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Monday, 16 October 1995
Page: 2106


Mr KEATING (Prime Minister) —I move:

  That the House expresses its deep regret at the death on 24 September 1995 of Leonard Keith Johnson, Member of the House of Representatives for the Division of Burke from 1969 to 1980, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

Keith Johnson, as he was known to us, was born in Melbourne on 28 March 1929. He came from a working-class background. His first job was at the age of 15 when he worked for his father who was then an ice vendor. He then turned his hand to a variety of blue-collar and clerical jobs. His working-class background and his strong commitment to help fellow workers saw him join the Miscellaneous Workers Union as an organiser in 1965.

  Keith was active in local government before entering federal politics. He was a councillor on the Broadmeadows Municipal Council from 1961 to 1973 and was instrumental in the region's planning and development. He was reported as being the driving force behind the building of the Broadmeadows Club as a much needed social venue for workers and their families.

  Keith entered parliament in the same year I did—1969. He came to the House as the member for the Victorian seat of Burke. In his maiden speech to parliament, he drew on his experience as a city councillor, highlighting the importance of the provision of adequate services ranging from sewerage and public transport to schools and hospitals. He also expressed concern for equal pay for women and spoke about the danger of the exploitation of women in the work force. He saw the need to legislate for equal pay for women.

  Keith was a member of the Labor shadow ministry in 1977 and was spokesman on construction and assisting in industrial matters. He was Deputy Chairman of Committees in 1975 and became Deputy Opposition Whip in 1978. He also served on the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, the Joint Statutory Committee on Public Works, and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Standing Orders.

  Keith made many contributions during his parliamentary career. But the single act that he will be most remembered for would be the introduction of his private member's bill in 1974 which became the Parliament Act 1974. That act established Capital Hill as the site for the new and permanent Parliament House. The act also prescribed that the area bounded by Commonwealth Avenue, the southern shore of Lake Burley Griffin, Kings Avenue and Capital Circle be designated the parliamentary zone, and that any proposal for the erection of buildings or other work within the zone must be approved by a resolution of both houses of the parliament.

  After retiring from the parliament in 1980 Keith continued to maintain his interest in local government. He served for a time on the Bellarine Shire Council, including one term as president.

  He was a particularly good fellow and he was very well liked in the Labor Party. He was one of those people who had enormous talent for most things he wanted to turn his hand to. He did not become a minister at any time during his tenure here but he was someone of great account. He was one of those people who pass through the parliament without achieving ministerial office but could have been of ministerial rank and really stood for things. That is one of the reasons I thought the House should take note of his passing.

  On behalf of the government, I extend to his wife Doris, his son Gary, his daughter Sharon, and his four grandchildren our most sincere sympathy in their bereavement.