By Margaret Maccoll
Former Nationals leader and deputy prime minister and Wide Bay MP from 1990-2016 Warren Truss was one of 19 people to receive the highest Australia Day award, a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).
Mr Truss, a third-generation farmer, built a 40-year political career with 14 years in local government and 26 in Federal Parliament.
He said his family had always been interested in the community and his earliest involvement began with the Rural Youth Club of which he was elected its youngest ever state president in 1969 before becoming president of the Australian Council of Rural Youth in 1973 then a year later appointed to the National Rural Advisory Council.
He gained attention for speaking up for country people, particularly young farmers. In 1976 he began his political career when elected to the Kingaroy Shire Council.Some of the greatest satisfaction in his work he gained from being able to obtain local infrastructure and help people in the community with problems such as pensions or immigration. “In many ways that kind of thing has been extra special,” he said.
In the federal arena as Transport Minister, seeing the widening of the Bruce Highway and the “four-laning” of the national highway between Melbourne and Sydney he counts among his successes.
A great disappointment to him was the failure despite a three year search to find Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, which carried passengers with connections to two Wide Bay families. Despite obtaining satellite data from Rolls Royce, which monitor their airplane engines, that showed precisely where and when the engines stopped they didn’t know its trajectory, whether it broke up immediately or how far it may have glided, he said.
In Noosa Shire he recounted the construction of The J which had much grander plans that didn’t eventuate and debates on roads around Cooroy which “in the end had to go somewhere”.
In his distinguished Parliamentary career he held numerous positions and was a Minister for more than 12 years with portfolios in Customs and Consumer Affairs, Community Services, Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Transport and Regional Services and Trade.
He had a reputation for managing the tough issues and gained respect on both sides of Parliament, made evident when he was given a standing ovation on announcing his retirement.
Currently semi-retired and now chairman of the Australian Rail Track Corporation, Mr Truss received the award for “eminent service to the Parliament of Australia, particularly in the areas of trade, transport, agriculture and rural and regional development”.
He said it was “certainly a very great honour to have been recognised in such a generous way”.