Mr Henry Jones

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:01): I move:

That this house expresses its deep regret at the death of Mr Henry Jones and places on record its appreciation of his long and tireless commitment to the River Murray and the Murray-Darling Basin.

Henry Jones was a quietly-spoken Clayton Bay fisherman who raised his voice against decades of abuse of the Murray-Darling system. In my opinion there was no greater champion of the MurrayDarling than Henry, and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan would not have proceeded without his efforts and determination.

Sadly, Henry passed away on 15 April 2014, aged 72. I was fortunate to attend the celebration of his life with my wife Sally and colleagues, the member for Bragg and the member for Finniss on 19 April 2014. Henry was a true gentleman, always respectful and conveyed an integrity and dignity which impacted on everyone he met. When Henry spoke people listened. 

Henry was the face of The Advertiser 's I Love Murray campaign but he never sought that sort of attention but pursued it because he knew it was right. There are many great anecdotes about Henry but one that I love is about the time he took a tinny to Canberra and cooked fresh mulloway from the Coorong on a barbecue outside Parliament House so that every member of parliament knew his story and his fight.

Ian Doyle, a friend of Henry's, reminisced at his funeral and said that Henry was, above all things, a fisherman and whose story 'is about a quintessential Aussie bloke who shared it for a lifetime with his high school sweetheart'. Throughout his campaign Gloria, who joins us here today with their daughter Christine, was always by Henry's side. It was a partnership, and I thank Gloria for her attendance today. 

Henry's great loves, the Murray aside, were his wife Gloria, who he met at Mount Barker High School in 1955, daughters Christine, Julie and Susan, and his five granddaughters and one grandson. I am told that Henry and Gloria's story is one for the romantics. Henry says it was love at first sight.

My wife Sally and I were privileged to attend Henry and Gloria's 50th wedding anniversary, a day we fondly remember as we were embraced into the Jones family fold. Henry first moved to Clayton and started his own commercial fishing operation in 1961. Clayton in 1961 had no roads, no electricity and a population of four when Henry turned up. The early days in Clayton were nothing short of pioneering and Henry and Gloria went on to achieve much for Clayton at little or no cost to the community. For that he also deserves to be remembered. 

Ian Doyle, who gave a terrific eulogy, retold stories of Henry's three neighbours. One was Claude Dent who was a knowledgeable man who had given up on civilisation and lived in a cave. According to Henry, Claude enjoyed the company of about 30 cats that were full of fleas and, as Henry remembered, this made having a conversation with him in the cave an interesting visit. 

The other two family residents were Mr and Mrs Greenbottle. Henry never found out whether Greenbottle was their real name. There was a rumour that the massive pile of green bottles behind the ambulance where they lived may have had something to do with their surname. Said ambulance was in the middle of a rabbit warren, with a white ferret as a pet—and, yes, the pet was used to provide fresh meat from the warren below. Henry built a very small residence in Clayton, on lot 22, at a cost of £50; to this day, it remains the family home, or 'the love shack'.

When the Postmaster-General's Department was not interested in providing a telephone line to one permanent resident and a couple of shacks at Clayton, Henry decided to build it himself. Henry and Gloria also ran the local store and oversaw the vision, financing and construction of a $180,000 Clayton community hall.

The hall committee, of which Henry was president and the foreman for the build, saw its fair share of dramas, including a visit from union officials, who Henry politely chased up Clayton Hill, stating, 'If you bastards come around here and try to close us down, I'll use you for yabby bait.' One of those 'bastards' was Norm Gallagher. The community hall was opened in 1985 and is one of the many community-based developments and projects in which Henry and Gloria played pivotal roles.

The Yabby City story is one for the ages. Through processing, retailing and cooking fish and yabbies Gloria and Henry had caught, Yabby City became a hotspot to dine out and a trailblazer in South Australia as a tourist venture. Celebrities, politicians and many high-profile people came from far and wide to try Henry's yabbies. According to Ian Doyle, to get in for Saturday night or Sunday lunch, you had to book three months in advance.

Henry established the Country Fire Service in Clayton, and was captain there for 20 years. Gloria drove the school bus for some 30-plus years, and Henry played for and coached the Milang Football Club. Their devotion to the Clayton and Lower Lakes communities is nothing short of amazing.

The early days in Clayton were the reason that in future years Henry fought so hard for the Murray-Darling system. Clayton was pristine, and anytime Henry hopped into his boat and pushed away from the shore, he travelled into a wilderness of birds, fish, animals and a healthy aquatic system. Henry was not going to allow future generations to grow up accepting that dying ecosystems were the norm.

As a commercial fisherman operating in the Lower Lakes and the lower Murray system for more than half a century, Henry witnessed first-hand the declining health of the environment and river systems. When drought closed the Murray Mouth for the first time in 1981, Henry decided enough was enough and that it was time to act. According to Henry:

Our problems started long before the drought, but the drought made it bigger and really brought it into focus. While the drought was on…the people were walking around with their shoulders down, and the kids were the same. No laughter….all they talked about was water and when are we going to get water. The floods brought the water back, and all of a sudden the shoulders were back, the arms were swinging and eyes were wide open. It just proved to me beyond a shadow of doubt that you need a healthy environment and healthy rivers to have a healthy community.

