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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 2103


Mr HUTCHINSON (Lyons) (18:15): On behalf of the people of Lyons it is indeed a great honour to stand here to recognise a true giant of the 20th century. Notwithstanding that some will struggle to understand why I chose to speak on this motion, he was for much of his life a controversial figure. Like all of us, he had his failings but in some way I think that all, including his detractors, could recognise the legacy that he finally left South Africa and perhaps the world with. There but for the grace of God go I, I suspect. Until you have walked in his shoes, it might be hard to judge. Nelson Mandela said:

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

It is a philosophy that this man lived and breathed from the time of his imprisonment through a long and distinguished public life following his release. It is the kind of philosophy that shaped him as a beacon for freedom in our time.

The world mourns a great leader of his people in Nelson Mandela, a revolutionary, a politician and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 until 1999. Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was one of our country's first leaders to meet Mr Mandela. Mr Mandela was still in prison at Pollsmoor in Cape Town, to where he had been moved. It was 1986 and Mr Mandela, aged 67, was 23 years into what would be 27 years spent in jail. Former Prime Minister Mr Fraser visited him as then chairman of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group which was charged to help South Africa to speed up the end of apartheid. As Stuart Rintoul said in The Australian newspaper at the weekend, prison 'authorities … had sent a tailor to fit him out for a pinstripe suit so he would not have to meet the former Australian prime minister in his old prison clothes'. He met Mr Fraser with a question, 'Tell me, Mr Fraser, is Donald Bradman still alive?' Mr Fraser told Rintoul that he and Mr Mandela met in the prison grounds, but even there he had a natural authority and presence. It also pleased him greatly to find out that Don Bradman was indeed still alive!

I join millions of people across the world who mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela. He will be remembered as a humble man who showed us the best of the human spirit and who fought all his life against injustice not only in his own country but internationally. His speech at the Rivonia trial in 1964 before he went to prison gave the world the first inkling that this was a man who would stand alongside India's Mahatma Gandhi as one of the generation's great leaders for peace. His words could be the mantra for those who strive for a free society in which all people are equal. He said:

I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

We live in a privileged country and I struggle to imagine personally what I or others would have been capable of doing presented with similar circumstances. Thank you for the opportunity.