Monday, 29 November 2021: Condolences motion for Alex Gallacher

29 November 2021


Senator MCCARTHY : I just rise to speak to the family of Alex Gallacher . To Paola, on behalf of the people of the Northern Territory: we have incredibly fond memories of his time with us in the Northern Territory—in particular, the Transport Workers Union, who I know are listening, here, today, to all of us.

It was an important time when I came into the senate in 2016 and met Alex for the first time, along with many other senators here today. But I wanted to share with you, Paola—you and your children and grandchildren—some pretty personal moments in particular, with my role, here in this Senate. I've heard my colleagues speak of so many things, of Alex, but one of the things that stays with me is his mentoring.

One of the earlier experiences I had, not really a year into the Senate, was travelling to the United Kingdom and working with Alex on one of our committees to inquire into modern slavery. It was my first time to the United Kingdom, and I was a little bit nervous about going over to where Captain Cook came from; I wasn't quite sure what to think. I don't think I could've travelled with a better colleague. We were able to talk—not all the way, on that flight over, but certainly in our time in London—and debate many things about the history of Australia and the history of colonisation, looking at landmarks around London but also working closely with him on the important role of reducing and getting rid of modern day slavery, not just in the UK or around the world but here in Australia. So that was my first and very important time with Alex, which obviously followed on with many other inquiries from there.

But what I wanted to share, in this moment, was the memories of Anzac Day in London and how that trip to London wasn't just about the modern slavery inquiry. I was able to talk with him about the many Aboriginal men and women, or the black diggers, who fought for our country and were never recognised. And these were really important moments for me, because, with Alex's guidance, I was able to go and have a look at two cemeteries, one in Bournemouth and one in Southampton, and to look at, in particular, Bournemouth, where one of the private diggers was buried and was never really recognised. We wanted to make sure he was recognised in the Anzac Day commemorations, in particular, there in London. That was Private William Joseph Punch, who was enlisted to go to war in 1916, and did go to war, and died in 1917. He was buried in the civilian area of the Bournemouth cemetery, and it took a while to find his grave. The other private was Private Benjamin Combo, who enlisted in 1915 to go over and fight for Australia but unfortunately died on the journey, and he was buried at sea, but he was on the honour roll in Southampton, in Hollybrook cemetery. Again, I don't know if I would've had the courage to go and do that, and have a look, but also to be able to write about that and to commemorate that on the Anzac Day that we had in London.

That was my first opportunity to get to know Alex really well. I had many times with him and with Sterlo on the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee, and I thought we were a great team. We worked together strongly for the last five years, and I want to share with you that, with all the things he did for our country—working with the TWU, and with the Australian Labor Party here in the Senate on behalf of all Australians, irrespective of whether people agreed or disagreed with him—he was an outstanding person. He was generous, humble, fiercely strong and someone I greatly admired, and I'm deeply saddened by his loss. My sincere condolences to you, Paola, to the family and to the children and grandchildren, and to your extended family and friends. On behalf of all my families in the Northern Territory, I say bawuji barra. May he rest in peace.