob's work on the Adelaide City Council. He has been a voice of common sense in a very fractious council and he has served the community well.
Rob also spent a brief period in the Senate, so he has rare experience at the national and the local level and will now bring that experience to the state level. He is smart, he is committed, he is young (at 36) and he is ready to work hard for all South Australians. I wish Rob well and I can retire with confidence knowing that Rob and Tammy will represent our party with distinction in coming months and years.
The final thing, Mr President, is I thought I might finish this valedictory with a limerick. It is one of my own composition and it refers to the very first piece of office equipment I bought when I was elected back in 2006, a battery-powered public address system. It goes like this:
They rally on the steps outside parliament,
But inside, an announcement profound has meant,
That his microphone loud,
Won't gee up the crowd,
Now Parnell has announced his retirement.
Honourable members: Hear, hear!
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Mr President, I rise, unusually, to sum up comments, knowing that there will be an encore tomorrow of this debate due to one of the passions the Hon. Mark Parnell has, voluntary assisted dying, going to a second reading vote, hopefully later on this particular sitting day. I understand that tomorrow we shall hear more from many members in terms of the valedictories for my colleague.
It is well known that the Hon. Mark Parnell is Wikipedia famous for setting a record filibuster in our parliament's history, with an eight-hour contribution to voice his opposition, then as the sole Greens member, to the changes to WorkCover and the reduction to injured workers' payments.
He also, though, has achieved many things in this parliament. He secured a quarter of a million dollars for consumer advocacy in the setting of water pricing and protection for tenants when their landlord does not pay their water bill. He has also, as I have noted, championed voluntary euthanasia many times over many years. His expertise and knowledge in planning law I think are second to none in this place and the other. He has used that expertise to great effect in making outstanding and positive contributions to our legislation.
In over 15 years in parliament, the Hon. Mark Parnell's continued advocacy for equality and human rights and pushing for changes that protect the Greens shared values of promoting unity within our democracy—and our four pillars of environmental sustainability, social justice, peace and non-violence and, very importantly, grassroots democracy—has enhanced our democracy. As he noted, he changed the upper house voting system to provide that option for preferential voting, putting preferences in the hands of punters rather than the backroom preference deals of the preference whisperers and the backroom boys, promoting power to the people.
He has also had the deepest respect for the environment, for promoting cleaner industries and, notably, supporting solar power in South Australia. He has helped make South Australia a renewable energy powerhouse. He stood very much at the forefront of the campaign against building an international nuclear waste dump in South Australia—a proposal well and truly I hope now very much dumped itself.
For a long time the Hon. Mark Parnell has supported renters in their rights to have safety in their homes and security in their tenure while also ensuring that landlords meet the minimum property standards and ensuring that housing is for people and not for profiteering. He successfully passed a climate emergency motion, a declaration of this upper house. He promoted recognition from climate scientists and the voice of the community in that debate here in this council. He has pushed for legislation to protect cyclists by implementing the legislated distance of one metre or more when overtaking on roads up to 60 km/h.
He has done so many things in his 15 years here. That filibuster I think is probably one of the most well-known parts of Mark's work. Other than being the bloke with the beard from the Greens, he is well known for his ability to speak and be good on his feet. Our state party director has reflected on that WorkCover filibuster and, in the words of Dominic Mugavin, I would like to share with the council just how our Greens members feel about the wonderful leadership of Mark Parnell:
There are lots of good stories I could tell about Mark and his time in parliament and in the party but here's a good one.
Famously, Mark spoke for over 8 hours in opposition to a Labor Government bill that cut payments to injured workers. When people ask him about his speech he denies it was a filibuster. He maintains to this day that he was relaying important information to the parliament. He told parliament stories of injured workers. He gave them a voice in the debate.
I like this story because it shows a few of Mark's great qualities. It shows he takes principled stands and has a firm commitment to justice. It shows he's not afraid of hard work. It shows he is committed to being a voice to those often without a voice. It shows his humility.
Commitment to justice, hard work, being a voice to those without one, humility. What more could you ask from an elected representative?
What more could the Greens have asked from our first elected representative in this state? Well, I for one could have done with less dad jokes and a few less limericks. I also have a limerick. We did not compare notes prior to this but I was moved for the first time in possibly my entire life, or at least four decades, to pen a limerick for That Pollie Parnell, which goes:
There once was a Pollie who cycled,
He liked speaking and he recycled,
His name Mark Parnell,
Though here we say farewell,
His contribution is still far from final.
Indeed, it is far from final in terms of his contribution to the public life of this state and I wish him well in future years. I also note that, while he may still be up for running a marathon in real life, he has run a marathon in parliamentary terms for the Greens. He is currently the longest continuing serving Greens MP in the country as of last month. So I congratulate him for running that particular marathon. It must have been very lonely to be here as the sole Greens member of this parliament.
I thank him for his warm welcome and his support over the 11 years that I have joined him. He has been a very hard act to follow, and will be a very difficult act to follow, but I am sure that he will offer every support to our party and to our future parliamentarians for us to continue to prosper. With that, I commend the motion.
THURSDAY 1 APRIL 2021 - LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: We are going to say nice words about the Hon. Mr Parnell. The honourable leader, by way of interjection, talked about another piece of legislation, a bill. I have given a commitment to the staff and to the members that because we are sitting unusually on Holy Thursday, when they normally get away from Parliament House at around 3 o'clock, that we hope to adjourn our house by about 4 o'clock so they can commence their Easter break early and do what they need to do.
