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Tuesday, 27 February 1973
Page: 23


Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) (Minister for Education) - 1 would like to pay a tribute to Mr Tom Burke and Mr Bill Riordan. I first got to know Tom Burke when I was elected to this Parliament and he sat next to me on the plane that came from Perth to Canberra. That may sound a very prosaic thing today but in those days one left Perth at 7 o'clock in the morning on a DC3 aircraft and got to Melbourne at 10 o'clock at night, flew to Canberra the next day and said how much faster it was than the train. In that period of time, of course, I sat next to htm on many DC3 flights to and from Western Australia - in those days only Western Australian members had air travel rights - and I got to know him extremely well. He not only was my supporter on the nervous occasion of my first flight but he was also best man at my wedding, which was another nervous occasion. So there was between us a very great bond of affection over the 12 years in which he was in the Federal Parliament.

When I was first elected to this Parliament Tom Burke was a very valuable adviser to me. Outside of the Parliament he was closely associated with the work of the slow learning children's movement and he did very great and very compassionate work in that connection. He really thought that a form of education should be given to these children which would make them effective citizens. As a result of the work of Tom Burke and his associates many of them did become so, and that was a valuable community service indeed. In the days of the Chifley Government he was at one stage appointed to assist the late Arthur Drakeford when Arthur Drakeford was Minister for Air, and it was felt that Tom Burke was likely to enter the Labor Cabinet. But the defeat of the Labor Government in 1949 made that impossible. I would like to extend to his wife Madeleine Burke and the family my own deep sympathy. There was a very great tribute paid to him on the occasion of his funeral earlier this year which testified to the position he had in the electorate of Perth which was always a knife-edge electorate in those days. He won it originally in 1943 by a very small majority and held it mostly by very small majorities. He probably held it because of the very great deal of service he gave to foreign communities - the Greek and Italian communities in Perth in particular - who held him in very high respect. I remember Tom Burke really as a personal friend, and it is in that connection that 1 would like to pay a tribute to him.

Mr BillRiordan was Chairman of Committees when I was first elected and after the retirement of one distinguished member of the Parliament he became Minister for the Navy. He was Minister for the Navy in succession to the honourable Norman Makin, who is here this afternoon and whose work in connection with this Parliament dates back to 1919. It is easy to overlook the very great significance of the work of Bill Riordan as Minister for the Navy. He brought to fruition some of the ideas that had been formulated during the period of Norman Makin as Minister. He brought into the Australian Navy, in 1948 and after, the 2 aircraft carriers that it still has - the 'Sydney' and the Melbourne' - and the Daring class destroyers. These vessels were very great advances relative to the power of the Australian Navy beforehand Bill Riordan had a very great logic about this, a belief that an air arm was vital in the great expanses of the Pacific which, of course, was one of the lessons of the Second World War.

He a so had a very great deal of irritation wilh naval conservatism. 1 remember his anger when he saw the payment of £32,000 to a particular naval rating who had invented the very fine torpedo which had not been used by the Australian Navy but had been so d to an overseas power. The conservatism of not using discoveries that were in our own field was a very great irritation to him because I believe that he thought not in conservative terms but in logical terms to try to create a naval force. He was a man who had a tremendous fund of anecdotes. I never saw him campaigning in the electorate of Kennedy, but i believe that the anecdote rather than the political meeting was a major weapon in his political campaigns. Bill Riordan conversed with large numbers of people. He sometimes expounded to me the philosophy that these sort of personal contacts were the best way of winning and holding seats, and he certainly demonstrated that in the tenure that he had of the seat of Kennedy. He and his wife, who are now both gone, were a gay couple at parliamentary social occasions outside of the actual meetings of Parliament. I think he was a very convinced parliamentarian and straight shooter in the Parliament. I never heard him use terms of personal abuse about anybody. In that respect he was a model member. I would like to express sympathy to his surviving sisters.







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