Death Of The Honourable Dr Marlene Mary Herbert Goldsmith, A Former Member Of The Legislative Council
DEATH OF THE HONOURABLE DR MARLENE MARY HERBERT GOLDSMITH,
A FORMER MEMBER OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
Debate adjourned from an earlier hour.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [2.30 p.m.], by leave: I first met Marlene Herbert Goldsmith at the State Executive of the Liberal Party in 1984, when she was quite clearly a major factional leader in the Liberal Party. Always a country girl at heart, Marlene was keen to point out that she had to flee the country to take up her main interest in life—education. She took every advantage there was and gave back more than she gained. She was always very interested in early childhood education and always kept to the forefront of developments in education. She takes after her great, great grandmother, who was one of the colourful women in the early days of the colony.
Marlene was a regional president on the State executive, as I was, and I could always depend upon Marlene to support me in such difficult issues as three-cornered contests. We stood together for preselection for the Legislative Council in 1986 and we acted as a team. We were part of the team of candidates put up by, in those days, the Group, of which Marlene was a prominent member. It does not exist any more. In those days we were struggling against the powers of darkness. Marlene and I swapped telephone numbers and we assisted each other to ensure that we spoke to every one of the 140-odd preselectors, by tracking them down and phoning them. If I found one at home I would call Marlene immediately and say, "Marlene, quick they are at home", and she would do the same for me.
We also strongly supported the other members of our team. It was an illustrious team, comprising the Hon. Virginia Chadwick, the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith, the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho, the Hon. Stephen Mutch and me. I am the only member of the Liberal Party remaining from that team. We were also supported in that endeavour to win seats for the Liberal Party by the Hon. D. J. Gay and the Hon. Bob Rowland Smith, and a powerful team it was. I am only sorry that we did not get our eighth candidate up that time, because we would have been joined by Michael Barnes, who would have been an outstanding member of this House. That is something I really regret.
Marlene was always one for correctitude. When we first came to Parliament it became a matter of discussion between Marlene, me, and the then President, the Hon. J. R. Johnson, about whether we should be referred to as "Dr the Hon." or "the Hon. Dr". We both decided that "the Hon. Dr" was enough because it would be too much to have only one honourable doctor in the House. I had to recontest my preselection; Marlene did not, because she was preselected ahead of me. She was one of the continuing members when the House reduced its numbers from 45 to 42. Although that was a very sad time for the House, it was good that Marlene was able to serve the whole of the three terms for which she was elected.
From the beginning of her time in Parliament Marlene took an active interest in three major issues. One was transport. She was always a member of the transport Caucus committee, always in the forefront of looking for reform in transport, always targeted at the customer, namely, the travelling public. She was a strong supporter of Bruce Baird and his aim to make the transport system of New South Wales serve the people and not waste money. We have heard a lot about her involvement in social issues. She was a true Democrat. During her time on the Standing Committee on State Development and the committees she chaired she let the evidence and not her own philosophy come through. She can be very proud of the work she did on adoption, with the Hon. M. F. Willis as chair.
She chaired the very difficult inquiry into victims of HIV-AIDS acquired through blood transfusions. She intensely investigated youth suicide, and a marvellous report was issued as a result of that inquiry. At that time, when I was Parliamentary Secretary for Health, the report generated widespread interest. Only now are the State and Federal governments recognising this huge iceberg of which we saw only the tip in those days. We are seeing much more of the iceberg now and it is good to see the Commonwealth coming forward with major funding and the State Government, through the Department of Health, bringing expertise to focus on this very important issue for young people.
One always had to take note of the fact that Marlene made sure that her reports were easy to read. There would be no split infinitives, no bad grammar and no underlining. Her style was easy to read, and this was confirmed by the book she wrote. Her reports were easy to read, crystal clear and reflected the evidence we received. Marlene did not go to a Minister and say, "Do you think this would be a good report if I put this into it?" Marlene let the evidence speak for itself, and for that she should be congratulated.
Marlene's particular passion was education, particularly education of young children and then of young women, to try to raise their tertiary entrance rank and make education much more meaningful for them than it was when she started in 1988. Her persistence led to her strongly supporting Terry Metherell's change to the education format, and she persisted with the need for reform to improve the quality of opportunity for our young people.
Marlene was a very strong factional warrior, a strong supporter of John Dowd and his form of moderate politics. She was entirely a progressive conservative, which is the quintessential essence of being a good Liberal. She knew precisely what she was getting into when she put her foot forward in a progressive way, by reading, by research, by knowing people and discussing things with people. She knew if she was going ahead with a reform that the reform was good for people, that they would see that it was good for them and would be consistent with improving the lot of the individual. Marlene suffered a little in terms of advancement because of her strongly held views and her careful way of enunciating those views clearly and exposing views which in her mind were counterproductive.
Marlene was no bedside intellectual. She was always a robust intellectual; she was always able to remain intellectually honest in any brawl. She did not cover up the flaws in her own argument; she would expose the flaws in her argument for all to see but bring forward forcefully the main principle. She was a true Liberal in every sense—direct, open and honest—but a fiery supporter of individual rights. Needless to say, she was able to put that into print. Her earliest writing of which I am aware was her writing for the Liberal Forum, of which she became editor following Chris Puplick.
She wrote many letters and articles commissioned by the Sydney Morning Herald. If the Editor of Letters declined to publish one of Marlene's letters, many more letters would follow until she had demonstrated that she had written a number of letters on the particular issue and that the editor was biased in the pink Herald not to publish her views to refute the wringing hands of the impotent Left. From there Marlene went on to publish for members of the Liberal Party and many of her supporters outside the party read her own account in a journal entitled "From the Red Benches". That was one of the earliest newsletters that Marlene sent out religiously every month or two. I note that the title of that journal has now being passed on to one of the new members. Marlene also wrote an important book entitled Political Incorrectness. In my copy of the book Marlene wrote:
she always referred to me as "dear Pezzutti"—
For the record, I shall read an extract from the book relating to the inquiry into HIV-AIDS contracted through blood transfusions. Marlene wrote:
whose politics are never boring, whether incorrect or otherwise.