This adjournment motion is the appropriate occasion to speak for the rest of us who wish to acknowledge the service the Hon. Mr Parnell has made to our Legislative Council over 15 years. Not everyone will necessarily speak, but I know for those on my side the comments I make will represent the views of all my colleagues. Some may also choose to add commentary, but I know I speak on behalf of government members.
I also speak on behalf of government members past. One or two of them have spoken to me over the last week or so and have asked to be associated with the comments. I will not list them individually, but I am sure they will make their own individual contact with the Hon. Mr Parnell. Some of them have served with the Hon. Mr Parnell during his long career.
Fifteen years is way too long for anyone to be in the Legislative Council—says he nearing 40 years. I do want to say that when I became aware that the Hon. Mr Parnell had very carefully selected this particular day, April Fools' Day, for his supposed farewell, I was unsure whether this was an April Fools' ruse and whether he, having told Mr Simms and everybody that he was going to retire, was going to say, 'Ha! April Fools' Day! More fool you!' Evidently, he is not. He has given me assurance that it is not an April Fools' Day joke and that this is deadly serious. This is it, our last opportunity to bid him farewell.
I have enjoyed working with the Hon. Mr Parnell over his 15-year career. I have spoken about this occasionally. I think many of us come to this chamber with lots of different skills. We all are different, as should be the case, because we all have different backgrounds and we bring to the table different skill sets, etc. In my own personal judgement, there is a small set of people over my long career for whom I would say that one of the skill sets they brought to the table to the benefit of the chamber, to the benefit of the parliament and to the benefit of the community is that they, in the truer sense of the word, were legislators.
I know in describing the Hon. Mr Parnell as that, some of the Greens supporters might think, 'Well, that is a terrible thing to call him. He is a politician. He is a Green,' or whatever it is. To me, it is actually a huge compliment. To me, a legislator is someone who spends considerable time and hours looking at the detail of legislation. A lot of the time it is in areas of great interest to them but by and large it is right across the board. When he was the shadow minister for everything, he had to do that, and now he is only the shadow minister for half the things, it is to that half of the portfolios that he devotes his time.
Over my long career, I remember people fondly on all sides of politics. I have seen the Hon. Chris Sumner as someone who certainly fitted that description of a legislator. Certainly, the Hon. Trevor Griffin from our side was the outstanding example of somebody who provided considerable input and detail in terms of looking at legislation across the board. Even going back, the Hon. Renfrey Curgenven DeGaris was someone who people do pillory because of his particular views on certain issues, but he was an outstanding legislator.
Unlike Sumner, Griffin and Parnell, who all have the advantage of being lawyers, DeGaris was a bush lawyer but applied himself in a legislative sense in terms of looking at the detail of legislation and engaging in the detail of debate. In describing the Hon. Mr Parnell as an outstanding legislator it is, from my viewpoint, a compliment, and it is certainly not meant to be demeaning in any way at all.
The Hon. Mr Parnell's career, as he outlined and as the Hon. Ms Franks outlined, has certainly been concentrated in a number of areas that have been many and varied. I will miss his further endeavours to break his own world record of disallowing the one regulation. I think he has got it up to seven occasions. I think the previous world record was in relation to a fishing regulation, going back many years. He will now miss the opportunity of further adding to that personal best, or world record, in terms of disallowing one particular set of regulations.
I have to say I will not miss his capacity to filibuster. He did acknowledge it in terms of what is perhaps a blot on his parliamentary record. He claims eight hours but a hardworking member of my staff has added it up to the minute and says that Wikipedia is wrong, it was actually seven hours and 21 minutes, not eight hours, and it was actually broken up by three breaks.
For those who had to endure the pain of listening to the Hon. Mr Parnell's speech on that occasion—generally they are quite erudite and add to the particular debate but on that particular occasion there was seven hours and 21 minutes of the Hon. Mr Parnell leading through to about 10 or 11 at night, and then the Hon. Ann Bressington proclaimed that she was going to beat the Hon. Mr Parnell, to which I as the leader at the time said, 'Well, good luck to you. We're not going to have a break. There will be no bathroom break at all.' She went for five hours and by then she had to retire hurt, so the Hon. Mr Parnell's record will stand unchallenged by a long way. The Hon. Legh Davis was very distraught because his previous record of about three hours was smashed—that was on the Port Adelaide Flower Farm and the need for an inquiry.
The PRESIDENT: You were the only one who was here for that.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Yes, exactly, Mr President. The Hon. Mr Parnell not only beat the Hon. Mr Davis's record, he smashed it comprehensively. I do not think anybody, even in the next 40 years, will get anywhere near the seven hours and 21 minutes of the Hon. Mr Parnell on that particular occasion.
Not unsurprisingly, given that the Hon. Mr Parnell represents the Greens and I am a member of the Liberal Party, we have disagreed on many issues over the years. My views, for example, as I indicated last night in another debate, are in the truest sense of the word very liberal on issues like gambling issues, and Mr Parnell's views are what I would portray as much more big 'c' Conservative in terms of opposing some of the liberalisations of gambling over the years.
