Mr Bill Wood AM - Speech

Constituency Statement, House of Representatives
Thursday, 30 May 2024

Labor people are proud of the fact that ours is Australia's oldest and greatest political party, formed in 1891, 133 years ago. But Bill Wood had a special claim. He could say he had been a member of the Australian Labor Party for more than half its existence.

Bill Wood had some other special claims to make. He served as a Labor member in both the Queensland parliament and in the ACT Legislative Assembly, and his electorates could not have been more different. In Queensland, he represented Cook, a seat which now stretches to the tip of Cape York and Barron River, which covers Cairns. In Canberra, Bill was among the first group of representatives elected to the new assembly in 1989. At first, he represented the whole city and then the electorate of Brindabella. Bill served in the Queensland parliament from 1969 to 1974 and in the ACT assembly from 1989 to 2004—20 years of service.

Political life was in his blood. Bill's father, Les, served in the Queensland parliament, including a stint as Labor leader. Bill's identical twin brother, Peter, also served in the Queensland parliament. One of the reasons Bill and his family moved to Cairns was to avoid being accosted by people in the street asking 'Peter' to help them out.

I first met Bill in 2010 when I ran for Labor preselection as a non-aligned candidate. Bill had no time for factions. Like me, he loved the Labor Party as a whole and didn't need to join any subgroup. Bill and his wife, Beverley, invited me over for dinner to offer their support and advice. I valued their wise counsel and was touched by their generosity. I felt they'd taken a special interest in me. As it happens, this wasn't unique. In a eulogy at Bill Wood's funeral, Senator Katy Gallagher spoke about how much she valued Bill's support, guidance and help as a first-time candidate. She later discovered that this was how he supported all new candidates. Like his senior adviser, Margaret Watt, he was a mentor to many.

Bill Wood loved the arts. Through his time in the ACT assembly, he was either arts minister or shadow arts minister. He fought to ensure that money from the ACT casino licence auction went to the arts. When bushfires threatened the Nolan Gallery in Lanyon, he drove there and evacuated some of the paintings in his own car. But, however much Bill loved Labor, the arts or politics, there was only ever one true love: Beverley. Together, they raised their children: Andrea, Richard, Matthew and Wendy. When Bill was attending parliament in Brisbane or travelling for weekends in the Torres Strait Islands, Beverley would run the household and look after the children. They were an extraordinary double act. Vale, Bill Wood.

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  • Toby Halligan
    published this page in What's New 2024-05-30 11:25:49 +1000

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.