That demonstrates Marlene's clear commitment to open inquiry but, more importantly, her ability to be tolerant of other people's ideas. Marlene was the patron of several groups; she picked up the issues and carried them through the whole time. She was the patron of dance sports, which was referred to by the Hon. Patricia Forsythe. Marlene had gorgeous evening downs which she wore. She would return from a dance sports event and say, "You should have been there. I was knee-deep in feathers and sequins. It was fantastic."
That inquiry was a watershed for me. I had always seen myself as a tolerant person, believing that I am responsible for making my own moral decisions, not other people's. The Bible might have strictures against homosexual sex, but it also demands that we remove the log from our own eye before attacking the speck in another's, and that only those who are without sin—any sin—are entitled to cast the first stone. Yet, when organisations care more about public perceptions than human lives, when they try to disrupt the democratic process and intimidate Members of Parliament, then one is forced to take stock.
She was talking about the Town Hall. Marlene regularly attended the Young Liberals ball, and she attended all Young Liberals functions. She and Ian would trip the light fantastic and enjoy themselves in the company of young people, where she felt most at home. On a more serious note, she helped the people in an organisation called Silent Hearts to recognise their own loss and grief. This organisation supports people whose relatives have donated organs for transplantation. Marlene was able to prevail upon John Fahey to fund and then open a beautiful garden of white roses in Bicentennial Park in memory and to help commemorate those who made the sacrifice so others could live.
Marlene was a true feminist in all the positive senses of the word, including her involvement as a spokeswoman on the crunch issues of the day: women's education, women's right to employment, and women's right to do what anyone else could do. She took a strong feminist view on pornography. She was very strong in leading the charge against the open display of women's breasts and the like in newsagencies where children could see them. I disagreed with her on that issue, but she took it strongly. She pushed the matter through the party room, no matter how many people scorned her or laughed about it.
Marlene enjoyed ironing shirts, but only her husband's shirts. She told me that if she was feeling low she would iron his shirt because of the pheromones. She thought it was wonderful. She dearly loved her husband and they were inseparable. On a personal note, Marlene was intensely private. Often she would come and share a couple of coffee, although for her it was a drink of warm or iced water. She detested cigarette smoking and suffered badly from hay fever associated with people smoking near her. She was very generous with her hospitality both to members of the public at large and to her friends.
My daughter was a member of the Loreto Normanhurst rowing team. Often when she finished rowing at the Drummoyne shed we would have lunch with Marlene. She would put on a marvellous spread. Although she said she never cooked, she certainly could entertain. She was always willing to discuss matters. She always wisely got an opinion but never forced her opinions upon people; she would listen carefully and give advice, and the advice was not only almost invariably mature but also politically acute. She was a fitness fanatic and would walk, run or use weights every day. In her later life she became a fantastic representative of dance sports and then trained for it, which was more important. Of all honourable members of this House, I probably enjoyed the closest association with Marlene in the past four years. We were in one another's room regularly to talk about issues. I enjoyed her company immensely. She was a fantastic conversationalist.
I send my deepest sympathy to Ian and Georgina. I extend my sympathy to other members of the family, particularly her brother Warren Herbert. Interestingly, Marlene retained her maiden name of Herbert after she married. One of her dear friends was Max Willis. I will always remember Marlene as being very loyal, dependable and truthful, a person of intensity, a person who was bored doing nothing or sitting on the sidelines. She was a get-down-and-roll-up-your-sleeves person. I know that she has left her mark here. She has certainly left her mark on me. I hope honourable members will look at her examples, in the way she conducted committees and her own little pushes at policy—as I said, always intellectually honest, always intense and always committed.
The Hon. J. S. TINGLE [2.48 p.m.], by leave: I shall say only a few words in support of the condolences expressed today. I feel a personal sense of loss at the death of Marlene Goldsmith—personal because she and Ian and my wife, Gail, and I were friends long before I came into this place. It is a loss because we are the poorer that the quick mind, sharp wit, dedication and energy that were Marlene have gone, tragically, wastefully and irreplaceably. She was a remarkable person.
I first got to know Marlene during my years of running a radio current affairs program on radio station 2GB. I cannot recall the first time I interviewed her, but she became a regular on my program, as she became a regular name in much printed media. It seemed that she had unlimited original and mind-challenging ideas to offer, and they poured from her in a steady stream. After that first interview I found myself looking for excuses to have her on the program, because she was always fresh, different, and thought-provoking. She was also extremely passionate about the things she held important. An interview with her always produced a steady stream of callers wanting to comment on what she had said. Sometimes the reaction went on four days.
Honourable members will be surprised to hear me say that, from the viewpoint of a journalist broadcaster, there are politicians who make dead-boring radio. Marlene was the exception that proved the rule. Whatever the subject of our interview, she always managed to trot out the unexpected—the new perspective. We spoke of pornography, education, her huge concern about rural youth suicide, youth problems, female genital mutilation—about all the things that came before her social issues committee—and about things that simply sprang from her restless, fertile mind.
Knowing my constituency, honourable members will not be surprised to know that she endeared herself to me, particularly one day when, in the course of an interview, the subject of the right to own firearms came up just in passing. She told me that her father—of whom she was massively proud—had had a belt buckle on which was engraved the words, "You can take my gun—when you prise it from my cold and lifeless hands."
We socialised, and got to know Ian, and learned of his interest in antiques and old things. I still treasure a very old dowelling jig, made of brass, which he had found and restored when he heard of my extremely ham-fisted efforts at carpentry. The only moment when our friendship faltered was when Marlene invited us to a dinner at Drummoyne one night. When we got there, we learned that it was a Liberal Party fundraiser. Not only that, but the guest speaker was my then local member and, at that time, a Minister, Kerry Chikarovski. But our friendship was strong enough to survive even that ordeal.
