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Tuesday, 1 May 1973
Page: 1467

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs) - I move:

That this House expresses its deep regret at the death on 21st April 1973 of the flight Honourable Sir Arthur Fadden, G.C.M.G., a member of this House for the Division of Darling Downs from 1936 to 1949 and for the Division of McPherson from 1949 to 1958, for many years Leader of the Australian Country Party, a Minister of the Crown, Prime Minister of Australia in 1941 and Leader of the Opposition between 1941 and 1943. It places on record its appreciation of his long and distinguished public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and family.

The bare recital of Sir Arthur Fadden's parliamentary record, distinguished though it is, does little to express or explain the regard in which he was held by the Australian Parliament and the Australian people. War-time Prime Minister, Treasurer for 11 Budgets, Deputy Prime Minister for 10 years, Acting Prime Minister for a total of 692 days, Leader of the Australian Country Party for 18 years, parliamentarian for 26 years, 23 of them as a member of this House - these are offices and achievements which guarantee him a very great place in Australia's history.

But the special place Arthur Fadden has in our affections owes not so much to the service he rendered as to the special qualities of his character and his personality. The Parliaments of the 'thirties and 'forties and 'fifties were certainly not lacking in men of stature, vigour and colour but in those decades Arthur Fadden was always significant, never overshadowed, or one might say overawed. He was mananimous in victory, undaunted in defeat. Perhaps his outstanding personal quality was a supreme zest for life, and for life at its most zestful - here in this turbulent, unpredictable, wilful world of Parliament and politics. He loved this Parliament and the people who worked in it and secured with rare unanimity their love in return.

The short period of his Prime Ministership - as he himself said, like the flood he reigned for 40 days and 40 nights - occurred at the very darkest period of the war in Europe and on the eve of the war in the Pacific. In those circumstances he was obliged to engage head-on in conflict with Winston

Churchill over the return of the Australian Imperial Force from Africa. That painful dispute involving the most distressing conflict of loyalties and complex judgments about this nation's security was continued and ultimately resolved by his great successor John Curtin.

Now, with the knowledge of history behind us, we cannot doubt the correctness as well as the courage of the decision which Fadden and Curtin were forced to make and carry through. Our judgment of a man can often be illuminated by that man's judgment of others; and I think it says as much about Arthur Fadden as it does about John Curtin what he wrote about the man who succeeded him as Prime Minister and who, in fact, brought about the defeat of his Government in this Parliament. He wrote:

The best and fairest I ever opposed in politics is easy to nominate - John Curtin. I don't care who knows it but in my opinion there was no greater figure in Australian public life.

And I can find no better tribute to Arthur Fadden than that paid to him by another Prime Minister, the late Harold Holt, who wrote in a letter to him on the eve of his own election as Leader of the Liberal Party in 1966:

Whatever the outcome - and all the omens seem favourable - I wanted to tell you tonight how grateful I shall always be for your encouragement and guidance, your self-effacing generosity in giving prominence to me - as with the Child Endowment and Housing Bills - when it would have been entirely appropriate for you to have occupied the centre of the stage, and my appreciation for all the years of warm friendship between us. You radiated always the spirit of the Australia we love. There was inspiration in the kindly humanity which motivated everything you did.

Such a tribute is the more valuable coming as it did from one who himself was rich in those qualities which he so generously and truly ascribed to Arthur Fadden.

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