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Tuesday, 21 August 1973
Page: 2

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Leader of the Opposition) I have much pleasure in seconding the motion moved by- the Prime Minister for it is a motion dealing with a man for whom those who served with him have a very special regard. Eight months ago many of us farewelled Arthur Calwell from this House. We thanked him for his contribution- one that ranged over 32 unbroken years. We wished him well in retirement, but he was not to enjoy a long retirement. Arthur Calwell last spoke from the floor of this House on 26 October 1972. He spoke twice on that day. Both times he typified the man and his philosophy. In the morning he asked his last question without notice of the former Prime Minister. He sought an expression of the chance for lasting peace in Indo-China. Peace, particularly peace in IndoChina, was a goal he pursued with unfailing determination. Arthur Calwell gave his valedictory late that night. He spoke briefly- perhaps for 10 minutes- but the speech revealed as much about the man as anything else. He saw his life in this way:

In all the time that I have been privileged to serve I have done my best. No man can say more. I have had my failures; I have had my successes; I have had a lot of disappointments.

Many words have been spoken about Arthur Calwell since his death. Everyone has recognised the significant contribution of his service to the nation. Arthur Calwell was, above all, a man of the people. He identified with and was concerned with the underprivileged. Concern for the little man was a strong motivating force for him. It was the basis of his personal philosophy and it was his humanity which characterised his policy ambitions and personal relationships.

On 20 November 1940 his speech in this chamber was an obituary. He spoke of his affection for Dr Maloney who had held the seat of Melbourne for many years before him. Arthur Calwell spoke in these terms of the funeral service with which Dr Maloney was honoured:

The people were drawn from the ranks of the very humble, the sustenance workers, the invalid and old age pensioners and many others who had cause to remember urn during his lifetimenot merely because he was a good friend but also because he was a devoted servant of all of them.

Several thousand people attended the service given to Arthur Calwell- one of the most impressive services ever held in Australia's history. They, too, came from every sector of the community. Many of them had the same feeling for Arthur Calwell as he had described about Dr Maloney. I am grateful to the Prime Minister for making a point of mentioning the presence there of Sir Robert Menzies, Arthur Calwell 's old political foe.

Arthur Calwell 's concern for the interest of people made him an extremely popular man in his electorate. To be offensive to 'Cocky' in a North Melbourne pub was really to ask for trouble. His warm humanity is remembered today not only by those in this chamber but by everyone at Parliament House- the staff of both the House and Senate departments, officers of the Parliamentary Library and house attendants who have lasting memories of a man who was kind and generous to them. Arthur Calwell was also a man of crusades. He was passionate when he believed something strongly. I have referred to his dedication to peace in Indo-China. Associated with that, in his mind, was the issue of conscription. He had a deep concern for welfare, equality and the rights of individuals and he had a great vision of Australia.

Unquestionably, his greatest mark on today's Australia is the immigration program he pioneered. In his very first speech he spoke of the need to populate Australia. He fostered his idea of a big and growing Australia at a time when it met with much opposition. We hear echoes of that opposition today. But he was undaunted. He fought hard for his belief, and he won. Much of Australia's growth and development, its cultural diversity and its uniqueness that this generation enjoys and succeeding ones will enjoy is due to the insight and intelligence Arthur Calwell displayed. He spent 4 years as Australia's first Immigration Minister and established a program which succeeding Ministers have been proud to continue. That single contribution alone has placed him as a great Australian.

Arthur Calwell 's regard for Parliament, the institution and its functions, never faltered. He left the Parliament still wishing to see the institution have great eminence. In his final words in the House he again expressed his respect for Parliament in these terms: ... the supreme elective body in the whole nation. Arthur Calwell was always a tough man, a rugged man and a strong man. He spoke with frankness and expected the same in return. He was a man for a fierce fight, who rarely backed down or sought the easy compromise. In 1966 he survived the only assassination attempt on an Australian politician. That was in mid-campaign, and with typical Calwell courage he refused to accept it as a set-back and went on, as he himself put it, determined to have his turn at being Prime Minister. He had a sharply honed sense of humor which he often employed as a savage political weapon. I need not remind those sitting here of his wit, but I give just one example. Just recently, after 30 years in the Parliament, he said this of a senior politician:

Whenever I look at him -

I interpolate to protect the innocent- on television I look at an animated toad that croaks like a frog.

On the Speaker's calling him to order he replied with typical Calwell panache:

I am sorry, Sir. Have I offended?

He was a man who gave criticism readily and often throughout his political career. Perhaps he was always aware that he would do so, because he made the following remarks in his early parliamentary days as though to apologise for all that would follow:

I bear no malice towards honourable members oppositeany criticism offered is purely impersonal. I hope they will bear with me as I bear with them. In the spirit of scriptural injunction I suffer them gladly.

Arthur Calwell was eminently Australian, a basic down-to-earth Australian. He was fond of referring to his horny hands and his sweat. Although he was brought into the palaces of the rich and famous he was never affected or over-impressed. He would have brought a humble and common touch to the great office of Prime Minister. He achieved elitism and yet he had a great dignity. Although he was being jocular when he made it there was a lot of truth in his claim that his face had its own rugged grandeur. Perhaps the best summary of his life was given by himself. He was a man who knew his failures and was ready to admit them even if with tongue in cheek. He told the House last year.

I have not always been as kind and as generous as I should have been. I consider that half of the problems and difficulties I have met in life I created for myself. I do not think I should make any further concession to my political opponents and my critics than that. I will settle for half.

He was not to enjoy the rest he had earned. To his wife and daughter I offer the deepest sympathy of my Party. Only they know the sacrifices he made to fulfil his commitment to Parliament, to his Party and to his electorate. They have now been robbed of the opportunity of enjoying some quieter hours with him. We deeply regret their loss. The nation owes much to the sacrifices they have made so that it could gain. Last year Arthur Calwell said:

I have a record of which I am very proud.

This House will agree that it is a record of which Australia is proud and for which it must be thankful. History will now honour that record.

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