CONDOLENCES;Hon. Kenneth Shaw Wriedt – 25 Oct 2010

I wish to join the Senate in paying my respects to the late Hon. Kenneth Shaw Wriedt and I offer my condolences to his family and friends. This is a particularly sad occasion for his two daughters, who have lost both their parents in the course of only four weeks, and for his grandchildren, who lost a loyal and loving grandfather so soon after the death of their beloved grandmother.Ken Wriedt was deservedly a life member of the Australian Labor Party, and he had a long and distinguished career in both state and federal politics. Ken served for 13 years as a federal Labor senator, and shortly after his resignation from federal parliament he was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly, where for a further eight years he represented the seat of Franklin. His daughter Paula Wriedt later followed in her father’s footsteps, serving as the state member for Franklin and as a minister. Like her father, she had a distinguished career and achieved some important outcomes for the state of Tasmania.

Ken Wriedt served in a number of frontbench positions, including state Leader of the Opposition, state Minister for Roads and Transport, state Minister for Police and Emergency Services, federal Minister for Primary Industry and federal Minister for Minerals and Energy. As a senator, he spent most of his career in opposition and had a federal ministerial career which was cut short by the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975. When the Whitlam government was elected at the December 1972 election, Ken was appointed Minister for Primary Industry. In June 1974, his ministerial portfolio was renamed ‘Agriculture’. We have heard today that, even though in his own eyes he was a most unlikely choice to be Minister for Agriculture, Ken did a great job in that position.

On 14 October 1975, Ken Wriedt was appointed as Minister for Minerals and Energy due to the resignation of the former minister. Unfortunately, Ken lost his position when the Whitlam government was dismissed, but he remained in the Senate until his resignation in September 1980. At the 1982 Tasmanian state election, Ken Wriedt won a seat in the Tasmanian House of Assembly representing the electorate of Franklin. I noticed in reading the valedictory speeches from when Ken left this place that it would have come as no surprise to people on both sides of the chamber if Ken had returned to public office. A number of those on both sides of the chamber who gave speeches honouring his time here mentioned that they thought they would see him do so.

Ken Wriedt was leader of the state opposition from 1982 to 1986 and a minister from 1989 to 1990 in a minority government led by Michael Field. Ken resigned from parliament in October 1990. Prior to his political career he spent 14 years as a merchant ship’s officer and worked for a short time in insurance. In his spare time, he was an avid sailor and had a great love of classical music. Ken Wriedt rose to great heights in public life and epitomised the idea that you can come from humble beginnings and still have a successful career in politics. It is important that we have examples such as his to demonstrate that people from all backgrounds can succeed in politics. Having people in the parliament from all walks of life helps to create a parliament that is truly representative of the people of Australia.

The Premier of Tasmania David Bartlett described him as ‘a principled leader and a strong reformer’. The Prime Minister has described him as ‘a great servant of his party, the Parliament and our nation’. Today in this place we have heard many other comments highlighting what a true Labor man but also what a great politician Ken Wreidt was. I think these descriptions are all very apt and I endorse them wholly.

I would like to offer my condolences in particular to Ken’s daughters, Paula and Sonja, and to his grandchildren, Jack, Ella, Daniel and Amy. While I know they will be feeling their loss acutely, I hope they can be comforted by the knowledge that during his life Ken was well known for being an extraordinarily talented, honourable and loyal person who made a great and valued contribution to not only Tasmania but Australia, and for that we are all grateful. He will be remembered as a true gentleman.