Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 19 April 1939

Mr HUGHES (North Sydney) (AttorneyGeneral) . - I support the motion, and associate myself with the tributes of the Prime Minister (Sir Earle Page) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). Parliament re-assembles today under the cloud of great sorrow. In tragic circumstances, Australia has lost, through the hand of death, its Prime

Minister, and its first citizen. The news struck at the hearts of the whole community. To us who were his colleagues and fellow members, the suddenness and unexpectedness of his death came as a stunning blow. But yesterday he moved amongst us, the embodiment of life; to-day he is gone, and we, his friends and colleagues, his followers, are overwhelmed with grief. Australia's loss is great, but the loss to his sorrowing widow and family is irreparable. Mr. Lyons devoted his life to the service of the country. His public career was long and distinguished. He was an outstanding figure in the public life of the Commonwealth and of his State for more than 30 years. He held the highest offices in State and Commonwealth, and during his whole life, and particularly in those years of storm and stress, when he guided the destinies of this people through the darkness of the depression, and in these later days of crises in world affairs, in foul and fair weather, his one aim was to serve the nation over which he had been set. His term of office covered both the gravest economic depression in history and the greatest instability that we have known in world affairs since the Great "War. During the last four years conditions have gone from bad to worse. , For the last five months we, in common with all the world, have hovered perilously on the brink of the abyss of war. To all of us these have been trying times, but his responsibility was crushing. Only those who carry the burdens of State know what this responsibility involves, how heavily it presses on men's spirits, what a toll it levies upon their vital resources. But though grievously tried, he never faltered. The people had reposed in him a great trust. To this he remained unswervingly faithful, and, like a brave soldier, died at the post of duty.

He was a true patriot. He never posed, nor boasted of his service. Not for him the tinsel and the glitter that serve the pinchbeck patriot and poseur. He served his country zealously but without ostentation.

A firm believer in the Empire, he was, first and foremost, an Australian, and retained throughout his public career an Australian outlook. He was a lover of peace and strove all his life by word and deed to bring about better relations among the countries of the world.

He was a democrat. Whatever his party associations, he was at heart and by temperament, a man of the people. He had been reared in their environment, he understood their problems and laboured with unflagging zeal to advance their interests. Raised by the votes of his fellow countrymen to the highest position at their disposal, walking with kings and princes, mixing with the great ones of the earth, he never lost the common touch. He remained to the end what he had always been - a frank, friendly and warm-hearted man.

He was a model citizen - an example to all of true citizenship. He was a loving husband and father, carrying into his official life the sympathy and kindliness of his own home. He had many critics, but few enemies. He fought hard, but he fought fairly. In the tumult and excitement of election campaigns, and in the heated debates in the legislature, he maintained that evenness of temper and freedom from personalities that gained for him the respect and affection of all who knew him. In debate he was ready and convincing. No man was quicker to note the weak points in his opponent's arguments, nor to marshal disconcerting facts against them. He had courage and tact. No man could handle a difficult situation more skilfully; for he understood men, their weaknesses and their strength. To this understanding he brought great patience and great forbearance. Few leaders have had to face more delicate or more complex situations in Parliament or in the party room. Certainly none has ever handled them with greater success.

He was a man who spent himself in doing his utmost for Australia. Numerous and varied as were his public services to the community, his unrecorded private benefactions outshone them all, and won him a lasting place in the hearts of many hapless ones. And this is the man whom death has taken from us - a devoted member of his church, a wise counsellor, a true and loyal colleague, a model husband, father and citizen, a man who made the world richer for his living and poorer for his passing.

I deeply regret hig death and extend my heartfelt sympathy to his sorrowing widow and family.

Suggest corrections