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Thursday, 17 October 1996
Page: 5708

Mr TIM FISCHER (Deputy Prime Minister)(9.41 a.m.) —I rise to support this condolence motion in respect of the Hon. Rendle McNeilage Holten, or Mac as so many of us knew him. He was a neighbour to my then state electorates of Sturt and Murray when I first entered the New South Wales parliament many years ago.

Mac Holten gave outstanding service for almost two decades in the federal parliament, but he gave to the community for a far longer period. He was, as the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Beazley) have said, a Minister for Repatriation and a Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry. He was perhaps not always showing up as being one who wanted to break the mould, but in his own way he did seek to do that.

Very early in the piece, back in 1968, he made a visit to Lima and to South America as he recognised that in the trading tapestry of the world, as it was changing then and is changing now, Australia needed to look not only as a priority to Asia but also beyond that. So it was that Mac Holten travelled the world partly in his role as assistant minister for trade and also as the then federal member for Indi.

Mac Holten as a minister did not forget his party links either. I recall vividly the times he helped out when it was difficult for him to do so, when it was an added commitment against his family time on weekends and the like. He would cross over to campaign in the electorate of Riverina, most notably to come and give workshops with regard to that historic campaign in the seat of Riverina which saw the defeat of a sitting Labor member for Riverina in the 1974 elections. In fact, Mac did not recognise that border; he was often on both sides of the Murray River helping people, helping veterans, helping out in the party political sense. He always had an open door approach to people wherever they came from, especially in relation to the portfolios he held.

His love of the Collingwood Football Club was paramount in his sporting activity, more generally around Wangaratta, as was water skiing on the same said Murray River with people like John and Shirley Nolan and others during his fitter years. I know my former colleagues and former members of this parliament, Doug Anthony, Ralph Hunt, Peter Nixon and many others, would want for me to add their voice to this condolence motion, their great respect for Mac Holten, one of their colleagues with whom they worked for so many years during periods of previous coalition governments. The right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) and the member for Richmond (Mr Anthony) are in Victoria this day attending the memorial service and have asked that I also add their support of this condolence motion.

In one sense to me, as a younger, newer member of the state parliament just out of the army, Mac Holten stood and loomed as a figure larger than life. He was always a help, a guide and a mentor from the border region of Australia.

Mac, you served your country well, particularly in World War II. You went on to serve the community in a raft of ways, not just as the federal member for Indi. I extend sympathy to his widow Shirley and family and say that they can be rightfully proud of the contribution Mac Holten made to our nation.