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Wednesday, 22 October 1986
Page: 1692


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition) —On behalf of the Opposition I indicate our support for the motion of condolence moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Button. Senator Button has already outlined the record of party, parliamentary and judicial service of the late Lionel Murphy. That service included leading his Party in the Senate both in opposition and in government, and involved a two-year period as Attorney-General and Minister for Customs and Excise. His career was wide ranging and, given the nature, great energies and wide interest of the man, inevitably controversial. I think it would be fair to say that was so when he served in opposition as well as in government, and indeed in his subsequent career on the Bench.

He was a man who inspired, great admiration and affection as well as strong opposition. I and my Opposition colleagues certainly stood in strong opposition to many of his ideas, while finding common ground with him on issues such as the development of the Senate committee system. The recent Senate committee report on in vitro fertilisation is a reminder of the value of the committee work of this chamber which he helped to foster. I served in the Senate for only a brief period while he was here, from mid-1974 to February 1975. In that brief time I had enough contact with him to understand some of the qualities that his friends found so attractive. He was convivial and hospitable, and notwithstanding his controversial role in Australian politics at that time he was very easy in his social relationships across party lines. He will be remembered for his contribution to the development of the Senate committee system and for some of the legislative initiatives which were undertaken by him during his period as Attorney-General. It is worth noting that the legislation most likely to be associated with his name, the Family Law Act, remains controversial to this day.

In speaking of the late Lionel Murphy I have used the word `controversial' a number of times and it does seem peculiarly apt when one remembers his life and career. Because of that he was often involved in strenuous differences with the Opposition and in some very strong personal clashes. Since coming to this place I have not been a keen reader of High Court judgments. On the basis of what I have read, however, it is clear that as a member of the High Court, Lionel Murphy brought an approach which was significantly different from that adopted by most judges in the past, not least because of his strong interest in United States precedents. I have no doubt that future legal scholars will study his influence on the Court and that by his judgments he will be seen to have made a contribution which is quite out of the ordinary.

His death was untimely given his age and the youth of his family. It was untimely also in that it left unfinished some of the final controversial issues that were so much a part of the pattern of his life. His death is a great loss to his wife, his young family and his many friends. On behalf of the Opposition I extend my sympathy to his wife, Ingrid, and his family, and to his friends both here and elsewhere, on account of his death and on account of the suffering they shared with him during his illness.