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Monday, 26 May 1997
Page: 3949

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister)(2.00 p.m.) —I move:

That the House expresses its deep regret at the death on Wednesday, 21 May 1997, of the Honourable Sir William John Aston, KCMG, a Member of this House for the Division of Phillip from 1955 to 1961 and 1963 to 1972, Deputy Government Whip from 1959 to 1961 and 1963 to 1964, Government Whip from 1964 to 1967 and Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1967 to 1972, places on record its appreciation of his long and significant public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their loss.

Sir William was born on 19 September 1916 at Sydney, New South Wales. His service to this nation began early. As a young man during World War II, he enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces, transferring soon after to the Second Australian Imperial Force. He served in New Guinea and rose from gunner to the rank of lieutenant with the 82nd Australian Mobile Searchlight Battery.

Before entering federal parliament, Sir William was already active and successful in local politics. He was an alderman of the Waverley Council from 1949 to 1953, during which time he was Mayor from 1952 to 1953.

Sir William became a member of the House of Representatives in 1955 when he won the New South Wales seat of Phillip for the Liberal Party. He held that seat until the election in 1961 and he returned as representative for Phillip for two years in 1963, holding the seat again until his defeat in 1972.

His maiden speech in the House in March 1956 was characterised by his concern for the issues then facing Australia in the Cold War era and the difficulties confronting the wheat and wool industries. He also spoke on the need for the government of the day to communicate and explain its policies to the people and the need for streamlining the country's industrial relations system—issues which are, perhaps not surprisingly, equally pertinent and important today.

During his 15 years in parliament, Sir William contributed extensively to the work of a range of parliamentary committees, including the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House.

As I mentioned before, Sir William also served as Deputy Government Whip from 1959 to 1961 and from 1963 to 1964. The pinnacle of his political career came when he was elected Speaker in 1967. The six years that he occupied the Speaker's chair saw some colourful episodes and turbulent debates in this parliament, which tested his mettle and his impressive parliamentary and political skills.

Sir William's public service was recognised both overseas and at home. In 1969 he was awarded the Korea Order of Distinguished Service Merit, 1st Class, for his contributions to the promotion of friendly relations between the Republic of Korea and the Commonwealth of Australia. In 1970 he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George.

The passing of Sir William will be mourned by those who knew him well.  On behalf of the government, I extend to his wife, Lady Betty Aston, and his daughters, Margaret and Anne, son-in-law, Edward, and grandchildren, William, Elizabeth and Catherine, our most sincere sympathy in their bereavement.