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Thursday, 21 February 1985
Page: 21

Senator BUTTON (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —I move:

That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death, on 11 January 1985, of the Rt Hon. Sir William John McKell, GCMG, AC, a former Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia from 1947 to 1953 and Premier of New South Wales from 1941 to 1947; and places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.

Sir William McKell was born in New South Wales on 26 September 1891. He had a very full, long and productive life which encompassed all the formative years and the most momentous events of a modern epoch of Australian history. He left school at the age of 13 and became an apprentice boilermaker and formed, at a very early age, an apprentices' union. He was subsequently a union official for some time and was then elected to the New South Wales Parliament in 1917. In his early days during his period in the New South Wales Parliament, which spanned 30 years, he studied law and was called to the Bar in 1925. He held several ministerial posts in Labor governments. He became Leader of the Opposition in 1939 and was Premier and Treasurer of New South Wales from May 1941 until his resignation in 1947. He was Governor-General of Australia from 1947 to 1953.

Sir William McKell had a remarkable career of service to the Australian Labor Party, to the Parliament of New South Wales and to the people of Australia. His premiership of New South Wales embraced the entire period of the war in the Pacific, while his years as Governor-General covered the years of the post-war transition. After the burden of the war years and the two most difficult of the immediate post-war years, Sir William McKell proposed to retire into private life at the early age of 56. At that time he had no expectations that he would be appointed as the second Australian-born Governor-General. He could not have anticipated the wrath and hostility the appointment caused in certain quarters, a resentment almost incomprehensible to most of the present generation of Australians. It is a mark of a man that the tremendous personal integrity, natural dignity and strength of character McKell brought to his office as Governor-General converted all but his most ardent detractors into admirers. In the discharge of his office as Governor-General he adhered scrupulously to the fundamental principle of parliamentary democracy that the Governor-General acts on the advice of the elected government.

The Australian Labor Party had a great servant in Bill McKell. He was a great party man, a great Australian and a great democrat. He was a patriot and he had great faith in the people and future of his country. He enjoyed that faith and belief in the future of this country and an active interest in public affairs until quite recently before his death. It was a remarkably long life, a remarkable career and a great contribution to this country. I am privileged to be able to move the motion which I have moved.