Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt) (17:53): David Thomson was very well known as the National Party MP who, in 1975, reclaimed the seat of Leichhardt after Labor had held it for some 24 years. He was the Minister for Science and the Environment from December 1979 through to November 1980 and then Minister for Science and Technology with the Fraser government until its defeat in the 1983 election.
What that does not tell you about David Thomson is the fact that he was very widely recognised as an absolute gentleman. He has made a very lasting and significant impact on Leichhardt. To this very day, he is very fondly remembered for his achievements.
David Scott Thomson, MC, MP (1924-2013)
David, as has been said by previous speakers, encouraged the federal government to fund the expansion and upgrade of the Cairns airport in conjunction with then Cairns Harbour Board. Work began in 1981, and it officially opened in early 1984 with a new runway and domestic and international terminals. I can tell you, as somebody who was there and involved in tourism at that time, that it made a huge, lasting and profound impact in our region. It is a legacy, and we will always appreciate the efforts of David Thomson.
He also convinced Malcolm Fraser to visit Burketown for their Never Never Get Together function, where the PM presented the Burke Order of the Outback. That was the first time a Prime Minister had ever visited Burketown. He encouraged the federal government to provide funding for a new domestic satellite, Aussat, which ultimately facilitated the broadcast of TV for the first time in many of those remote areas of Australia.
He also took the then Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Eric Robinson, to the Torres Strait as a precursor to the first public telephones being installed on each of those outer islands. It is great that that communication started. We now have mobile phones in most of those areas as well, which is greatly appreciated by the local people.
As was said also, he had a great affinity with people in remote communities, both in the Torres Strait and throughout Cape York. Much has been said about his very distinguished military career. Can I say that I recently talked to David’s long-time electorate secretary, Bev O’Hara. She described him as one of the best employers ever and a thorough gentleman, who would never berate his staff when things did not go to plan.
She also recalled David’s maiden speech in the parliament in 1976, which was on-interestingly enough-the tyranny of distance. It was very appropriate as, in the age when there were no computers, telexes or fax machines, David’s wife Judy had to dictate the speech over the phone to Bev in Cairns, who then took it down in shorthand and had to transcribe it. Bev, as a brand-new employee, said she was very, very nervous. But fortunately she was up to speed and got David’s speech to the local newspaper on deadline.
I would, from time to time, run across David both in Canberra and-on a couple of occasions-up in Cairns. He always showed a very strong interest, given that I was successful in the seat in 1996, and offered me a tremendous amount of encouragement and often an opinion on the way things were going. Over time, I have to say, I very much appreciated his support, his opinions and the advice that he offered me.
Given my role now as the chairman of this new committee for developing opportunities in northern Australia, I think that we will be able to create a real legacy befitting the focus and the commitment that David showed to us all those years ago.
I would certainly like to pass on my condolences to his wife Judy and his family and of course all those who have had the pleasure of knowing and being associated with him.
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