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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 8493


Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (17:32): As Edmund Burke once famously wrote, 'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.' However, Nancy Wake's life demonstrates that the famous quote should be rewritten and for all time remembered as: 'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men and women do nothing.'

Nancy Wake was born in Wellington in New Zealand in 1912. Nancy was the youngest of six children, and in 1914, when she was just two, her family moved to Sydney. At the age of 16, she left Sydney and travelled to New York, then later to London, where she trained as a journalist. In the 1930s she worked in Paris, where in 1937 she met a wealthy French industrialist, Henri Fiocca, whom she married on the eve of World War II.

Nancy could have escaped France and she could have gone to the relative safety of New York and seen the war out there, but instead she elected to stay and fight and to risk her life every day by taking on the Nazis, helping downed British pilots and Jewish families to escape. Through her efforts, by 1943 she was the Gestapo's most wanted person, with a five million franc price on her head. So she decided to relocate to Britain, where she joined the Special Operations Executive. On the night of 29 April 1944, she was parachuted back into France to join the resistance. A French resistance comrade said of Nancy Wake that, when fighting, she was like five men and she would kill the enemy with her bare hands. Immediately after the war, Nancy Wake learnt that the Gestapo had tortured her husband to death in 1943 for his refusing to disclose her whereabouts.

Upon her return to Australia, Nancy joined the New South Wales Liberal Party, and we are proud to call her one of our own. Never one to run from a fight, Nancy Wake was the Liberal candidate for the Sydney seat of Barton in 1949—running against Dr Evatt, the Deputy Prime Minister, Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs in the Chifley government. She needed a 16 per cent swing. While Chifley lost government to Robert Menzies, Wake recorded a 13 per cent swing against Evatt, with Evatt retaining the seat with a two-party preferred vote of 53.2 per cent. In 1951 Wake ran again. This time, Evatt was Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Again the result was extremely close, however, Evatt retained the seat with a margin of fewer than 250 votes. As an example of the truism that the more things change, the more they stay the same, an article from page 2 of the Sydney Morning Herald on 25 April 1951, entitled 'Whispering Campaign: Liberal claim in Barton', reads:

Communists had associated with Dr. H. V. Evatt's campaign organisers to make the election fight for Barton electorate "a filthy campaign," Mr. H. R. Mallard alleged yesterday.

Mr. Mallard is campaign director for Mrs. Nancy Wake, Liberal Party candidate opposing Dr. Evatt, who holds the Barton seat.

Mr. Mallard said opposition supporters had started a whispering campaign "concocting all sorts of lying stories about Mrs. Wake.

"One is that she was chucked out of Legacy," he said. "The truth is she resigned from Legacy last year.

"Another is she dealt on the blackmarket in France while serving with the French Underground Movement.

"Mrs. Wake certainly dealt on the blackmarket there. She had to because she had only two ration books—her husband's and her own—with which to feed 50 Allied airmen she was sheltering from the Nazis."

In the 1966 election Wake was again preselected, for the seat of Kingsford Smith. Despite recording a swing of 6.9 per cent against the sitting Labor member, Daniel Curtin, she was again unsuccessful. Our parliament is the poorer for not having had Nancy Wake as a member. One can only imagine the contribution she would have made to our parliament and our society if she had had the opportunity to represent her area in the federal parliament.

Nancy Wake died on 7 August 2011, aged 98, at Kingston Hospital. We salute her bravery, her life, her selflessness and her service. She was a true hero in every sense of the word. We trust that the Nancy Wake story will continue to be told for generations, to serve as an inspiration to us all. May she rest in peace.