When a parent dies, sometimes it feels like part of you dies with them.
But since Mum died all those years ago I’ve learnt a greater truth - that a lost parent lives on in their children.
Whilst Mum and Dad gave us so much - education, opportunity, encouragement - their love and values were their greatest gift.
Dad always understated his achievements, and he avoided displays of success or prosperity.
Just look at the cars he drove! But achieve he did.
What Dad achieved both as a farmer and a farm leader deserves enormous credit – and it’s the farm leadership I’ll focus on.
In many key roles at the LGPA, the NSW Farmers, the NFF and other organisations, he supported the farming sector through what was one of the toughest and most important times in its history
In the 80’s and 90s we were faced with collapses in commodity markets, record high interest rates and a government aligned to strong unions.
And he was part of a generation of agricultural leaders which was prepared to stand up and stand strong, challenging power fearlessly to do the right thing. They were leaders, not lobbyists and there’s a big difference.
People like Ian McLachlan, Ian Donges, Michael Tooth, his great friend Murray Watson, John White and many more.
Dad led rallies across the country focused on reducing interest rates and taxes, challenging the unions, opening up trade opportunities and strengthening commodity prices.
He did it with intellect, a reforming zeal and an occasionally sharp turn off phrase, like when he described Stephen Crean’s appointment to agriculture minister as Ned Kelly guarding the bank.
The strength of our farming sector today, and Australia more generally, owes much to the achievements of those early, leaders who knew how to get things done.
Many have contacted me in recent days passing on condolences, reminding us of Dad’s role in those achievements.
Mitch Hooke, heading the Grains Council at the time, described Dad “ a formidable advocate for rural Australia and a giant of intellectual and policy logic”.
Ian Donges described Dad as “a giant in term of policy and a strong leader”.
Alan Jones, who participated in many of the farm rallies of that era, and stood alongside Dad for Eden Monaro preselection in the 1970s, described Dad as a “true patriot”.
James Jackson, the current President of the NSW Farmers said “Peter wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed in and that legacy can be seen today. He made it very clear to [governments] that farmers would not quietly accept any policy that would undermine the farming sector. [we] have lost a great friend and champion.”
But I was reminded of an important part of the story which reveals who Dad really was.
In early 1988, it became apparent that Ian McLachlan, President of the NFF was going to step back to make a shift to Federal politics.
At the time this was one of the most influential and high profile non- parliamentary roles in Australia.
Dad was widely considered to be the unbeatable favourite to take over. In May 1988, Ian McLachlan stepped down.
Days before the election of the new President, Mum was diagnosed with secondary cancer.
Without hesitation, Dad decided that she must come first and he pulled his nomination.
Family came first.
In the following months, I saw an unconditional love and devotion to Mum.
Whatever support she asked for he gave without questioning.
I saw a deep love and devotion from someone who rarely wore his emotions on his sleeve.
And when she died in September, I saw him shed a tear for the first and only time in my life.
Dad never became president of the NFF, despite his many other achievements.
But I also don’t think he ever regretted stepping back.
It was the right thing to do.
People with a deep sense of right and wrong are understandably tempted to preach or sermonise to their children.
Not Dad. While we rarely had to guess his views on politics, we were often left guessing when it came to our life choices.
But I was never in doubt about his core values and I find them in every nook and cranny of my heart and soul, every day.
His belief in the noble role of farmers and small businesses.
In the the dangers of excessive power of any kind, whilst recognising the importance of public service.
His disdain for bureaucracy and form filling – in fact decades worth of unfilled forms accumulated in his office!
And all of this alongside his unconditional loyalty to those close to him, especially family.
Mum and Dad passed on their values by deed and by osmosis.
They pointed to role models like Mum’s father Sir William and his brother Athol, who was killed at the Somme, to illustrate what mattered most.
But then they left us to chart our own courses through life, only to pick us up when we fell down.
I know he was incredibly proud of all of us.
We are only who we are because of him, and he will live on in our values, our beliefs and our aspirations - and of course in our own children.
I love you Dad. We will miss you more than you can imagine.
I will always treasure what you given me and I look forward to seeing you again in another place.