It was Marlene who found me wandering a bit lost around Parliament House on induction day. It was Marlene who took me under her wing and introduced me to her party colleagues, some of whom I had met before, and made me feel at home. In fact, it was Marlene whom I rang when I discovered I had been elected, to ask her what I had to do next, and it was she who told me to go and see the Clerks. She remained my mentor through the rest of her time here. She also remained a critic. You always knew exactly where you stood with Marlene. When she disapproved of my stand on something, or disagreed with something I said in the House, I was never left in any doubt about her feelings. She came and told me! It was direct, straight to the point, and usually pretty right.
It was inevitable that it would be Marlene Goldsmith who would write a book with a title like "Political Incorrectness". She was living proof of how correct "incorrectness" could be. As other members have said, she was a feminist. But, unlike many, she was a feminine feminist—and that made her feminist views much more relevant. I missed her when she left Parliament, and I will miss her now that she is gone. Gail and I offer Ian and the family our deepest sympathy and condolences. I am proud to have known her. Nobody I know was more worthy of the title she was given while in this place: the honourable Dr Marlene Goldsmith.
The Hon. Dr A. CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [2.52 p.m.], by leave: I would like to place on record the Australian Democrats' condolences for the family of Marlene Goldsmith. I did not know her well, I must confess, because she was obviously unwell when I came to this House and we had only one session together. I think at that stage she was phasing out her committee work, for which she was justly famous. She certainly encouraged me as a new member when I came into this place in a very bipartisan and friendly fashion. When I heard that Marlene had passed away I spoke to my predecessor, Elisabeth Kirkby, who was distressed to hear that her colleague had died so young when she had obviously hoped she had achieved a cure. Lis spoke about Marlene's committee work, the academic rigour with which she approached it, and her work in inquiries into adoption, education and medically-acquired AIDS. We wish her husband, Ian, well in his time of grief, and we salute the honesty and courage of Marlene as one of our colleagues.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD [2.54 p.m.], by leave: I join my colleagues in extending my condolences to Ian, Georgina and the family of our colleague the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith. Marlene was an idealist. In politics sometimes the term "idealist" can be used as a tag of derision, but in relation to Marlene Goldsmith it was a mantle she could wear with pride. Some of our colleagues have referred to the period when Marlene was chief of staff to John Dowd—two idealists working together. Whilst they laid the foundations for the eventual successes of Nick Greiner, it epitomised that period when we were looking forward. Marlene always looked forward.
Marlene always wanted to make a difference. That is why she came to Parliament. She wanted to make a difference. Marlene's family, can now register clearly that Marlene did in fact make a difference. When someone writes a history of this period of the Parliament—or, more importantly perhaps, a history of the Liberal Party—Marlene Goldsmith will be noted as a person who made a difference to the Parliament, to the Liberal Party and to the State. A number of our colleagues have referred to some of the legislative measures that could be attributed to Marlene. As the Attorney General of the time, I can confirm that she contributed significantly to a large number of legislative changes. Reference has been made to the legislation banning the mutilation of female genitalia. That legislation set a new direction in this area; we were the first jurisdiction in the world to ban that practice. That occurred as a result of the overriding representations of Marlene Goldsmith.
During the period 1992 to 1995 a large amount of legislation was introduced to deal with issues such as pornography and the classification of video games. Marlene Goldsmith contributed significantly to that program of legislative change. In some cases she actually drove the agenda. Not many members who leave Parliament can claim that they left behind clear examples of change within the records of Parliament. When we introduce legislation in the Parliament we fail to acknowledge that certain people might have been responsible for trying to drive it. Other jurisdictions are prepared to make that acknowledgment, but we do not. Perhaps we should consider acknowledging the contributions that certain people make towards driving legislative change for the benefit of the community.
I acknowledge that Marlene Goldsmith made a significant contribution towards driving the vast majority of legislation that passed through this Parliament during the period when I was Attorney General, particularly legislation on child abuse and pornography. That will be part of the records that Marlene's family will be able to read and herald. Down the track, it will be of even more importance to Marlene's grandchildren.
As I said, Marlene was an idealist. Many people thought that she drove much of these issues because of a fundamental belief that might have been regarded as either puritanical or conservative. That was not the case. It was because she had a fundamental view about the position of women and children in our community and the need to protect them. She took the view that pornography debased women and abused children. She fought to protect women and children from being debased and abused. She will be remembered for that war that she maintained right through until her retirement.
My colleagues have outlined other areas in which Marlene was significantly involved and by which she contributed to the community, and I will not reiterate them. In conclusion, I repeat what I said earlier: Marlene made a significant contribution to the community, of which she was proud, and of which her family can justifiably be proud. Her family will know as they look back on the life of Marlene Goldsmith that she made changes for the better.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS [2.59 p.m.], by leave: I join in this debate to record the sadness of honourable members about the death of Marlene Goldsmith. I do so in my capacity as the current Chair of the Standing Committee on Social Issues because certainly one of the most important roles played by Marlene in this Parliament was as a member of the Standing Committee on Social Issues from its foundation in 1989 until her retirement from this Parliament in 1999, which is a period of approximately 11 years. During that period the Standing Committee on Social Issues produced a number of very important reports on a variety of issues.
Marlene chaired the committee from 1991 to 1995 and was deputy chair from 1995 to 1999. For a relatively brief period in 1998 —and I regret how brief it was—Marlene was deputy chair when I was chair of the committee during her final year as a member of the committee. Unfortunately, that period coincided with her illness and committee members did not see as much of her during their deliberations as they otherwise would have liked. However, I am pleased that the report that Marlene and I worked on together most—"Working for Children: Communities Supporting Families", which was tabled in 1998 and is probably usually referred to by the short title of "parent education", with everything that that term implies—concerned a cause that meant a great deal to Marlene.
