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Tuesday, 7 May 1985
Page: 1411

Senator BUTTON (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —It is with deep regret that I inform the Senate of the death on 3 May 1985 of the Hon. Sir Percy Spender, former Minister of the Crown and member of the House of Representatives. I seek leave to move a motion of condolence.

Leave granted.

Senator BUTTON —I move:

That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death, on 3 May 1985, of the Hon. Sir Percy Claude Spender, KCVO, KBE, QC, a former Minister of the Crown and member of the House of Representatives for the division of Warringah, New South Wales, from 1937 to 1951, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and the members of his family in their bereavement.

The Hon. Sir Percy Spender died on Friday, 3 May 1985. He had a long and distinguished record in Australian public life. He was born above his father's locksmith shop in Darlinghurst in 1897 and spent his boyhood in Sydney. He had a very distinguished academic career as a young man, winning a university medal and first honours in law at Sydney University. After his graduation, having spent 11 years at the Bar, he became a King's Counsel at the age of 37. In 1937 he was elected for the seat of Warringah and served in the House of Representatives for 14 years. He rose quickly to the Ministry and served in the War Cabinet between 1939 and 1941. He was at different times Treasurer, Minister for the Army and Minister for External Affairs and External Territories.

It was perhaps in his role as Minister for External Affairs, as it was then called, that Sir Percy made his greatest contribution to Australian public life. As Australia's Foreign Minister he appreciated the importance to Australia of Asia and the Pacific and understood the fundamental necessity of the Australian-American alliance. Honourable senators who recall that period will remember the growing attempts by Australia to re-orientate itself as a predominantly Anglo-Saxon country in the South Pacific region and the role Sir Percy Spender played in that process. It was also through his belief in and commitment to the alliance that he played a central role in the conclusion of the ANZUS Treaty. That, of course, has been the subject of some Press discussion since his death.

Sir Percy Spender's service to his country did not end with his retirement from the House of Representatives in 1951 because in that year he was appointed Ambassador to the United States of America where he continued for seven years to build on the ties established in the course of his relationship with the United States as Australian Foreign Minister. In 1958 he was appointed to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, and in 1964 was elected its President. As I have indicated, Sir Percy Spender's life was marked by achievement at the Bar, in Parliament and on the world stage in the International Court. It was a life dedicated to the service of Australia and to the wider international community. On behalf of the Government, I extend to his widow and family our sincerest sympathy and our regret at the passing of a very distinguished Australian.