16 December 2020

Vale the politician of rural people: Ian Armstrong

| Edwina Mason
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Ian Armstrong

The Hon Ian Armstrong AM OBE with his wife Jenny (left) as NSW Deputy Premier and leader of the NSW National Party, John Barilaro, pays tribute to his work during the 2018 National Party General Conference. Photo: NSW National Party.

There will never be a politician quite like him. A man who lived and breathed regional NSW, whose cheerful, almost jolly, demeanour with that unmistakable practical quality that issued from farming stock made him approachable, reachable and relatable.

It was a successful, passionate blend of country and one that will be mourned by those in Ian Armstrong’s home town of Cowra, those in his former electorate of Lachlan, those scattered throughout rural and regional NSW and, of course, his beloved National Party.

The former leader of the NSW Nationals and Deputy Premier of NSW, the Hon Ian Armstrong AM OBE has died, aged 83.

NSW Premier Gladys Berijiklian said Mr Armstrong embodied what it was to be a rural advocate, having been responsible for ensuring public servants work in the regional communities they represent. He relocated the Department of Agriculture to Orange in 1992, the single largest decentralisation process undertaken by a government department.

He also served as Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and the list of community organisations and boards he volunteered for during his lifetime was significant, signifying a life dedicated to serving and representing regional people.

Despite his substantive contributions as a minister and as deputy premier, his commitment to his electorate of Lachlan never wavered and the area still benefits from his legacy as its local member.

Mr Armstrong represented the seat of Lachlan in the NSW Legislative Assembly for 25 years between 1981 and 2007.

The Premier said Mr Armstrong would be dearly missed and his tireless work for the people of NSW and to the NSW Nationals will live on forever.

“Our condolences to his family and to all the people touched by the life of this remarkable person,” she said.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke offered her condolences to Mr Armstrong’s family.

She said he had been a champion of rural and regional NSW and would be sorely missed.

“His loss is one felt by all of regional NSW,” she said.

“Ian Armstrong is the reason we expect to see services and public servants in communities west of the Blue Mountains. He is the reason we look at the regions as a viable and vibrant place to live and work. He is the reason rural, regional and remote NSW expect their opinions to be heard and their way of life championed.”

Ms Cooke said unveiling the Ian Armstrong Building in Orange this year provided an opportunity to celebrate his pioneering efforts to bring public servants closer to the people they serve.

“His legacy is not just in bricks and mortar,” she said, “it is in the way we see ourselves as rural and regional people, the strength of our communities and the hope with which we face the future.

“Vale, Ian. We may never see his like again.”

Former Federal Member for Hume, then Gilmore and former federal National Party minister John Sharp’s home shire of Young bordered Armstrong’s shire of Cowra, meaning both men often found themselves in the same room, or paddock.

Mr Sharp told About Regional that Ian Armstrong was the best politician on the stump that he ever came across.

“He could hold a meeting anywhere and hold everyone’s attention and get a message across like no other,” he said. “He remembered everyone’s name, he knew everybody and everybody knew Ian.

“He was a terrific local member, he was everywhere … a prolific traveller around the electorate and constantly on the job.”

Ian Armstrong had a habit of ringing very early in the morning, Mr Sharp said, because he was an early riser and he would make every moment count once he was up and running.

“I recall one of the most challenging moments for Cowra when it was announced that the Edgells canning factory was to close,” Mr Sharp said.

“Ian and I obtained a large sum of money from its owner to help promote the Cowra district for new investors, who eventually came and built a new modern canning factory.

“What was initially seen as a blow to the district worked out okay in the end because of Ian’s tireless efforts.”

The NSW Government has offered a state service to the Armstrong family – wife Jenny and his two children, Angela and Angus.

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Winston Watts9:31 pm 16 Dec 20

One of Australia’s and certainly NSW’s most outstanding politician. A great man for rural NSW and for all members of the community. A great Australian.

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