In addressing potential problems that may confront children in the future, the committee investigated various notions. They included what is usually referred to as early intervention, the need to identify families at risk and to find ways of providing parents with assistance in a variety of ways—not only in health and education but in a range of other services as well, problems associated with youth suicide, youth contact with the juvenile justice system, and youth who are facing a poverty stricken or intellectually and psychologically impoverished life. "Working for Children: Communities Supporting Families" dealt with many of those issues.
Since that date, in a number of respects the New South Wales Government has either directly adopted specific recommendations or, through programs such as Families First, indirectly implemented policies in line with the recommendations in the report. I am sure that other members of the Standing Committee on Social Issues, past and present, join with me in paying tribute to Marlene's participation in the production of that report as it was a report—indeed, the last report—in which she played a major role.
In reflecting upon reports produced by the committee, I believe it is appropriate to cite some of the remarks made by Marlene in the forewords, because they provide not only an indication of the significance of the reports but also an insight into Marlene's views. The first report produced by the committee was titled "Accessing Adoption Information". The report was tabled in 1989 and dealt with all the issues faced by people who find themselves in the adoption triangle: the mother in particular, the adoptive parents and the child.
Current members of the Standing Committee on Social Issues are very familiar with those issues because the committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into adoption which focuses on the feelings of mothers of babies who were given up for adoption during the period 1950 to 1998, and the pain experienced by the children as well as the adoptive families. This will be the third time that the Standing Committee on Social Issues has dealt with issues related to adoption, the recording of births, the way in which the register is open to public access, and the use that is made of the register's information. In that context I cite part of Marlene's foreword as the chair of the committee which produced the report entitled "Births, Deaths And Marriages: An Open Register?", which was tabled in 1993:
Marlene went on to deal with the arguments that the committee considered from both sides of the issue. I cite those two paragraphs from Marlene's foreword because, as honourable members and members of her family would know, that was one of the issues that she took up through her involvement in the Menzies Foundation, in debating the issues in this House, and in her writings. An issue that was very important to her was the tension between the right to freedom of information and the right to privacy, and the liberal values that are implicit in both sides of the dilemma.
When the Committee began an Inquiry into this Reference, there was an expectation that it would be a relatively brief and simple task, in comparison with some of our previous inquiries. The Reference was, after all, quite specific, with a narrow focus.
However, closer examination soon revealed that the Reference involved one of the fundamental moral dilemmas of a free society: the question of how far an individual's personal information should be made available to other people. The right to freedom of information, here, is directly opposed to the right to privacy. The latter right is particularly threatened in this age of electronic data bases, especially in a jurisdiction where there is, as here, no legislated protection for data.
As I said, the Standing Committee on Social Issues dealt in the past with births and adoptions during the period when Marlene was chair of the committee and produced two reports during that period. The committee is now grappling with, and finding resolutions for, some of those very same issues which are quite difficult to deal with. The committee inquiry visits the sometimes terrible history of adoption in New South Wales over the last fifty years. It is an inquiry that Marlene would very much have appreciated being involved in. I am sure she would have joined in the committee's attempts to argue its way through quite a number of the aspects of the inquiry because, as all honourable members would know, Marlene could argue very effectively.
Other reports resonate with issues that were dealt with by Marlene. An earlier report of the committee was tabled in 1992 and simply titled "Juvenile Justice in New South Wales". In some ways that seems an odd title because there is now a Department of Juvenile Justice associated with the portfolio of the Minister for Juvenile Justice, Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth, and Minister Assisting the Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Carmel Tebbutt. The department deals much more specifically with the issues of juvenile justice, whereas less than 10 years ago those issues were encapsulated in a report bearing a very brief title. In Marlene's foreword to that report, she made some comments which seem to sum up much of what she stood for:
Clearly, young offenders need to be accountable for their misdeeds. But equally clearly, our investigations have shown that many of these young people are themselves victims, of physical or sexual abuse or neglect.
As a system we have a responsibility to provide these victims with the skills and resources to cope, in the world that sadly often has no place for them. As a society, we must learn to cherish our children and nurture the family, as the institution that cares for them. Only in this way can future juvenile crime and suffering be prevented.
Again with the emphasis on family and the role of society, what Marlene said in that report fitted in with the theme she adopted in many different areas. It proves that such issues never go away and that we continually have to grapple with them. Members of this House who are on the committee currently inquiring into the increase in the prison population know the extent of the evidence we have received, particularly in relation to young people, that shows how many people currently in prison are the victims of society, often dating from their birth and, indeed, before birth. Some statistics suggest that, for instance, as many as 20 per cent of people in prison have an intellectual disability or mental illness.
The record of people in the prison system, particularly young people who are victims of sexual and physical violence, and abuse and neglect, is again critically high. It is not an exaggeration to say that our gaols are literally full, to use Marlene's words, of "young people who are themselves victims of physical or sexual abuse or neglect". It is sad that eight years after the tabling of that report another committee is dealing with the same issues. We have come a distance but we still have a long way to go.
The committee also conducted a major inquiry into sexual violence, which fitted in with Marlene's interest in violence against women. Marlene was chair of the committee when part 1 of the report entitled "Sexual Violence: The Hidden Crime" was tabled in 1993. Three years later—sometimes the social issues committee works slowly—part 2, called "Social Violence: Addressing the Crime", was tabled when the Hon. Ann Symonds was chair. In the foreword Marlene drew particular attention to the statistics on sexual violence, which are as shocking now as they were then. She said:
She then dealt with the underrepresentation of the truth by official statistics. The estimation made then was that the real level of sexual violence was probably four times the official figure, suggesting that there were at least 7,520 occurrences of sexual assault in the State in 1992. Honourable members who spoke to this motion earlier referred to the different ways that Marlene addressed the issue of sexual violence. She thought that not only should the crime but also the offenders be dealt with in an appropriate way and that women need to be encouraged to report the crime. Marlene was particularly interested in dealing with issues such as pornography, which she thought contributed to sexual violence.
