Tribute To Laurie Ferguson

03 May 2016

Private Members’ Statement

Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG ( Macquarie Fields ) ( 13:02 ): Today I speak about the retirement this week from the Australian Parliament of the member for Werriwa, Mr Laurie Ferguson. Laurie is no stranger to this place. He was the State member for Granville from 1984 to 1990, before becoming the Federal member for Reid and, later, the Federal member for Werriwa. He is also the son of the late Jack Ferguson—the much respected former Deputy Premier of New South Wales and a member of this House from 1959 to 1984. Others are far more qualified than me to speak about Laurie's parliamentary career, which cumulatively spans more than three decades, but today I will speak about the man that I know.

Laurie became the member for Werriwa under controversial circumstances for both him and for the then member, Chris Hayes, who is now the member for Fowler. Despite this situation, and in the face of some degree of local scepticism and opposition, Laurie went about the task of building trust and respect in both the local Labor Party and the community—and build trust he did. Despite not driving, Laurie would front up to branch meetings often via public transport. He would give thorough and extensive reports to branch members with an unusual degree of candour and honesty. He was never one to deliver from an approved script. He would always answer branch members' questions and was never afraid to say what he thought. He would attend almost every community event on offer—too many to count from my perspective—again often via public transport with some including a long walk from the train station, and always dressed in a suit and tie.

Laurie always engaged honestly with constituents and, in a uniquely Whitlamesque fashion, was always interested in the family and surname history of those to whom he was speaking. Laurie continued to build trust via his community newsletter. Again, this had Laurie's unique stamp on it because he was more concerned with the local community he was serving than with blatant point scoring. Laurie's newsletter often contained quirky little snippets from around the electorate, inevitably written in his own clearly identifiable style. His newsletters were always entertaining to read. Laurie built trust at the Campbelltown City Council through his constant consultation and support for the local issues that mattered. For example, he has never wavered in his support for the Scenic Hill. While always supportive of his council and Labor councillors, he never interfered in local politics.

Laurie was active and relentless in holding council and some of its elected representatives to account for their behaviour and their decisions relating to Campbelltown's northern municipal boundary. What was the outcome of all this effort and work by Mr Ferguson? That question can be answered by referring to two simple issues  respect and success. Those who know Laurie— who know of his hard work and his ethics, including his honesty and sincerity— can only hold him in high regard. I know of few people more honourable than Laurie. In the face of a concerted effort by the Liberal Party at the last Federal election, Laurie held on to Werriwa. In the circumstances it was a miraculous result —one born e out of the respect held for him by his electorate and in recognition of his constant hard work in the electorate from day one.

Werriwa has a proud Labor history. The Werriwa electors who elected Whitlam do not make mistakes ; they elect Labor champions to represent them in the national Parliament . They have always do ne so and they always will. Labor continued this tradition by electing Laurie Ferguson. I hope that tradition will continue with Ann Stanley who has been preselected by Labor for that seat. I wish Laurie and Maureen a full and happy future—a future close to their beloved museums, galleries, theatres, libraries and , of course , Abla's Pastries at Granville.  am privileged to call Laurie Ferguson a friend and I congratulate him on his outstanding public life . I look forward to his ongoing contribution to public debate in Australia. I will miss Laurie's genuine persona l advice and political insight. I will miss his deep intellect and his knowledge of history, world events and public policy issues. Most importantly, I will just miss having him around.