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Monday, 6 June 1994
Page: 1303

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

  That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death, on Wednesday 1 June 1994, of the Hon. Sir David Eric Fairbairn KBE, DFC, Member of the House of Representatives 1949 to 1975, Minister for Air 1962 to 1964, for National Development 1964 to 1969, for Education and Science 1971, and for Defence 1971 to 1972, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

David Eric Fairbairn was born in Surrey, England on 3 March 1917. He was educated at Geelong Grammar School in Victoria and later at Jesus College, Cambridge. In 1939 Sir David took over `Dunraven', a pastoral property at Woomargama in the Riverina district of New South Wales. He was a dedicated farmer and grazier and his skills in land management were highly regarded.

  Sir David had a distinguished record of military service. He served in the 21st Light Horse (Riverina) Regiment from 1939 to 1941, when he joined the Royal Australian Air Force. Sir David's war service included spells in Britain and New Guinea. In 1945 he was badly wounded and discharged from the RAAF with the rank of Flight-Lieutenant. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

  Mr Deputy President, a political career for Sir David was a natural step. He came from a family with a political tradition, which included two grandfathers in the first federal parliament—Edmund Jowett and Sir George Fairbairn—and an uncle, James Fairbairn, in Menzies' World War II Cabinet. Sir David became a fourth generation parliamentarian in 1949 when he was elected to the House of Representatives as the federal member for Farrer. His career lasted for a period of 25 years.

  Sir David served in a diverse range of ministerial portfolios. In 1962, as the motion makes clear, he was appointed Minister for Air, retaining that portfolio until after the 1963 election. In 1964 he was appointed to the portfolio of National Development, a position he held until 1969 when, amid a degree of controversy over the leadership of his party, he removed himself to the backbench. Sir David was Leader of the Government in the House of Representatives in 1966 and served as Minister for Education and Science from March to August 1971. He was appointed to the portfolio of Defence on 13 August 1971 and held that position until December 1972, when the government lost office.

  Mr Deputy President, his parliamentary experience included appointments as Chair of the Immigration and Planning Council from 1962 to 1964, and to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs from 1970 to 1971. Sir David retired from politics in 1975. He was knighted in the New Year's honours list in 1977 and, in that same year, became Australia's Ambassador to the Netherlands. In 1980 he returned to Canberra and retired from public life. He made an outstanding contribution to public life in this country. On behalf of the government, I extend to Lady Fairbairn and her family our most sincere sympathy in their bereavement.