NSW crime statistics tell us that there were 1,880 cases of sexual assault in 1992.
Many honourable members, including myself, have different views to Marlene about some of those issues but we nevertheless agreed with a lot of what she said. Her work contributed to the process that women in this House, in particular, have committed themselves to during the years, of advancing the position of women in New South Wales in a variety of ways, for example, to address hidden crimes, to increase the prominence of women in public, to encourage women to be up front about their experiences and, in general, to advance the status of women.
It is worth mentioning that in 1991 when I joined this House it had the honour of having the highest percentage of women members of any House of Parliament in Australia. At that time 15 of the 42 members of the Legislative Council were women, many of whom are no longer here. From the Liberal Party the Hon. Virginia Chadwick and the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith are no longer with us. From the Labor Party the Hon. Ann Symonds, the Hon. Dorothy Isaksen, the Hon. Delcia Kite and the Hon. Judith Walker have since retired. The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby has also retired.
Strangely and perhaps sadly the percentage of women in this House has fallen in contrast with other Houses of Parliament across the country. Nevertheless I am certainly pleased to note that the percentage of women in the lower House has increased. It is important for us to balance them. The role of Marlene and other women in this House is important and, despite our political and theological differences on some issues, we share a commitment to enhance the status of women in a variety of different areas.
The committee dealt with many controversial matters and probably the most painful to all committee members—it created deep divisions of opinion amongst them and the community—was the inquiry that resulted in the 1991 report entitled "Medically Acquired HIV". Marlene dealt with that inquiry at some length in her book entitled Political Incorrectness—Defying the Thought Police. I place on record my disagreement with some of Marlene's remarks in that book. For instance, I do not support the arguments in the chapter entitled "The Gay Gestapo—Getting mugged by the gay lobby", in the spirit of disagreeing very strongly with her views but nevertheless fighting strongly to defend her right to say it. I think the Hon. D. F. Moppett, the Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Social Issues, who is yet to speak about Marlene, would appreciate that I have just taken one of his lines. Perhaps he also had differing views to Marlene while a member of that committee.
But that is not the point. The Standing Committee on Social Issues often achieves unanimous reports because the members work very hard to achieve agreement. We produce unanimous reports because of the seriousness with which we have argued the issue and the passion and concern that we bring to the issues. A unanimous report represents the views of people sometimes from five different political parties who have a substantial range of opinions.
Finally, Marlene and I shared a great depth of interest in education but not necessarily a concurrence of views. To my great regret the committee has not conducted an inquiry in relation to that matter but, as the Chair, I would certainly welcome one. In the past I disagreed with Marlene's views on several issues, for example, the Higher School Certificate. I refer to her book Political Incorrectness—Defying the Thought Police in the chapter entitled "Educational Debates We Are Not Having". Bob Carr might agree with Nick Greiner when she quoted him and said:
For politicians wanting a quiet life with their education policy, compliance with Teachers' Federation demands is the safest course.
Given the teachers salary dispute, which is still ongoing, perhaps many politicians now, as in the past, might agree with that. But, of course, our job as politicians is to find our way through these disputes and to focus on the important issues in education that go far beyond those. As I have said, while Marlene and I might not have always agreed on that issue, it was always enjoyable to be able to discuss those sorts of matters with her.
I express my deep regret at Marlene's death and I extend my condolences to her family. I do so, as I said at the beginning, particularly in my capacity as Chair of the Standing Committee on Social Issues. I know that I do so on behalf of a number of members, past and present, and on behalf of the staff of the Social Issues Committee. I mention in particular Heather Crichton, who has been with the committee for a long time, serving almost from its beginning; Jennifer Knight, the Director of the committee; Alexandra Shehadie, who has been with the committee for quite some period; Julie Langsworth and Beverly Duffy; along with the many others who still serve in this institution or have left it. The committee has had throughout its duration a very dedicated staff, and in that we have been very fortunate. I know as the present Chair, as I am sure Marlene knew as the previous Chair, that though our names appear on the committee's reports the staff of the committee have been valuable in enabling us to produce those reports and to make them as useful for the Parliament and the people of New South Wales as they have been.
The Hon. H. S. TSANG [3.21 p.m.], by leave: I pay tribute to the late Dr Marlene Herbert Goldsmith and extend my condolences to her family. My remarks will be made not as a colleague of hers in this Chamber or as a member of this Parliament on the opposite side of politics but as a member of the public and a member of the community that has appreciated the commitment and support that Dr Goldsmith gave to many community groups. I refer in particular to the group mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Michael Gallacher, the national body of ballroom dancing, Dance Australia. Marlene supported and participated in that group's annual competitions.
I met Marlene Goldsmith many times over the years through my role as Deputy Lord Mayor. I shared many of her views. Not only that, I shared a birth date with Marlene: we were born in the same month of the same year. I shared her view that in Australia various government and commercial co-operatives lend their support to sports and give even more support to cultural groups. However, organisations such as Dance Australia fall into a gap; they are groups that get little or no support from government or corporations. That is despite the fact that they do a lot of good work—facilitating people to get off the streets, to practice more of the social graces and to encourage them to take pride in themselves. They also encourage people of all ages, including our senior citizens, to be healthy.
I share the passion of Marlene Goldsmith that we should support community groups that do something for themselves, for our young people and for our senior citizens. Each year Marlene used to attend and participate in the annual competitions of Dance Australia. I went to those events as a supporter and noted on many occasions that Marlene was very graceful and skilful. She managed to avoid any collisions. I thought at the time that she surely must have learned that skill from her experience in this Chamber! She steered a very correct path, and she did so without accident. I am still sure she must have learned those skills in this place.
