CONDOLENCES: Bilney, Mr Gordon Neil
Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (10:01): Gordon Neil Bilney, who died on Sunday aged 73, was a straightshooter and someone with whom you knew where you stood. So said Noel Hicks from Griffith this morning when I telephoned him to talk about the Australian Labor Party's late member for Kingston, to whom we appropriately pay tribute again today. Mr Hicks was the National Country's and the National Party's member for Riverina from 1980 to 1998, spanning the time that Mr Bilney was in the federal parliament. 'I got on well with him,' Mr Hicks recalled. 'Even though we were on opposite sides of politics, I had the greatest respect for him. He was down to earth and he represented the people he served very well. His diplomatic experience was an asset when he came to parliament.'
Gordon Bilney was born in Renmark, South Australia, on 21 June 1939. His first career was as a dentist before becoming a diplomat. He served as the deputy permanent representative of Australia to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development from 1975 to 1978 and as the Australian High Commissioner to the West Indies from 1980 to 1982. Elected to federal parliament for the South Australian seat of Kingston at the 1983 election, the sixth person to serve that electorate, which was formed in 1949, Mr Bilney won all subsequent elections until defeated by the Liberal candidate Susan Jeanes at the 1996 election.
While in parliament, Mr Bilney served as the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel from 1990 to 1993. During his time as minister he lifted the ban on homosexuals in the ranks of the Defence Force. From 1993 to 1996 he served as the Minister for Development Cooperation and Pacific Island Affairs—the first time a minister had been specifically dedicated to this position. Mr Hicks served with Mr Bilney, who chaired the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade during the 1980s and recalled his colleague as 'always being on top of the subject and one who contributed very well'. Mr Hicks asked me to extend his sincere condolences to Gordon's wife, Sandra, children, Carolyn, Sarah and Nicholas, and grandchildren, Madeleine, Charlotte, Beatrice, Adele and Emma. May he rest in peace.