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Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Page: 14452


Mr MORRISON (CookPrime Minister) (14:35): Mr Speaker, I rise on indulgence—indeed, in response to your own suggestion—to acknowledge the passing of Les Carlyon. Les Carlyon was a master of words. He helped Australians understand ourselves and our national story. On Gallipoli, the Great War, on the track and on the events of the day, he knew what to say. There seemed to be nothing—no person, no street scene, no world event, no horror, no joy—that he couldn't capture. Of the great horse trainer Bart Cummings, Les wrote that his eyebrows 'were a creeper in search of a trellis'. Perhaps he could have said that about one other holder of the office I now hold—and I am sure he wouldn't mind the reference! On political correctness, he said that it was 'to look at the world through a keyhole not a big bay window'.

He had words when words would fail most of us. This was never truer than when he turned his mind to chronicling some of the most turbulent and tragic events in Australia's history—the story of our First World War experiences at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. These were indeed epic works. Without them, today's Australians could never fully understand the horrors and lessons of the Great War and the sacrifice of 60,000 Australians made real for a whole new generation of Australians and generations to come. In those tomes, he never lost sight of the people who were at the centre of them. In The Great War he contemplated those hundreds of thousands of young men and said, 'We never really saw them.' So Les helped us to see them—and to know them as well.

Les died last month after a long illness, which apparently wasn't his preferred way to go. He used to say that he'd like to go by falling off a horse. He didn't get that wish. But he may have gotten the next best thing: he had his send-off at Flemington, a place that Les loved.

On behalf of this parliament, I offer our sympathy to Denise, Les's beloved wife as well as editor and researcher of his great works—a wonderful partnership in Australia's interest. And our sympathies go to his children, Richard, Patrick and Kate, and the wider Carlyon family. His pen may be down, his voice may now be silenced in this world, but his words will always stay with us. Australia has lost a fine son.