A great senator hangs up his boots: Ron Boswell retires

Queensland, 1990s: Eagle Street Pier, Brisbane, the penny dreadful stock punters with big appetites and big credit card bills. In the country they say the bigger the hat the bigger the overdraft.

Why anyone thought it was worth their while to take a country accountant for a night out, only God would know. But they did and they were basically good blokes.

Queensland still had a stud book and most had a knowledge of  how the others fitted into it across the giant state. Whether it was Tattersall’s or Fridays or a steak at Kilroy’s Cha Cha Cha, the town of Quilpie was only just down the metaphorical road. 

And just up from Cha Cha Cha was 1 Eagle Street, and on level 36 was the Parliamentary Offices, and in prime position that comes from being the archangel of  posterity was Senator Ronald Leslie Boswell.

He is the ultimate crossover politician that only survives in Queensland. ‘‘Bozzie’’, the hero of the religious conservative that occupy Queensland like no other state, turning up by the hundreds to hear him talk about his battles for Christ. Then Bozzie would talk to the fisherman like their future was his.

Bozzie, with crap all down his tie, would be entertained by the top end of town and only the fools would not realise that he was a heavyweight with the energy to sail or sink them if he wished to.


Bozzie knew how to do the political numbers in a form that would make the best union shop steward blush. 

Ronald Boswell’s political stud book was a progenitor of Joh and Flo Bjelke-Peterson. Joh whose image sat above the office desks of businessmen who wanted things to move; sat above their desk like a photo of the Queen. That frenetic amalgam that is so peculiar to Queensland would keep Ron as a Senator for 31 years, like an Australian Strom Thurmond.

Some are happy to participate in politics like they are a member of a club. It is by the rules and polite and a pretty good wicket.

Some climb the greasy pole to the top where the club follows their presidency, for a period. Some carry a saw in their back pocket and note that they can saw the pole over and that was Boswell.

Sawing the pole over can be seen as a very poor career move so be prepared for many quiet hours/days/years of reflection. To the end Boswell parried and thrust his saw, his career ending with a parliamentary crescendo rather than a parliamentary overseas trip.

Ron Boswell built the connections that helped him deliver for his constituency. Whether it was with Howard or any other senior minister. ‘‘Bozzie’’ was assisted by leading the Nationals in the Senate for a record 17 years.

The Boswell approach could take a minor industry to the main agenda.

He rarely asked for an appointment, bluffing his way past the best receptionist. He would walk in on you and sit opposite whilst you would try to explain how it was that Boz had just launched himself into the midst of what was supposed to be a private conversation.

For Ronald Boswell bargaining had its limitations if you did not get what you bargained for. He got there in the ETS debate, but the odds are longer with his views on PPL.

Boz is quite prepared to follow a more deliberate and abrupt challenge to policy with a tactical path of extenuated leveraged threats to accomplish his desired outcome. He will use the tactical drop to the favoured journalist as well as a myriad of other dark arts. What stood Boswell out though, was when we suspected it was someone else guilty of this hangable offence, he would correct the record and say ‘‘no, no that was me!’’

The Senate chamber last week was basically full of politicians when Ron gave his valedictory speech just as the stadium is full of footballers when a great footballer hangs up his boots.

You need not have played for his team to admire his craft. The person who would not only fight to win but fight and be prepared to lose; these people in politics are truly of moment, the ones they write about. Boswell was not satisfied to live in the light of his self-proclamation, in a small room of friends, blanketed by the reality of irrelevance. Boswell made things happen.

"Much have I seen and known;
cities of men
And manners, climates,
councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d
of them all;
And drunk delight of battle
with my peers"

– Tennyson