Similarly, I think his big 'c' Conservative views on trading hours were on preserving the status quo, whereas I have much more, in the truer sense of the word, liberal views on trading hours. There were many other areas where our views differed. In the social area of course his views would seem to be much more liberal in that sense of the word and mine very much more conservative. We have disagreed over the years on many areas, but I just want to highlight two of them as quite significant in terms of what was achieved.
The honourable member referred to one of them yesterday, and that was our coming together on the important issue of defeating the Labor government's proposal for a toxic nuclear waste dump in South Australia. The government, where the Hon. Mr Hunter and the Hon. Mr Maher were led by the Hon. Mr Weatherill, wanted a toxic nuclear waste dump in South Australia. The Hon. Mr Parnell and I entered the debate from two completely different directions. He was implacably opposed to anything that had the N word in front of it (nuclear) and this was a perfect example of that. There was never any doubting how the Hon. Mr Parnell entered that particular debate.
I must admit that I entered into the debate interested in the views of the Hon. Mr Hunter, the Hon. Mr Maher and the Hon. Mr Weatherill, that there was a goldmine to be mined for the future of South Australia. It was thousands and thousands of jobs and $100 billion that was going to be made for the state of South Australia; it was a sort of economic nirvana. I am always interested in that sort of thing, with the Treasurer's hat on or the shadow treasurer's hat on, so I entered the debate from a completely different direction. I was prepared to listen to the debate, but critically, in terms of having a look at what it was.
We came at it from completely different directions. I can indicate publicly—and it has not been revealed too publicly—that I entered the debate with an open mind, but in the end I was convinced that it was not going to be the economic nirvana that had been claimed for it. In the end, I did not believe that it was doable. In the end, I think I used the phrase that it was fool's gold that was being sold to the people of South Australia. Within my party, given that I was on the joint select committee with the Hon. Mr Parnell and others, we led the debate to say we needed to oppose, and the blue-green alliance, on that particular occasion, defeated the proposal of the Labor government for a toxic nuclear waste dump in the north of South Australia.
So, coming from completely different directions and from completely different reasons initially, but ultimately coming to the same conclusion, we worked together and arrived at the same conclusion in terms of that issue. The honourable member referred to it yesterday. I enjoyed the time that I worked on that particular committee.
What happens on tour stays on tour, and the Hon. Mr Parnell and I travelled overseas. The fact that he was eating Bambi in one particular country will never become public knowledge—or if it was not Bambi, it was at least one of Bambi's nearest relatives. I have to say, I resisted the temptation of tweeting when we visited Las Vegas and the casinos. He was not gambling, but there would have been some great photos to distribute of the Hon. Mr Parnell in the gamblers' paradise of Las Vegas.
I hasten to say that we were there to take evidence in relation to a nuclear waste dump not too far from Las Vegas. Of course, being a mischievous person, I could have done something without actually mentioning it, but as I said, what happens on tour stays on tour, and we have pledged never to reveal some of the more intimate details of those particular travels that we entered into.
The second issue that I want to highlight and that the honourable member did not mention yesterday is, again, a momentous reform, the comprehensive land tax reform debate in South Australia. Without going through the boring details—a top rate of 3.7 per cent down to 2.4 per cent—it was the implementation of a much fairer and more competitive system in relation to aggregation policy. It was a huge debate and a huge issue nearly two years ago now, believe it or not, in 2019, again working with the Hon. Mr Parnell but also the Hon. Ms Franks because both, on this particular occasion, were actively engaged with that particular issue.
Ultimately, it was a competitive package that implemented fairness and equity in terms of the land tax system that was implemented in South Australia. That particular reform has been implemented and is still being implemented. The benefits of that, in terms of economic growth and the state's growth in the future, we are seeing already, in terms of commercial investors coming to South Australia and preparing to invest here because the top rate of land tax is now 2.4 per cent as opposed to the 3.7 per cent land tax.
There are many other areas that we have worked on together whilst respecting our differences, as I said—and there have been many, in many areas. I do want to acknowledge the fact that, in some important areas where momentous decisions have been made in relation to what South Australia might have looked like with the toxic nuclear waste dump, or what South Australia is going to look like with a competitive land tax system, the Hon. Mr Parnell has been an active participant in a number of significant reforms, and I place on the public record his participation in those particular debates.
In concluding, I repeat what I said at the outset, that I am going to miss having the Hon. Mr Parnell around, believe it or not, and his regular Tuesday moving of notices of motion for something, on Wednesday it was the disallowance of regulations, active engagement, or whatever it might be. We are going to miss his contribution in the chamber.
I finally say that my dealings with the Hon. Mr Parnell have always been such that, whilst we have had significant differences, he has never once dudded me in relation to a confidence that we have both entered into. That is, over many years we have had to discuss a whole range of issues, whether they be legislative or otherwise, and if we have given each other an assurance that it was an issue to be discussed between the two of us, he has respected that confidence or, if he has entered into a deal, he has respected the fact that he has entered that particular deal. I think that is a tremendous credit to him.
If you knew he was using weasel words, and sometimes perhaps I was using weasel words, he was not prepared to enter a deal and he did not give a commitment. At least you knew where you stood, and that if you did not know where you stood he was still thinking about the issue. All I can say is that in my dealings with the Hon. Mr Parnell—and I value that—if he entered into a commitment or if he gave you commitment or if there was a confidence that had to be respected, then he was prepared to do so. I think for all new members who might come to replace you, all other members, if they can leave their career with others saying the same thing as about you that is an enormous testimony, and it is a credit to you as an individual and to your parliamentary career.
