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Thursday, 14 June 1984
Page: 3089


Senator PETER RAE(10.53) —I wish to speak in entirely different terms in relation to the passing from the political scene of one of the people whom I believe to have been one of the great contributors to parliamentary democracy, to liberalism and to statesmanship in Australian politics. I refer to Max Bingham. Max Bingham, the Deputy Premier of Tasmania, has just resigned; he is to leave politics. He entered politics in 1969 as the Liberal member of the House of Assembly for Denison and was immediately made the Attorney-General, a position which he carried with great distinction. This might be expected from someone who had been a Tasmanian Rhodes Scholar, who was a QC and a Bachelor of Civil Laws from Oxford, who had an honours degree in law from the University of Tasmania and who had studied at Berkeley in the United States of America at the University of California.

Max Bingham is, I think, probably the person with whom I could say I have had one of the closest associations in my political career. I have felt a great affinity for him. I regret that he finds that the time has come for his resignation from politics. I think, probably, I could summarise by saying that one of the greatest disasters to befall my State of Tasmania has been the fact that Max Bingham never became the Premier of that State. Max Bingham is a man of extraordinary humility, a man of extraordinary ability, a man of extraordinary capacity capable of hard work and of seeing both sides of a question and a man who was probably not cut out for the rough and tumble of politics as it is so commonly played. I take the opportunity in this chamber to note the passing from the political scene of a man who contributed statesmanship to what is otherwise known as gutter politics. I believe that this is one thing that ought to be recognised on the rare occasions on which it does happen. So that I am not just giving my own view, I will quote from the Mercury newspaper of 15 May 1976. An article by Wayne Crawford about Max Bingham stated:

Of the rough-and-tumble row-making he says: 'I do it reluctantly' only because it's expected. It is not the way I operate. I have not been used to shouting and raving about things. I have never thought it necessary to conduct affairs at that level of decibels.

I commend those words to members of this chamber as an approach which I think is probably reflected here far more than it is in a place which is sometimes unkindly known as the monkey house. The same article continues:

Another difference Mr Bingham says he sees between the two parties is that of image and appeal.

With the aid of a young State Liberal president, Don Wing, and a young ticket- leading Senator, Peter Rae, he set out to broaden the appeal of the party to more than one of the Wilmot-dominated farmer's party and an organisation of silvertails.

He believes the appeal has been broadened to include a good cross-section-age, occupation, background, sex. 'I think the team of candidates will bear this out' .

The fact is that Max Bingham was one of those who set out to reform the Liberal Party from a position where it was as low as one could possibly get, holding four Senate seats out of 10 and no House of Representatives seats and being in opposition in the State Parliament. We needed to do something to reform the Party. Max Bingham played an extremely significant and important role in that reformation which led to a situation within a relatively short time of the Party having sufficient appeal, sufficient dynamism, sufficient forward movement and attraction to the voters to be able to win the greatest number of Senate seats and a majority of the House of Representatives seats-a majority which cannot be beaten, and that is all of them.


Senator Kilgariff —A tremendous effort.


Senator PETER RAE —I thank Senator Kilgariff. Max Bingham's contribution to that should never be overlooked. We sometimes hear people talk about what people did at a Federal level with regard to what happened in Tasmania in 1975. I pay tribute to what Max Bingham did in regard to what happened so far as the Liberal Party in Tasmania is concerned. The attitude which he portrayed, the frankness, the capacity to be a real person, an understanding person, a compassionate person, a real Liberal, were extremely important. I quote from a profile by Russell Schneider published in the Australian of 29 July 1979:

Perhaps it is his legal background which lets him see all sides of the question : He can see his own mistakes, he is a nice guy.

I would like to use those words to describe a man with whom it has been my pleasure to work over a period of years in politics. Together we developed what became known as the Tasmanian policy package. Tasmania has benefited, I believe, very greatly. Success has many parents; failure is an orphan. I believe that Max Bingham is one of the people who have received far too little credit for the success of the Tasmanian policy package and what was done for Tasmania in the period following 1975. I have among my records the relevant documents. I have Max Bingham's original document setting out the basic policy package for Tasmania. Many people have subsequently claimed the credit for what was done for Tasmania. But I simply say that I have the original document, signed by Max Bingham, much of which is in his own handwriting. Max Bingham's humility allowed a situation to develop whereby others took credit for a lot of what he did, which was of tremendous advantage to Tasmania. I pay credit, at the time of his resignation from politics, to what he achieved for Tasmania. He achieved more than any other person I have known in my long period of association with politics in Tasmania. As I said earlier, I regard the fact that he never became Premier of Tasmania as one of the misfortunes which have befallen our State. I do not wish to take an undue amount of time in this Federal chamber speaking about what amounts to a State matter, but I think that in the Senate, which is, after all, the States House, it is not inappropriate to recognise the termination of the political participation of one of the great State statesmen. I use those words very deliberately. I hope that they will be words which, as history eventually records this era, will be applied to Max Bingham-a great State statesman. I thank the Senate for the opportunity to speak.