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Monday, 17 March 2008
Page: 916

Senator MINCHIN (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (12:50 PM) —I rise on behalf of the coalition to support the motion moved by Senator Evans and to extend our sincere sympathies to the family of Clyde Cameron upon his very sad passing on 14 March, last Friday, at the great age of 95. It is particular poignant for me to be doing this, as a fellow South Australian and someone who knew Clyde and greatly admired him and all that he had done for his state, for Australia and for his party. I think it can properly be said that my state of South Australia has indeed lost one of its greatest sons. As Kim Beazley Sr might have said, there is no doubt that Clyde Cameron represented the cream of the working class and certainly not the dregs of the middle class. It was quite a remarkable political career: for someone like Clyde to spend nearly 31 years in parliament representing the one seat, of Hindmarsh, and to spend nearly 28 of those in opposition is extraordinary. To have only three years in government, and a very turbulent three years at that, showed an extraordinary tenacity and commitment to his cause.

I was here at the Australian National University doing economics and law when Clyde and Gough and the rest were in government and it was quite fascinating almost every day to follow the saga of the then Whitlam government in which Clyde Cameron featured so significantly. Many of us thought that many of the things that he was trying to do in the labour portfolio, which might have been good for workers, would end up destroying the economy. Having spent so long in opposition, the government was desperate to try to do everything it could as quickly as possible.

But, as a human being, it was very sad, frankly, that someone like Clyde Cameron could have only three years in government. As I said, he was the member for Hindmarsh for nearly 31 years and we in the Liberal Party in South Australia regarded Hindmarsh as a great Labor stronghold. I must say that one of my proudest achievements as state director of the Liberal Party was the day we won Hindmarsh from Labor in 1993. In an election that was otherwise a disaster for the Liberal Party, we actually managed to take from the Labor Party the seat of Hindmarsh, that great bastion of the Cameron Labor Party.

My connection to the Camerons was formed through not only knowing Clyde but also becoming a good friend of Terry Cameron, who was my counterpart when he was state secretary of the Labor Party while I was state director of the Liberal Party. Terry and I were of course combatants but we actually got on very well behind the scenes, and there are some stories to tell there. As is the way sometimes with the Labor Party, Terry, Clyde’s nephew, fell out with the Labor Party and then sat as an Independent, having been elected to the Legislative Council as a Labor member.

Clyde had the remarkable capacity to have strong friendships across the political divide, and as I say, there was his nephew Terry. One of my most vivid memories was being up at Alexander Downer’s home and seeing Lady Mary Downer, Alexander’s mother, sitting on the sofa with Clyde, having a whale of a time. There was quite an extraordinary bond between Clyde Cameron and Lady Mary Downer. They were the deepest of friends, yet they came from quite different political and other spectrums. It was a measure of the man that that sort of divide meant nothing to him and he formed very strong friendships right across the divide.

I look forward to representing the federal opposition at Clyde Cameron’s funeral on Thursday and also in my role as the senior South Australian Liberal federal member. It will be a time to celebrate a great life, albeit of someone on the opposite side of politics from me. He was someone who made an extraordinary contribution to public life. He had great dedication to his party and his cause and he was a person to be admired by everybody. To his wife, Doris, and to Clyde’s children, I place on record the opposition’s appreciation of Clyde’s long and meritorious public service and we tender our profound sympathy to the family in their bereavement.