Again, on behalf of government members, thank you for your contribution. We wish you the very best of health. No more quadruple bypasses or whatever else it might happen to be. We wish you the very best of health so that you and Penny and your family can do whatever it is that you choose to do, and not just advocacy in conservation groups. I hope there is some personal joy and benefit, whether it be travel, other hobbies and pursuits that you might undertake. We wish you the very best of health and the very best wishes for a fabulous future.
Honourable members: Hear, hear!
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Leader of the Opposition): I rise to echo many but not all of the sentiments the Leader of the Government has expressed. The one that I most wish to attach myself to is the one about Mark's reliability and decency. It is probably the most valuable currency any of us in here have, that when we talk to each other, when we make an agreement, we keep those confidences and we stick with that.
There are people who I do not agree with in this chamber, but those hallmarks with quite a number of people in here have been the hallmarks of my relationships with people. That is certainly absolutely the case with Mark. There are many things we have talked about. We might not always agree but mostly we do. When there is a clear expectation that what we say to each other goes no further, it has never gone any further, and I have very much appreciated that with Mark.
I have learnt a fair bit from Mark in this chamber. There have been times that I have sat down with him, very eager after a can of energy drink, and have ideas about doing something. Mark would say, 'Calm down a bit. I don't think this will work,' because of various reasons, and I have really appreciated that bit of guidance over the time as well. As I said, he has a real sense of decency and humility that we do not find all that often in members of parliament—certainly not in the other chamber, but much more in this chamber. It is a trait that I think people warmed to with former federal Greens leader Bob Brown that Mark brings in here: a trustworthiness and decency that I have come to value and enjoy.
Mark is a political pragmatist. He does not stand on getting absolutes. I have never known Mark to let his view of the perfect get in the way of something he believes is achievable, and I think that is a tribute to Mark as well. The Hon. Mark Parnell mentioned in his contribution the removal of the unfairness clause from the South Australian Constitution Act just before the last election. There are a number of things that I have dealt with Mark on, and I look forward to his book to see just how much he talks about how those things played out.
I have appreciated that Labor and the Greens do not always agree, but we do agree on much. There is much in the DNA of our political parties that pursues common, progressive, collective goals. I think Mark has exhibited an SA sensibility about the relationship between Labor and the Greens. We see in other states of Australia the two main progressive parties, Labor and the Greens, fighting each other for what there is progressively in the electorate. I think what has been the hallmark of South Australia, and Mark has certainly helped develop this, is we do not fight each other; we fight for what we believe in against those things that we think need to change.
I thank Mark very much. I certainly will miss him in this chamber. I suspect I will occasionally call on him to get his views about stuff, and he can tell me to calm down a bit and to get on the right track, as he occasionally does. I know in this chamber there has been a flurry of limerick writing and editing that has been going on over the last couple of days, so I will leave with my own poor limerick:
A young bloke called Mark tried his luck,
Leaving Melbourne, in Adelaide he got stuck,
And that's okay,
Because he's made our day,
With his particular progressive pluck.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I first entered parliament with Mark in the class of 2006, I think, and now Mark is the first of us to take his leave of this place. There is much that I could say about Mark—most of it very nice—but I shall not do that today. Instead, I might try—and this will be my last chance, I suppose, with parliamentary privilege—to get some of my own back, to pay back the Hon. Mark Parnell for all of those hideous dad jokes, all those limericks that he shared with me in the members' bar, which he did with the best of intentions. So I have been penning several dozen limericks today, and I now wish to read the best of them onto the record as my tribute to Mark. So, Mark, with love:
So Mark Parnell is almost gone,
His work here is almost all done,
With the disallowances he's left us,
On government regulations so suss,
We'll follow the light he has shone.
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing): I rise to support the motion, to thank Mark Parnell for his service and to wish him well for his future beyond this place. The honourable member's contribution to South Australian politics and this parliament is significant. He was not only a co-founder of the Greens party in South Australia but their first representative in this place.
I cannot claim to be such a pioneer, but the Hon. Mark Parnell and I have a number of things in common. We are of a similar vintage; he is about six months older than me. We both became members of this council in 2006, and we both studied economics and law. Drawing on that background, the Hon. Mark Parnell has brought to this place a genuine respect for the law and for the vocation of legislator.
It was particularly during my period as the shadow attorney-general that I had a lot of interactions with the honourable member—conversations which were invariably respectful. At the end of the day, as the honourable member said yesterday, this parliament exists to make good laws for the people of South Australia, and that is what the Hon. Mark Parnell focused on. He has been a diligent, skilful, outcome-focused and, where necessary, pragmatic legislator.
I found the member personable, and he brought a civility to this chamber, which demonstrated that firm advocacy is no excuse for rudeness. I thank the honourable member for his service to the people of South Australia over many years. I cannot write limericks but my staff can:
There once was a bloke with a beard from the Hills,
Riding his bike and catching the train was his drill,
When he saw red dust and big mines,
He said, 'That's not fine,'
So he joined the Greens and fought for the climate to chill.
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I, too, rise to support this motion. Although I have been here for a short time—only three years—working with the Hon. Mr Parnell, it has been a pleasure to deal with him because of his demeanour, because of his intellect and, of course, his love of limericks. In tribute to that I want to sum up and indeed echo what a number of members have said in a very concise form, which is becoming a bit of a pattern here:
We are losing our greenie called Mark,
Who cares about planning and parks,
And the loss to our council is stark.
