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Tuesday, 3 May 1994
Page: 25


Senator WATSON —I wish to join my colleagues in supporting this condolence motion and honouring the public service and life of former Tasmanian Senator John Edward Marriott. John Marriott was born in the small town of Elliott on the north-west coast of Tasmania in 1913. The youngest of four brothers, John Marriott was the son of a farmer and former Tasmanian member of the House of Assembly, Frank Marriott CMG, and his wife Maude. John's father Frank was blinded as a result of service in the First World War, but passed on a tradition of parliamentary service which was continued in later years by both John and his brother Fred, who also entered political service through the Tasmanian lower house.

  Following education at the two Church of England boys' schools in Tasmania, Launceston Grammar and Hutchins, John worked with the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Melbourne, then as a real estate agent in Burnie. Between 1938 and 1940 he was articled to a Launceston chartered accountant.

  The war years saw him undertake service in the AIF in the Middle East and New Guinea, in which areas he served with the Australian Corps of Signals and rose to the rank of captain. After the war, he remained on the reserve list with the rank of honorary captain.

  After the war, he worked as secretary to the fledgling Liberal Party in Hobart and from 1949 to 1953 he continued his political career into the parliamentary arena as secretary to the Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania. As is the case with so many who get a taste for politics as members of staff, John Marriott chose to pursue a parliamentary career and was selected to replace the deceased Tasmanian Liberal Senator J.H. Chamberlain in April 1953.

  John Marriott's parliamentary career spanned a diverse range of areas and included service on committees on publication, broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings, public works, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, members' pecuniary interests, estimates, the metric system of weights and measures and drug trafficking and drug abuse. At one stage in 1970, John Marriott was proud to claim the chairmanship of four committees and he never shirked the hard work involved in being what he was proud to be, a full-time politician.

  John was also actively associated with the Anglican community, holding senior positions within the laity of the church. The large attendance at the funeral service at St David's reflected not only respect from the civic community but also respect for his church duties.

  As has been said by my colleagues, he was a fervent opponent of the use of marijuana. In 1972 he accepted an invitation to be honorary consultant in Australia to the United States National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. As one who had openly admitted the need at one stage of his life to reform himself from overuse of alcohol, John served with vigour as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse. He was keenly aware, even in those days, of the potential dangers to society of uncontrolled drug abuse.

  John Marriott also took very seriously his duties as Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory at a time when there was a growing demand by Canberra residents to have an increased say in their own destiny. He believed that his committee had a good grasp of the facts with regard to extending local self-government to Canberra residents, and he had a strong personal interest as he had considered the city his home away from home for 20 years. John Marriott also had a strong sense of propriety and the correct way to undertake his dealings as chairman of committees. He worked to avoid informal contacts with people who might at some time appear before his committees as witnesses.

  Loyalty to his committees, his party, his Queen and country demonstrates the make-up of John Marriott. A newspaper article in 1970 quoted his wife Myra as saying that she had not spent a new year's eve with her husband for the previous eight years as he had always been away playing father to 160 children at Legacy camp. John also displayed a deep loyalty to the philosophy of his party and to his colleagues in the Liberal Party. After his retirement from parliamentary service in 1975, he was awarded a CBE for service to politics in the Queen's Birthday honours of 1976.

  As well as loyalty, many who knew John Marriott well remember his wit and humour—which was referred to by my colleague Senator Harradine—and also his dedication to people and causes he chose to be associated with. Apart from his long association with Legacy, John in latter years provided leadership to the Order of the British Empire Tasmanian Association. He was a foundation member, but also gave dedicated work as honorary secretary and treasurer for many years as well as filling the role of president.

  Primary among all the labels which could be applied to John Marriott was that of being a proud Tasmanian. Throughout his parliamentary career, his main goal was the promotion of the interests of his constituents, the people in his own state. The late John Marriott's far sightedness was highlighted in one of his last speeches in this chamber. At the height of the debate in August 1975 over the controversial Whitlam government budget, he referred to the Labor government's attempt to hoodwink Tasmanian voters. He said:

We might be islanders, but we are perceptive. We have been fooled around too much by this government in its short term in office.

Referring to Mr Whitlam's petulance in relation to Tasmania when Whitlam said, `Let us look for votes elsewhere', Marriott said, `The electorate will swing the numbers and lead to the formation of a Liberal government.' His comments were indeed prophetic.

  His last substantial speech in this chamber criticised the Labor government for what he saw as undue delay, for political purposes, in passing the bill to permit the rapid commencement of work on the broken Tasman bridge. The distress caused by the bridge's damage was at that time causing considerable anguish to the residents of Hobart's eastern shore, breaking up families, fostering suicides and making people's lives a misery. John Marriott empathised with these people and genuinely objected to devious delays to repairs to the bridge.

  In conclusion, I support the motion and add my personal condolences to his wife Myra, his daughter and his brother Fred whom I have known for many years at this time of their loss. Tasmania has lost a loyal and true statesman.