In particular I wish to pay tribute to Marlene Goldsmith along the lines mentioned by the Hon. Ian Cohen: Marlene was a warm, friendly and gentle person, and she was very caring. Even though she knew I was a Labor Party member she always treated me as a person who was a community worker. She, like my colleague on the other side, the Hon. James Samios, was always stirring me up, saying, "Henry, you're in the wrong party" and, "You should be in Parliament, not in the Town Hall." She kept stirring me and encouraging me to become a member of this Chamber, she said, so that I could stir up my colleagues in the Labor Party! I owe a debt of gratitude to Marlene for inspiring me to achieve what she had achieved as a member of this Parliament.
Having listened to the tributes today, I know that if anyone who has served this place well and deserves its respect, then it is Marlene Goldsmith. She had reached the optimum. All honourable members on the Labor side and the Coalition side have paid wonderful tributes. I add mine to Marlene Goldsmith for her commitments to the community—not so much for the work she did for the committees of this place or what she did for her party, but for her sincerity in helping community groups. Her gentleness and kindness were always evident, and she put everything she had into whatever she believed in.
I know that her husband, daughter and family will miss her. As someone who was born in the same month and the same year, and as a person who has had a heart attack, I understand how very concerned about me my family became in my time of illness. I am sure that Marlene's family was equally concerned about her. All I can say is that in Eastern philosophy there is a belief that only the good die young. Having heard all the wonderful tributes paid today, I am sure that she was not just good, she was the best. I hope Ian and Georgina take comfort in the thought that it is not always good that people live to 100 years; that those who die younger do not suffer as many aged persons do through being unable to move from one place to another and being unable to participate in and help community groups that need support. In a sense, you pick a time.
God has picked a time. Marlene has served her people and her country well, she has served her party well, and it is time for her to rest. The warm tributes made today make me think that one day, when my time comes, people will think as much of me as all honourable members think of Marlene. I would like to send Marlene's family these thoughts: she was a great wife and a wonderful mother. You and all of us should think of the good things she has done. Remember the good times. But we will miss her, as you do.
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS [3.28 p.m.], by leave: I join my colleagues in offering to Ian and to Georgina and to the grandchild condolences on the passing of Marlene Goldsmith. Much has been said about Marlene's career in this Parliament over 11 years as a feminist, educator and contributor to this Chamber. She was also, of course, a great contributor to the first profession, that of a schoolteacher. The issues pursued by Marlene, including feminist issues such as Reclaim the Night and female genital mutilation, are well known.
I will comment on her contribution to some other issues, including multiculturalism. In that regard, Marlene exhibited a simpatico attitude and an understanding of the needs of people of non-English speaking background. As has been stated, she was a strong advocate of individual and minority rights. She felt deeply for those in need, the underprivileged as well as the newly arrived. In the period of her contribution of 11 years I believe she was a distinguished parliamentarian who contributed generously to her interests in various committees, which have been mentioned, and in particular the Standing Committee on Social Issues. But there was another side to Marlene that has not been focused on at great length, that is, her love of the arts—there has been a reference to ballroom dancing—and her love of literature.
It is probable that nobody in the Chamber had such a strong fascination with the English language. Marlene was a great exponent of the language. She was articulate, she had a scholarship, and she was well read. She was a great lover of Anthony Trollope and his Barchester Chronicles and all the other great works that he produced. Marlene's involvement in the library was an important and significant involvement. She had a great love of the library and contributed greatly to its progress. It was important for her. It must be that her interest in multiculturalism came early in her career.
I first met her when she was chief of staff to the Leader of the Opposition, John Dowd, in the early 1980s. It was then that I was struck with her quick intelligence and her understanding of the important issue of multiculturalism. Equally, she was proud of her Irish and English heritage. We often spoke of the Herbert family, of which she was a member, and the Herbert reunions that had occurred in Australia over the years. She was equally proud of the contribution that members of the family had made to the social and cultural development of our nation, and to their role in wartime. I remember a discussion concerning her uncle who was a member of an aircrew in the Royal Australian Air Force. He had played an important role in that regard.
All in all it must be said that the Parliament has suffered greatly as a result of her demise. She was a passionate person, passionate about issues and outspoken when necessary. She brought a great intellect to the Parliament. Over the years she enhanced the status of women by her presence in the Parliament and her articulation of important issues. Marlene will be sadly missed in the Parliament. I again extend condolences to her family.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD (Parliamentary Secretary) [3.35 p.m.], by leave: I join my colleagues in this Chamber in expressing condolences to the family of Dr Marlene Goldsmith. Dr Goldsmith, like me, was a member of the class of '88. We were elected at the same time and made our inaugural speeches within a week of one another. Dr Goldsmith made her speech on 25 May on the education bill and I made my speech on 3 June, just over a week later, on another bill. Right from the beginning of that period of 11 years there was considerable political combat between us, but it was also completely without malice and retribution, which unfortunately characterises a lot of what is known as political debate in this country. Dr Goldsmith had entirely different views from mine on a range of issues. However, within a few minutes of debating those issues in this Chamber, we were friendly and cordial. She was always most charming, whatever the situation.
I extend sympathy to Ian and Georgina on their loss of a wife and a mother. I got to know Ian fairly well over the years. He was an erudite bookseller, always up to date with what was going on in the world of literature. I do not think one could find a nicer person than Ian anywhere in this State. As I said earlier, my views were often dissimilar to Marlene's views on a range of issues, but she was always well prepared for debates and was quite a formidable foe. She always had a lot of evidence to back up the statements she made about any of the key issues confronting this State. Marlene was always involved in very robust debates. Just a few months ago I saw Marlene at Parliament House and we had a chat in the foyer. I asked her how she was at that time and she said she was fine. I thought she did look fine. I thought she looked much better than she did when she left the Chamber in early 1999.
