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Monday, 30 May 1994
Page: 838


Senator TEAGUE —I share in the remarks of colleagues in my condolence to the family of Sir John Cramer and to all his many friends throughout Australia, especially New South Wales, whom he served throughout his life. I had the honour to represent the President of the Senate at the funeral and memorial service at St Mary's Church in North Sydney last Wednesday morning. It was, of course, an occasion of sadness, but also of triumph and inspiration as we recalled the contributions to his state of a great Australian.

  I was happy to meet some members of his family. At the service I heard that there are 19 great grandchildren. Two of his daughters and a son—a fourth child, a son, predeceased him—were present with their families, consisting of many children and some great grandchildren.

  I was at a memorial service of a man who had lived 98 years—longer than the whole Commonwealth of Australia has existed to this point. In his childhood and teenage years he had been a farm boy at Quirindi in New South Wales. He came to the big smoke, the city, and in the early 1920s had established a real estate office with his brothers. They prospered as Sydney extended across the North Shore.

  Even when Sir John Cramer retired from the parliament 20 years and two weeks ago at the age of 78 he returned to his real estate business to make sure that it was all the more enhanced. One of the references made to Sir John that touched me—as I am sure it did everyone in the church that day—was that in recent years not one day passed without one member of his family coming to see him.

  He has been a widower for 15 years or so. He had been married for 62 years. One can imagine an achieving, aging widower who has made a huge contribution to his profession, to his state, to the parliament, and to North Sydney where he was mayor. In these last years he was all the more religious and devoted in his prayer, and all the more careful to relate to every member of his large and happy family.

  I was very quick to agree to the request of the President of the Senate to represent him at the funeral because here was a stalwart of the Liberal Party—one of the founders of the Liberal Party. This is the 50th anniversary of the Liberal Party's existence. Along with Sir Robert Menzies, Sir John Cramer was one of the principle activists in Sydney in the formation of the Liberal Party.

  But there was another reason that I so happily went to his memorial service. When I was a teenager the very first letter I received from any minister of the Commonwealth of Australia was from Sir John Cramer. To have an impressive envelope and letterhead and the signature of a minister of the Crown sent to me as a teenager in Adelaide was something which had never happened to me before and I was understandably very impressed. So his name as Minister for the Army at that time in 1962 stayed with me forever.

  I never had the chance to physically meet him. He left parliament in 1974; I came four years later and took my place here on 1 July 1978. That is one of my regrets. But it was certainly no regret to be a part of all of those who shared in the memorial service last Wednesday.

  There have only been two members for the electorate of Bennelong because it was a seat created for the 1949 election. Sir John Cramer represented Bennelong for 25 years and his successor, the current member Mr John Howard, has represented it for 20 years. It is a coincidence that it was on the 20th anniversary of the succession of one from the other that Sir John Cramer died on Thursday two weeks ago.

  In conclusion, I note a reading from the service that was delivered by Darya McCann, one of his grandchildren, from St Paul's letter to the Romans:

None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.

There was a poem read by another granddaughter, Kirby Grattan:

Death is going home,

it is a continuation of life,

the completion of life

the heart and soul live forever

they do not die.

Death is going home to God,

there is no fear

It was once remarked that because of his Catholic faith it was propitious for Sir Robert Menzies to include Sir John Cramer as a minister in the Liberal-National Party government for some seven years in the 1950s and early 1960s. Sir John's reply to those who made such cynical comments—to those who thought that the only reason for his being a minister was that he was a bridge to that Catholic predominance in the DLP whose votes were needed for the success of the Liberal-National Party's measures in the parliament—was, `No, to the contrary. My being a Catholic has been one of the crosses I have had to bear through my life. I have been discriminated against and I have found society prejudiced against me because I am a Catholic. But I have had other crosses to bear. One is that I am an Australian farm boy of German descent'.

  He would have been 18 at the beginning of the First World War. During the Second World War I am sure that there were those in Australia who would have misconstrued his loyalties. It is clear that he had to clarify to his would-be detractors that he was a genuine Australian and should not be misrepresented as being anything other.

  But he said that he had another cross to bear and that was that he was a real estate agent. I imagine that a second-hand car salesman would make the same kind of remark. Whether or not he was tongue-in-cheek when he said that he had these burdens to bear I leave to those who knew him better than I.

  I find from reading his first speech in the parliament in 1950, from what I have read from his own writing, from the account of his life that is available from the library, especially from the eloquent remarks of John Howard at the funeral service, and from my contacts with the family that it is only with the best memories that I think of this man who lived 98 years and who has served his country, his party and his family so very well. My condolences to all the members of his family.