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Monday, 11 August 2003
Page: 17952

Ms GRIERSON (2:13 PM) —As the current member for Newcastle, I rise to speak in condolence for Hon. Charles Keith Jones, affectionately known as C.K. or Charlie to all of us. Charlie Jones was a Labor man who became a true Labor leader. His grandfather was a founding member of the ALP in Newcastle, and Charlie remained until his death an active ALP member and supporter. Charlie was an active delegate to my Newcastle FEC and was regarded by other delegates as the guardian of Labor values and traditions. We were fortunate for his guidance. Charles Keith Jones represented the people of Newcastle as a councillor and as their member in the Australian parliament for a period of 36 years in total. In that time, Charlie never lost sight of his role and purpose. For him, public office was a privilege, and representing the working people was the greatest tribute and honour anyone could aspire to. His sense of duty to the people was always his guide, and the real test, he said, that should apply to any government and their decisions.

Charlie Jones was a Tighes Hill boy, educated at his local primary school and then at Cooks Hill High School. These were suburbs where hardship and struggle built vibrant and strong communities. He was a working man and a true believer in the fair go. After serving his apprenticeship he worked as a boilermaker at BHP and the State Dockyard at a time when shipbuilding and steel making ruled our town. His experiences made him a champion of the working man with a deep commitment to an industrial way of life which built the city of Newcastle but which sadly is now disappearing. He took up that cause through the boilermakers union and later in public office.

As a councillor for 12 years he became the youngest ever Mayor of Newcastle and the first Labor man to hold that high office. A visible legacy of his term in council is Blackbutt Nature Reserve in the heart of our city, which Charlie helped to have preserved for the people of Newcastle to enjoy forever. He went on to become the third member for Newcastle, serving from 1958 to 1983. In that time, Charlie was never arrogant and never reserved in speaking out for Newcastle. In Old Parliament House he shared a tiny office with Tom Uren, Frank Crean and Jim Cairns—all Labor legends. Tom referred to Charlie as a very good minister and one of the straight left. There was no nonsense with Charlie; he was forthright and frank in his views and always called a spade a bloody shovel.

In his maiden speech as a member of the opposition backbench he pondered the government's failure to rise to the challenges in our electorate of Newcastle: ever-growing unemployment resulting from technological change, the crisis in affordability and quality of housing, the appalling demise of the shipbuilding industry and the ongoing plight of pensioners. Those causes were dear to his heart forever. In his first speech he stated that mechanisation was welcomed, but he demanded for the working class movement the right to share in the proceeds. I quote Charlie's words about the productivity gains from mechanisation, which typified his view of equity and social justice: `It should not be a one-way ticket with the employing class reaping all the benefits.' Charlie would say that is as true today as it was then.

He also spoke of the then government's attempts to weaken the trade union movement, and claimed that the government of that day had been elected on hollow catchcries and not realities. He urged that government to invest in a coal based chemical and liquid fuel industry for this country. He still held those views. He also criticised the government for their failure to grant Newcastle a television licence, their failure to support a local airport—which we now have—and their neglect of the shipbuilding industry. Foreign flags and the demise of the Australian National Line came in for special mention. Charlie would have been very pleased with the recent High Court decision upholding Australian working conditions for those employed on ships in Australian waters.

As Minister for Transport in the Whitlam government from 1972 to 1975 and as Minister for Civil Aviation from 1972 to 1973, C.K. Jones was part of an amazing time in Australia's history. His greatest achievements included pioneering the national highway system we know today and merging shipping, land transport and aviation into one department. In that era it was the custom to name trains after public figures. Two Australian National Line locomotives were named the Gough Whitlam and the Charlie Jones—a powerful combination indeed. Perhaps not quite in the sprit of bipartisanship, the locomotive named the William McMahon was inevitably known by Charlie as the `Puffing Billy'.

Charlie Jones is on the record as taking a point of order seeking clarification from the then Speaker, Sir Billy Snedden. The Speaker had stated that a question can be asked but the questioner is not entitled to demand an answer to his question. Charlie rose on a point of order asking for clarification and whether that meant that question time should really be called questions without answers. He was quite an astute man.

But Charlie Jones was also a family man and a friend to many. He will be missed. On behalf of the people of Newcastle and his colleagues here, past and present, I convey my condolences and sincere sympathy to Charlie's family: his wife, Doreen; his son, Ken; his daughter, Fay; and to other family members and friends. Doreen was his very much adored and usually obeyed wife. She was always part of Charlie's strength and achievements and deserves our special thanks; and also condolences for the loss of her lifetime partner. The last time I spoke to Charlie was at the last meeting of the Jesmond and North Lambton branch of the ALP. He told me that he and Doreen were ageing and that she was ready to leave and move to a smaller home. He told me, though, that his North Lambton home was good enough for him and always would be and that he never wanted to leave the electorate of Newcastle. Charlie had his way in the end and can now rest in peace.

I was very privileged to have his support and encouragement, and I register my thanks for that. When preselection came for the seat of Newcastle, he told me straight that the candidate should be a man of the trades and industry. He told me, though, that a daughter of the working class, from a family of miners, dockers and wharfies, who grew up in Tighes Hill would have to be good enough for him. I will always try to be good enough for him. So, Charlie, the people of Newcastle and I salute and thank you.

Question agreed to, honourable members standing in their places.