Senator John Williams: Parkinson's disease diagnosis will not stop him working

SHEARER-SENATOR: Senator John Williams plans to retire in June, 2019, and was proud the past 11 years "was not a case of just sitting here and nodding my head to party policy".
SHEARER-SENATOR: Senator John Williams plans to retire in June, 2019, and was proud the past 11 years "was not a case of just sitting here and nodding my head to party policy".


SENATOR John Williams' social media accounts were overwhelmed with messages of support from friends and colleagues on both sides of politics after he revealed on Friday that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease almost 12 months ago.

But Senator Williams, 62, told Fairfax Media on Monday that it was an Inverell man suffering from the illness that led him to reveal his diagnosis publically.

"He has had the disease for just four years. He is not well. He has terrible tremors," Senator Williams said.

"I thought, well, people were asking my brother Peter; they were asking everyone what is wrong with me. So, I thought it was time to say well, let's make it public."

Senator Williams hoped he would be among the around 30 percent of sufferers who do not experience tremors.

"Look, I have been lucky," he said 

"I have had it for probably two years and had no signs of that. If I do, we will have to deal with it."

It was with that defiance that he faced the diagnosis.

"It is something I didn't want, something I didn't ask for, something I couldn't help getting," he said.

"(We will) Manage as best we can (and) look to the doctors and specialists to see what solutions come forward."

Senator John Williams

As his political career enters its final years, Senator Williams said he would stay at his Inverell property, Rob Roy, for as long as he could.

He has lived in the Inverell district since 1979 and said if his condition deteriorated, he would return to the farm.

"If I am in a situation -- hopefully, a long time ahead -- if I am having trouble walking, if I am on a walking frame or in a wheelchair, I would rather be at home on the farm," he said.

"I'm going to stay out at Rob Roy for as long as I can while I'm breathing."

The shearer-senator said he had read research linking the disease to exposure to farming chemicals, among other theories, but said the disease was "one of those things that (have) the experts baffled".

He has followed experimental stem cell research in Melbourne since his diagnosis and is hopeful for a cure.

"I am very keen to see, in 12 months time we will know the results and whether it has worked," he said.

"I am very lucky to live in a generation with so much progress -- where so much progress is being made in solving a lot of the medical problems."

During the announcement, he revealed he had experienced back pains and coordination issues with his left leg, which first alerted his Inverell GP to his condition.

He said he knew the extent of his condition as early as July last year, but said his doctor assured him his work would not be affected.

"The thing is, it affects people in such a varying way. This is important," he said.

"It is very varying the way people are affected by it, and hopefully, in time, I am one of those people who it doesn't have a big effect on me. Fingers crossed."

"I will see my term out for the next two years unless things really turn for the worst. I don't think that is going to happen. My doctor doesn't think that is going to happen; that I will be in a state where I can't do my job."

Senator Williams said this would be his last term in parliament, and was proud the past 11 years "was not a case of just sitting here and nodding my head to party policy".

He said his signature achievement in the Senate was launching an inquiry into the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, leading to reviews and compensation for up to 600,000 Australians' financial advice.

"I'm not disappointed one bit (nor) think that after 11 years, I will leave this place and have achieved nothing," he said.

"Hopefully, I can leave a legacy where a lot of people are treated a lot better."

He said he would spend his years after politics with his wife, Nancy, his children and grandchildren.

"I have always said this will be my last term. I will be finishing on the 30th of June, 2019," he said.

"We will probably have an election just prior to that, and I will be packing up the office and leaving, and (going) back to the life (where) I want to spend all my time with my wife and my children and my grandchildren."

Senator Williams was in Canberra on Monday for the first week of sitting Parliament. He said the first day was spent dealing with transport legislation and the second reading of a bill supporting dairy farmers. He said it was the busiest day for legislation "but (dealt with) nothing too controversial."