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Tuesday, 21 August 1973
Page: 4


Mr INNES (Melbourne) - I rise to join previous speakers in expressing deep regret at the passing of a very fine Australian. Arthur Calwell was a man who believed that the sort of Australia to which we should aspire should be a prosperous Australia based on principles of justice and equality- a society in which people are not divided by social barriers or by extremes of wealth and poverty. His efforts and plans were always directed to that end. His contribution to the Federal Parliament of this country is well recorded and his place in history is firmly established by his wonderful career as the Federal member for Melbourne- the electorate I now have the honour of representing, having succeeded him on his retirement prior to the election of 2 December. In many respects my entry into politics was a case of history repeating itself. Arthur outlined two things in the preface of his book 'Labor's Role in Modern Society'. He related the basis of his philosophy and his first political memory- a memory that has a marked resemblance to my own. Amongst other things he said:

To me, and all my comrades in the Australian Labor Party, Ben Chifley 's concept of the 'light on the hill' is not just a figure of speech. It is a beacon-light of idealism for all who believe that any system of society which is not founded on political democracy, social democracy and economic democracy-any system which is not characterised in all its aspects by equalityis a bad one. Neither capitalism nor communism can provide a society which will respect and safeguard the dignity of all men and women and their deepest needs as human beings, a society which will protect the interests of all.

My faith in the Labor Party as the sole means of achieving such a society is as firm today as it was in the days of my trusting, impressionable youth. I took an interest in politice from my earliest years, and, for me, politics meant Labor politics. My very first political memory is that of being taken by my mother, at the age of eight, to hear that great Labor man, Dr William Maloney, speaking in the by-election campaign in which he defeated Sir Malcolm McEacharn for the seat of Melbourne in the House of Representatives. Of course, little did I realise then that thirty-six years later I would have the honour of succeeding Dr Maloney as member for the electorate of Melbourne.

He said 2 things. He outlined a philosophy which he followed throughout the rest of his career. He also outlined his first political memory.

Mine was a similar experience, for at very much around the same age as Arthur was at that time, I was taken by my father to hear Arthur Calwell speaking at Labor Day celebrations and various ALP conferences, espousing the philosophy that he maintained consistently to the end. Little did I know that some 35 years later I would succeed him as the fourth member for Melbourne. It was indeed a very proud moment for me in following such a man. Arthur Calwell 's undying loyalty to the Labor movement stamped him as a true son of working people, a person who never forgot whence he came. He paid particular attention to the needs of people who found themselves on the lowest spokes of fortune's wheel. He will ever be remembered for his contribution to society.

Arthur Augustus Calwell was in many respects a complex person, a man possessed of a medley of emotions. At one moment he was a hard and ruthless fighter for the principles he believed in. At the next moment he was a kindly idealist moving heaven and earth to assist an individual in trouble. He was an intellectual yet was able to stir large gatherings of people into action upon issues of principle by an eloquent turn of phrase but in language that ordinary people understood. Arthur, or 'Ginger' as he was affectionately known to his friends in the Labor movement, was steeped and soaked in Labor politics from 1916 when as a youth of 18 years he joined the Australian Labor Party to which he remained completely loyal and which he continued to love very much. In 1917 he was elected to the Victorian Branch Conference of the Labor Party as a delegate and attended almost every conference from that time onwards. His early training was assisted by involvement in great debates on the Yarra bank in Melbourne, a tremendous training ground which helped to develop an oratory delivered in the platitudes that the public loved to hear.

As the Prime Minister has outlined, Arthur Calwell was born in the electorate for which he worked for a great part of his life. He was born in 1896 in Stanley Street, West Melbourne, the son of a policeman and a Victorian born Irishwoman. He started school at St Mary's, West Melbourne, and won a scholarship that enabled him to attend Christian Brothers College in North Melbourne. He started work with the Victorian Department of Agriculture, where he stayed for about 10 years, first as a junior clerk earning the magnificent salary of Five pounds a month. From 1923 to 1940 he worked for the Victorian Treasury. He was elected to the Victorian Central Executive of the Australian Labor Party in 1 926 and was subsequently elected to the Melbourne City Council as the last alderman in that city in 1939. Arthur then became involved in the administration of football and cricket and was a trustee of the Melbourne Cricket Ground from 1931 onwards. As has been indicated, he was elected to the Federal Parliament in 1940 and became Minister for Information under Prime Minister John Curtin.

In 1943 Arthur Calwell was promoted to the position of Minister for Immigration. In that post he displayed the great talents he possessed. His work as the architect of the immigration policy at that time was of incalculable benefit to Australia. He was a great family man, as the Prime Minister has said. The members of his family were very attached to each other and worked together. During 1947 he and his wife began a hurricane tour of Europe and the United States of America to find sufficient shipping, which was quite scarce at that time, to bring new settlers to Australia. They visited 23 countries in 13 weeks and were successful in achieving what they set out to do. This was typical of Arthur Calwell 's determination and of the co-operation of his family. He always had an ambition to lead the Party and nobody deserved more than Arthur the honour bestowed on him by his colleagues when he was elected Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party in March 1960. He believed that the Party must always maintain its industrial base. His first act as Leader was to attend the same afternoon as his election to that position a picnic of Canberra . trade unionists. As Leader he brought the Party closer to electoral victory in 1961 than it had been since 1946. Victory was so near and yet so far. He failed by only one electorate to achieve his ambition.

Arthur Augustus Calwell, in my view, would have made a very fine Prime Minister and more is the pity that he did not get the opportunity to prove it. Nevertheless, Arthur's contribution over many years on the issues of Vietnam and conscription, among others, had assisted to lay the base for Labor's victory in December of last year.

Finally, he will be remembered for his exploits over many years, for his contribution to this Parliament and particularly his contribution to the electorate of Melbourne. He will be remembered for all that great work and by all the friends that he made. I agree with those who said that Arthur Calwell would choose that his epitaph should include the words he used to the 1955 conference of the Labor Party, the conference in which he played a major role in ridding the Party he loved so dearly of those who desired and wished to undermine and to destroy it. He said at that time, with a great deal of emotion, that he still believed in 2 working class slogans. Firstly he said that unity of labour is the hope of the world. As well he said: 'Workers of the world unite- you have a world to gain and only your chains to lose. '

I am sure that everybody in this Parliament will agree with me that using the terms he often used himself, Arthur Calwell fought the good fight, he did not spare himself in struggling for the principles he believed in and his memory will be indelibly imprinted on the hearts of all those who had the pleasure of knowing and working with him.







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