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Wednesday, 9 March 1966


Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - This, Mr. Speaker, is an occasion when even the ranks of Tuscany can scarce forbear to cheer. We are not speeding the departed guest. We have certainly no illusions about any mythology surrounding Sir Robert Menzies. To us he was a very real figure. He was tough. Hewas hard hitting. He was a brilliant debater. He was devoted to his cause and he fought for that cause. He fought against the Opposition of today as he fought, when Leader of the Opposition, against the Government of the day, for the things he believed in and we respect him for that fact. We were not so blind to reality on all occasions that we did not know that sometimes his argument was a little better than ours. But to use the vernacular, we mixed it with him and he mixed it with us. He was a doughty champion for his cause and, if we did not agree with all he said or did, we respected the way in which he put his case and the vigour with which he advanced his cause. When he retired quite recently I expressed the view that practically no member of the Opposition ever agreed with Sir Robert

Menzies on any major issue of importance in the long and distinguished life be spent in this Parliament. I never agreed with him once on any issue of foreign affairs and rarely on any issue of domestic affairs, but that did not diminish my admiration for his qualities or my esteem for him personally.

He is the third Prime Minister of Australia to surrender the Prime Ministership. It is so bard a post to attain that nobody seems disposed to give it up too quickly. It might be said by some that he dallied longer than he should have. Perhaps in the interests of his own health he might have retired earlier. The three instances which I can call to mind of Prime Ministers voluntarily surrendering the Prime Ministership are those of Edmund Barton, who resigned to become a member of the first High Court of Australia; Andrew Fisher, who resigned to become Australian High Commissioner in London; and now Sir Robert Menzies, who has resigned to retire. There was only one Prime Minister in all our history who lost his seat while in office, and that was Stanley Melbourne Bruce. The rest retained their seats though their Governments were defeated, or died in office. In all, there have been only 17 to date.

The retirement of Sir Robert Menzies, because of his long career, has directed the attention of the Parliament and the people to a practice that could well be followed in future - the practice of the Parliament's making some recognition for long and distinguished service. I am sorry that this idea was not adopted earlier, because I would have liked to see tributes paid to the Right Honorable Dr. H. V. Evatt for his services to this Parliament. When a man leaves the parliamentary sphere, whether to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of a State, to fill some other office or merely to retire, he is entitled, I believe, to the ungrudging respect and admiration of those who, while having been opposed to him during his career in politics, would like to savour in the life of politics some recognition of a man's worth.

The motion contains some very fine sentiments. It seeks to place on record our recognition of the long, able and devoted service given to Australia by Sir Robert Menzies and also his services to the Commonwealth of Nations and to the institution of Parliament. 1 have always thought of Sir Robert Menzies most not for what he tried to do in foreign affairs - whether he failed or succeeded - and not for what he tried to do in domestic affairs, but for his record of service to the parliamentary institution. He sensed at all times that this institution must be guarded, that it must not be injured in the opinions of the people and that its dignity must be maintained. In that respect, he walked in the footsteps of the great parliamentarians in the tradition that we have inherited.

This motion also seeks to place on record a natural, normal, homely and human thing that ought to be said to all people everywhere who lay down their office, lt states that we wish Sir Robert and the good woman who stood beside him in adversity and success a long and happy life in retirement. What more could we wish them? What more could we want to wish them? We hope to hear from them occasionally. We know that they have merited their retirement and we trust that they will long be spared to enjoy it with their children and their growing family of grandchildren. I hope, too, that the former Prime Minister will find other opportunities to nurse children on his knee and sing to them the song "The Galloping Major". I hope that he will have the opportunity to tell the people all that he wants to tell them at this particular time. As I said when Sir Robert Menzies retired, I hope that he will perform one last, enduring service to the political life of this nation by publishing his memoirs.







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