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Thursday, 16 November 1939

Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) - On account of my long association and friendship with the late Mr. Hill, which extended for practically a quarter of a century, the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron) has asked me to support, on behalf of the Country party, the tributes of respect which have been paid by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to one of the straightest, most lovable, most loyal, and most single-minded men who has ever come into this Parliament. Before he went on the land, Mr. Hill worked on the railways of Victoria, and because of that fact he always maintained an extraordinary interest in the working conditions of all sections of the people. Subsequently, when he came into politics, he continued to maintain a very greatinterest in the fundamental economic conditions of the farmers, and was instrumental in establishing the great Phosphate Co-operative Company, which cheapened and extended the use of fertilizers all over Australia. He was chairman of directors of the company at the time of his death.

He had a distinguished public career in this Parliament. He entered the Commonwealth Parliament as the pioneer Country party member, and, for four and a half years, he was Minister for Works and Railways in the Bruce-Page Government. While holding that portfolio he was associated with the initiation of three permanent landmarks in the history of Australian development. These were the standardization of the railway gauges of Australia, by the inauguration of the work of constructing the line from Kyogle to South Brisbane, and so linking Sydney and Brisbane; the construction of the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, in South Australia, thus assisting in the construction of the North-South Transcontinental line; and the introduction of the federal aid roads scheme, which has revolutionized transport conditions throughout Australia. But the great love of the official life of Mr. Hill was in connexion with the harnessing of the waters of our great Murray River, in order to encourage closer settlement along the valleys of that great river. His generation in this Parliament - I regret to say that only nine of those who were members of the Parliament when he entered the Parliament are members of this Parliament, and curiously enough, three of us are in each of the three parties - will always remember him because of his encyclopedic knowledge of the wheat industry in respect of which he had an extraordinary experience.

The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) will recollect that the late Mr. Hill was a member of the Australian Wheat Board during the Great War. He was also a director of (the Victorian Wheat-growers Corporation from its inception up to the time of his death. As a wheat-grower for many years he was able to speak of the Australian wheat industry in such a way, and with such authority, as to make unnecessary any reference to Broomhall or any other statistical authority for information on the subject.

He was one of the founders of the Country party of Victoria and of Australia. In fact, he was the first president of both organizations. The Australian Country party feels that it has sustained an irreparable loss by his death. His wisdom and experience were greatly valued. By reason of the widely varied phases of his life - his association, with industry, and his knowledge of farming, business and politics - he was able to bring a balanced judgment to all the questions that came before him. His comprehensive grip of his subjects, together with his sagacious advice and extraordinary interest in the every day life of the people of every section of the community, made his advice invaluable. He was just in all his dealings and a loyal comrade in fair weather or foul. I never knew him to 'be angry except at injustice to some one else. He has left a clean, unstained record of great public service and of a charming private life to comfort his family and friends. To posterity his works, because of their beneficient activity, will continue to speak of a man who gave of his very best in every way he could for the land of his birth and who left everything he touched better than he found it. We tender our very deep sympathy to his widow and children.

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