Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 7 May 1985
Page: 1726


Mr MacKELLAR —The people of Warringah remember Sir Percy Spender with a great deal of affection. As we have already heard, he was the member for Warringah from 1937 to 1951. He won that seat as an independent. There are still stories of the campaign that was waged in 1937. He was up against Sir Archdale Parkhill, who was a Minister at the time. Sir Percy, as characterised his entire life, was absolutely indefatigable in his campaigning. The chief method of campaigning that he used to great effect in those days was the barbecue. The electorate of Warringah in those days stretched from Mosman to Palm Beach and barbecues were held frequently all along the peninsula. Sir Percy enjoyed a party. He enjoyed the barbecues and he made a great impression on those who attended them. He also made a special of street corner meetings, and the ones he held opposite the hotel at Spit Junction are still spoken about to these days. There is another story about Sir Percy's success in that election which relates not so much to his strength and ability but to the fact that Sir Archdale Parkhill wore spats to the surf lifesaving carnivals of the day and thereby lost a very great number of votes.

During Sir Percy's time as member for Warringah he was assisted very greatly by his wife. He is remembered, as I have said, as a man with the common touch, who mixed very well with the people-a busy, practical man, but a man with a light touch, a man with a considerable range of talents as a public figure. We have heard some of the details of those. At the national level he undoubtedly was a man of very effective decisiveness. I think it is absolutely true to say that he was one of Australia's great Foreign Ministers. He had a large, intellectual capacity and exceptional political insights. That is nowhere better demonstrated than in the speed with which he moved to commit Australian support to defend South Korea. We know that historically this was a major factor in the stabilisation of the Pacific at a time when Japan was beginning to come to terms with the new relationship with the West. Failure to act decisively in Korea would have exposed Japan to a very uncertain future. As I have already said, Sir Percy was a man of great decisiveness.

It was his insight which demonstrated the simple truth that an independent foreign policy is the capacity to make independent judgments about the issues of the day. Nobody could say that he ever acted other than from the inner resources of his intellect and his political acumen. He did so with Australia's interests firmly in mind at all times. I think that it is fitting that his is the Australian signature on the ANZUS Treaty.

Throughout his term as Ambassador to the United States of America, he brought to his task a vigorous independence of mind and he represented Australian perspectives with considerable dignity and distinction. He had a lively sense of humour, which is reflected in his memoirs, Politics and A Man. In it he quotes another leading politician of the time, Arthur Fadden. After Fadden's short term as Prime Minister came to an end, he said to Sir Percy, as they were walking along the Sydney railway terminal, something with which I think we all would concur. Fadden said: 'You learn as you go along, Percy. When you're out, you're bloody well out'.

Sir Percy demonstrated all his life a capacity of great intellectual vigour. Bringing to bear his attention to the problems of the day never stood in his way of acceptance of the lighter side of life which meant so much to him.

His life was long and well lived and an extremely valuable one for Australia. His passing leaves us with a sense of sadness. We are privileged to have with us as a member of this House the honourable member for North Sydney, his son, John. I, and all the residents of Warringah, join with this House in expressing to John, his family and all of Sir Percy's family a very great sadness at his father's passing.