Saturday, June 23, 2012


The Hon. LUKE FOLEY (Leader of the Opposition) [7.03 p.m.], 22.6.12: Today I attended the State funeral of the Hon. Francis John Walker, QC. I believe Frank Walker was one of the most successful politicians that New South Wales Labor has ever produced. By that I mean that Frank Walker had the privilege of serving as a Minister of the Crown for 12 years at the State level and three years at the Federal level, and he enacted a wide range of important reforms to the laws of our State and country. Frank Walker was elected to the seat of Georges River in a by-election in 1970. He was an organiser for Neville Wran to replace Pat Hills in the leadership of the State parliamentary Labor Party in December 1973. He was elected to the ministry when Labor came to office in 1976. During the next 12 years Frank Walker variously served in the following ministries: Attorney General, Justice, Aboriginal Affairs, Community Services, Youth, Housing, the Arts and Leader of the House.

The 1970 Georges River by-election that brought Frank to Parliament was hard fought. In a blatant piece of electioneering, then Premier Robert Askin promised to introduce a Summary Offences Act. Notwithstanding that, Frank overwhelmingly defeated the Liberal Party in that by-election, winning a seat for Labor from the then Government. Nine years later Frank Walker repealed the Summary Offences Act. In the cognate crimes bills and cognate summary offences bills that Walker shepherded through this Parliament in 1979 he amended 16 pieces of legislation. In 1976, 55,000 people in New South Wales were arrested for public drunkenness. People were arrested, brought before the courts, fined, some were imprisoned, often repeatedly, because they could not stump up $1 for bail. In 1979 in the other place Frank Walker said:

This Government intends to remedy that completely unsatisfactory situation by implementing provisions which will ensure that the law is placed on a rational and humane basis.

That was Walker's approach to law reform. He abolished the crime of being poor and the law preventing peaceful public protest. The definition of "offensive behaviour" was amended to move away from any conduct that offended the arresting police officer to a reasonable man test. Appeals to the Privy Council in London were abolished. The Legal Aid Commission and community justice centres were established. Compassionate treatment of victims of sexual assault came about. Aboriginal land rights legislation was introduced in 1983. It was a historic reform in the history of this State. As Minister for Housing, Frank Walker ceased constructing suburbs of public housing and instead engaged in partnerships with the private sector to mix public housing with private estates.

Frank Walker was committed to parliamentary democracy, civil liberties, human rights, equality before the law, and a tolerant and inclusive society. Frank Walker was also one of the most effective marginal seat campaigners modern New South Wales politics has seen. He was always at the cutting edge of modern campaigning and marketing techniques. Walker's organisation of postal votes in seats such as Blue Mountains and Hurstville in the 1976 campaign played no small part in getting Labor across the line. For Frank Walker possessed both conviction and cunning.

I thank Premier Barry O'Farrell for granting Frank Walker a State funeral today. I also acknowledge the terrific speech delivered by the Minister for Police, the Hon. Michael Gallacher, on behalf of the Government. I sent my condolences to Frank's widow, Pam, and his brother, Robert. I am proud to call Frank Walker a comrade and friend. I salute his service to this State and his great reformist achievements.