While our differences may fill a list,
He respects that they can co-exist,
Polite with perspective,
Mark, by us all you'll be missed.
The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD: I support the motion of course. I do not have a limerick.
An honourable member: Shame!
The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD: It is a shame. It is an absolute shame.
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD: Thank you, sir. They are rowdy right to the end, aren't they? I am from the class of 2006 as well. Mark and I were elected on the same day, 18 March 2006—some time ago now of course—as were the Hon. Mr Hunter and the Hon. Mr Wortley. I might just correct the Hon. Mr Hunter if I may. I think he has a limerick for me. In fact, the Hon. Mark Parnell is not the first of the class of 2006 to leave. The Hon. Ann Bressington, you might remember, was actually elected on that same day, shrinking violet that she was.
I actually remember my first meeting with the Hon. Mr Parnell. He may not; in fact, it was quite unremarkable in many ways. If members recall, back then I was in a little party called Family First and Mark of course was with the Greens, which are about as diametrically opposed as you can get, except for One Nation perhaps, but certainly at opposite ends of the scale. I would imagine, if you were in the Greens, the talk amongst the rank and file members would have been that everything that Family First did was evil. Equally, in Family First, you could be assured that everything the Greens did was evil. I have since learnt, of course, that that is not true.
I remember going to a meeting in the first week of March 2006. I cannot give you the date but it was a couple weeks before the election. It was one of those very hot days, 40˚ plus. I had been racing around going to every opening of an envelope I could get to in my desperate attempt to be elected in a couple of weeks' time. I am sure I looked like I was really needing a glass of water or something.
I walked in. I had never met Mark. I sat down and he immediately stuck out his hand and said, 'I am Mark Parnell. You must be Dennis Hood.' I did not know who he was or what he looked like but I knew the name of course. He said, 'Can I get you a drink of water? You look like you are hot.' From that moment my defences, if you like, dropped and I have developed a pretty warm relationship over the years, which I have genuinely appreciated.
I would echo all the things that other members have said about the Hon. Mr Parnell. He has been a man of principle. He has fought for the things he believes in. Obviously, we are from different sides of the fence and most of those things I just do not share, but it is admirable to see someone stand on principle and fight for their values.
One thing I will mention that I think is interesting and gave me a slightly different insight into Mark is from when we went on the trip overseas for the nuclear fuel cycle committee. It is okay, Mark; do not panic. What goes on on tour stays on tour, my friend. I remember that Mark was heavily into Facebook and Instagram and other social media sites at that time, which I was sort of just dabbling with at that stage and was not terribly involved with. I said to him, 'Mate, I am not sure I want to tell everyone I am here in Las Vegas. I don't want people in Australia to know I am in Las Vegas.' He said, 'Neither do I. I tell them it is Nevada.' It gave me a slightly different insight into the Hon. Mr Parnell.
I think I have enough experience to say that, having been on the crossbench myself for 12 years, it is a tough gig at times. You are the jack-of-all-trades, if you like, so I respect anyone who can last 15 years or longer in that capacity. I think you have done it well, Mark. I would echo all the words that my colleagues have said.
When I think of famous things Mark has done, there is of course that infamous speech on 8 May 2008 that went for seven hours and 20-odd minutes, or whatever it was. He managed to make it only mildly boring in parts, and the rest of it was quite reasonable. People forget, though, that the next speaker was the Hon. Ann Bressington. She was the one who took us right through to about five in the morning.
I remember that quite well because, after Ann had finally finished that speech, we did something else that had to be done that night—I cannot remember what it was, but it only lasted about 15 minutes or so. It was about quarter to six in the morning by the time I was driving home and the sun was coming up. I remember getting a call from a journalist on the way home in my car about a story for the next day, having not been to bed that night, not having any concept of what was happening the day before. We cannot blame Mark for keeping us up that late, because after he spoke the Hon. Ann Bressington spoke for many hours, and then another motion took about 20 minutes after that. I want to set the record straight there, Mark: it is not all your fault.
The good news is that you get to keep the title 'honourable'. You have been here more than 10 years. I am not sure that you will ever use it, but it is there if you should need it. It looks nice on a letter, I guess, so well done on that. I think my final thought, Mark, would be this: when people start leaving you hope that when you leave people will think well of you, and you wonder what they would say about you and what you would like them to say about you.
I would like them to say that I was civil, that I was honest, that I kept my word, that I was effective and that I was genuine. I would apply all of those to the Hon. Mark Parnell. I wish you well with Penny, mate. I hope it is a great, rich, fruitful life that you live from now on. All the best.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: I rise to warmly endorse the motion. It is not really a good time to be a politician at this moment. We are on a hiding to nothing from many cynics, sometimes for good reason. I would like to think that many good people enter politics and parliament for altruistic reasons: to make our lives better, to right society's wrongs, to make sure governments of the day do not lose sight of their responsibilities, and to correct imbalances in society. The Hon. Mark Parnell ticks every one of those boxes, and he is a top bloke to boot, a true champion of social justice and a passionate advocate for the environment.
Mark has brought a dignified and respectful style to parliament. It really needs that right now, no matter whether you are a member of state parliament or federal parliament. I know very few politicians who are held in such high regard by colleagues and the community as the Hon. Mark Parnell. In fact, yesterday, a former high ranking public servant sent me a message. He said to me, 'If you're going to speak about Mark Parnell, can you just say that he is one of the best parliamentarians seen in the Legislative Council for many a year.' I do agree with that.
