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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4423


Mr RUDDOCK (Berowra) (11:16): I very much wanted to be associated with this condolence motion. Lionel Bowen retired from this parliament 22 years ago, and I dare say I am one of the few members of the House of Representatives who had the great privilege of serving with him. In a sense, I always felt a very special personal linkage with him, notwithstanding the fact that we served on different sides of the House.

Lionel Bowen was born in Sydney on 28 December 1922. He left school at 14 but completed his studies at night school and later obtained a law degree from my old alma mater, the University of Sydney. In those difficult times, many people achieved a great deal, despite the considerable disadvantage that they suffered in early life. My own father's career was similar in the sense that he had to earn scholarships and places in school and university in order to succeed. Lionel Bowen practised as a solicitor, as I did, working primarily in the area of local government. His firm, Bowen & Packham, was across the road from my firm, Berne Murray & Tout. There was a time when lawyers had to frequent each other's offices, usually to get moratorium certificates signed or certificates in relation to leases that a client of yours had received independent advice on, and frequently I attended Lionel's office—long before he became a member of parliament. That firm continued as Bowen & Gerathy at a later point in time.

From 1948 to 1962, Lionel Bowen was an alderman of Randwick Municipal Council. He was mayor between 1950 and 1951, and 1955 and 1956. I saw some synergies with the Ruddock family. My father entered local government—the Shire of Hornsby—in 1952, I think, and was there until he was elected to parliament in 1964. He also served a single term as mayor and another term as acting mayor. Lionel Bowen was elected to the Parliament of New South Wales and served there as the member for Randwick. Over that time, 1962 to 1969, he served with my late father. I made an error earlier: my father served from 1962 in the state parliament, until 1976. Lionel was elected to the House of Representatives as the member for Kingsford-Smith in 1969 serving until his retirement shortly before the 1990 election. My father aspired to serve in the federal parliament. That was never to be. My wife used to say that I walked in his shoes in a sense with a much easier path albeit almost 39 years ago.

I served with Lionel Bowen from 1973 until 1990 as a member of the House of Representatives and I had the opportunity of seeing him serve as Postmaster-General from 1972 to 1974, Special Minister of State from 1973 to 1975, minister assisting the Prime Minister from 1973 to 1974, minister assisting the Prime Minister in matters relating to the Public Service from 1974 to 1975, and Minister for Manufacturing Industry between June 1975 and November 1975. That was while Labor was in government, and then it moved into opposition and in December 1977 he was elected the Labor Party's deputy leader. He was in that post until April 1990. He was Deputy Prime Minister from March 1983 to April 1990. He served as Minister for Trade, as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Commonwealth-State Relations, as Vice-President of the Executive Council and as Attorney-General from 1984 to 1990. In 1989 he passed Ben Chifley's record as the longest serving minister in governments of the Australian Labor Party.

I had the great privilege in 1977 to be elected chairman of the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act, to review the act that had been introduced by Lionel Murphy. It was a very significant committee but what was most significant for me was that Lionel Bowen was the Labor Party's deputy leader and Lionel Bowen, as its shadow Attorney-General, saw fit to serve on that committee of the parliament. There is often some sensitivity by people who have served at a senior level and go back and serve on parliamentary committees. I think Lionel Bowen is an example of one gentleman who believed it was important to contribute to the parliament and the debates and the discussions in which we were involved and to contribute at the very highest level, whatever one's position in the parliament. I look back at some of the very kind remarks he made about me as chairman of that committee but I felt greatly privileged to be able to have him serving beside me in reviewing legislation that had been extraordinarily controversial in its time and in putting in place positive recommendations that survive even to today.

I think it is a great tribute, and I do not think this has been referred to before, that one of our significant courts buildings in Sydney is named after Lionel Bowen. I think he deserved it. I think that was right and proper. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1991. He served Australia for 42 years across three levels of government. I think somebody who was able to serve in the very diverse ways he did and who could see the very significant achievements that he had been able to make in government progressed deserves commendation for the great contribution he made to Australia. To his wife, Claire, to whom I have written and whom I saw on the occasion of the state funeral, I extend the condolences of the Ruddock family and I do so to all of the Bowen family.