“To the many people of the west I have come to know, I thank you for your forthrightness, for your frankness in bringing issues to my attention, and for your friendship as we worked through those issues.”

Since 2000, The Honourable Rick Colless has been a steadfast member of the NSW Nationals in the Legislative Council. The Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources and Western NSW has been a strong advocate for regional and rural communities both in Opposition and Government, but decided it was time to retire from Parliament, giving his valedictory speech in the NSW Legislative Council on Wednesday.

“In what seems to be a very short time ago, I stood in this Chamber and sought the call to deliver my inaugural speech to this House,” Mr Colless said. “Like all new members into this place, I was filled with enthusiasm and excitement about the task ahead and ready and willing to do my bit to improve the lot of the people I was elected to represent in this place—the people of rural and regional New South Wales.”

Mr Colless spoke of frustrations in Opposition during successive Labor Governments as it placed the whims of inner-city Greens over the needs and livelihoods of rural and regional communities.

“I have a great fear that should the Government change in March next year we will again be thrust back into a period of regressive, regulatory compliance-based bureaucracy which will be bad for business, bad for the environment and bad for those wonderful communities throughout regional New South Wales,” he said. “Perhaps the most frustrating issues I have worked on in my time here have been related to forest management and the complete lack of understanding by Labor and the Greens of the history and management of western forests in particular.”

However, Mr Colless also took the time to personally thank current and former staff, leaders and colleagues from both sides of the chamber. He also thanked his family for their support over the years and their contribution to the regions.

“The opportunity to contribute to the legislative process has been a wonderful experience and I have enjoyed every minute of it, although at the time some of those tough periods that we all go through can be trying, to say the least,” Mr Colless said. “But I am also thankful that I am able to choose the time of my departure … A constituent told me recently that I am going to miss politics when I retire. I do not think I will miss the raw politics, but I will miss is the people I work with, including everybody in this place. I thank you all for your friendship and camaraderie, and wish you all well for the coming election and the future. Thank you, and farewell.”