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Monday, 30 May 1994
Page: 838


Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Sir John Cramer was my local member for many years, to be succeeded on his retirement by John Howard. He was the second last of the 19th century parliamentarians. I do not mean in attitude—although perhaps he would not have objected to that description—but in age. Although there is some discrepancy about whether he was born in 1896 or 1897, my record shows that it was on 18 February 1897. I understand that only one 19th century former member of the House of Representatives is still alive—Mr T.F. Williams, a former Labor member for Robertson, who was born on 7 April 1897.

  Sir John certainly had a distinguished career both in the parliament and outside it. He was the epitome of the small businessman whose best interests—that of initiative and individual effort—were clearly represented within the Liberal Party. I can remember, as a schoolboy in the mid-1940s, going on the tram from St Leonards station to North Sydney Boys High School in Falcon Street and seeing the Cramer Bros. Real Estate agency in its prominent position at Crows Nest.

  Sir John was a man who attracted the occasional comment. In the 1940s he was known as `Calamity Cramer' because in those days, when he was chairman of the Sydney County Council, there were persistent blackouts as a result of a shortage of coal. At one stage, Mr Chifley tried to resolve the shortage by putting troops in the mines, much to the distress of many of his colleagues in the Labor Party. But that was only one of the many public service activities of John Cramer. He wore the sobriquet of `Calamity Cramer' quite happily; he was simply the bearer of bad news being shot at all the time.

  As John Howard said in his eulogy at Sir John's state funeral last Wednesday, his life of 98 years embraced all the great eras and traumas since federation—two great wars, a depression, post-war industrial and economic expansion, and social upheaval, particularly in the 1960s.

  As John Howard said, three influences dominated his long life: his deep and genuine family bonds, having at their core a 62 1/2-year marriage to his late wife, Dame Mary Cramer; his strong Catholic faith; and his simple, robust commitment to an uncomplicated Australia. His political career began at the local level and reached the pinnacle of becoming a minister of the Crown.

  The sort of political activity in which Sir John was involved was highlighted not by his being a minister of the Crown but by his being a founding member of the Liberal Party. He dealt with that wittily, lightly and entertainingly at a dinner I organised for coalition members as a farewell to the Old Parliament House in 1988. Fortunately, Sir John's speech on that occasion is on tape.

  Sir John died 50 years after he helped form the Liberal Party—strangely, 20 years to the day after he ceased being the federal member for Bennelong in the national parliament on 18 May 1974. He entered the parliament in 1949 with the resurgence of Menzies, the man whom he had helped to set up the Liberal Party.

  He was in every sense the classic local member who looked after his local community but who, nonetheless, had the capacity to serve as a minister of the Crown for eight years in the Menzies government. I send my best wishes to his family.