12:45 03/12/2014 – Federation Chamber
Mr HUNT (Flinders—Minister for the Environment) (12:45): I want to join with Australians from all walks of life in recording my sadness and also, I think, to speak for the whole of the Flinders electorate at their sadness at the loss of a beautiful young man, a wonderful young life.
I remember watching Phillip Hughes’s maiden test century. I was actually in Western Australia at the time. I was at home of Peter van Onselen, and we were meeting for the first time. We were talking about life and we had the cricket on in the background. We stopped and we watched this amazing left-handed genius, in his second test, approach the century and achieve it in the most glorious of fashions. Both of us thought here was somebody who was the one to continue in the tradition of Greg Chappell, passed on to Allan Border, passed down the line to Steve Waugh and then to Ricky Ponting and to Michael Clarke.
All the omens were that this young man—who, at age 20, then went on to achieve the extraordinary outcome of being the youngest person ever to have compiled two centuries in the same test match—had a glorious career ahead of him. I subsequently made the statement publicly that I thought that he would play 100 tests. Far more importantly than my view, the Australian captain, Michael Clarke, has said over recent days that he believes this young man, who was almost 26 at the time of his passing, had his best years ahead of him. He had already made some extraordinary achievements.
But I think the reason that the loss of Phillip Hughes has gripped Australia so much is that, firstly, it was so public—on the pitch, in front of four current test players—with not a ripple but a tidal wave through the entire Australian team and cricketing community. Secondly, it was clear that his best years were ahead of him, despite what he had already achieved, and that he was right on the edge of potentially returning as the No. 3 batsman within the Australian cricket team. Indeed, if this innings had progressed from 63 not out to a century, I would say he was odds-on. Having said that, there is this grieving at the sense of loss. Thirdly, what has emerged is that the person behind the impish grin and the cheeky smile was one of the most fundamentally decent nationally ranked sportspeople of recent decades. There was a sense of being unaffected by the international stage and a sense of the love of the bush from which he came with his family—with Greg and Virginia, his parents, and Megan and Jason, his sister and brother respectively.
The fact that we have the classic Australian story of bush to the bright lights, but without affectation—without a loss of the sheer joy of the game, the love of the bush and the intense love of family and friends—is the most extraordinary testament to Phillip Hughes’s family, his teammates and his own character. These things together—the public nature of the demise, the sense of loss for what could have been and, above all else, the respect for somebody who was just a decent human being of the highest order—seem to have captured the nation, and, I think, rightly so.