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Tuesday, 8 March 1966

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - Mr. Speaker, like all my colleagues I am sadly happy that the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) has taken the opportunity to pay tribute to the memory ot Albert Victor Thompson. He was one of the old, traditional Labour men. He was born in Port Adelaide in 1886 and died at almost the age of 79. After receiving his primary education, he was engaged in general farming and dairy farming for 13 years. Then he became a foundation member of the Carters and Drivers Union. He worked as a member of that union at a time when the working week extended over 48 hours and men worked in their own time for an hour to prepare their horses before going out for the day's work. Bert Thompson knew much of the rigour of labouring life at the beginning of this century. But in spite of all his tribulations the iron never entered his soul. He was a really good citizen who lived according to the parable of the coin. He rendered unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's. He identified himself quite early in life with the Salvation Army and it happened, as happened with the Methodist founders of the British Labour Party, who were preachers, that he preached his religious beliefs on Sundays and at street corners and then on other occasions he preached his political beliefs. He always spoke and behaved, as the Prime Minister has said, with great dignity and great decorum.

Bert Thompson, despite his early setbacks, became an authority on public finance. Though he never claimed to have mastered it, he understood it. He served on the Public Accounts Committee of this Parliament for more than 10 years. But even before that he had been appointed by the Curtin Government a member of the Commonwealth Housing Commission. He made his own real contribution to the work of that Commission and its findings were accepted on both sides of the Parliament and became the basis of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements which still operate in the Australian States.

As we all knew, Bert Thompson was one of the kindliest men who ever entered this Parliament. I never heard him say an ill word of anybody and I never heard anybody say an ill word against him. I join with the Prime Minister in offering, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, sympathy to a wonderful helpmate who is now his widow and to the devoted children, grandchildren and others who presented to us an example of the way in which a family clan can be built around the life and times of one man.

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