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Monday, 30 May 1994
Page: 835

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

  That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death on Wednesday, 18 May 1994 of Sir John Oscar Cramer, Minister for the Army from 1956 to 1963 and member of the House of Representatives for the division of Bennelong from 1949 to 1974, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

John Oscar Cramer was born on 18 February 1896 at Gaspard, Quirindi in New South Wales. One of six children, he was educated at the local Gaspard Public School. After leaving school at the age of 14, John Cramer, as he was then, worked on the family farm and then managed a small family-owned fruit shop in Quirindi. In 1917 he moved to Sydney where he was offered work with Paramount Pictures film exchange. In 1920 Sir John, and his brothers Charles and Roy, set up a small real estate business on the North Shore in Sydney. He retained his interests in this business well into his retirement.

  Prior to entering federal politics Sir John was actively involved in local government. He held several significant positions, including Chairman of the Sydney County Council and Mayor of North Sydney. Sir John is recognised as one of the co-founders of the Liberal Party. He was heavily involved in the push for the establishment of a Commonwealth-wide party and, while his efforts earned him as many enemies as friends—as these efforts always do—they were rewarded in 1944 when Sir Robert Menzies launched the Liberal Party of Australia.

  At the age of 53 Sir John sought and won pre-selection for the federal seat of Bennelong and was voted into office in the 1949 federal election. He professed to being an incurable addict in relation to public matters and gained immense personal satisfaction from public life. Although there were many things about parliamentary life which frustrated him, he said often that he felt greatly privileged to work with men and women who, in his opinion, were imbued with an inner spirit of service to their fellows.

  Following the federal election of 1955 Sir Robert Menzies appointed Sir John to his ministry as Minister for the Army. He retained that portfolio until 1963 when he chose, at the age of 67, to return to the back bench. From 1 March 1950, Sir John served as a member of the Joint Committee on Public Works and chaired the committee from 1954 to 1955. He also served as a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs from 1970 to 1972. He led an Australian delegation to the 14th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference in the Bahamas in 1968 and was an observer at the South Pacific Conference in Fiji in 1970. In the Queen's birthday honours list in 1964 he was knighted in recognition of his long and valuable service in the interests of his country. His political career continued until he retired from parliament in 1974 at the age of 78.

  Sir John's life was not without personal tragedy. He was predeceased by his son John who died in 1964, and his wife Mary who died in 1984. True to the form of so many of his generation, who lived through some of Australia's toughest years, encompassing World War I, the Great Depression, World War II and the period of post-war reconstruction, Sir John Cramer was dedicated to the service of his country. He will be remembered for his unceasing efforts in public life and for the political contribution he made at both federal and local levels of government. On behalf of the government I extend to his family our most sincere sympathy in their bereavement.