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Thursday, 9 December 1976
Page: 3581

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) (Minister for Primary Industry) - I too, on behalf of the members of the National Country Party of Australia, associate my Party with the testimony to the retiring Clerk of the House which you, Mr Speaker, have advanced and which has been supported by the right honourable the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the honourable Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). When the Australian Constitutional Convention met in its 3 successive sessions recently we thought that we were examining history in retrospect. Yet in the retirement of Norman Parkes and in the succession of the Parkes family since 1901 when the Australian Constitution was implemented, there is the living testimony of the development of the Australian Constitution through the House of Representatives. It is a remarkable term of service, not just to the Parliament but to the people of Australia. He who sits so silently at the table, as the Leader of the Opposition has remarked, must read his comments while those of us who are participating within the House are normally required not to. The Clerk speaks only on petitions, on notices and on orders of the day. He must also sit and listen to so much repetition, so much of tedium, and yet so often so much of substance and of importance. He is a continuing observer and yet a participant within the parliamentary scene. In the development of the procedures and practices of the House of Representatives and of the Australian Parliament he and his father have played an important part. Those procedures and practices, of course, are not just for members of the House. They are there as protectors of our version of the Westminster system, of the people of Australia and of democracy itself.

Much has been said by the 3 speakers who preceded me of Norman Parkes, his career and his success within it. Essentially, those of us who have been participants within the parliamentary scene know him for the honesty and integrity of advice which he has afforded whether we have been speaking from the Treasury benches or from Opposition. It is in that context, of course, that the office of Clerk of the House is so important. He is there to provide the back up to honourable members so that they can best assert their points of view in representing their electorates around Australia. In that situation and in the service he has provided to the people of Australia, Norman Parkes has been quite outstanding. Whether it is on the bowling green or in the preparation of his memoirs that he seeks to spend his leisure hours, those of us who have been involved with him during his working hours and many others who have passed through this place since he first began his service here so long ago in October 1934 pay tribute to him as a man, as an officer of the Parliament and as a servant of the people of Australia. I join in extending to Norman Parkes and to Mrs Parkes our very best wishes for a very happy, successful and healthy retirement.

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