So it came as a total shock this morning when the letter from the Hon. J. H. Jobling arrived on my desk. I rang the Hon. J. H. Jobling straight away. It was quite a shock that someone who was elected on the same day as I had been elected had passed away at such a young age. More than anything else it demonstrates the fragility of life. Marlene was always vibrant and colourful. I felt that I had to engage in banter across the Chamber and interject every so often when she was speaking. She encouraged it in the same way as does the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti, whom I certainly miss when he is not in the Chamber. Marlene was more than capable of handling any banter; she had a quick wit and a quick mind. I will refer briefly to what I thought was one of her best reports, although I realise that reports are a collaborative effort involving all members of a committee.
Reading through the report on suicide in rural New South Wales I can see in it the strong direction of Dr Marlene Goldsmith. I always had a particular interest in it because living in the bush I had heard of the significant number of suicides occurring in regional and rural New South Wales. In Boorowa there have been three youth suicides in the past six months. Those are extraordinary statistics for a town with a population of only 2,500. If one reads the report that Marlene, as the Chair, produced one sees some of the important issues behind youth suicide being amplified and a range of policies being put forward to address this very real problem.
I just want to quote a couple of bits of the report because they really go to the heart of what she was getting at. As other honourable members have said in the course of this debate, she cared very much for people. Although one might have had a divergence of opinion about the solution to a particular problem, in the end no-one ever misunderstood that she really cared about the issues she was dealing with. A couple of recommendations in this report really show incredible prescience, because they were put into practice years later. For example, recommendation 1:
That the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the Minister for Consumer Affairs
- urge banks to mediate with farmers as soon as it becomes evident that financial hardship is occurring and not at the point of foreclosure
- continue to urge banking organisations to make reasonable allowances for the repayment of loans by a viable farmer experiencing financial hardship as a result of the rural downturn and current drought.
By placing recommendations at the beginning of the report—and in that era she had the numbers on the committee—
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: She never used them.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: No, she never used them, but right at the beginning of the report she went straight to the heart of the issue by pointing out that the rural crisis, coupled with other social factors such as isolation, is generating an inordinate level of suicide. In the past two or three years mediation, as recommended in that report, has become the norm in regional and rural areas to prevent banks foreclosing on farmers at the drop of a hat, forcing them out, destroying their family life and putting them into appalling economic circumstances. The report further recommends:
That recommendation reflects the need for help to be provided to people in rural communities to offset the economic hardship created by the rural crisis. I join with other members in expressing my sympathy to Ian and Georgina. I was deeply shocked, as I am sure all members were. Reports such as the report on suicide in rural New South Wales will stand as testaments to Marlene's intellect and her ability to grasp important social issues.
That the Minister for Agriculture negotiate with the Federal Minister for Primary Industries and Energy to ensure that the operation of the rural adjustments scheme maximises positive and swift responses to farmers applications.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [3.42 p.m.], by leave: I heard only early yesterday afternoon that Marlene Goldsmith was so gravely ill and hanging desperately on to life. Like other members who were ignorant theretofore, I was shocked and very much saddened by what I heard. When the news came through late yesterday evening—at least to my ears—that Marlene had passed away, my thoughts turned immediately to Ian. I would not want to deny Marlene the peace that she has entered upon after such an ordeal, but I realised immediately that the blow that had fallen on Ian was an enormous one, because he had been through this very difficult time with her. It goes back to the diagnosis just before the last election when Marlene decided to retire. I appreciate what a harrowing time it has been for all of them. There would not be any member of the Chamber who has not had some experience of that sort of ordeal and our sympathy goes very genuinely to the Goldsmith family.
Ian is one of the Goldsmith tribe from the Coonamble district, where I come from. I think his branch of the family lived closer to Gulargambone. The Goldsmiths, both Ian and Marlene, who was also a country girl, carried that mark that is so often attributed to country people and which is distinguished by a unique set of values that we all call country values. To Ian and his daughter I offer my sympathy. It would be presumptuous of me to think that I could in some way add to the wide range of compliments other honourable members have paid to the work of Marlene Goldsmith, and it would be vain ambition to think that I could try to encompass the vast array of memories that, through our frailty, we have been unable to recall on this occasion.
I am inevitably led to reflect again on our joint experience on the social issues committee. I was inducted onto the social issues committee during her time as the chair. The presence of Alex Shehadie and Heather Crichton in the gallery earlier today is a more eloquent testament than anything any of us have said to the deep respect that is held for the work Marlene did on that committee. I certainly endorse that. I soon came to realise the keen sense of social responsibility Marlene had and the great compassion she had for her fellow Australians, particularly as the social issues committee often dealt with the underprivileged and the deprived. Her compassion for those less fortunate extended much further than that of many members of the committee or the House.
In good spirit many honourable members have alluded to clashes between the one-time deputy-chair and then later, when they swapped places, the chair of the social issues committee, our dear friend Ann Symonds. I think the sparks that were generated in those exchanges served only to illuminate issues and not to ignite futile controversies between those two individuals or within the committee. That is a measure of Marlene, and of Ann Symonds too. If someone who did not know Marlene was listening to the tributes being paid today they would tend to conjure up the stereotype of what we used to call a bluestocking girl, an academic girl, someone who had done well at school and continued to be a bookworm.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: What is wrong with that?
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: There is nothing wrong with that. I acknowledge that was one of her great characteristics that will be long remembered. I just want to add this little light that I do not think anyone else has talked about. She had a keen sense of adventure. During that very important overseas trip with Ann Symonds to look at the representation of indigenous people in other parts of the world she travelled to the far north of Canada, into the wilderness of Baffin Island to see the Inuit people. She travelled in a single-engined aeroplane, through the snow and the sleet. She was proud to tell us all that the citizens, as part of their welcome, took them out to the garbage tip. The most prominent things in the garbage tip were the fuselages of many planes that had crashed on the trip there or back. She was so pleased she had been able to undertake the trip and we were pleased that she successfully got back. There was an intrepid nature to Marlene Goldsmith that I think has not been given proper recognition here today.
