HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [10.04 pm]: I rise to recognise the extraordinary life of Tony Cooke. There is no question that Tony Cooke was a Labor man through and through, yet this Green is standing to say what an inspiration he was to me. Tony Cooke was instrumental in drawing me into the union movement, and I can honestly say that it was his leadership in the union movement that led me to want to join it in the first place.

I first met Tony in the mid-1990s. As has already been mentioned by Hon Sue Ellery, one of the amazing strengths that Tony Cooke brought as state secretary of the then Trades and Labour Council was his commitment to branch out into a number of social movements. At that point in my life—I was in my 20s—I was very deeply involved with a number of international solidarity movements, as well as a number of social justice campaigns in and around Perth. It was through that work that I first became exposed to Tony Cooke and his inspirational leadership. I was also part of the 35 000 people who marched strong up St Georges Terrace in protest at the outrageous third wave of industrial relations laws. It was the first time that I was truly exposed to how important and powerful the union movement could be in ensuring that the human rights of average working people were able to be upheld, and how important it was that we work together to ensure that we are always working towards maintaining our rights.

I got to know Tony a little better later on when I was down at the Patrick Corporation dispute with the Maritime Union of Australia. It was the second time in my life that I attempted and failed to get arrested, but despite that particular failure, I learnt much about the importance of people coming together to uphold their rights. I think it is significant that we only recently commemorated it being 20 years since that dispute. Where did all that time go?

I went on to work in the union movement, and was involved with UnionsWA while Tony Cooke was state secretary. It was an extraordinary time and I learnt so much. But I also want to comment on just what an incredibly personable and lovely person Tony was, and how supportive he was particularly of younger women who wanted to get involved with the union movement and how encouraging he was. He was certainly very encouraging of me.

I just want to say how sad I am for Molly and Ella, and I also acknowledge their mother, Jane, who I also know. I also acknowledge Tony’s wife, Barbara, and Sally, Tony’s mother. No mother should ever have to bury her child. It has been mentioned that Tony is the third child that Sally has lost, and that is a tragedy.

But what an extraordinary life and extraordinary man. I will be forever grateful for the inspiration and guidance that Tony Cooke showed me. I think it is an extraordinary legacy of a life well lived. I note again, because I was also one of the people at Tony Cooke’s funeral and listened with much delight to the eulogies delivered, the request, if you like, that came from Tony Cooke towards the end of his life—the plea to all of us to live good lives. I think those are words to live by. Thank you, Tony.


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