While working at Channel 7 in the current affairs area I did not know much about Mark until his rather unexpected elevation to parliament as the first Greens MP in state parliament. He is a rather unassuming character, but I do remember driving to work and seeing those green and gold corflutes bearing his bearded face, almost looking like a musketeer. I was wondering, 'Who is this guy? What does he stand for? Is he one of these radical, ideological, disruptive greenies like we see standing in front of bulldozers in logging forests or leading protestors at uranium mines in outback South Australia?'
Those issues, among many others that stir our conscience, of course were very close to Mark's heart and he campaigned strongly for them in his typical, measured, articulate and balanced style. We got to know Mark and his adviser Craig Wilkins well at Today Tonight. He was a welcome addition to stories we did on the environment—bar one, which I will not mention here, but I was not responsible for that one. His stance on solar and wind energy was simply bringing a semblance of balance and common sense to issues in the community.
I think for one story we got him to camp out under a wind turbine. Did you do that? The story was about the noise coming from wind turbines, and there was one particular town where people were saying that it was disrupting their lives and making the chooks lay yolkless eggs. Mark agreed to head up there and camp out overnight to see whether there was a lot of truth to these stories about wind turbines.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: No, he did not lay any eggs, yolk or no yolk. We also had some fun here, I remember, a few years ago, testing spy software on mobile phones, when I could secretly listen in to his discussions in his office while I was about 20 kilometres away. Since my time in this place, I have seen another side to Mark that the public perhaps do not get to see much of, unless they are so bored at home that they have to tune into parliamentary debates to kill some time.
If they did, they would see how good an orator and debater Mark Parnell really is. What he brings to debates is quite exemplary. When he rises to speak, you know that he knows his stuff and that he can express even the most complicated piece of legislation in simplistic terms so that even a novice like me can understand what it means.
I also greatly appreciated Mark's counsel on procedures and practices in this place. His filibuster record, of course—everyone has spoken about that—is going to take some beating. I tried last year and gave up after about 5½ hours. However, Mark's feat was more than just an exercise in running down the clock on a seemingly lost cause. It was a demonstration of what he does best in this place: fight to the end for his constituents for a cause he strongly believes in. The ruthless changes to WorkCover were a blight on the rights of workers, and he recognised that.
However, he has won many little battles, as we heard from the Hon. Tammy Franks yesterday, from those generous solar feed-in tariffs that no doubt led to the huge uptake of solar panels and paved the way for the state to lead the country and the world on green energy—he has to take some credit for that—as well as the ban on single-use plastics. Environment minister David Speirs will probably go down in the record books for achieving that, but it really started long before that, and it was with the Hon. Mark Parnell.
He has proven, as many have said here, to be quite a perceptive legislator. He also devotes much of his time to serving his community and to humanitarian causes. I wish Mark the very best and also his equally admirable wife, Penny, the Guardian for Children and Young People and a former senator, and their family. I know he has threatened to stalk me on various issues that he is passionate about, and I look forward to that.
I would also like to thank and farewell his staff, particularly Cate Mussared. We have enjoyed working with Mark and his office in the three years that we have been here. We are also looking forward to Mark's replacement, Robert Simms, who has some mighty big boots to fill, but I am sure he is up to the task, going by his work at the Adelaide City Council. Farewell, Mark, and congratulations on your distinguished public service. This chamber will miss you, and we will probably miss your limericks.
The Hon. C. BONAROS: I rise to speak on the motion and to echo the sentiments of our colleagues today. Mark, there are so many words to describe you, I am not even sure where to start, but here are just a few. Mentor: an experienced and trusted adviser. Statesman: a skilled, experienced and respected political figure. Diplomat: a person who can deal with others in a sensitive and tactful way. Gentleman: a chivalrous, courteous and honourable man. Contagious: of an emotion, feeling or attitude likely to spread to and infect others. You have certainly been infectious. The influence you have had on many of us and our thinking cannot be understated, and that is evident in this place today.
Despite the political divide, you are up there with the best. If I may be so bold, you sit at number one of my top three. I do not want to overinflate anybody's ego, so I am not going to say who the other two are just yet. You are genuinely a man of true integrity and a man of your word. You have managed to do something that can be quite rare in this place. You have managed to influence my thinking on an array of matters.
When I think of you in that regard, I also think of Nick, my former boss. The one thing that always comes to mind is: first, they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. And then you win. And both of you did that on so many fronts in this place, and your stance on our stance on issues—all issues regarding the environment in particular—have undoubtedly shifted ours because of all your hard work, so thank you.
You have treated everyone here, no matter who they are or what position they hold, with the utmost respect. With your level-headed articulation, you have always tackled things calmly and convincingly. Ironically, when I want some impartial advice in this place, free of political flourish, the Hon. Mark Parnell is my number one go-to person. That is not to say that you will not also offer advice on what I should do as a good citizen, which is slightly more tainted with hues of green, but I know that I could always rely on you for that advice.
When amendments are filed in here, especially at the eleventh hour, I know everybody knows I cross the floor, and I go over and have a chat to Mark, because despite our political differences, above all else I know that your assessment will always be impartial and balanced, first and foremost. You are a balanced MP, Mr Parnell, something I think we could all aspire to be a little bit more of. That is except, of course, when it comes to wind farms, but only—only—insofar as it relates to their proximity to residential premises and townships.
