Hon. Iain F. Evans - Valedictory Speech

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 16:48 :42 ): I seek leave to move a motion without notice concerning the retirement of the Hon. Iain Evans MP.

Leave granted.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I move:

That this council acknowledge the service to the parliament of the Hon. Iain Evans, minister of the Crown from December 1997 until March 2002, and a member of the House of Assembly for the seat of Davenport since 1993.

Today I rise to acknowledge a good friend and colleague and a credit to the South Australian parliament, the Hon. Iain Evans. Iain grew up and still lives in the Adelaide Hills. He was educated at one of the Hills' most excellent public schools and pursued his studies in the building industry before starting a family business.

The Evans family is a political dynasty, from Iain's various relatives in local government, to his father, and at the retirement of Iain the family has served a career spanning approximately a fifth of the entire history of the South Australian parliament. Iain obviously grew up in the Hills, and he had a keen interest in his local community. He was a very keen cricketer, a good cricketer—

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I have not got to his football yet; although this is not really a condolence motion, so I do not want to go through his entire life. However, he was certainly a very keen cricketer and was still playing cricket until very recently. He is an excellent footballer, and played reserves football, I think, for Sturt Football Club; so he played football at almost the highest possible state level. He was also a very strong member of the local Apex Club, and I think he became state and perhaps even national president of Apex.

There was something I learnt early in the piece about Iain that I thought was a little strange, although it shows his dedication and interest in politics. His father was the local member, and in those days Hansard was posted up to the member's house; Iain used to read it at night when he was about 12 years old, in bed with a torch so that he did not get caught. That shows a fair dedication and commitment to a life in politics, when a 12-year-old is reading Hansard in bed.

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire interjecting:

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I think the Hon. Robert Brokenshire would have been reading something much more interesting than Hansard with a torch when he was in bed. Iain was very keen to serve his community and, as he said on a few occasions, he saw parliament as the highest form of community service. His father Stan's retirement in 1993 presented an opportunity for him to realise this aspiration and, with a 9.4 per cent swing and 72 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, in December 1993 Iain began his tireless service to the community. It is fair to say that the seat of Davenport, which a few years earlier had engulfed much of the old seat of Fisher, was a reasonably safe Liberal seat.

One thing about Iain is that he was a tireless campaigner and, from the beginning of his career right up until our most recent election, he never, ever let his constituents down and never, ever took one of them for granted. The Hon. Terry Stephens is not in the chamber at the moment, but when he mentioned the name of a good friend of his to Iain, Iain said 'Oh yeah, he lives at Trevor Street'—I think—'up in Blackwood'. He had actually doorknocked the house, and knew nearly everybody—

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire interjecting:

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: He did know the number, but it is probably inappropriate for me to mention the number here. However, he actually did know nearly every constituent in his electorate. He never took them for granted. As soon as the polls closed he was straight back out on the pavement, walking up and down the streets, making sure that the message was delivered personally to those he represented. He made sure he did this at least a couple of times every election cycle.

He also had this very familiar doorknocking uniform, a pair of khaki or taupe trousers and a blue shirt, and that is something he has passed on to a number of candidates since then; that you need to be seen and recognised, and you need to be well trusted in your community—and he has been. The community grew to like him and to trust him, and it is fair to say that Iain continued and built on his father's passions for grassroots campaigning.

As I said, politics and hard work was ingrained in the Evans family, and Iain and his lovely wife Fiona, who herself became a good family friend of my wife and I over the years, were under no illusions as to how demanding a political career could be. At the time of Iain's initial campaign, or at least in the early years of his parliamentary service, he and Fiona had four young children. Any of you who are parents in this place would know that we rely heavily on our partners to do a fair degree of the parenting on their own. So for the four children—Staten, Alexander, Fraser and Alison—their great success, both academically and in sport, is testament not only to the wonderful framework and home life that was laid down by Iain but also testament to Fiona's hard work behind the scenes during his decorated parliamentary career.

