Condolence motion – Paul Neville
Mr PITT: I rise to speak for Paul Christopher Neville, former member for Hinkler. He was born on 28 March 1940 and passed away on 1 January 2019, aged 78 years. I’m sure those who speak after me will talk about Paul’s achievements and the great things he’s done in this part of the parliament. I really want to try to convey some of his character.
Paul passed away peacefully on New Year’s Day after declining health over a number of months. He was a man of faith; he was at peace with his fate and certainly faced that fate with tranquillity and grace. He was the beloved husband of Margaret, father and father-in-law of Gavin, Gaye, Sally and Earle Griffen, Paul and Caitlin, and Peter and Joelle; and of course the loving and adored grandfather of Amy, Micaella, Georgia, Angus, Hugh and Ava. He was the loved brother and brother-in-law of Gillian and John Nyhof, and Michael and Lisa.
In the week leading up to Paul’s funeral service, I received a call and this voice called out, ‘Keith, Paul Neville here.’ I think that the bounds of silence from my end of the phone said very, very clearly that he should’ve said ‘Paul Jr’. Can I say, in Paul Jr Mr Neville lives on; it’s the same voice and the same mannerisms. Paul and Peter, the youngest twins, I actually went to school with at Kepnock High School. They were a couple of years younger than me. I competed with Peter in surf lifesaving. They were the same sort of people—passionate. Nothing gets in the way. They go hard at the things that they are chasing.
Paul was elected the member for Hinkler in March 1993, and he served in that office for 20 years, retiring in August 2013. He certainly wasn’t there for the short game or the personal gain. He was what we should all aspire to be, and that is a local champion. He was a local champion, there for the long run, despite being in a marginal seat. He fought election after election and he won them all.
For Paul, it was about representing the people he served, his faith and his family. He was an old-style politician, more prone to having a chat over a cup of tea than getting into those media fights that others do, I guess, in the current parliament. He was always very, very keen for a smoko and to have a chat.
In fact, across the electorate and the boundaries that changed, Paul did a lot of miles on the road, like we all do in regional seats. I’ve got to say that he was not the greatest driver at the time. Paul was not the best behind the wheel. In fact, we travelled to an event in 2013, and I clearly remember being on a very straight section of road at 100 kilometres an hour. Off in the distance, I could see a line of ducks crossing the road, and I thought: ‘Oh, well, I’m sure Mr Neville will slow down soon. I’m sure he’s going to put his foot on the brake soon.’ About 400 yards out, I said: ‘Paul, duck! Paul! Duck! Duck! Duck!’ It got a bit faster and a bit more frantic, and in a cloud of smoke and screeching tyres—and I’m still not sure how the airbags didn’t go off—we stopped to let the ducks pass. And Paul looked over at me and he said, ‘Oh, “duck”!’ He said, ‘I thought you said’—and I’ll let Hansard take its own conclusion, Mr Deputy Speaker! He was that sort of character.
In fact, at his valedictory dinner in Bundaberg, we had about 130 or 140 people attend. Mr Neville spoke for 77 minutes and had to be removed from the podium. He continued on into the night, and I recall some of the comments from those who attended, particularly from our colleagues. Many of the Nationals showed up, and many former members and people from business. I very clearly recall an experienced senator who had been around for a long time, who on the way up at about a quarter past 12, after a 77-minute speech and yours truly having to do the wrap-up, said to me, ‘Well, son, in this game, you go to a lot of these events.’ He said, ‘Most of them you just don’t remember, but I’ll never forget the day I came to Bundaberg and Paul Neville spoke for 77 minutes.’ He said, ‘I started off drunk and I finished up sober!’ It was a great way to send him out. But Paul was just one of those characters.
There have been such strong reflections locally from constituents and from those on the opposite side of politics, which I think is very important. The celebration of Paul’s life at the Holy Rosary Catholic church in Bundaberg I think was a fitting and dignified service attended by so many of his current and former colleagues. In fact, on my count, there were almost 50 dignitaries at the event, including former Prime Minister John Howard. Can I place on record my thanks to the Hon. John Howard for making the effort to attend. I think it was a great reflection of his friendship with Paul and certainly for his family. I think Margaret, for her part, appreciated the fact that everyone made that effort. In fact, Mr Howard spent his time handing out cups of tea and biscuits. That’s just the kind of people they were. And, of course, Warren Truss, the former long-term member for Wide Bay and Deputy Prime Minister, was a very close friend of both Paul and Margaret Neville. He has been incredibly saddened, I know, by his passing.
It was always an interesting time when you were dealing with Paul Neville. He was always good for a joke and a laugh. He was always keen to put forward his point of view. As I said, the service was incredibly dignified, attended by people from across the spectrum of politics, including the former Labor member Brian Courtice. I’ve got to say that we all get on reasonably well now, even though we were on opposite sides of politics. I actually rang Brian on the day that Paul passed away, just to confirm that he was still there, because we lost another former member for Hinkler, Bryan Conquest, just 12 months or so ago. So there are two of us at the moment. Certainly it’s a great loss for Margaret, for the family, for our local constituencies, for Paul’s church and for all of the community organisations he was involved with.
In closing, I just want to say a couple of brief comments about Paul Neville himself. Anyone that had spent any time with Paul, that had had a conversation with him, regardless of whether it was around a constituency matter, a matter of policy, a matter of the nation’s security or economic security—from the top down to the bottom, from the smallest and youngest individual through to some of the most important or those with very difficult positions, whether you were a prime minister or a plumber, Paul Neville always had time for you. When you had a conversation with Paul Neville, you always knew who did most of the talking: it was Paul Neville! May he rest in peace, Paul Christopher Neville. Vale Paul. My best wishes to his family in their time of grief.