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Thursday, 21 February 1985
Page: 22


Senator SIBRAA —As a senator from New South Wales I wish to associate myself with this motion of condolence for the late Sir William McKell, a remarkable Australian and one of the great Labor Premiers of New South Wales. Sir William McKell was born in 1891-the year in which the Australian Labor Party was formed. During his lifetime he saw the Labor Party emerge as the major political force in New South Wales. The Labor governments that he led clearly established a style and an agenda for all future New South Wales Labor governments. McKell was directly responsible for fashioning Labor's 1941 electoral triumph, and subsequent electoral triumphs. For example, his selection of local identities such as Billy Sheahan, Jack Renshaw and Eddie Graham, to name but a few, to run for the Labor Party in rural seats proved enormously successful.

The years of McKell Labor government were responsible for many lasting reforms. Chief amongst them included an expanded workers compensation Act, a new factories and shops Act, a lay-by sales reform Act, a hire purchase Act, a money-lenders Act and pensions for miners at the age of 60. The McKell governments were also responsible for performing massive civil airport and road construction works in New South Wales. In addition to those reforms McKell was a great conservationist. In 1943 McKell was directly responsible for claiming one and a quarter million acres of the Southern Alps for the Kosciusko National Park. Bob Carr, the New South Wales Minister for Planning and Environment, in a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald, noted:

It was the first great conservationist battle and McKell was the first significant environmentalist in politics.

The McKell legacy is afforded special prominence by the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party through an annual lecture named in his honour. The inaugural speech was delivered by the Premier of New South Wales, Neville Wran, in the presence of Sir William in 1982. Unfortunately, ill-health prevented him from attending the 1984 lecture delivered by the noted Australian author, Thomas Keneally. However, the lecture will continue to highlight the memory of Sir William and his distinguished career for many years to come.

In conclusion, I again refer to the words of Bob Carr, who said of Sir William:

His career had demonstrated that in politics a single individual with good values could make a difference. Hike to the peak of Kosciusko and look across the Alps. What memorial could beat that.


The PRESIDENT —The late Sir William McKell was a close personal friend of my late father. About three months before his death I had the honour of having him as my guest for lunch one day. That lunch was one of the most memorable experiences that I will ever have. I invite honourable senators to rise in silence as a mark of respect to the late Sir William McKell.

Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable senators standing in their places.