Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Speech in Parliament - Pauline Osmond - 3 December 2014

Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (19:35): I rise this evening to recognise someone who gave so much to this House—not a former member, but a former servant of this House and all that it stands for nonetheless. Pauline Osmond recently passed away. She worked for five federal Liberal members from Victoria. She joined our party in 1975. She masterminded Bob Halverson's 1984 election campaign, and worked for him as the member for Casey, first down in the old House and then here, for the entirety of his career as a backbencher, as a whip, as Speaker, and then again as a backbencher. Pauline then worked for Speakers Andrew and Hawker before retiring for health reasons. But for the last couple of years, she returned to work part-time in my office.

I first met her here in Canberra as a young staff member. She was the friendly staff member in the whip's office. She was Victorian, helpful, fun, cheeky and, above all, smart. I would not be the member for Casey had I not met her. She encouraged me, cajoled me and helped me win preselection and then managed my first election campaign in 2001—but that was all in her spare time.

She loved this House and all that it stands for. She loved policy debate, here and in the media, particularly watching the Paul Murray show at night. She knew history; she wrote extremely well; she was loyal, dedicated, and hardworking. She had a magnificent sense of humour, a rich and ever-inquiring mind, a determined and pugnacious sense of right and wrong and a stubborn but beautiful inability to hold her tongue.

While politics was a big part of her life, there was endless energy for her other loves: her community and her family. She was born in Croydon and lived there her whole life. She loved the Croydon community and gave back, particularly at this time of the year, donating Christmas food parcels to those in need with the assistance of the Victorian Relief Committee—of which her late mother, Dame Phyllis Frost, had been chairman. Each year local service clubs would donate money and Pauline would go bartering with the local supermarket at Chirnside Park to get the best deal, so they could feed as many people as they could.

In 1966 she married Ken and they had one daughter, Caroline. Pauline was a passionate daughter, wife, sister, mother and grandmother. She loved her home and she was a first-class cook and an obsessive preserver of everything possible. She was a loyal friend to many but an honest character assessor of those who crossed her or let her down. Equally, she was the most sympathetic and caring person I have met. In her private life and in the office she had a nuclear sense of what was right and wrong and brought that to everything she did. For the last year, we worked together on a particularly complex immigration case, and we succeeded just days before her passing.

She worked hard, quietly and privately with a serious illness for many years. In the 1980s she had an operation. Prior to it she had asked if she could bank some of her own blood in case she needed a transfusion. She was told it was not necessary and that they had their own supplies, and during the operation she did require a transfusion. Years later, she received a letter advising her to have a blood test because it had been discovered some of the blood donations were contaminated. She was diagnosed with hepatitis C, which had advanced significantly and damaged her liver, and this eventually progressed to liver cancer. She battled on, determined to live life to the full. That included coming back to work for me a couple of days a week, which she did until literally days before her death, which occurred quite suddenly on 13 October.

All of us miss her and will never forget her, but nor should this place where she spent so much of her life and where she gave so much because she cared about our democracy, this parliament and our country. To Ken, to her sisters Elizabeth and Christine, to Caroline, and to her grandchildren Sophie and James—whose photos covered her office—you should all be proud of her life well lived. To her friends far and wide in the Liberal Party and the broader community, including my staff—particularly Denise Jeffs who worked with her in the Halverson office and then in mine—be sad and melancholy for sure but feel blessed that such a person touched your life.

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