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Monday, 16 June 2003
Page: 16483


Mr JULL (9:05 PM) —I was saddened to learn of the death at the weekend of the late the honourable William Charles Wentworth IV. As was mentioned in the House earlier today, I am one of four members who served in this place with Bill Wentworth, the member for Mackellar for 28 years. I am sure Mr Wentworth was, as a member, what most of us on both sides would secretly love to be, and to achieve. For example, he crossed the floor frequently in his career—on more than 30 occasions. He proposed his own bills and motions, to the annoyance and discomfort of the government to which he belonged. He was one of the very last of the genuine rebels—or men of genuine independent spirit and will—in the House of Representatives and he served in a period when members not infrequently crossed the floor on matters of principle.

When I was first elected in 1975 and attended my first meeting of the joint parties in the party room in the old Parliament House, I found myself in the left-hand back corner, surrounded by the likes of Bill Wentworth, Senator Reg Wright from Tasmania, Peter Rae and others. I later learned that that particular part of the joint party room was known as `integrity corner'—and I can understand why. I still sit in exactly the same place and I hope I carry on the tradition of integrity corner in the joint party room. It was an interesting place to be—with people like Bill Wentworth and the late Kevin Cairns—to see how they played the business of government. I suppose because I served there, Bill Wentworth tended to stay in touch with me long after he left the parliament and was often on the phone with advice about what might be wrong with the economic policy, aviation policy, or some of the trade policies that we had.

I guess of all those who have served in this parliament since Federation, it was probably Bill Wentworth who contributed most to public policy and debate on public policy. His interests were many—foreign affairs and defence, the rights of Indigenous Australians, rail transport, urban traffic congestion, decentralisation, social security, economic policy and globalisation were amongst his subjects. When he was finally appointed to the ministry by the late John Grey Gorton in 1968, he became our first ever Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, a singularly appropriate appointment given his lifelong interest in Aboriginal Australians and his pivotal role in securing the passage of the 1967 referendum which enabled the Commonwealth to legislate on Indigenous issues.

Bill Wentworth was one of the most intelligent and knowledgeable members ever to serve in this place. He had an MA from Oxford, he was an economic adviser to the New South Wales Premier and he had published a book long before World War II—and long before he was elected to parliament in 1949. In his younger days, he was a great athlete at Oxford. In so many ways, he was ahead of his time, even though on issues of communism and national defence he was a reactionary and ever proud of it. One of my favourite speeches that I have heard over the years in this place was that most succinct contribution that came from Bill Wentworth on the death of the late Mao Tse Tung. After great and powerful speeches had been given by then Prime Minister Fraser, E.G. Whitlam, no doubt Doug Anthony, Andrew Peacock and the other leadership members of the government team of the day, it was Bill Wentworth who stood in his place and made his succinct contribution to the memory of Mao Tse Tung. That speech went thus:

Mr Speaker, Mao was a murderer.

And with that he walked out of the House and refused to take any further part in the debate or indeed in the condolence motion.

He railed against globalisation. He argued passionately for the protection of our key industries. He saw globalisation as almost as big a threat to the national interest as he once saw communism. But above all else, Bill Wentworth was a passionate Australian. We know that his great-grandfather was an early explorer and one of our earliest politicians, and Bill maintained his love for this country, for our land and for our heritage to the very end.

He was, at times, most eccentric, but in a delightful way. I am sure he never knew drycleaners existed or, if he did, I do not think he knew why they existed. Sir James Killen tells a delightful story about Bill Wentworth arriving outside his place in Brisbane in a hire car. He was there to discuss some policy. Some hours later Bill left in the hire car, at the ripe old age of 90 driving down the highway with the driver's door wide open, flapping in the breeze.

He was married to Barbara for 70 years, and they were a great couple. I am sure we all extend our sympathy to her and to all his family as we honour his memory and his great contribution to this country.