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Monday, 14 September 1987
Page: 27


Mr SINCLAIR (Leader of the National Party of Australia) —On behalf of the members of the National Party of Australia, I wish to share in the tribute paid to the late Sir Billy Mackie Snedden by both the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard). Like a few members on this side of the House, I served with Billy Snedden throughout most of his ministerial career. I knew him well as a politician and as a man. I respected him greatly and liked his charm, his approach to life and his general dedication to those in our society whom he saw as disadvantaged.

There is little doubt that his origins lived with him throughout his political career. As John Hurst said in an article in the Australian on 21 June 1970, he was the sixth child of working-class Scots immigrants, was selling newspapers when eight years old and had to fight for a living. The article continued:

He became `anti-Labor rather than Liberal' because he believed that the ALP quenched the competitive spirit that helped him survive.

There is little doubt that his origins in Western Australia were pre-eminent in determining his attitude to life, people and political issues. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, he came so near to being Prime Minister of this country. As Leader of the Opposition he endeavoured to bring together, and I believe succeeded in bringing together, the coalition parties at a time when we were engaged introspectively in determining where our philosophy should take us. There is little doubt that his role after the election of the Gough Whitlam Government in 1972 was one which he took very much to heart and in which he provided leadership and showed courage in his manner of approaching the task of reconstructing the Liberal and National parties.

I found his maiden speech quite fascinating. He delivered it on 28 February 1956. He commented:

. . . I am devoted to the parliamentary principle of government. The parliamentary principle is the manifestation of democracy, and I feel that, by pursuing that principle, the potentialities of this nation may be made apparent . . .

It is interesting that, amongst other issues, he dealt with statehood. Above all, however, he dealt with the role of migrants in our society. Much of what he said then and what he put into practice as Minister for Immigration, certainly characterised the introduction of multiculturalism and the enhancement of our society as a result of the advent in this country of so many whose origins were societies outside Australia.

In his role within this Parliament he showed courage, honesty and forthrightness in a way that did not always endear him to all members of this place. I certainly always regarded him, above all, as a friend. To Joy, Drew, Marc, Fiona and Fabienne, on behalf of my colleagues in the National Party, and on behalf of Rosemary and myself, I express our deepest sympathy.