On 12 September 2017, The Rev. Fred Nile MLC delivered a speech in favour of a Condolence Motion in honour and in memory of the late John Richard “Jonno” Johnson. The history of public service that “Jonno” contributed to his party and the people of NSW was truly remarkable. Accordingly, he was respected by members of parliament from across all parties and political backgrounds. A copy of Rev. Nile’s adjournment speech is extracted below.
JOHN RICHARD JOHNSON
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE ( 15:37 :48 ):
I support the condolence motion before the House, which states that this House express and place on record the deep sense of loss sustained to the State and this House by the death of the Hon. Richard “Johno” Johnson, a member of the House from 1975 to 2001 and President of the House from 1978 to 1991. I am pleased that Mr Johnson’s wife, Pauline, and members of his family are with us. I express my condolences to them. As members know, I am not a Catholic; I am a Christian and a Protestant. I am not a member of the Labor Party either; I am a member of the Christian Democratic Party. However, I strongly support this motion before the House. I spent 10 years in this House with Mr Johnson as President from 1981 to 1991. He served this House for 26 years from 1975 to 2001 and was President for 23 years from 1978 to 1991.
That great honour was bestowed on him to serve this Parliament and the people of this State, as well as to serve God in the Catholic faith. Over the years I had many discussions with him, especially on bills coming before the House which raised controversial moral issues, and he was very thoughtful and fair in his consideration of those matters. He was a great Christian. He never betrayed his strong convictions on any moral issues that Christians uphold. He also had a strong social conscience in protecting the workers of New South Wales, which he expressed through his membership of the Australian Labor Party.
Mr Johnson was born in Murwillumbah, New South Wales. He left school at 15 years of age, as I did. Before entering politics he was a grocer and trade union official. He married Pauline Christina Russell, with whom he adopted two sons and two daughters. He served as a director of the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney and was chair of the Catholic Press Print Newspaper Company, publishers of the Catholic Weekly. He was also a member of the NSW Lotteries and Cancer Council of Australia boards. He spent a lot of time not only serving this Chamber but also serving the community. In 2001 he was awarded the Centenary Medal. He was also awarded life membership of the Labor Party.
In 2006 he was created a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Gregory the Great by Pope Francis. He was a fellow of Warrane College, University of New South Wales. He died aged 87 in Sydney on 9 August 2017 and was honoured with a State funeral, which is not offered to many people. I was pleased to represent the Christian Democratic Party at his funeral, which was held at St Mary’s Cathedral. In his citation Archbishop Anthony Fisher said the elevation to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Gregory the Great provided an appropriate acknowledgement of Mr Johnson’s significant ongoing contributions to the Catholic and other churches, and in particular for his long and distinguished service as chairman of the board of the Catholic Press Print Newspaper Company, publisher of the Catholic Weekly. Archbishop Fisher also said:
… this man has shown a consistent and generous willingness to accept roles in raising funds for the different causes he supports, especially those which assist the delivery of important works of the Church through various charities.
He also made special mention of Johno Johnson’s strong commitment to his Catholic faith, and cited his work within the Right to Life movement—I had a lot of contact with Mr Johnson in this area—and his contributions to the St Vincent de Paul Society. He said Mr Johnson was an example of “faith in action”. He also encouraged many young Catholics to become active in public life. I am pleased to support this condolence motion. I again express my condolences to Mr Johnson’s wife and family.
Media inquiries: Rev. Fred Nile MLC: (02) 9230 2478
The Rev. The Hon. Fred Nile MLC