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Monday, 6 June 1994
Page: 1305


Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia) —I rise to associate members of the National Party in the Senate with the condolence motion moved by the government for David Fairbairn. Sir David Fairbairn was a man of great achievement—decorated RAAF veteran, federal Liberal parliamentarian for 25 years, federal minister in a variety of portfolios, and diplomat. Through each of these roles he made an enormous contribution to Australian public life.

  Sir David was educated at Geelong Grammar and Jesus College, Cambridge, where he studied for an arts degree and rowed in the Cambridge eight. After graduation he returned to Australia in 1939 to run the family property near Albury in south-western New South Wales. From the outbreak of war until 1941 he served in 21st Light Horse (Riverina) Regiment. He then enlisted in the RAAF and served in England and New Guinea. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and was discharged in 1945, holding the rank of flight lieutenant.

  It was not surprising that David Fairbairn looked to federal politics as an arena where he could make a further contribution to public life. Politics was in his blood: both grandfathers, Edmund Jowett and Sir George Fairbairn, had been federal parliamentarians and his uncle James Fairbairn was the Minister for Air and Civil Aviation in the first Menzies United Australia Party government.

  David Fairbairn entered the House of Representatives in 1949 as a member of the Menzies Liberal government. He was elected to the newly redistributed New South Wales seat of Farrer, which is currently held by the National Party Leader, Tim Fischer. It is interesting to note that the seat has been held by only three members in its 45-year history.

  David Fairbairn's capabilities were recognised as he served in a variety of ministerial portfolios during his federal parliamentary career. He was Minister for the Air from 1962 to 1964. He then served as Minister for National Development from 1964 to 1969. One of his many legacies from that time is the Fairbairn dam, which was constructed as part of the 1968 Emerald irrigation scheme. The scheme was designed to develop the agricultural potential of central Queensland. The construction of the dam provided a huge boost to that region, allowing for the development of irrigated crops such as cotton, soybeans, sunflowers, wheat, sorghum and barley.

  In 1971 David Fairbairn was appointed Minister for Education and Science before taking over defence, which he held until the end of 1972. During David Fairbairn's term as defence minister, he oversaw significant changes to the defence forces, including closer integration between the three services and a structural overhaul of the army—with the replacement of a geographic command base by a functional command base consisting of operations, logistics and training—which was a progressive step towards the existing command structure today.

  David Fairbairn retired from federal politics in 1975 after successfully contesting 11 elections and serving the constituents of Farrer well for 25 years. With his appointment as ambassador to the Hague he continued to serve the Australian people for a further three years. In 1980 David Fairbairn returned to Canberra from his post in the Netherlands and embarked on a much-deserved retirement after dedicating 40 years of his life in public service in a wide variety of roles. I am sure all honourable senators will join with me in extending sympathy to David Fairbairn's family and many friends.