Outgoing Senator Kim Carr was praised by both sides of politics on Wednesday afternoon as a champion of Australian innovation, a portfolio “powerhouse” and a fiery debater.
With a looming election it is unclear if the Senate will sit again before Senator Carr’s term ends in June, so Senators used Wednesday afternoon’s session to farewell the Victorian Left firebrand.
Senator Carr announced on Sunday he would not he would not seek endorsement for a place on Labor’s Victorian Senate ticket at the upcoming federal election, withdrawing from any possible pre-selection battle.
It will bring to a close a near 30-year Parliamentary career for Senator Carr, the current longest serving Senator, traditionally dubbed the “Father of the Senate”.
On Wednesday, Labor’s leader of the opposition in the Senate Penny Wong said it was fitting Senator Carr replaced John Button, a pre-eminent Labor Industry minister, in 1993, in-turn becoming a “powerhouse of his portfolio”.
“In his time here, he has been a champion for Australian industry—most notably as Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research in the Rudd and Gillard governments, where he and I served as members of the cabinet together,” Senator Wong said.
“He also held additional portfolios during this time, including in manufacturing, defence materiel and human services. The higher education, science, research and manufacturing communities could not have had a more passionate champion and advocate around the cabinet table.”
Victorian Labor senator Jess Walsh also praised Senator Carr’s time in Cabinet, including his vision to combine the Industry and Innovation portfolios.
“Kim championed the links between research, innovation and advanced manufacturing really like no other,” she told the chamber.
“It was his vision that brought together the innovation and industry portfolios. As a minister, he was able to put that understanding into practice, defending jobs in the Australian car industry and fighting absolutely tooth and nail to keep those jobs and those skills here in Australia. This really was the portfolio that Kim was made for.
Senator Walsh told Parliament Mr Carr’s debating and clothing had become iconic.
“Always sporting his iconic three-piece suit, Kim Carr could always prosecute an argument on the conference floor and in the Socialist Left caucus—and I can tell you, Mr President, he didn’t lose too many,” she said.
Government Senators also lauded the fiery Victorian, including Liberal Senator Paul Scarr, a fellow member of the Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation Committee on which Senator Carr served for the last several years.
“I would just like to pay tribute to Senator Carr’s intellectual rigour, his sense of humour and his generosity of spirit in terms of sharing lessons—hard-learned lessons, no doubt, over his years of contributions in this place,” Senator Scarr said.
Government Whip in the Senate Dean Smith also spoke fondly of Carr’s contribution to the scrutiny role of the Senate.
“Senator Carr is absolutely someone who should be listened to. Certainly on scrutiny matters, we paid very close attention to him. We thank him very, very much for what is a very, very important legacy that he leaves to that function of the Senate,” Senator Smith said.
Labor Senator Tim Ayres said Senator Carr left a legacy in the Senate and across the Labor movement.
“Notwithstanding the fact that Kim was, and will continue to be, a formidable operator in the Labor movement, and that not everybody always agreed with Kim—sometimes famously—he is held in deep regard in the manufacturing sector, in the scientific community, in the research community and in higher education as really understanding the connection between Australian research and development and jobs for working-class and regional Australians in manufacturing,” Senator Ayres said.
“He understood that connection and understood the role that good, smart forward-looking industry policy could play in building a better country.”
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