Condolences - Hon. Kenneth Shaw Wriedt

The coalition joins in the condolence motion that honours the life of the Hon Kenneth Shaw Wriedt, and especially his public life as a servant of the people of Tasmania and the Australian Labor Party. Ken Wriedt was a man not only of substantial physical stature but also of substantial political stature. It goes without saying that we on this side did not embrace his politics, but we do acknowledge his service and salute it. He was a passionate Tasmanian. He loved his adopted state and had no difficulty in switching to state politics in the service of the Tasmanian people and his party when he thought it was needed.

As a minister in the Whitlam government from 1970 to 1975, I would have to say—and I think most of my coalition colleagues would agree—that we would put him in the same category as John Kerin when it comes to Labor ministers for agriculture. We claim that there are not many good ones amongst all the Labor agriculture ministers, but in fairness there is no doubt that Ken Wriedt and John Kerin delivered way beyond what I might describe as coalition expectations. That applies to both of them, but on this occasion we are concentrating on Mr Wriedt. He served rural communities exceptionally well.

Of course, later on he became Minister for Minerals and Energy, after the political demise of Mr Connor. Indeed it would seem that Mr Wriedt was one of those few ministers who were able to serve the whole period of the Whitlam government without scandal, without controversy and with the abiding respect of both sides of politics. Of course, as Leader of the Government in the Senate he was one of only a few Tasmanians to hold such a vitally important role. More seriously, I note that, on reflecting back on his period as leader, which was only a short period of time, Ken Wriedt’s great regret was that his Prime Minister or leader in the other place did not listen to him sufficiently and that he was not consulted.

I am told that Senate leaders on both sides of politics—and I am the exception to this, Mr President, you will understand—have believed Mr Wriedt’s observations to have been true over the past 35 years. I just thought I would place that caveat, in the very unlikely event that my leader in the other place happens to read the Senate Hansard—and I do not think there is much chance of that. The events of 11 November 1975 may have been different if Mr Wriedt had been consulted, but that is ultimately for others to speculate about.

Mr Wriedt, after he left the Senate, went into the Tasmanian parliament. It seems a pity—if I can reflect in this way—that Mr Wriedt, who was such a capable and competent minister, did not really have the opportunity to allow his capacities to shine as they otherwise would have. This was because—and I do not mean to be too partisan—he served in what might be described as ‘not successful governments’—the Whitlam government and also the minority Labor government in Tasmania. I have no doubt that, if he had had the opportunity to serve in governments that did not suffer from the disabilities that the Whitlam government and the Tasmanian Labor government had, he would have had a longer and even more distinguished ministerial record.

Mr Wriedt was also a passionate sailor. His weekends and leisure time would be spent sailing the scenic Derwent River or the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. I recall him becoming involved in the debate as to whether the waters south of Hobart should be described as the Derwent River or the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. I am not sure where Mr Wriedt actually lined up in this debate but, given his seamanship, he was asked about it and interviewed about it—and I read about it but, unfortunately, I cannot recall what his verdict was. Suffice to say, he loved the sea and enjoyed many leisure hours and days on the waterways around Tasmania.

Ken Wriedt is survived by his daughters Sonja and Paula and their children. The coalition extend to them our condolences. We trust that happy family memories and community appreciation of their father and grandfather’s service will sustain them in this time of loss.

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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