Op-Ed – “Ron Boswell Tribute”

23 June 2014

In the coming days and weeks there will be a significant shift in the nature and fortunes of agri-politics in Federal Parliament with the departure of that almost irrepressible Queensland Senator, The Honourable Ron Boswell.

Boswell, who currently holds the affectionate title of the Father of the Senate, is the sixth longest serving Australian Senator since Federation.

Not bad for a self-confessed paint brush salesman from the Brisbane bayside suburb of Wynnum.

Without fear of contradiction from any side of politics, I can safely say that Boswell is one of those politicians who made it through their entire career without ever seeming to compromise their core base principles.

In his case, it was strong Christian values matched with an unshakeable belief in the traditional family structure, which served as his moral compass.

Over three decades of service, Ron Boswell’s adamant style of political doggedness has earned him the reputation of being an uncompromising advocate for small business operators and primary producers.

Whether it was defending the interests of a canegrower, professional fisherman or beef producer, Boswell provided a strong voice for the community on economic issues that impacted rural and regional Australia.

For many of us, the hallmark of Boswell’s service was the continuity of his courage as he voiced ongoing opposition to the tyrannies of extremist fanatical individuals and political groups – where Pauline Hanson and the League of Rights immediately spring to mind.

Senator Boswell was often a lonely and singular voice at the beginning of some difficult campaigns against the emergence of policies that he considered to be against the national interest.

Many of us have witnessed people of great intellectual prowess try and dissuade the old warrior from his chartered course of action only to be dispatched unceremoniously by the famous Boswell saying: “You’re off with the fairies if you believe that!”

He was a pioneer when in opposition to major ‘ticket item’ policies, such as the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETC), which he immediately understood (and was later proven correct) would have a debilitating economic impact on the household budget with no positive outcome capable of being measured – pain without the gain, if you like.

Ron Boswell showed an almost savant like ability to read the tea leaves when it came to the impact of Senate-preference arrangements across the federal polls.

There are a number of conservative Senators over the last 30-odd years who never would have seen service had Ron not secured the preferences of some of the minor parties.

There remains a strong argument that Ron was the only one who could negotiate the support of those minors, because they held him in such enormous respect.

I know it is a view held by former Prime Minister John Howard – another wily man who knew that the currency of decency and integrity still mattered to influential sectors of the nation’s political landscape.

Boswell’s Christian-based compass and his love of family, coupled with his inherent belief that all of his decisions needed to be tested against a central barometer of a civilized and productive society – led this outstanding man to make an outstanding contribution to Australian life over the past 30 years.

Ever the master of knowing ‘right’ from ‘wrong,’ this old school politician never allowed himself to make compromises that challenged his core beliefs and principles.

The Senate, and indeed the nation, will be poorer for his retirement on July 1.

Ron’s biggest challenge in retirement will occur if he sees a petite little thing in a pink dress with transparent wings and a star adorned wand running around the flowers in the garden.

He won’t recognise the creature for what it is, because his political pragmatism has prevented him from floating to that fairy-tale level of elevation, where these darlings reside.

It will be one of the only times I will have an edge on the great Senator Boswell when I tell him with some expertise that they are fairies – and they’re up there in their thousands.