Tribute to Colin Neal

12 October 2022

Private Members' Statement


Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG (Macquarie Fields) (18:40):  I pay tribute to my dear friend Mr Col Neal, a fearless fighter for working people, a fond friend to many and a much-loved man to his family.

Col sadly passed away recently after a short illness.

Col was rock solid Labor. His membership started in 1984 and he only just fell short of the 40‑year requirement for life membership. For decades Col was the returning officer at my local Ingleburn‑Macquarie Fields branch—a position he fulfilled with distinction.

Interestingly, Col never sought public office, but had he done so he would have excelled because of his honesty and hard work. At branch meetings Col was forthright in his debating and questioning. He never left you in any doubt as to what he believed. He would call things and issues as he saw them. As a public representative, I was always grateful for his insights.

Col was rock solid union. He spent his life in the transport industry and was a proud life member of the Transport Workers' Union [TWU]. Col joined the TWU in about 1982 when he was a brick carter, but he first encountered the union movement much earlier when he landed his first job as a 15‑year‑old at the railway workshops in Chullora.

Col was passionate about helping the underdog and was always working to retrieve underpayments for his tip truck owner‑drivers. It angered him to no end when tip truck drivers were ripped off in some subcontractor arrangement gone wrong or through phoenix companies, which took the money but never paid the workers what they were owed. Col fundamentally believed in a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.

Col was rock solid family. He recently celebrated his diamond wedding anniversary with his wife, Ros. He was 23 and she was 21 when they got married in 1960 at St. Brendan's in Bankstown. Their relationship was one of love and dedication to each other. Col doted on his wife; his children, Liz and Michael; his grandchildren; and his great‑grandchildren.

The walls of Col's home are filled of photos of happy family times and of a proud and beaming Col. There is no greater achievement for any man than creating a happy family home for the people he loves the most. On this measure alone, Col was an absolute champion.

Col was a rock solid friend. Regardless of where you sit in this Chamber, friendships—and I mean real friendships—can be quite rare, difficult to find and even more difficult to maintain.

Col was old school. His word and his handshake were his contract. When he told you that he supported you, it was a done deal. Col was not one for moving or changing his mind. Col Neal's support meant a lot to me as a younger man seeking public office. Every time I knocked on his front door, he would recognise my voice. I would respond to his question, "Who is it?", through the security door, only for him to tell me in good humour that politicians were not welcome and then proceed to welcome me into his home.

Over a cup of tea, we would talk about a range of topics—some political, some not. I will always treasure those cups of tea, the thoughtful conversations and his enjoyable company.

Col passed away just short of his eighty-sixth birthday. The average life expectancy for an Australian male is about 83, and I can hear Col saying to me now in response to that statistic, "See, mate? I told you I was always above the average."

Indeed, Col was above the above the average in all aspects of his life—as a proud member of the Australian Labor Party, as a proud unionist, as a dearly loved family man and, not least, as a fond friend. I will miss my friend.

Times like these make me realise how lucky I am to have found my life filled with people like Col and Ros Neal. May my dear friend Col Neal rest in peace. May his family and especially his dear wife, Ros, be comforted that he was greatly respected and will be sorely missed.