I rise to give in the short time allocated to us tonight a synopsis of the life of the great Dick Bitcon. He was a community leader, a successful family and business man, and, for almost 50 years, a great political activist and advocate for the conservative side of politics—more the agricultural side of politics in my home state of Queensland.
Dick’s life story is typical of his generation. It started with not much at all—kerosene lamps and hardships. From a beginning with little help or assistance, he was able to go on and eventually make a very successful life for himself and for his family. In business it was principally along agriculture lines. He started out managing properties and farms and then he bought an agricultural supply agency. He then went on to become a trader of many of the agricultural commodities that were produced on the north central coast of my home state of Queensland.
He was an extraordinary man in terms of his contribution to the community. He was a very distinguished and popular community leader. He worked his way through many of the important tasks in a community in a region that one expects from someone of his calibre—leading the Bundaberg Chamber of Commerce and being involved in the rural race club at Bundaberg, both as the president and later on as the patron.
The bit I really want to concentrate on is that for 49 years Dick Bitcon was a political activist and advocate. He didn’t just play from the sidelines. Dick was a zone vice-president for almost a decade within what was then the National Party—a predecessor party to the LNP. He served in the era of the great Joh Bjelke-Petersen and under the tutelage of Sir Robert Sparkes, Mike Evans and other well-recognised names in Queensland. He served in an era when Queensland progressed at a pace that has never been seen again and I doubt will ever be seen again in the future.
Dick was one of those leaders in politics who didn’t seek any sort of a political career. In fact, what I know of Dick is that he probably exercised more influence from the sidelines than he may have ever done as a political member of parliament. He was certainly responsible for, in a large part, the career of the great Paul Neville, who was in the House of Representatives here for a long period of time. Dick was responsible for nurturing Paul’s career. He played a large part in ensuring that the critical advocate from his region was returned here to parliament on many occasions, despite the fact that it was a very difficult seat for us to hold.
Dick’s contribution—like so many of his type—was delivered quietly. It was influential. It would be impossible, I suspect, to measure the impact that he had on state policies, initiatives and programs, and also at a federal level. There are many Dick Bitcons. We all know our own Dick Bitcon, but he gave 50 years of his life for free—he sought nothing in return—and contributed to influencing regional affairs, state affairs and national affairs. I think recognition of his efforts deserves being enshrined in the Hansard of this federal parliament. To his family and his many friends who are feeling Dick’s passing just a month ago, we send the message that his contribution on all of those levels, and most particularly to his regional community, is well-recognised here in the Senate. We wish them all the best as they work their way through the process of life without the great Dick Bitcon.