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Tuesday, 8 May 2012
Page: 4127


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:03): I move:

That the House express its deep regret at the death on 1 April 2012 of the Honourable Lionel Frost Bowen AC, a Minister and Member of this House for the Division of Kingsford-Smith from 1969 to 1990, place on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tender its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

Lionel Bowen's death in April robbed Australia of one of its greatest Labor men. He was famous for his remarkable humility and grace, and when he died this was widely and rightly remembered. We must not forget that Lionel Bowen was a man of remarkable high achievement too. Dennis Atkins, writing in the Courier-Mail, captured this rather well when he observed:

He revelled in being an everyman but he knew he was special.

Lionel Bowen was born to poverty and left school at 14 to help his mother pay the bills. Yet he continued his education, matriculated from night school, completed a law degree and decades later became Attorney-General of Australia. He served his country in uniform and decades later served his country as Deputy Prime Minister. He never forgot his humble beginnings but his horizon was never limited by them either.

Lionel Bowen's place in our history is assured not only for his own achievements but for paving the way for so many of us who are here now. He walked a path through life so many of us follow today. He was first in his family to go to university and was active in politics from his youth. He was a mayor in his 20s, a state member and then federal MP in his 40s and a minister in his 50s. His was a life dedicated to serving working people through politics. It is a life shared by many members of my government and this parliament today.

Lionel Bowen was a school cleaner's son. His mother gave him to the Labor movement, the Labor movement gave him to the nation. In death we remember him as we knew him in life—as a patriot, a man of party, both passionate and unpretentious. We have lost a very great Australian and we know his family has lost much more.

On behalf of the government I offer my condolences to his wife, Claire, their children, many grandchildren and extended family.