Read the full speech below.
Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (17:00): I rise to join with other members of this parliament in expressing my condolences to Mark Colvin's mother and to his family. I did not know Mark Colvin, other than being a follower of his on Twitter, which I guess made a lot of people feel like they knew Mark Colvin, but I have some friends who knew him well. I know that they would be very pleased to have some very good tributes paid to Mark Colvin in this parliament to mark his passing and to acknowledge his life and the contribution he made.
I could not possibly write a tribute as fine as the tribute that James Jeffrey wrote on 12 May 2017, and I wanted to read some of it in the parliament today in case members missed the tribute that James wrote. I am going to quote it quite extensively, and I think that that is probably enough from me, to repeat James's words, because I do not think you could really get better than them. He said:
I must have walked a million miles in my local Bunnings because of Mark Colvin. It's like he could sense when I was in there and therefore free to chat.
It tended to be in the doldrums of a Sunday afternoon and my phone would buzz in my pocket—something important or trivial or amusing or splendidly random had crossed his mind, and he had to share it. "Hello mate," he'd say, and we'd be off.
I'd give up any pretence of looking for what I'd come for and would meander up and down the aisles, trolley in one hand, phone in the other. And it was glorious. Sometimes it was serious, sometimes not, sometimes both.
I'd always pick up new knowledge and, as if to keep things in balance, lose a bit of hearing as his laugh boomed in my ear.
Our conversation sometimes wandered the world or history, sometimes stayed very local. Sometimes we dug deep, sometimes skated happily across the surface. Then eventually, we'd say goodbye—and suddenly I'd realise I was still in Bunnings.
I first met Mark briefly at some event, but it was on Twitter—that corner of the internet that feels like it was designed with him in mind—that our paths started to cross. I was in awe of him, so I was beside myself when he took a shine to my writing.
We met at a cafe around the corner from his house and we never looked back. A love of words brought us together, but there was so much we revelled in: Eastern Europe, Iran, comedy, music, good writing and, with almost equal enthusiasm, bad writing. (Just last weekend he was eager to alert me to the latest output of one scribe who regularly baffled us into a state of hysterical disbelief. His text contained just one word: the writer's surname.)
Just to deviate from the text slightly, I will leave it to members to work out which writer that might have been.
To go on to quote James's article, his tribute:
Many were on the receiving end of Mark's magic, and Twitter expanded his reach. He was so generous—not least with young journalists—and he'd sweep up everyone in his enthusiasm, his wisdom, his great tidal waves of encouragement.
James goes on to talk about Mark's ability to swear, and I certainly—I have never heard the words that appeared in this article before. They are completely new to me. That is probably pretty impressive given how old I am and my extensive range of swearing, of course, but these are words that are new to me. I do not propose to read them into the record, but please go and look for yourself in James's tribute to Mark Colvin if you are an aficionado of bad language, of cussing—not that I am suggesting that you are, of course, Mr Deputy Speaker!
I want to go on to quote the following part of this article, and then I will sit down and let people use their own words. James wrote:
Mark may have been a man of profound depths, but boy was he gleeful splashing through the shallows. Then, just after another round of silliness, he'd turn around and give you what felt like half the universe. When he asked me to read some chapters of the manuscript that became his memoir Light and Shadow, I lost myself in a bigger world. His. He was brave, he was stoic. Injustice and hypocrisy made him angry. A bowl of fresh raspberries sorted him out. As did his special place in the water. Last Christmas he texted from his mother's place in the country: "Here the dam is full and I swim around the island in the evening. Bucolic peace."
And James writes:
Mark loved my family, and even extended that affection to our pets. He was very much a dog person (I keep thinking about his boxer Chops waiting for the boss to come home), but he got his hands on one of my pythons and looked like a happy little boy.
He was one of the finest people I've ever known, and becoming his friend has been one of the great joys of my life.
He left one last tweet to be sent out once he was gone: "It’s all been bloody marvellous."
But for now, I'm clinging to the last message he sent me. It was on Wednesday and I promised to come see him the moment I got back to Sydney. He replied with the simplest expression of love: "XXXX".
I know that there were people across this country who were gravely saddened by the too-soon loss of Mark Colvin. I know there are people in the media who are very saddened. It is an honour to pay some small tribute of my own and to read this beautiful tribute from James Jeffrey into the record today.