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Tuesday, 3 March 1998
Page: 248


Mr ABBOTT (10:46 PM) —Bob Santamaria's state funeral today was a great national as well as Catholic occasion. It should not pass unnoticed in this House. For the record, it was attended by the Prime Minister (Mr Howard), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Tim Fischer), the Treasurer (Mr Costello), the Minister for Communications, the Information Economy and the Arts (Senator Alston), the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (Dr Kemp) and the members for Warringah (Mr Abbott), Mitchell (Mr Cadman), North Sydney (Mr Hockey), Menzies (Mr Andrews), Gippsland (Mr McGauran), Hinkler (Mr Neville), Bradfield (Dr Nelson) and Sturt (Mr Pyne). It was attended by senators Boswell and Heffernan and perhaps others I did not notice amongst the great concourse of people. It was attended by your good self, Mr Deputy Speaker, the former Prime Minister Mr Fraser, Senator Harradine and the member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) representing the Leader of the Opposition.

`Set ye up a standard in the land and blow the trumpet amongst the people.' Bob Santamaria might as well have taken that for his personal motto. He never wavered, hesitated or hedged from his firmness in the right as God gave him to see that right. I first met him when I was 19 and ever after he was a friend, a mentor and a guide. I recall him telling some uppity youngsters that they could take an issue to the media if they liked, but under those circumstances they would need to go on their knees every night and ask for humility lest their heads get too big for their brains. I have to confess that I always found it easier to love the man than to take all of his advice.

He left three great legacies to our country. First, the destruction of communist power in the trade union movement. Second, he built a bridge enabling Catholics to break out of the Labor political ghetto that they had been locked into for too long, a bridge which enabled them to take their rightful place in whichever political party took their fancy. Finally, he taught three generations of Catholics that their faith had a social corollary and that you did not leave Catholic values at the door of the church on Sunday. For nearly 60 years he was an inspiration and a prophet to tens of thousands of people in unions, political parties, the media, universities and various churches. Even for his critics he was part of the intellectual landscape. He was a philosophical star by which you could always steer.

Throughout this time he fought against the rampant state and the rampant individual. He was just as much opposed to communism as he was to libertarianism. As he saw things he suffered many defeats. Archbishop George Pell told the congregation today that Bob's grandson had recently been working on a theological essay on the signs of hope, to which Santamaria had said, `They do not exist; there aren't any.' But even so legendary a pessimist as Bob would have been encouraged by the vast concourse of people, the great and the good, the obscure and the humble who packed the church today to see him off. He would be encouraged by that to hope that others will not fail in their time, their place and their way to take a stand for God, Australia and the universal church.

He once told an audience in Melbourne debating the Spanish Civil War that when the bullets of the atheists struck the statue of Christ outside the cathedral in Madrid, `For some this was just lead striking brass but for me those bullets were piercing the heart of Christ the King.' Some may have recalled today but a Cold War warrior or a Catholic zealot but to me he was the greatest living Australian, and there are not a few in this House who will, in their own way, try to keep the faith.