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Thursday, 21 February 1985
Page: 27


Mr DONALD CAMERON —The death of two former senators is to be noted following this motion of condolence for three former members. A common thread that runs throughout the history of the two former senators and three former members of the House of Representatives is that they all donned this nation's uniform at some stage in their lives. The late Senator Lacey served at the very end of the First World war. Dudley Erwin, Sir William Haworth and Les Irwin contributed either in the First World War or the Second World War. Dudley Erwin frequently came to see me in my office. I know that he appreciated the courtesies that were extended by you, Mr Speaker, and your predecessor, Sir Billy Snedden. I guess that the best advice one could give to former members is that they should make their lives away from Canberra because it is very difficult for former members to stay away from this place. Both you, Mr Speaker, and your predecessor made Dudley Erwin feel very much at home.

There is one story in regard to the late Les Irwin which is widely accepted as fact in this place. It took place in either 1963 or 1966. Les Irwin, having served in the First World War, was definitely no chicken when elected to this place. Indeed, he would have been eligible for the age pension when he entered this Parliament. At a time when he was sick, the Australian Labor Party put around in the seat of Mitchell a very cruel rumour that he had died. Les Irwin sought to correct that impression by getting on a bed in the back of a truck which was driven around the electorate of Mitchell with a big sign on it which stated 'Les Irwin is alive'. That is how he created more publicity for himself. If that story is inaccurate, I hope that nobody ever spoils it. I believe it to be true. That story paints its own picture about that very special man.

Les Irwin and Edward Gough Whitlam got on very well together. I remember Les Irwin being most strident in his attacks on the up and coming Leader of the Opposition who was later to become Prime Minister. Les never left him alone, even after E. G. Whitlam became Prime Minister. I noted today that the former Prime Minister was in the Senate listening to the Governor-General's Speech. I could not help but reflect on the friendly comments that they made to each other in this place in years gone by. Sir William Haworth was 77 or 78 years of age at the time of his death.


Mr Barry Jones —Eighty, I think.


Mr DONALD CAMERON —I will not go into that pick-a-box because the Minister has already made two mistakes today; I will only waste my time. Sir William was also getting on in years at the time of his death. I remember his attempt to be elected Speaker. He was a very quiet man but he was also a man who had distinguished State service in that he was serving his country in the Middle East when he was re-elected to the Victorian Parliament. Maybe the Minister for Science (Mr Barry Jones) would have a greater knowledge of history, but I believe that Mr Blain, a former honourable member for the Northern Territory, was a prisoner of war at the time he was elected to this Parliament. Bill Haworth, who served in Tobruk, was in a similar position to the extent that he was elected to the Victorian Parliament whilst he was away on war service. He received the same treatment as Churchill, in that immediately at the end of the war Churchill lost and so did Bill Haworth. This was the strange way that Australians treated serving members of Parliament at that time.

I was here at the time of former Senator Lacey who was a Labor senator. He died at 85 years of age. He left this place in about 1971, which would have been four years after I came to this Parliament. Finally, I wish to make a brief reference to Major-General Wordsworth, also a Liberal, who served in this place. When we start to read the history of some of the former members we can dip our lids to their achievements in their day. Perhaps we are even more privileged to serve here than we really appreciate because a lot of truly great Australians have gone before us. I say to the surviving families of those five people: May your sorrow be softened somewhat by it being known that you were associated with a group of Australians of all political persuasions who contributed a lot to this country of ours, both in time of peace and in time of war.