You have always managed to do all these things and make them look effortless, and so I have always aspired to be a little more like you, a little more like Mark, in the work that I do. Your dedication to the environment, to a sustainable world for future generations, spans 15 years of Hansard, but as we all know it spans many more years before that, and I am sure it will continue into the future. You have been a champion for a great many causes, and for that I think we are all very grateful.
Gratitude: I for one am very grateful and all the better for having worked with you. It is hard, Mr President, to sum up a person and their achievements in just a few words and do them justice. Principled, humble, decent, grounded, pragmatic: all these things come to mind when I think of Mark. Friend: a person who you know well and who you like a lot. Above all, I consider you my friend. As Eleanor Roosevelt famously once said, 'Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.'
Above all else, you are a good man, Mr Parnell, and we are all, I think, the better for having known and worked alongside you in this place. With those words, I wish you well in whatever you choose to do next. Be confident that you have made a real difference in this place. I am sad to see you go, but I am really happy that you are finally taking time out for yourself and for your family, and I wish you all the very best in your next endeavours.
It would be remiss of me not to also take this opportunity to wish the very best to my friend Cate. I think Cate and I are two of the veterans when it comes to staff in this place—and Emily: the Hon. Emily Bourke. I started working here shortly after Cate way back in 2004 or 2005, I think it was, and I know the Hon. Mark Parnell is not the only one who appreciates her years of experience, her years of hard work, and her professionalism in everything she does.
We all know that behind every MP there is usually a very nervous but also great Chief of Staff, and that has certainly been the case with Cate. I would like to acknowledge also the hard work of Emily and Craig, who were also in your office. I am not going to lie, I was hoping that Cate would join us here on the crossbench, but that was not to be this time. But I am truly humbled to have offered my support to her in her bid for a seat in this place during the Greens processes, and I meant every word when I said that many of the Greens achievements during Cate's tenure with the party are in no small part due to her passion and her hard work on the causes the party has embraced, GM crops being no exception.
In closing, I thank you both and wish you all the very best. In your own words, or as you would say, Mark, 'So long, and thanks for all the fish.' And here is my terrible attempt at a limerick. It is really, really bad, but 'Roses are red, violets are blue' is a family favourite, so here we go:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Mark and Cate are leaving us
Boohoo and ooroo!
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: I rise to support this motion and in doing so I recall the first day that I met Mark on 21 November 2007. Mark and I had dinner that night. It was a bit of a baptism of fire because parliament worked until 11 o'clock at night, which was new to me. I can say that I sat through the debate of WorkCover and listened to Mark's seven hours, 21 minutes and I can say that he did not repeat himself once, unlike my colleague who went over and over the same thing all the time. I would like to wish both Mark and Penny a long and happy retirement. I think you will find that when you do retire you will be busier than you were in here.
The PRESIDENT: Before putting the question, I would like to make a few remarks myself. Most members of this chamber would be aware that yesterday we had a first for the Hon. Mark Parnell. He came and presided over the chamber in the matters of interest. He said to me at the end of the day, 'I wonder why I waited 15 years,' because in that half an hour or so he got to acknowledge two former senators in the gallery.
I first met Mark in my first four years in this place, when I was on the Environment, Resources and Development Committee. Mark frequently came to give evidence in his work at the Environmental Defenders Office. His beard was much longer then. It was an interesting group. That committee was chaired by Ivan Venning and it also had Karlene Maywald, Mike Elliott, Steph Key and of course the late Terry Roberts, and the Leader of the Opposition would well know that he was known as Roberts South-East to distinguish him from Ron Roberts, who was Roberts Port Pirie. It was interesting that later on in your career, and in mine, we sort of got together again on the ERD Committee, and I will mention that again in a moment.
I had a lot to do with Mark as Opposition Whip, particularly when he became the first unofficial whip of the crossbench. He was the first person who managed that area, and I think the Hon. Mr Hood would agree with this, that, despite perhaps the differences between some of the groups that were here and Independents, Mark was able to work out some batting orders and things like that which were helpful to the whips of the major parties, and to the leaders, I might add.
As I said, in recent times, since the election, I spent a couple of years on the ERD Committee. Mark has been on that committee for the whole time he has been here. In very recent times, there has been a constant turnstile on that committee. Not only was I there for a while and left, but there have been numerous chairs and there have been a number of changes in personnel. I know the Labor Party's representation has included the Hon. Mr Ngo and I think briefly the Hon. Ms Scriven. The only constant for all that time has been the Hon. Mr Parnell, and now he is leaving.
We also spent time on the GM crops committee under the chairmanship of the Hon. John Darley. While we were at completely different ends on that—I think the Hon. Emily Bourke would agree—the four of us worked together pretty well, knowing that we were never going to satisfy everybody. But I think where we landed was fairly close to where the situation is today.
Mark and I have been White Ribbon Ambassadors together and I give him credit for the way that he wore his badge almost every day, I think, for a long time. He is a great supporter of my work in suicide prevention and I am very grateful for that, and also of my work in surrogacy. The interesting thing there is that the first bill I ever brought in on surrogacy was just after the Hon. Mr Parnell arrived, and it was only in the latter part of last year that all the regulations were finalised and I could finally close my file on surrogacy, so that saga has taken up almost all of his time here.
