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Tuesday, 17 September 1974
Page: 1106

Senator WITHERS (Western AustraliaLeader of the Opposition) - I join with the Leader of the Government in the Senate and express, on behalf of the members of the Liberal Party of Australia, our regret at the death of Norman Kirk. All Australians will join the people of New Zealand and his family in mourning him. The death of Norman Kirk was tragically premature. He was a strong and principled political leader. At 51 years of age he had devoted more than 20 years to the service of his fellow countrymen. Mr Kirk was of Scottish descent and was a diligent worker all his life. Although he received little formal education, he qualified as an engineer by correspondence course. At 30 years of age Mr Kirk became one of the youngest local government leaders in New Zealand when he was elected mayor of his home town. Four years after his election as mayor he entered the New Zealand Parliament. His rise in politics was rapid. In 1 965, when he was only 42, he became Leader of his Party. Eight years after entering Parliament Norman Kirk became New Zealand's first Labour Prime Minister for 12 years.

Norman Kirk fought hard to win office for his Party. He achieved that and became Prime Minister of New Zealand. It is a personal tragedy that a man who has won such office should have it so abruptly denied him. It is a personal tragedy that Norman Kirk should have been denied the opportunity to put into effect the philosophy and principles in which he believed, on which he campaigned and on which he won office. It is a national tragedy that a political leader should be taken from office in this way. There was much in Norman Kirk that all of us admire in a political leader and in a man. He had vision and he had strength of purpose. That strength of purpose and his energy were demonstrated in his ability to gain the highest office, having left school at the age of 12. Australians share special ties with New Zealand, and Norman Kirk did a lot to strengthen the links between us. The world will pay thanks to Norman Kirk for his strong and unqualified stand in opposing nuclear testing, particularly in the Pacific area. His stand helped to consolidate the opposition of other nations to the continuance of these tests. It is our hope that the process he encouraged will be consolidated. We in the Liberal Party will co-operate to ensure that this contribution by Norman Kirk is carried on.

On behalf of the Opposition senators I extend our deepest sympathy and concern to his family. I extend to his colleagues in his Party regret that they should have lost a leader in whom they had trust and respect. I also extend to New Zealanders sorrow that they should lose the services of a worthy Prime Minister to whom they had given their support.

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