Tuesday, 4th June 2019

Ms GARRETT (Eastern Victoria) (12:26):‘Eric loved his family and served his community’. This first line of the Honourable Daniel Eric Kent’s obituary seems like such a simple statement, an obvious statement, but it represents so much love and so much work.

First, to his family. Beloved husband of Bette, they were married for over 50 years and together they raised Elizabeth, Kathryn and Stephen. Eric and Bette also share nine grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren—a fair effort by anyone’s standards and an amazing legacy in itself. To his children: we are all sorry for your loss, and we thank you for allowing the state of Victoria to borrow your father. It is often the families that sacrifice time with their loved ones when politics is the chosen profession, and Eric’s chosen profession, politics, was so much richer for the work and commitment of this man.

Others have spoken about the array of portfolios and positions that he held. They were numerous, and his contribution to all of them was profound. Eric brought his farming background to his portfolios. He was a wheat and woolgrower on his family property. He then turned to dairy farming and finally switched to cattle farming. His contribution in Parliament and to the state of Victoria was comprehensive and quite remarkable, and his contribution to his local community was outstanding.

As we have heard, he held many influential roles in his life outside of this place. He was a delegate to the Victorian Wheat and Woolgrowers Association conferences, the president of the Lang Lang branches of the Victorian Dairy Farmers Association and the Australian Primary Producers Union, a member of the Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education council and a member of the Victorian Farmers and Graziers Association. Following politics, he was the deputy chairman of the Melbourne Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market Trust and a board member of the Westernport Memorial Hospital.

He was a very busy man with a very rich life. Eric Kent lived and breathed Labor politics. I just love this quote from a colleague in the other place. In her inaugural speech the fabulous new member for Bass acknowledged the Honourable Eric Kent: Branch member Eric Kent from Lang Lang, who was first elected to the other place in 1970 and who was the Minister of Agriculture in the Cain government, at age 99, with tea in his Gough Whitlam mug, held my hand with strength and sent me on my way after preselection, saying, ‘Return as the member for Bass’. And return as the member for Bass she did.

We have spoken about Eric’s family life, his political life and his community life, and I would just like to touch on his spiritual life, which I am sure greatly enhanced and influenced all he did. He was clearly a deeply religious man who was a member of the Gippsland Anglican Diocese synod and committee for social responsibility for more than 44 years. Eric is a great example of someone who is passionate and committed, and he brought those traits to everything he did and to every aspect of his life. At their best, religion and politics come from the same source. It is a view and a belief that there is something bigger than yourself, that you have a moral purpose or a guiding principle to light your way and that your job is to serve the community and put them above your own interests, and Eric clearly did that.

So I finish where I started: with his obituary. The closing words were: And what does the Lord require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? The Honourable Daniel Eric Kent, OAM, you certainly did that.