Andrew AO John Neil
|Type of person||Individual|
|Date of birth||1944
NEIL ANDREW AO.
John Neil Andrew was born at Waikerie in the Riverland in 1944 and spent the first year of his life at Mallala where his father was stationed with the Royal Australian Air Force. He was educated in public schools in Waikerie and in Adelaide at Urrbrae Agricultural College.
His early working life was spent of the family irrigated fruit property and he subsequently developed his own irrigated and dry land properties in the area. Always an enthusiast for extension organisations, he was involved in a number of commodity and community groups and was Chair of the Advisory Board of Agriculture in South Australia. Local Government was a key interest and he served on the District Council of Waikerie between 1997 and 1983. He married Carolyn – a Maths and Science teacher at Waikerie High School – in 1970. They subsequently had two sons and a daughter.
In 1983 he was elected as the Federal Member for the electorate of Wakefield and the family then moved to Gawler. Gawler was the key town in an electorate that then stretched from Murray Bridge to north of Port Augusta and Yorketown to Renmark. For Neil and his family this was an opportune move. Neil’s mother was born into the Annells family and her great uncle, Charles Annells had been active in industry in Gawler at the turn of the 19th Century. His role in Tod St Uniting (then Methodist) church is commemorated in a Stained glass window in his honour.
The Andrew family first lived in Gawler East in the Cockshell Estate before moving to Jane St in Willaston. In common with many Riverland residents, Neil was familiar with Gawler, having regularly travelled from Waikerie to Adelaide inevitably using Murray Street when it was designated as the Sturt Highway. Member for Light, Hon. Bruce Eastick had already established a veterinary practice which included the Riverland and was well known to many Riverland families.
For Neil, making Gawler the family home enabled him and to both consolidate Gawler friendships and establish a cooperative and effective working relationship with Bruce and Dawn Eastick. As mutual State and Federal members, they worked closely together to give a direct voice to the Gawler community in Adelaide and Canberra. In the early 1990’s Neil moved the Wakefield Electorate office from the Adelaide CBD to Gawler and became the first South Australian Federal member in a rural electorate to locate his office within the electoral boundaries. This electorate office move enabled Neil to employ electoral staff who were resident in the town and district.
While the size of the electorate and the reality of Canberra sitting times meant a large amount of time was spent away from Gawler, Neil became associated with a number of local community and sporting organisations and was an honorary member of the Gawler Rotary Club. He was active in Tod St. Uniting Church. The family attended the local Primary Schools where Carolyn was a volunteer in both classrooms and tuck shops. She was also worked as a relief teacher at Gawler High School, Trinity College and Faith College in the Barossa valley. She successfully convened a local, “Kumon” mathematics group.
The 1984 Gawler River flooding which followed the Ash Wednesday bushfires, saw Bruce and Neil actively involved in flood mitigation schemes along the course of the Para River. Almost 20 years later this was to culminate in the construction of the Bruce Eastick flood mitigation dam east of Gawler and extensive flood mitigation works along the Gawler river. The construction and then duplication of the Gawler bypass and Sturt Highway and much later the development of the Fatchen way to divert traffic around Elizabeth also involved active lobbying and constituent representation to those Government Departments involved. Neil was always proud of the partnership he cultivated with Trinity college and of the opportunities he had to make departmental representations on their behalf. During his time in Parliament that college grew from a humble log cabin beginning to one of the largest private schools in the nation. A close working relationship with the Member for Bonython, Mr. Martyn Evans allowed Neil, and Martyn to jointly make representations to the Federal Department of Defence on behalf of the many Federal Government Defence employees at RAAF Edinburgh and DSTO Salisbury - who resided in the northern parts of Bonython or the southern sections of Wakefield. As Federal member Neil maintained an active interest in the emerging businesses in the Gawler Industrial belt especially the Amcor bottling plant and Ahrens engineering.
With an electorate that was predominately focussed on Primary Industry, Neil became very familiar with the pivotal role Roseworthy College was paying in Agricultural Education and notably in grain research and development. The prominence being given to the Oenology course was immediately relevant in an electorate that included not only the Adelaide Plains but also the Barossa Valley, the Clare Valley and the Riverland. He was appointed to the College Curriculum Committee. The work at Turretfield Research Centre was similarly relevant.
Having served as the Opposition Whip in the Federal Parliament, Neil was appointed as Chief Government Whip in 1997 and elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1998. Consequently, he was Speaker during the celebrations of the Centenary of Federation in 2001. This was a happy coincidence, as the first Speaker of the House of Representatives – Sir Frederick Holder – was also the Member for Wakefield. His role as Speaker brought some significant reforms in Federal Parliamentary administration. After a delay of almost 80 years the number of Federal Parliamentary Departments was reduced from 5 to 3. Many overseas guests hosted by the Parliament in his six year term as Speaker including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and other members of the Royal family. Among the most prominent were official visits by the President of the United States and the Chinese President. It is of interest to Gawler historians that in the latter part of the 20th century the town has been home for Parliamentary Speakers at both the State and Federal level.
After 6 years as Speaker, Neil voluntarily retired from the Federal Parliament in 2004. He then qualified as an Arbitrator and Mediator, working principally in the rural sector. He was appointed to the National Capital Authority and as a Commissioner on the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. From 2006 to 2012 he Chaired the Crawford Fund in Australia. This is a volunteer organisation putting Australian Agricultural Research findings into developing Agricultural economies to facilitate more efficient agricultural production. This is a key way Australia helps to foster International food security.
In 2014, Neil was invited to Chair the Murray Darling Basin Authority for a 4 year term. The Authority was charged with implementing the Internationally lauded Murray Darling Basin Plan. The plan is an historic agreement between the Commonwealth and each of the Basin States which has attracted attention around sustainable river management from countries as diverse as Laos, Cambodia, India and America. Delivering this water plan has meant ensuring that compliance is seen as the key and that all States are engaged in the agreed water sharing arrangements.
Gawler was the ideal place for the Andrew family to reside during Neil’s 21 years in the Federal Parliament. While often inevitably absent due to parliamentary duties, Neil always regarded Jane St as home. He credits Carolyn with ensuring that the children grew up in a secure and supportive environment.
In January 2008 he was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia.
Click here for more photos of Neil Andrew.