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Tuesday, 7 May 1985
Page: 1723


Mr PEACOCK (Leader of the Opposition) —I support the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). This is, in many ways, a rare and difficult occasion when we pay tribute to a great Australian whose son is with us in the Parliament today. We know of the achievements of the father of the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Spender)-some of us knew his father-but, for all we may say, the honourable member, who knew his father only too well, will think of him as a loving son would think of a father whose death he is mourning.

I warmly support what the Prime Minister said for the late Sir Percy Spender certainly fits into the category of an extraordinarily distinguished Australian. He was a jurist, a parliamentarian and a diplomat of the highest standing. His achievements were not only notable but also enduring. It falls to very few to be able to play a role in this Parliament and to even fewer to be able to forge for their nation policies that endure for decades. The Prime Minister correctly referred to the central role that Sir Percy forged in the ANZUS alliance, and endorsed that alliance today. Sir Percy also played an extraordinarily significant role in the formation of the Colombo Plan which, with his advocacy being so strong, was known for a short time as the Spender Plan.

Today we have a number of principal elements in our foreign policy. Two elements are the alliance with the United States of America and our relationship with Asia. Both of these elements were forged by Sir Percy, and they endure today. If we could steer through some legislation that lasted for the term of a parliament, we would think it a significant contribution. These two elements of our foreign policy have endured through three and a half decades, beyond the life of the man who forged them, and that in itself is an extraordinarily high tribute to the work and the ability of Sir Percy.

The Prime Minister correctly referred to Sir Percy's humble background. I recall him on one occasion cheerfully admitting to me that in his school days he was no outstanding scholar; yet he went on, as was recounted by the Prime Minister, from being a boy who at first had failed to matriculate to finally graduating with first class honours and the University Medal for Law.

Sir Percy entered this Parliament in 1937, making his mark in the portfolios that the Prime Minister mentioned. He served as Treasurer and as Minister for the Army before the Second World War, playing a major role in the creation of the Second Australian Imperial Force, having been a member of the First AIF. In opposition, he served for a time on the Advisory War Council and, on the return of the Menzies Government in 1949, he brought his knowledge of international affairs and the law to bear in creating a new stature and a new influence for Australia in the conduct of its international policies.

There is no doubt that Sir Percy Spender was a man of diverse interests, with the service of his life to the community in the international and domestic scenes and the writing of major books on law and politics. We mourn the passing of a very great Australian. I have spoken personally to John Spender and my Party feels as deeply as I do that the nation has lost a great Australian. We appreciate his courage in being with us in the House today during this extremely difficult time for him and his family.