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Tuesday, 11 August 2015
Page: 4952

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (15:36): by leave—I move:

That the Senate records its deep regret at the death, on 29 July 2015, of John Peter Sim, CBE, former senator for Western Australia, places on record its appreciation of his long and highly distinguished service to the nation and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

John Peter Sim, always known as Peter, was born on 21 January 1917 in Colac, Victoria, into a farming family. He was educated at St Peter's Anglican parish school in Murrumbeena, the local state primary school, and then went on to attend Scotch College in Melbourne from 1927 to 1930. After leaving school, he worked on family properties and, at the outbreak of World War II, he served first in the militia and then enlisted in the AIF in 1941. He was commissioned as a lieutenant, posted first to Geelong and then to the Northern Territory until 1943. He spent much of the rest of the war on active service in New Guinea, interrupted with training in intelligence and photo interpretation in Queensland. At the close of hostilities in 1945, Peter Sim was made commander of the Rabaul compound for suspected war criminals and was made a temporary captain. In 1946 he returned to civilian life.

Attracted by opportunities to buy rural land in Western Australia, Peter and his twin brother, Hugh, moved to that state in 1946, each acquiring farms and embarking on wool growing. Their parents later joined them in the west. His family had a tradition of involvement with the United Australia Party in Victoria, so, on his arrival in Western Australia in 1946, Peter Sim joined the newly formed Liberal Party and was active in branch affairs. In 1958 he was selected for the third position on the Senate ticket but was unsuccessful. In 1960 he was elected vice-president of the Liberal and Country League and chaired the rural committee. In 1964 Senator Seddon Vincent died and the party looked for a replacement who might speak for rural and regional Western Australia. It is worth noting that Peter Sim beat Reg Withers in that preselection ballot and was appointed to the Senate at the end of 1964. He was subsequently returned at many an election—in 1966, 1967, 1974 and 1975.

Peter Sim concentrated his attention in the Senate on agriculture, foreign policy and Papua New Guinea. He was regarded as a courteous senator who was always well prepared in debate. Peter Sim was supportive of the gradualist approach to independence for Papua New Guinea and showed his own independent streak in frequently questioning accepted wisdom on a range of foreign policy areas, especially the place of Taiwan and Russian expansionism. He was a longstanding member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, later to become the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, and was chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence from 1971 to 1973 and again from 1976 until 1981. He worked very hard to secure bipartisanship in its reports.

Although unafraid to sometimes step on the toes of the government of which he was a part, his integrity and approach to his parliamentary duties were well regarded and were recognised in the New Year's honours of 1983, when Peter Sim was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for parliamentary service. In his valedictory speech, Senator Sim drew on the old quote 'curse my enemies and bless my friends' and said that he wanted to leave the chamber 'without having to curse anyone and only to bless my friends on both sides of the chamber'. He singled out a number of senators from the other side of the chamber, some of whom he said had become his friends. He was certainly a parliamentarian of the old school. He was a senator for Western Australia from 1964 to 1981.

After leaving the Senate, Mr Sim continued to be involved in public life. He served on the Senate of Murdoch University and as a board member of the Asia Research Centre. He was President of the Western Australian branch of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, and the annual AIIA Peter Sim Prize for the best undergraduate student in international relations at the University of Western Australia is named in his honour. His long contribution to Australian-Japanese relations was recognised in 2006, when that country awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun.

In 1968 Peter Sim married Paula Clarkson, and it is to her, to their daughter, Elizabeth, to their son-in-law, Ross, and to their grandchildren, Erin and Katelyn, that we express our sincere sympathies today. Dying in his 99th year, Peter Sim served his country in war and his state in the Australian Senate, through the Liberal Party, for some 17 years, and he made a substantial contribution to public discourse and international understanding. We honour him today.