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Tuesday, 8 April 1986
Page: 1393

Senator BUTTON (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —by leave-I move:

That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death, on 30 March 1986, of Senator Alan Joseph Missen, a Senator for the State of Victoria from 1974 and a former Chairman of a number of Senate Committees, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow in her bereavement.

Alan Missen was an outstanding parliamentarian who made a great contribution to his political party, this Parliament and our country. Insofar as I speak today on behalf of the Government, I want to acknowledge and applaud his distinguished career, his personal charm and character, his tolerance and his humanity. I do not wish to dwell on that career because it is well documented in newspapers, in Hansard and, in the minutes of a dozen organisations espousing noble causes and will be further recorded in speeches made here today. Rather, I want to pay a personal tribute, and memoir in a sense, to Alan Missen that of necessity must be somewhat anecdotal.

Our life paths were in some ways parallel, at times closing together and intersecting and at times being much wider apart and diverse. We first met in 1951 at the time of the referendum seeking to outlaw the Communist Party. At that time Alan Missen was President of the Young Liberals in Victoria and I was president of nothing and but a junior member of the Australian Labor Party. We grew to know each other quite well then and over subsequent years we saw quite a bit of each other. I debated with him under the auspices of the Victorian Debating Society. I remind the Senate what a formidable team Alan Missen and his wife Mollie constituted when they were in a debate together. I learnt that to my great cost quite early in my career.

We entered the Senate together in 1974. On the hustings we held many more debates which I must say were always characterised by great fairness on both sides and I believe that was because Alan Missen set the tone of those debates. We worked together on a number of community issues such as trying to help the Timorese refugee community in Melbourne and things like that where I learnt to admire his great dedication and organisational skills. I have referred to his debating talents and of course I believe that he always carried out his role as a parliament- arian in a similar, very fair way. Last week a very senior Minister in this Government in the House of Representatives who hardly knew Alan Missen said to me `that Alan Missen seems to have been a very good bloke' and I said `Yes'. He said: `You know, he drove me mad asking me questions about various issues but they were always the right questions'. I think that, in its own way, is a very humble but simple tribute to Alan Missen's career.

On Friday last I attended his funeral in Melbourne. It was a moving service and eloquent tributes were paid to him by his political colleagues. I think perhaps the most moving compliment of all was shown by the wide selection of community groups and interests which were represented at that funeral. Afterwards, standing outside, a grey figure amongst other grey politicians, a young man approached me and invited me to join Amnesty International. I was shocked to find that he did not know I was a member of Amnesty International but, of course, everybody knew that Alan Missen was. I spoke with representatives of the Timorese community. A lady from Sri Lanka came up to me and said: `Senator, now that Alan Missen is dead, please do not forget the plight of the Tamil people because there is a danger that it will be forgotten now that he is gone'. Of course, that is a danger which we all ought to think about and try to avoid. I knew what these people were talking about because, at the saddest time of my life Alan Missen and his wife Mollie stretched out to me a hand of friendship which I will never forget.

Alan Missen was a warm human being of many talents. His life and work were unfettered by the constraints which motivate most of us in politics and in this profession, if I can call it that. They are the constraints imposed by ambition and the sorts of fierce tribal loyalties which we develop in a place such as this. Alan was a refreshing free spirit and every society and every group needs one. He will be very greatly missed. I think the best thing is for those of us who remain to remember the things he stood so courageously for. On behalf of the Government, members of my Party and particularly myself, I wish to extend deepest sympathy to his wife Mollie and to acknowledge a great career.