Judith Adams: A wonderful friend and collegue sadly missed

Speech in Parliament –

It is an honour to be here to talk about Jude, and I am particularly pleased that the member for Hasluck is in the chair beside me, because we probably both understand very much the character of Senator Judith Adams, and both were supported in so many ways by this great lady. This is a day that I had hoped and prayed would be a lot further away than it is.

She was a close and dear friend, a colleague and a mentor, and she was indomitable. I think that is a great word for those of us who knew and loved Judith Adams. She was an indomitable character. She was tireless—absolutely tireless—hardworking and genuinely and widely respected by all sides of politics. Looking at the tributes that have been paid to her just shows you what respect she was held in by her colleagues across the board.

We all knew Jude as a straight shooter. Jude would never tell you one thing to your face and say another thing somewhere else, or speak about you differently somewhere else or give you different advice, or give someone else different advice.

If she thought something she would say it, she would stick to it and she would repeat it. In the same way she supported people like the member for Hasluck and me in so many ways. She was very genuine in that support. She had strong views, but equally strong loyalty. I could always count on Judith Adams, and I know that there are many of my colleagues who shared that experience. We could count on Judith Adams.

I know that when I first really met her seriously was when I started doorknocking in my campaign in Augusta. Jude was very keen to let me know how I should do the job. She was very direct and we worked hard, as you would expect.

I suspect that the member for Hasluck would have had a similar experience. Jude was very thorough in everything she did and tireless on the ground. When you consider that she was a mature-age person who came into the parliament, her energy was extraordinary; her passion and her commitment were extraordinary.

She was equally passionate about rural and regional people. I had a great bond with Jude because she was one of the members in this place who I never, ever had to explain to about rural and regional Australia, rural and regional people and rural and regional communities, because Jude had lived it.

She knew it and she knew exactly what I was about when I would stand up and talk about what rural and regional Australia needed. There are not enough people who do have that knowledge and experience in this parliament. That is why we have such difficulty in getting our message across. But Judith Adams was one of those people who knew. I never had to explain to her what people needed or why.

She was passionate about rural, regional and remote people’s lives and, particularly, their health. She was absolutely committed to health. Even though, as I said, she was a mature-age person to enter politics, she was a wonderful example, as she said in her maiden speech, of how her life experiences brought so much to the role.

Those of us who worked with her knew what she brought to the role. She brought so many life experiences right across the board, and they have been well articulated and will continue to be. She brought wonderful skills and knowledge, and she brought so much passion, belief, strength, commitment and hard work.

But her extensive work for the parliament on behalf of the Australian people probably will not be recognised in the way that perhaps it should be, because the people of Australia will never actually know how much their health and their quality of life have been improved as a result of Judith’s work.

Her committee work was hour upon hour, day upon day, week upon week—on and off planes and following committees, making sure she listened to communities in remote, rural and regional areas. She listened to people, she heard the stories constantly and she responded to them. She got it.

She was prepared to put those words into actions through her committee work and through recommendations in so many parliamentary inquiries. She was part of the grunt work of this parliament. She was quiet in the sense that she did not chase the limelight. She epitomized the grunt work of this parliament.

I am proud to say the contribution that Judith made is almost unparalleled in this House. Even when she was in the most remote areas, she had the best communication skills with people from all areas. She was down to earth and at home in any environment.

You could take Jude anywhere. You could sit her under a tree with you. She could come with you and talk to farmers up on the stands at a cattle sale or just sit and have a cup of tea with you. Wherever you took Judith Adams, you knew that she would understand and get right to the point.

You knew that people from your community or elsewhere would be able to identify with her and her with them. It is a wonderful talent that not everybody has. She was genuinely interested, and that is exactly what people knew of Jude. When she sat down to have a yarn, you knew that you had her ear and her attention.

You knew that she understood you and that, if she did not quite get the issue, she would make an effort to understand it, and that then she would represent that. This was the great strength that she had. She was down to earth and at home in any environment.

When I came to this place, one of the first things she said to me was: ‘You need to get involved in the Australian Defence Force program.’ This is a wonderful parliamentary program where members of this House go out with the Australian Defence forces and get experience firsthand, on the ground.

