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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2818

Senator BEAHAN —Like Senator McMullan, I first met the former Senator Lawrie Wilkinson prior to joining the ALP during the early 1960s when I was involved as an undergraduate in the movement opposing the war in Vietnam. Former Senator Wilkinson and his wife, Nancy, were closely involved with that movement. His involvement, and that of Nancy too, was of a special kind. Both of them were interested in rational analysis. While their feelings about the war and its effects both on Australians and Vietnamese were clearly strong and their emotions involved, they were at pains to analyse the historical background and the current nature of the conflict so that they were in a position to explain rationally and logically to young people their reasons for opposition.

  Thus it was that they were such strong supporters of the teach-in movement which became so influential in turning opinions during the later 1960s and early 1970s. The same interest in rational analysis, sometimes stemming from strong and emotionally charged concerns about issues, also influenced the way both former Senator Wilkinson and his wife approached other policy issues. I was involved with many of them in later years.

  He was interested in new ideas which challenged the orthodoxy that prevailed at the time. He maintained his involvement with young people. He maintained his involvement with education and, above all else, he maintained his involvement with the idea of rational analysis. He pursued these interests through the ALP, which he became a life member of; through the Fabian Society, which is the intellectual arm of the Left movement within Australia; through the society of Quakers, as has already been mentioned by Senator Vallentine; and through the United Nations Association, which he also became a life member of and of which his son is now the national President.

  He was a strong supporter of the role of the United Nations, as Senator Vallentine has already pointed out, in its maintenance of peace and world order. Although I have not met him in recent years, I think he must have been heartened by the growing stature and importance of the United Nations in recent months and years, however one defines that.

  Senator Wilkinson and his wife were people with deeply held convictions and a great deal of integrity. They were concerned about the need for a peaceful world; about the need for a more just and equal distribution of wealth; and about the need for more equal opportunities for all the people who make up the world.

  Perhaps the best way of summing up former Senator Wilkinson's life, both as a politician and as a member of the community, is by saying that he was a man of very strong principles. I did not always agree with his position on issues and, like Senator McMullan, I often argued with him. But he was a man who stood steadfastly behind his chosen position, as did his wife, Nancy. I convey my sympathy to his family and to his friends and join with other senators in supporting this condolence motion.