Jun 19, 2012

Statement of Indulgence – The Honourable Francis John (Frank) Walker

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (19:58):  On indulgence, today I had the honour of representing the Prime Minister at the funeral of Frank Walker. It was an extraordinary occasion, with speeches former High Court Judge Mary Gaudron about Frank’s legal legacy; from Frank’s brother Robert; from Michael Knight, who spoke about Frank Walker’s early years; from Michael Deegan, who spoke about Frank’s achievements as a state and federal minister; and Michael Gallagher, who represented the New South Wales government and was also the candidate against Frank for the seat of Robertson in 1993. He gave a very generous and humorous speech. He indicated that Frank would understand the humour of a former police officer speaking at his funeral, given the opposition that was there from the police to reforms such as removal of the Summary Offences Act and to other important progressive legislation that was championed by Frank Walker.

It was a great occasion. I thank the Premier of New South Wales, Barry O’Farrell, for his generosity in ensuring that it was a state funeral, particularly given that this was a great Labor event with Labor luminaries, including the former Prime Minister, Paul Keating. It was also attended by a number of former premiers, including Barrie Unsworth, Nick Greiner, Nathan Rees and Kristina Kenneally. It was indeed a great occasion at the Sydney Conservatorium and there were outstanding musical presentations.

Of course, if there was an overriding theme to the event it was Frank Walker’s record of being a champion of the marginalised, particularly his support for Indigenous rights. Tales were told, for example, about his being assaulted for daring to sit with the local Indigenous community on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales in a segregated theatre. It should be remembered that this happened in our lifetime. The police took him out of that theatre and he was assaulted for the crime of taking a stance on race relations, in favour of e   quality.

This was a great celebration of a great Australian. It was one in which there was a very positive spirit and it was an honour to be there today to represent the Prime Minister. In her absence, I thank her for bestowing that honour upon me.