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Wednesday, 10 September 2003
Page: 19689


Mr ANDERSON (Deputy Prime Minister) (2:16 PM) —I join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in remembering Senator Don Willesee. He started his career, as has been mentioned, as a messenger boy for the post office before becoming a telegraph operator in 1937. He worked as a telegraphist for most of the Second World War. He no doubt would have been sobered by handling innumerable telegrams that began with the words, `It is with deep regret that I have to inform you,' and ended with, `... the profound sympathy of the Minister for the Army and the Military Board.'

Others have touched on his role as foreign minister. I would just like to touch on one of his decisions—I think a very valuable one—as Special Minister of State. By the early 1970s, governments had begun to realise the potential of networking computers and making large amounts of knowledge available to users everywhere, something we now take for granted. For example, they could see the enormous boost to scientific and industrial research that would occur if researchers could easily access all of the recent work that had been undertaken in their own discipline or field. In 1973 Senator Willesee backed the establishment of a computerised library information system to meet the national, state and university libraries' needs, and indeed by 1985 almost 300 Australian libraries used the system, which has now been expanded and transformed through the World Wide Web. Today of course it is an important part of Australia's national infrastructure, and part of Don Willesee's legacy that he helped create a system that contributes every day to new Australian ideas and technologies. So I join with the previous leaders in expressing my condolences to his wife and his six children, including Terry Willesee, who interviewed me on Monday night with complete professionalism. Indeed, now knowing what he was facing in a family sense, I particularly respect his bravery that night and also his decency, his wit and his insight. I think that reflects very well on the man that we commemorate today.