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Thursday, 17 October 1996
Page: 4345

Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia in the Senate)(9.37 a.m.) —On behalf of the National Party in the Senate, I rise to support the condolence motion moved by Senator Alston on behalf of the government for the former Country Party House of Representatives member, the Hon. Rendle Holten, who passed away last week after suffering a severe illness.

Mac Holten epitomised the all-round Australian achiever: great sportsman, successful small business operator, World War II test pilot, federal parliamentarian and minister, and respected community leader. The National Party is very proud to claim him as one of our most successful and effective representatives during his 19 years in federal parliament.

Mac Holten was born on 29 March 1922 and was educated at Scotch College, Melbourne. He was an immensely talented footballer. I know Senator Alston would be interested in this. He had an 80-game career with Collingwood and went on to coach the Magpies to a record four consecutive premierships. He was also a talented cricketer, playing at district level with the Melbourne Cricket Club and was heavily involved in local cricket, focusing on junior development. Mac's sporting career was interrupted by the outset of the Second World War, which saw him serve as a flying instructor and test pilot from 1941 to 1946.

After relocating to Wangaratta in 1949 he ran a successful retail grocery business. His business expertise was soon recognised by his peers when he served as President of the Wangaratta Chamber of Commerce until entering parliament in 1958, winning the seat of Indi for the then Australian Country Party.

In his first speech he foreshadowed some of the policy areas that he intended to pursue: primary industry, decentralisation, trade and education. He highlighted the great necessity of higher and technical education for all school leavers, the need for the government to facilitate the development of inland centres and the difficulties that were being faced by the dairy and wool industries at that time. He spoke prophetically of the need for stimulating reciprocal trade activities with the South East Asian nations, particularly the large market of Indonesia, an approach that he was later to pursue in his role of Assistant Trade Minister.

Mac Holten was an extremely hardworking and effective repatriation minister during the Gorton government. He was a staunch advocate for the veteran community and endeavoured to introduce constructive measures to improve their lives and those of their families. Key legislative initiatives he oversaw included removing the remaining discriminatory limitation for compensation benefits for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, providing guide dogs for blind veterans as part of their rehabilitation treatment, increasing living allowances under the soldiers' children education scheme, which provided education assistance for children of deceased, blinded or disabled servicemen.

As Assistant Trade Minister from 1971 to 1972, Mac Holten diligently pursued trade opportunities in South East Asia on behalf of Australian business. His parliamentary committee work included serving on the Joint Foreign Affairs Committee from 1962 to 1966, the Joint Public Works Committee from 1967 to 1969 and the House of Representatives Standing Committee from 1974 to 1977.

After an unexpected defeat in the 1977 election, Mac Holten was called on to make a further public contribution to serve as the administrator of Christmas Island from 1980 to 1982. He was highly praised for his role in facilitating the move toward increased local participation in island affairs during the time of his administration.

Mac Holten was an outstanding Australian who made a huge contribution to Australian public life both in times of war and peace, from the elevated heights of a federal minister to the grassroots community level. I know that he will be sadly missed by all who knew him, particularly by his former colleagues in the National Party. On behalf of the National Party in the Senate I extend to his wife Shirley and his three daughters our most sincere sympathy in their bereavement.