This was one of Jude’s great passions in this place, along with her committee work and her focus on health. Lynton Dixon, the liaison person from ADF, will probably always have a wonderful respect for Jude, as we all do. But there was no doubt that Jude was always on his hammer, letting him know what needed to be done with this program to make sure that the connection between the parliament and the forces continued. She went on every tour that she could go on and often when she was not well.

I can recall one time when she was out on one of these tours and she suffered a broken arm, not through any problem other than the state of her tumours. She had one concern: she did not want any of the ADF people to be worried about her or to see it as a problem, because that injury was due to the state of her illness. That was the nature of Senator Adams. She was an extraordinary person—very tough mentally and as equally tough physically, as we all saw.

We know that Judith was diagnosed with breast cancer a number of years before entering politics. She endured so much treatment prior to and during her time here, but we, her colleagues, never heard Jude complain. She was a wonderful example. I say to anybody out there with cancer or with a life-threatening illness to consider the life of Judith Adams. She never let her cancer stop her from achieving in life. It never stopped her focusing on what she was there to do in a broader sense.

She lived her life with cancer. She had this fantastic attitude that, if the cancer was going to get her, it would have to work hard because she was not going to give in. It would have to run fast because she was working hard and running fast herself and she was not going to just sit around and wait for the cancer to get her. It was going to have to work hard to get her right up until the last minute.

I can recall in this parliament when Judith had to use a gofer to get around the parliament because the side-effects of her treatment gave her the sensation when walking that her feet were walking on glass. Yet at this time she was still doing her committee work and still getting around this country working on behalf of the Australian people. She was an absolute inspiration.

I recall that when she lost her husband, Gordon, it was at a particularly difficult time. They had sold their property. They were in the process of moving into a new home and she was in transit, over here, when her husband died. I also know that that happened late in the year, and very early in the next year Judith had a recurrence of her cancer.

They were very difficult times for Judith. But again she fought, and fought hard. Towards the end of last year after we finished, she had to receive another round of treatment. This was one that burned the inside of her throat, which made speaking and swallowing extremely difficult and which saw her dehydrating quite significantly so that she ended up in hospital straight after Christmas.

In my many visits, and I know the member for Hasluck did the same, she counted on me to give her all the information. She was not giving up even then, even when we knew where she was at and she knew where she was at. She did not give up. Even when she could not really speak, the deal was that I would speak and she would listen, which was unusual for Jude in a sense.

Very forthright, she still wanted to know what was going on in politics, what was going on out in the electorate, what issues were affecting people. She wanted to listen; she was still engaged; she was still interested; and the fabulous thing was, even then, she was determined to get back here. She was determined to be back for the next sitting and that was the one thing that sustained her. She was going through dreadful, dreadful challenges at the time.

One of the things that she regretted most about being in hospital was not being well enough to get out for the wedding of the member for Hasluck. She was so desperate to get to that—it was the one thing she wanted most and she was unable to do that. That hurt her towards the end; she tried so hard to be well enough to do that: her goal was to get to the wedding of the member for Hasluck.

When I went back to her, the first thing I had to do when I walked in was to give her a rundown—’Now tell me what happened’—it was a blow-by-blow account about what happened at the wedding, because she was so interested and wanted to feel part of it. I know the member for Hasluck and his new wife went and gave her an even closer description of what happened which she really appreciated.

In this place, can I also say that she really appreciated the flowers, the phone calls and the thoughts from colleagues from all sides of this parliament. Can I also thank everyone who did so on her behalf. They were very precious to her, because she spent a lot of hours alone in that hospital and she was going through a dreadful time. It was just appalling. Thank you to those who did so.

She endured far too much in the final weeks in Royal Perth Hospital, but she did fight to the end, which is no less than what we expected. Even when her health was at its worst, she was always focused on getting back here to do her best for the Australian people.

When she said to me that she had finally had enough, that was when I knew that Jude had come to end of her fight. That was a huge admission for Jude, which showed us that the fight had been so tough.

Wilson Tuckey, who did her eulogy, said at least when we all get to heaven, Judith will have the health system in great shape. So, her work goes on in a sense. Can I express my real condolences to her staff—they really did feel this right the way through—and to her sons Stuart and Robbie. Robbie was at home with Jude throughout this.

All I can say is I will miss her very, very much. I counted her as a friend for life and I hope she rests in peace, because she certainly deserves to.