Mark is a man of great integrity and a man of his word, someone who is a great demonstration of what I say to people when they come to this place, that if you think you are never going to make a friend across the aisle or with any other party, then you are a fool and you are going to miss out on a great deal. I think the friendships we make in this place, particularly, as the honourable Treasurer said yesterday, when working together with people we would not otherwise work with on some of these conscience issues, is a great part of the work we do in this place.
In closing, I wish you well, initially with this civics project that we all look forward to hearing more about, and I know Cate is going to help you with that, but beyond that for you and Penny and your family in whatever you choose to do, we know you will do it well and we wish you all the very best for the future.
Honourable members: Hear, hear!
THURSDAY 1 APRIL 2021 - HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Dr CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Deputy Leader of the Opposition): I seek the house's indulgence to make a brief statement.
Dr CLOSE: I rise to speak briefly about the Hon. Mark Parnell whose last sitting day in parliament is today. Having known Mark before either of us were in parliament, I wanted to mark this occasion and speak to his very great qualities.
Mark is one of the finest examples of what one would hope all parliamentarians were. In both conduct and motivation, he is one of the most decent and honourable men I suspect this parliament has ever seen. In his motivations, he has been utterly committed to the preservation, protection and restoration of our natural environment, as one would expect from someone who has represented the Greens.
However, he has also seriously taken to heart the importance of community voice, the importance of democracy, the importance of making sure that where possible people are able to make decisions about their local environment and their local circumstances. He has a very fine legal mind and has utter respect for the law: what it can do, what it cannot do and what it ought to do. I think everyone in this house and in the other place would agree that his conduct has at all times been one of decency, one of compassion and one of reasonableness.
When one is a member of a minor party, as they are called, I imagine it is often quite disheartening when the two major parties decide that they are not going to agree on a particular issue before the parliament that the minor party wishes to promote. Yet, despite I think often having to deal with disappointments, the Hon. Mark Parnell has at all times understood the pragmatic and reasonable circumstances in which we all operate and has continued to forge and maintain strong relationships across all sides of parliament.
My own history of knowing Mark, as I alluded to earlier, extends to well before either of us were in parliament, in that we are both part of the environment movement in South Australia; Mark much more significantly and importantly than me. I became aware of him when I was a fairly young activist in the environment movement when he worked in the Environmental Defenders Office, and then when I became involved in the Conservation Council through being on the board he was one of the people who was clearly—although not much older than me—already one of the elders, one of the wise people.
Crucially, for our own relationship, we came to know each other far better when I was the president of the Wilderness Society in the late 1990s. We had a vacancy that I believe, if I have my dates right, was subsequently filled by the person who became my partner and the father of my children, so it was important that Mark not stay in that job so that that could happen, but for a crucial period when we had a gap between long-term campaigners we needed someone to fill a few months and Mark came and worked for the Wilderness Society. It was there that I had the pleasure and honour of working closely with him on his true passion, which was trying to argue for law reform in order to preserve the environment.
Mark has been motivated I think above all else—above the environment, above the community and above his love for the law—by his love for his fellow humans and, in particular, of course his dear wife Penny, who is an extraordinary woman in her own right, and his children. Of course, we mark the great tragedy that has sat with Mark for the last several years, and with Penny and the rest of the family. We acknowledge the dignity with which they all went through that experience.
I asked three people I know well through the environment movement, who knew Mark as well, if they would briefly give me the comments they would like to be read into Hansard about him. The first is from Craig Wilkins, who is now in the very important role of running the Conservation Council of South Australia, the peak body. He said:
Mark is one of those all too rare individuals who are just the same in private as public. He is decent, loyal, caring, hardworking and smart.
Although he failed in his mission to single-handedly turn Morris dancing and the playing of the diatonic button accordion into major South Australian pastimes, over 15 years he has brought to the SA parliament a rich vein of social and environmental advocacy, exemplary knowledge of planning law, deep respect for democracy and a willingness to collaborate for the greater good.
Peter Owen, who is one of the later successors to the role in the Wilderness Society to which I referred, said:
A mentor, a light on the hill, a stalwart and an advocate for South Australia's environment for a generation. Thank you.
Finally, we come to Michelle Grady, who, when I first met her, I think was running the Conservation Council, the role that Craig now holds, but is now in a very significant role as the national director of The Pew Charitable Trusts (Australia) and is based in WA. Despite the challenge of the time zone, she was able to find some time to write this. She said:
The loss of Mark Parnell from [South Australia's] Parliament will be keenly felt. With so many hats on over the decades—most notably his bicycle helmet!—Mark has used his incredibly sharp and fast mind to interpret the law, explain it in easy usable ways and has combined it with a deep and genuine respect for community needs and the power of people to make a difference. Mark has been both the brains trust for what [South Australia's] wonderful environment needs and has led the charge in so many campaigns. Mark has been the go-to person for advice, empowerment and encouragement for so many—no-one leaves his presence without a full kit bag of ideas and plans, and a renewed enthusiasm for making a difference. Mark has made his mark on so many places, laws, hearts and souls. We will watch with great anticipation for what comes next!
In closing, I say that this is not a farewell, though it is from this place of work. This is gratitude to Mark Parnell and looking forward to continuing to hear his wisdom and his insights and learning a little from his energy and persistence. Thank you, Mark Parnell, for all your service.