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Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Page: 8133

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (13:49): I move:

That the House record its deep regret at the death on 31 July 2011 of the Honourable Allan Clyde Holding, former Minister and Member of this House for the Division of Melbourne Ports from 1977 to 1998, and place on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tender its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

It was my sad and moving privilege to have just attended the memorial service for Clyde Holding in Melbourne. Appropriately for a passionate Victorian and supporter of the arts, it was held in the National Gallery of Victoria. With that ceremony and with these words of honour today we mark the end of a long and remarkable life. I think 'honour' is the right word because in this parliament we honour our own. We honour those who enter the heat of political battle, we honour the knocks and scars without complaining and we honour those who reach the end happy that they have simply had a chance to serve their community and their nation. It is the phenomenon that Sir Paul Hasluck called 'the chance of politics', and we honour Clyde Holding's journey through the chance of politics today.

The 36 years of Clyde Holding's career in public service were remarkable times. When Clyde joined the Victoria parliament in 1962 we were still a nation of pounds, shillings and pence, a nation of protectionism and the White Australia policy, a nation that still sent people to their execution. When he left this place in 1998 our nation had changed beyond recognition. The dreams of his generation for a more prosperous, fair and inclusive Australia had been abundantly fulfilled and he had played an honourable part in their fulfilment. Clyde Holding was an unlikely progressive. From a conventional, old Labor background, he embraced new ideas and new constituencies. He was a civil libertarian. He forged an unexpected friendship with Charlie Perkins, became a firm friend of the Jewish community, supported the arts and helped bring long-awaited support to non-government schools. So many of the things we now take for granted bear his mark: Indigenous ownership of Uluru, Kakadu National Park, the return of Indigenous remains from museums, ACT self-government. And, through it all, his was a personality that no-one who knew or observed him will ever forget. Gareth Evans observed that Clyde was equally at home sitting in cabinet, squatting in the red dust of the outback or mixing it in the rough-house politics of inner-city Melbourne. He was pugnacious, blunt, vernacular, and someone who did not let disappointment show—because there were disappointments.

He valiantly sustained the Labor cause against the invincible conservative populism of Bolte and Hamer. Few opposition leaders did it tougher than Clyde Holding. And of course here in Canberra his greatest hopes for national land rights legislation were not realised during his ministerial tenure. But, like many of our great policy developments, land rights did not happen in straightforward circumstances. In that instance, an obscure case wound its way slowly through the legal system until 1992 when the hopes of Clyde Holding were triumphantly realised. There are members still in this House who will remember where they were that day, 21 December 1993, when the Native Title Bill passed into law on the floor of this chamber. Clyde Holding knew where he stood: on the right side of history. And that is where we will always remember him—a true friend of our Indigenous peoples, a true friend of every Australian who sought a better and fairer life.

Clyde Holding was a man who took the chance of politics, who copped the good with the bad, and who passed the only test we should ever set for ourselves in public life: to leave the nation a better place than he found it. On behalf of the Australian people, I pay tribute to the memory of Clyde Holding. I offer my respects to his widow, Judy, and to his children, Peter, Dan, Jenny and Isabella, and to his friends and colleagues in this parliament and beyond, I join in saying this final and grateful goodbye. May this honourable servant of the Australian people rest in peace.