Henry fought tirelessly over more than three decades for river and Lower Lakes reform, and he took his dedicated campaigning to prime ministers, premiers, state and federal ministers and anyone else he thought was blocking the reform necessary to save the Murray. 

Henry spent those over 30 years lobbying, debating, encouraging, addressing, being threatened and abused, trips to Canberra and the Murray Mouth and thousands of meetings. He faced strong challenges from the powerful irrigator groups, but people started to listen. 

As described earlier, Henry has often been described as a man of few words, yet when he did speak he used his words wisely and people listened. His experience and knowledge of the region, his fishery and the river made you want to listen.

Henry was a man who gave freely of his time in his cause and for his community and our great river system. Henry joined a number of committees, all of which benefited greatly from his contribution. Henry was a longstanding representative on many Murray-Darling Basin Commission committees, and later Murray-Darling Basin Authority committees, the Murray-Darling Basin
Community Reference Group, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority Native Fish Advisory Panel, the River Murray Advisory Committee, the Living Murray Community Reference Group, and the Basin Community Committee. Henry was also a spokesman for the River, Lakes and Coorong Action Group and a member of the Lower Murray Drought Reference Group—I don't know when he had time to fish, quite frankly.

In Henry's opinion, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's draft basin plan did not allocate enough water to South Australia. Towards the end of the fight for the River Murray, Henry copped a lot of abuse from people upstream. Meetings were so hostile in places like Griffith and Leeton they were like a war zone. Ian Doyle recalled at Henry's funeral:

At one of these meetings, a big redheaded bloke confronted him with a scarlet face and steam coming out of his nostrils, and was firmly pushing his right shoulder. 'Henry,' he said, 'you are in a room full of friends, but none of them are yours.'

Henry Jones should be remembered as the man who saved the Murray. The culmination of his 31-year campaign happened in 2012 in Canberra when Henry stood by former minister for water Tony Burke's side to see the bill passed and the plan implemented. Such was Henry's involvement in the Murray-Darling Basin plan, former minister Burke travelled to Clayton to deliver Henry and Gloria a copy of the basin plan, in which he wrote:

Dear Henry, more than a century in the making, but we got there. This is one of the most important tasks I'll ever be given, but it never could have happened without you. Generations of the future will always owe a debt to Henry Jones. With kind regards, Tony Burke 20.2.13.

I first met Henry and Gloria soon after getting elected in 2006, and I soon learned of their vital contribution in all things in the Lower Murray and Lakes, especially when the system was beginning to be gripped by drought. One of my proudest moments as the member for Hammond, and at the time shadow minister for the River Murray, includes launching the Jones Lookout at Clayton Bay, in honour of Henry, Gloria and their family in September 2009.

Henry was a lifelong volunteer and deserves every piece of recognition he received and will continue to receive. His hard work and determination was recognised in 2008 when he received the Pride of Australia Medal. Henry was a finalist in the South Australia Senior Australian of the Year Award in 2014 for his work in water conservation, and was given a lifetime contribution at Alexandrina Council's Year of the Farmer celebrations in 2012. 

In 2013, he received the River Murray Medal, awarded by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, for his services devoted to protecting the health if the River Murray. I understand this was the first time this particular award had been given to a community member in 160 years since it was first established in 1853.

I was fortunate enough to attend a number of his and Gloria's Hall of Fame fishing industry awards recently, where they were both recognised at a state and national level. Henry played pivotal roles in numerous advances and changes in the fishing industry, and it was great to see him recognised. He led the way and others followed.

While president of the Southern Fisherman's Association he, along with others and with the help of Gloria, developed the world's first environmental management plan for a whole of fishery in the Lakes and Coorong, as well as receiving the Marine Stewardship Certification for his multispecies fishery. Henry was also awarded life membership of the Lakes and Coorong Fishery.

I was privileged to call Henry a friend, and it was an honour to work with him on issues impacting his beloved Lower Lakes and Coorong fishery and the River Murray. His passion, his dedication and his enthusiasm for the River Murray and Lower Lakes and Coorong fishing industry were second to none, and he will be greatly missed by many. Luckily, his work will continue, with
his L21 fishing licence remaining in the family, with daughter Christine and grandson Justin taking over. Remarkably, that will be six generations of fishers, something of which Henry was enormously proud. 

I met with Henry before he passed away and, even in those final months, he was still instructing me on the work that was needed to protect the river system and keep the Lower Lakes a freshwater system, and looking to the future. Henry was always optimistic that water to be delivered as part of the basin plan would improve the environment in the Lower Murray. Henry said:

I can see a rosy future for the river. It's never going to be pristine, it's a working river, there's still going to be irrigation, there's still going to be things grown because there has to be. But at least there's a cap on it now, and there's water set aside to look after the environment, and there's a chance that we'll have something to pass on that we're proud of.

He was a truly great man and it is a truly great family. It is a real privilege to have known Henry. As I reflect on one of those meetings at Langhorne Creek one day, when Henry was speaking to a group of Eastern States irrigators (Victorian and New South Wales irrigators), I was left in absolutely no doubt and they were not left in any doubt—and that is probably why he had no friends up there—on Henry's views about the River Murray that it should have a freshwater recovery. He did his utmost and he won on that scale, because I believe in the future and that what Henry did will keep that freshwater recovery. Long may we remember and may we never forget. I commend the motion.