Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Water
Leader of the Nationals in the Senate
If you think you are boring, you are probably not. It’s those who are certain they are not boring who can cause you real problems.
I love colour and sometimes if you want to rattle the tin to collect the cash for the party or a charity then the lad from Cunnamulla will bring a spark that in Australia the best after dinner speaker could never do. I remember at one such evening fundraiser where a certain “gentleman from the county” turned up late to a rather urbane setting. He decided it was now his time to shine in front of some rather serious corporates and after an afternoon lunch he never left. He was not selfish in how he did this as he singled out most, me included, for a little life education. It was awkward, it was random and we raised more money than I ever thought possible.
There are some who are blessed with that joie de vivre or that certain je ne sais quoi. You tolerate their imperfections for the general effervescent alertness in which the time is remembered, so as to avoid that dull morass of drudgery under which a large section of our working life is filed.
I never met him but I believe Australian writer and art critic Robert Hughes would have been an essential adornment to the best dinner party.
No, boring is an affliction like no other. If your complexion is marred, well it is something people grow used to but it is hard to grow fond of boring. Paul Neville, the retiring member for Hinkler, is not boring and he is decent.
The election is coming and the contenders from all the political parties are lining up for pre-selection. They could all do well to have a yarn to Paul Neville. Paul won a seat, held it as a marginal seat and turned it into a safe one. He never held a ministry but could hold an audience in any crowd. A man who could tell a saucy joke then tell you who wrote that aria. The man who could quote poetry as he walked down the street to door knock. Paul Neville is not boring and if he is in the room laughter is there.
That spark can be found in equal measure in the chief executive officer or the apprentice, or can be despairingly lacking in both, but if the political aspirant does not have it beyond the barest measure the odds are overwhelmingly against them.
Colour brings contact and a feeling of empathy. If I believe you can entertain me, then I believe you can understand me. Loquaciousness is no more the vital element than is silence. Both can be a gift or curse, but you do not need to sit next to them on a bus trip to Perth to discern which one is present.
I have a fear that boring may stay with the individual even in the afterlife. Just imagine if the person “who drove you to drink and the gap afterwards”, as my grandmother would say, was waiting for you at the Pearly Gates as penance for your sins. Cursed by the company of your associates in the afterlife. An affliction for eternity that you would glance at and say “I knew you would never have done anything to preclude your admission here but I am starting to wish I had”.
Paul Neville is retiring and a wealth of experience, a compendium of stories and a book of very bad jokes, but a real warmth, is about to leave with him.
Paul is gentle, smiling and diligent but as you walk away from your discussions with him, slow down, because somewhere in something he said was a double entendre that you missed.
The political soldier, who won the seat, built on it and passed the baton on at the best time for his team without asking for the sinecure.
In politics some are sky rockets quickly rising to great heights then exploding, others are long term under the radar work horses. Paul is the latter, the great colleague that will be missed.
Barnaby Joyce is the Nationals’ Senate leader and the opposition spokesman on regional development, local government and water.
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