Mr AMERY (Mount Druitt—Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Corrective Services) [2.15 p.m.]: I draw to the attention of the House the presence in the gallery of Iris and Kevin Sheridan. Dr Kevin Sheridan is one of the State's longest-serving public servants. He has been the Director-General of the Department of Agriculture since 1988. The bad news is that he will retire on Tuesday 2 July. It would be remiss of the House not to record officially our thoughts on the retirement of one of the State's most successful and professional public servants.
Kevin Sheridan joined the department in 1960 as a research economist in Tamworth. From there he rose rapidly through the ranks and, as history shows, made his mark. He was also on a number of boards, forums and committees. He has had due recognition to the highest level. In 1973 he was appointed to the newly created position of Director of Agronomy Research. In 1976—a good time for our side of the House—he was promoted to Chief of the Division of Plant Industries. In 1977—not so good a time—he was promoted to Assistant Director-General of the Department of Agriculture. In 1980 he was very much on his way to even more senior positions when he was appointed Deputy Director-General of the Department of Agriculture. Between 1985 and 1988 he was a member of the Public Service Board. Members of the industrial wing of the Labor Party may recall that he served with brother Ducker in that capacity. He has obviously had great associates.
In January 1988 Dr Sheridan reached the pinnacle of his organisation when he was appointed Director-General of the Department of Agriculture in the dying days of the Wran-Unsworth Government. In 1995, upon the election of the Carr Labor Government, he was appointed Chief Executive of the NSW Rural Assistance Authority. I note that between 1988 and 1995, in his very professional manner, he served two National Party Ministers for Agriculture, the honourable member for Lachlan, who is in the Chamber today, and Ian Causley. In 1999 Kevin had the honour of being appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia, an AO, in recognition of his services to the agricultural industries, policy development, and promoting research and education in primary production.
Kevin has had an illustrious career of which many people would be proud. I know that he, his wife Iris and the rest of his family certainly are. He has made an outstanding contribution to the agriculture sector and also to the workings of government, no matter who has been in office. His particular focus has been on making agriculture both economically and ecologically sustainable. Dr Sheridan is widely recognised and respected not only in New South Wales but also across Australia and around the world—as I came to learn as Minister. He has left a lasting impression on all who work with him. The members of his staff are very loyal to him, which is true testament to his leadership and management style.
His career highlights include the relocation of the whole of the Department of Agriculture to Orange when the honourable member for Lachlan was the Minister in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Another career highlight occurred during the term of this Government with the relocation of the Rural Assistance Authority from Sydney to Orange. He also oversaw the establishment of nine agricultural centres of excellence around the State, with the decentralisation of research from the western suburbs of Sydney under this Government. As a result of Kevin's leadership NSW Agriculture is now recognised as one of the world's foremost authorities in agricultural extension, research, education, regulation and trade. Kevin has also played a lead role in developing trade and scientific links with China, Japan and other Asia-Pacific countries.
During my time as Minister for Agriculture I have found Kevin to be a true professional in his work as director-general. I thank him sincerely both professionally and personally for his help and advice over the past seven years. The honourable member for Lachlan would attest to the fact that this has been a time of dramatic changes and challenges. Difficult decisions have had to be made. Even terrible motions of no-confidence have been moved against poor, humble Ministers for Agriculture. Kevin's leadership during that time not only helped me fend off those attacks by the Opposition but also steered the department through a dramatic time of change, of which we are now seeing the benefits. I am sure that many other members would like to thank Kevin for his outstanding contribution to agriculture and to governments of both political persuasions throughout his long and successful years. Kevin, I wish you and Iris all the very best for a well-earned retirement. I have no doubt that I speak on behalf of all members of this House that you will be remembered by all who worked with you and you will be remembered for your successes. Thank you, and good luck in your retirement.
Mr ARMSTRONG (Lachlan) [2.23 p.m.]: It gives me enormous pleasure to support the Minister for Agriculture on behalf of the rural communities of New South Wales by seconding the vote of thanks to Dr Kevin Patrick Sheridan, and to acknowledge his wife. It is fair to say that Kevin Sheridan has two passions in life: first, his family, as he is an extremely proud family man; and, second, his profession. Kevin is fundamentally an academic, as his career would indicate. He is an academic with an absolute passion for agriculture. He understands agriculture, and he has a feel for agriculture.
Another of Kevin's major attributes is his capacity to lead, because wherever he has been in the bureaucracy he has attracted people of quality and excellence. He has given leadership not by direction but through his natural talent—people like to follow Dr Kevin Sheridan. He has always led by example and has always been imaginative and bold in his planning processes. He is capable of not only initiating programs but also completing them. Many people, particularly politicians, like to start things but many of us are not capable of finishing what we start. Dr Sheridan always completes what he starts.
The New South Wales bureaucracy is the oldest in the country, and very few people have contributed enormously to its character, culture and growth. There is no doubt that Dr Kevin Sheridan set new benchmarks, particularly in modern times, for bureaucracy in this State. His financial management prowess, his capacity to manage the budgets of the department—through good and bad times—is somewhat of a yardstick to many others in the bureaucracy. Kevin's passion for agriculture covered such things as golden dodda, Parramatta grass, ticks in cattle on the North Coast and ovine Johne's disease, the Rural Assistance Authority, and 20 years of drought between 1972 and 1992. Through all that, Kevin Sheridan was always there.
On a lighter note, I often conferred with Dr Kevin Sheridan when I became a Minister, and realised after a few weeks that I had found the original Sir Humphrey Appleby. There is no doubt that the hand was up the back of the shirt quite frequently; Sir Humphrey was alive in New South Wales through Kevin Sheridan. He was very much a preacher but his guidance was always very welcomed, and his push and shove was indeed helpful. I join with members of this House and the people of this State in saying thank you, Kevin Sheridan. Thank you, Iris, for your support of your husband, and thank you for making him available to us. Kevin, I hope that your talents will not be turned off to just go and play golf. You will still be able to contribute to this State in many, many ways in the future. We wish you every happiness and thank you for your services to this State.