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Thursday, 25 June 1998
Page: 5474


Mr ADAMS (5:40 PM) —I wish to pay tribute to my Labor predecessor in the seat of Lyons, formerly Wilmot. The Reverend Gil Duthie AM, BA, Lth, JP passed away peacefully on Saturday, 13 June. A memorial service was held in his honour at the Uniting Church in Margaret Street, Launceston, on June 18. I was pleased to see both federal and state members there, including the state Leader of the Opposition, Mr Jim Bacon. Also present was past Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam. I know that the family appreciated his presence. Gil left behind his wife, Jeannette, three daughters and their families, and numerous grandchildren.

The service held was a celebration of a very full and successful life. Gil was born at Nhill in Victoria in 1912, the eldest of seven children. His family was fully involved in the church, so it was not surprising that he did a theological degree at Queen's College in 1937. From there he was sent to King Island as a probationary minister, and met his wife there. He was ordained in 1941 and married Jeannette two days later.

Gil's beliefs included a very strong social justice principle, and he embraced the Labor Party along with his religious beliefs. He was endorsed for the seat of Wilmot in March 1946 and, because he had to resign from his ministry at the time, he was virtually homeless while he was campaigning. He and his wife were taken in by friends, and Gil spent the next seven months roaming the highways and byways of Wilmot knocking on every door and introducing himself to the electorate. He was a complete stranger to the electorate and he built his campaign—and indeed his later work—on personal contact, meeting electors wherever they worked or lived or danced or played sport.

People asked him how he thought he had gone in the last few days of that campaign. In his own words, from a note he wrote for Labor in Lyons, he said, `Well, if you believe in omens, there are three good omens. My name is first on the ballot paper. Most of the rooms I slept in in the dozens of hotels and pubs I stayed in had the number 1 on the door. And the only time I met my opponent during the campaign was in the federal members' rooms in Launceston, and he was coming out and I was going in.'

Needless to say, Gil was elected comfortably against a national swing and remained in federal parliament to December 1975, a period of more than 29 years. Wilmot had been held by Labor for only 4½ years out of 44 till Gil won it, and was considered to be a Liberal stronghold. He did a magnificent job and went on to represent his electorate with enormous dedication and energy.

Gil was also Opposition Whip for 17 years, which also took up a lot of his time when he was in Canberra. But he never forgot his constituents, keeping up a killing pace of visits, appointments and functions all over the electorate. Wilmot was only fractionally smaller than Lyons is now, as it did not take in the west coast. The roads were far worse and the vehicles were slower in his day, so I can really empathise with his gruelling travel schedule.

When his reign finally came to an end with the political rout of 1975, he wrote his memoirs I had 50,000 Bosses. He was then readmitted to the Methodist ministry in March 1976—the Methodist Church becoming the Uniting Church in 1977. There he continued preaching until February this year when, after 66 years of preaching as a minister and a lay preacher, he gave his last sermon in Launceston. He said he was giving up because of health reasons.

Gil was a marvellous man with a great sense of humour and a tremendously optimistic outlook. Even in his last months, when he was fighting sickness, he always had time for a chat, a word of advice or some encouragement for anybody who called. He was always a friend. I know that if I needed advice or just to discuss a political point with him he would welcome me and go through it with enthusiasm. I extend my heartfelt condolences to his family, as I am sure all members of this House do. Gil's spirit will continue to roam in Wilmot, as it has for the last 60 years. Goodbye, Gil.