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TWU and industry mourn passing of Alex Gallacher

Former senator and union heavyweight remembered fondly for transport advocacy


The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) is grieving the death of Alex Gallacher, one of its “greatest sons”, aged 67.

Gallacher was a TWU official, branch secretary and national president, before becoming a senator for South Australia from 2011 until his recent passing from lung cancer.

After migrating from Scotland in 1966, Gallacher’s earlier career was spent as a truck driver and aviation ramp operator.

He was the TWU SA/NT branch industrial officer (1988-1992), organiser (1992-1996), and state secretary (1996-2010), also becoming federal vice-president (2005–2007) and president (2007–2010).

“Transport workers, the TWU and the Parliament have lost a giant,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.

“Senator Gallacher was a straight-talking, no-nonsense, and hardworking man prepared to speak truth to power to support workers.

“Alex was someone on whom workers could always rely and was resolute in his belief that no obstacle should prevent working people from achieving their best.

“We are all poorer for having lost Alex.

“We extend our deepest condolences to his widow Paola, children and grandchildren during this difficult time.

“Our thoughts are with all TWU members and parliamentarians grieving the loss of a close friend and ally.”

The TWU said Gallacher experienced first-hand the unique challenges faced by transport workers, noting his advocacy for safety and fairness in transport in the Senate, including his support on pay and conditions and the Safe Rates campaign.

His passing comes just after the Senate’s report into the road transport industry tabled last week.

“This is a deep loss for all of us at the TWU after decades of rolling up our sleeves and getting stuck in to the important task of lifting standards in transport,” TWU SA/NT secretary Ian Smith said.

“Alex was a close personal friend. His beliefs will remain a driving force in our fight for transport workers’ rights. Today we make a promise to Alex, his family and friends to continue to fight on in his honour.”

Gallacher’s earlier Senate work on road transport safety, here

Fellow senator and TWU and transport industry proponent Glenn Sterle also paid tribute to Gallacher.

“Today I lost a very dear friend and brother in arms,” Sterle said.

“A champion for the blue collar worker, senator Alex Gallacher was always fighting the good fight.

“Alex was also a champion for common sense and fairness and had one of the sharpest minds in Parliament.

“I will miss his insight, his intellect, his nightly lectures in Canberra over a cider or a vino, and most of all, I will miss his friendship.

“Rest In Peace mate, you will be dearly missed.”

The Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) offered its condolences from former chief Peter Garske.

“The passing of Alex Gallacher, South Australian ALP Senator, aged 67, has left both myself and my wife Anne with a deep sadness,” Garske wrote.

“Our friendship over 27 years was built on our understanding of his many qualities.  Family was always a priority from which all of life’s activities flowed.

“Alex was a lifelong achiever but always open to new learnings. 

“He had a great vision and could see things anew/differently to others. 

“When he was elected to the Senate in 2010 nothing changed in Alex. 

“This transition in his life was another opportunity to support and assist those in the community with the greatest need.

“He had an exceptional mind for quickly grasping new concepts. 

“Those who knew him well knew he was the smartest man in the room. 

“He had an exceptionally strong social justice ethic but always with a pragmatic outlook. 

“He was unafraid to call out his own colleagues. 

“Alex never looked to impress anyone. 

“He was his own man with a strong sense of loyalty. 

“He was a great judge of character.

“Highlights of his life included his contribution to Family, to the Road Freight/Trucking Industry, to Industrial Relations, to Industry Superannuation Funds, and to the Australian Senate. 

“He had a passion for golf.

“Condolences to his wife Paola, his four adult children, his wider Scottish and Italian families and his many friends.

“He will be missed.”

Meanwhile, the executive council and secretariat of the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) extended its condolences to family, friends and colleagues Gallacher.

The VTA also noted as a director of industry fund TWUSuper, Gallacher advocated for the financial interests of transport workers in retirement.

“As a Fund director, Alex was chair of the Investment Committee where he established protocols and culture which are still followed today.”

Further, “Alex was elected to federal Parliament as an ALP Senator in 2010 where he was able to continue his passion for representing transport workers, and communities in need.

“In the Senate he was a staunch advocate for road safety, also chairing several parliamentary committees, including on foreign affairs, trade and economics.

“Alex had the skill to solve complex problems by using common sense and the wisdom gained over many years of listening to people to people from all walks of life. He possessed an uncanny ability to separate fact from fiction.

“The VTA was fortunate to work with Alex in his various transport industry representative roles, developing a respect for his genuine interest in advocating for the prosperity of the industry and its workers.

“We extend our sincere sympathies to his wife Paola, his four adult children, and his many friends and colleagues.”


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