I think we often fail to recognise the support of our partners behind the scenes, when we are out in the community and doing the work that we do as members of parliament. I think that often goes unnoticed, so with these few words I am very keen to make sure that we recognise Fiona's support, because over 21 years in parliament it has been a big team effort from the Evans family.

As we all know, the Liberals won government in 1993 and, from the beginning, Iain was no wallflower in this parliament. He spoke passionately on a host of issues affecting his electorate, not least of which were the development of Craigburn Farm, a police presence in the Hills, and traffic and road infrastructure. After the successful 1997 election Iain was deservedly elevated to cabinet under John Olsen's leadership. Then began a period which Iain himself described as the most rewarding and exciting five years of his life.

Iain made real and tangible changes to the state, and I would like to recognise some of them. He was appointed as the first minister for volunteers in Australia and introduced volunteer protection and good Samaritan legislation. He led the ban on mining in the Gammon Ranges National Park. He led the selection for the site of the new state aquatic facility at Marion. He undertook tax reform by introducing the emergency services levy and abolishing the fire service levy that existed on insurance policies.

He won parliamentary support for over 400 families who were victims of the Growdens investment collapse, returning some $13.5 million dollars to the victims. Paying particular attention to that last achievement, Iain did identify this in his press conference as possibly the most rewarding moment in his career. I am not sure that any person in this parliament can claim that they have had such a real and life-changing impact on the people of the South Australian community—from opposition, I might point out, too.

Earlier, when I bought the property I have now in Adelaide, a guy came and did a bit of part-time gardening. He stopped me one day and asked me to support this legislation because he was one of the people who had been wrapped up in that collapse. He was almost on the point of tears because virtually his life savings were at risk. I saw firsthand where Iain's passion and commitment to actually follow through on an issue were going to deliver some benefits to the community.

I said it was from opposition. It was after Iain's ministerial career. He still managed to effectively save the livelihoods of hundreds of South Australians without even having the influence of being in government. It is no surprise then that as I have come to know Iain he has demonstrated an appetite and a motivation to return to government which can only be reasonably expected from someone who has experienced the pleasure of effecting real and positive change for our state.

Unfortunately enough, the Liberals' return to opposition coincided with my election in 2002. From being a cabinet minister, Iain had developed an insatiable appetite again to serve the community at that level. It is that which has driven him through a decade in opposition, during which he held over 20 shadow portfolios. I will not itemise the numerous projects he has undertaken from opposition, but I would like to highlight Iain's exceptional work as our shadow treasurer through one four-year period.

I believe Iain effectively exposed the state Labor government's pathetic economic credentials, our ever-increasing state debt, interest bills, savings blowouts, the onerous cost of living—something he is very passionate about is the impact of government decisions and policy on the people in the street and the people he was elected to represent—our massive failure to meet our employment targets, and a list of other problems that the state Labor government has dealt to South Australia over the last decade.

He was relentless in exposing Labor's economic failures. Since my election in 2002, Iain has not only been a friend and colleague, but an important mentor. Iain is as loyal as they come. I have learned that if Iain gives his word in terms of supporting a particular position, whether that be internal or external to politics, he is true to the letter; he is a man of his word. Loyalty is not always an advantageous trait, especially in politics, in terms of personal gain or career progression. However, in the long term it builds credibility, which is far longer lasting.

Iain has credibility. He has it with the community of Davenport and with his parliamentary colleagues on both sides of politics. In our current state political climate, I believe that real loyalty and credibility are increasingly rare. Iain has kept his feet on the ground and his values intact. They are values which will serve him well as he embarks on the next chapter outside parliament. Iain Evans has so much to offer this state and still has some of his best years to do so.

I greatly respect his decision to seek opportunities outside of this parliament. We are all here for a common purpose of serving the people of the state, but it is no secret that the power to make significant impact comes from within government. I very much hope that I am given the opportunity in the future to make such an impact and hope I can do so with some of the determination and vigour that Iain has shown. I commend Iain on his many and far-reaching achievements from within this parliament and with great anticipation I wait to see what he will achieve outside these walls. I wish him and his wife, Fiona, and their children all the very best for the future.

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