Mr T. SMITH (Kew) — It is an honour to join this condolence motion to farewell my dear friend Fiona Richardson in the presence of her husband, Stephen Newnham, my good friend. The last day I saw Fiona was 30 May. It was at a Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing. Fiona was clearly very ill and, as the Leader of the Opposition recounted, my friend and colleague the member for Mornington and I went to the chair of the committee, the member for Essendon, and said, ‘This can’t go on. This woman barely made it up the stairs’. It was funny — she actually said at the outset, ‘Go easy on me. I’ve got a cold’. Typically for Fiona, that was just a chronic understatement. So we caucused, in the spirit of bipartisanship, and put to Fiona that it was possibly best that we do this another time. The steadfast and overwhelming reply was, ‘Go back to your seats and get on with it, because I’m not going anywhere’.
I have huge regard for Fiona Richardson. She was a warrior for the Labor Party, a resolute and strong woman who will have my respect for the rest of my life. She is someone who taught me so much, not just about politics and about numbers but about family violence — something that quite frankly three years ago I knew very little about, something that I had never been exposed to, something that I have no personal knowledge of. But she took me into her confidence with her own experiences, which I will be forever grateful for. She also taught me to hate the Greens, and that lifelong lesson will never, ever leave me. I am sure she would not have minded me saying that today.
She was a Labor lion but she was also a great local member, and the bridge that runs between her electorate and mine, I hope — as the Leader of the Opposition and indeed the Leader of The Nationals have quite correctly said — should be named the Fiona Richardson bridge. It would be my honour to have a bridge coming into my electorate named after her.
My father lost his mother when he was 12, and to Catherine and Marcus, I think the bravery that you have shown today in being here — and indeed that you showed at the funeral and memorial service last Thursday in Northcote — is simply outstanding. I shall not forget that day in a hurry. The speech by my good friend the member for Brunswick was breathtaking and I think encapsulated what Fiona meant not just to me but to all of us who knew her, who met her and who will love her as a friend from now until we depart this world. It was a fitting tribute to a great woman, a tribute that I suspect none of us in this chamber will receive. Only the good die young, and quite frankly may her memory be a blessing for all of us that knew her for the rest of our days.