Many honourable members have spoken about her love of the precise use of the English language. That is the way I would put it. I share that love of the exercise of our native tongue and I would have to say that I aspire to her fastidious use of grammar. I am pleased to say that she was generous enough to excuse my many spoonerisms and sometimes dubious quotations and also to acknowledge without quibble the very liberal interpretations that I sometimes apply to the meanings of certain words that many members may find a little difficult to follow.
Marlene Goldsmith came from Gunnedah, on the north-west plains, the Liverpool Plains, as did Dorothy Mackellar and, indeed, my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In Marlene's company we would sometimes be treated to a smile that reminded us of those sweeping sunlit plains. Certainly, her heart was as generous as the sunburnt country she loved. I will miss Marlene Goldsmith. I was shocked by her sudden passing. More than anything, I want to extend my sympathy to Ian, whom I regard as a good friend. I hope that our expressions of sympathy and grief will be some comfort to Ian during this very distressing time.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN [3.50 p.m.], by leave: I join honourable members in paying tribute to Dr Marlene Goldsmith and express my condolences to Ian and Georgina. When I speak to young people about their opportunities and goals in life, and mission statement, I tell them that one thing they do is write their own eulogy, because it is a bit late to leave it to someone else after they have gone; having adopted the role of family member, work colleague, church associate and so on, that eulogy then becomes a person's mission statement. If a person wants those things to be said after that person is gone, that is the way the person should live his or her life. A person should live by those values.
Listening to the wonderful, genuine tributes about Marlene today, I can only say that, without doubt, her mission statement for life has been achieved in many ways. Although Marlene held opposing views to many honourable members in this place, she always had respect for those views. She always respected the views held by other people, and it was always in the right spirit. I take issue with the Hon. D. F. Moppett's comments about Marlene's sense of adventure, because I invited Marlene to join me on a trek across the Kokoda Track. I will not repeat what she said but she did give me an idea of my chances of ever getting her on the Kokoda Track. It would have been a sight to see.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: That proves that she did have a sense of adventure. Perhaps the honourable member's company did not seem adventurous enough.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: That could well be. I am not sure that they were ready for her at that time. As the Hon. J. F. Ryan alluded to during his tribute, Marlene was always willing to give her time and assistance to provide advice. She had a great academic view of life and was always willing to break that down into simple language for people like me to understand. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti described Marlene as a progressive conservative. That is a fitting description of Marlene because she was not a Liberal who followed the issues that were trendy and jumped on the bandwagon. Marlene took up an issue because it was the right thing to do and the right issue to address. I note the tributes paid to Marlene's pioneer work in relation to youth conferencing. She had a genuine interest in youth.
The Hon. I. M. Macdonald referred to Marlene's contribution to the report on youth suicide. I had long discussions with her about the issues we confront with Youth Insearch. The Director of Youth Insearch, Ron Barr, will be deeply saddened by Marlene's passing, because he also had great respect for her views. Although Marlene was a self-described feminist, I never regarded her as a feminist. However, she was at the forefront of issues on which she saw an injustice, whether it was disadvantaged youth or her female colleagues not getting equal opportunities in their work or their lives.
Marlene provided intellectual leadership for our Liberal views. While she made a great contribution, which has been acknowledged in the Parliament today, she was also on the threshold of adding to that with her directorship of the Menzies Research Foundation, providing leadership in liberal ideas for the future. She had a great commitment to education. She was of the view that the solutions to most of our problems, regardless of the issue, were in education—the need for early intervention and so on. I remember passing a paper I had written to Marlene for comment. She was always willing to provide a good balanced comment. When I referred to the cappuccino set, she wrote to me asking what I had against frothy coffee. She always put the right perspective on matters.
If my former colleague Mark Kersten were here today I know he would speak of Marlene in the fondest terms. Undoubtedly, if ever there were two opposites on the same side of politics they were Marlene and Mark. While they were from the different sides of the divide, there was a great respect . I think Marlene was amused by Mark and his approach to politics and life. They got along famously. Although I have not yet spoken to Mark, I know he will be shattered by Marlene's death, and I pass on Mark's condolences to Ian and Georgina. Marlene made a great contribution to the Liberal Party and the conservative side of politics. Her work, which has been placed on the record, will be used to guide us in the ongoing social debate. She will be well remembered for that great contribution and well respected for the person she was. I feel honoured to have served on the same side of politics as Marlene Goldsmith.
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING [3.58 p.m.], by leave: I join with my colleagues in paying tribute to our late colleague the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith. I knew Marlene quite well before she joined us in this House. I knew her in the days when she worked with John Dowd in the other House, to which my colleagues have referred. In those days it was obvious that she had an inquiring mind, she was determined, and she had an incisive approach to facts and research. She was very strong-minded. At no stage would she take a backward step if she believed she was right. She would argue for causes with passion. On a number of occasions she and I had differences of opinion, and Marlene always stuck to her guns. I have to say that in some cases she was right, and, in my view, in some cases she was not. But that is the way Marlene was.
I had the joy of working with Marlene from 1988 through to 1999, when she chose not to seek preselection again. As a member of the House she was hard-working, dedicated and passionate in her views. When she was convinced she was right, she would lobby furiously. She would put her case, and she would argue it well. Much has been said about Marlene, and it is now late in the afternoon. Many of my colleagues have told of anecdotes and happenings. I do not wish to revisit or reiterate all the things my colleagues have said about Marlene's life, both before and during her time as a member of Parliament. I should like to extend my personal sympathies to Ian and Georgina, whom I knew well. Marlene used to write little notes to me in the House, whether it was to seek the leave of the House or otherwise. She always started off with the words, "Dear Father Hen". Putting it simply, Dear Father Hen says, "Marlene, we will miss you."