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Wednesday, 23 March 1966


Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - Anybody who had the privilege and honour of knowing Frank Gaha, as we called him, knew a very remarkable man. He was one of the most extraordinary men I have ever had the honour to meet. I know his life story. He was a first generation Australian, born of Lebanese parents who learned to speak English after they came here. His was a remarkable family because in the one generation it produced two doctors, and in the next generation another doctor.

But life was not easy for Frank Gaha or his family. Up to the age of 25 years, he was mustering and branding cattle on his father's property at Narrabri in New South Wales. At the age of 25, he went to college to matriculate. After that, he went abroad to study and graduate, as the Prime Minister has said, in the faculty of medicine. He came back to Australia and, because of ill health, went to Tasmania. He built up a big and quite lucrative practice in Tasmania, because he was deservedly recognised as a very good surgeon.

He was not only devoted to medicine. He studied the classics and had the extraordinary facility of being able to recite long passages of Shakespeare, as he often did for us in the party room. I renumber travelling with him in Tasmania once when he recited Virgil almost by the yard. He could remember events in history with a degree of accuracy that might have made him a professor of history. But, with all that, he was quite a humble man. He loved the people and he served the people. He entered the Legislative Council of Tasmania with a narrow majority of about 4 or 5 votes back in 1933. There, I believe, he did his best work. As Minister for Health in the Ogilvie Government later he helped to bring to Tasmania a new outlook on the matter of hospital management and control. He did very great work in the field of health for the people of Tasmania.

When he came here, he not only informed the House on occasions, he even entertained it. I can remember one speech that he made picturing himself sitting in his loungeroom with his feet on the mantelpiece, as he put it, saying what he wanted to say. Dame Enid Lyons followed him in the debate. She agreed with him, but she said that she could not emulate him by putting her feet on the mantelpiece. Those of us who were here then remember all his little peculiarities and all those delightful - we might say - idiosyncracies that he had. But he was always a good friend and he was always a cheerful companion.

He went back to State public life when he retired from this House in 1949. He became a good Minister and he did good work there. But his best days were over. I think his best service was given in the Tasmanian Legislative Council from 1933 till 1943. We will always remember Frank Gaha with great affection. We of the Opposition offer, with the Prime Minister who was speaking for the Government, our deepest sympathy to a loving and devoted wife who helped him at all times and encouraged him in the last few years during which he had been going down the hill and in the period of his last illness.







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