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Wednesday, 8 August 2001
Page: 29502


Mr RONALDSON (7:55 PM) —It is with some sadness that I rise tonight to pay tribute to William Borthwick, AM, better known as Bill Borthwick, former deputy premier of the state of Victoria. Bill died, unfortunately, on 1 August, following heart surgery. I am indebted to the Ballarat Courier for the clips that I have today to give me some of the information about the state funeral which was held yesterday.

Bill was 76. His sons David, Mark and Andrew were there; also his wife, Muffie, who I might say is very well known to my parents. Muffie lives down on the coast near my parents. Bill Borthwick is one of those very special Australians. I think that in the 1930s it was suggested that he apply for a scholarship to Ballarat Grammar. He decided he would try that and he rode barefoot on horseback early every morning for extra tuition. He then sat with several hundred other students to compete for a scholarship, which he received, and this young man, shortly after turning 16, joined the Royal Australian Air Force.

I am sure honourable members will be fascinated to know that in 1967, when Bill Borthwick was elected to cabinet, he made his mark on not just Victorian politics and Australian politics but also international politics, because he was the first one to introduce environment protection legislation. It was the first time in Australia in any state or national parliament. Indeed, the only other country in the world that had introduced environment protection legislation in 1967 was, I gather, Sweden. This was an extraordinary contribution from a great Victorian and a very humble man.

There is sometimes a sense of obligation for leaders to attend state funerals. I was taken with the comments of the state Premier, Steve Bracks, and state opposition leader, Dr Denis Napthine, who made it quite clear that they were there out of respect for Bill Borthwick and not because it was a state funeral. This man, who retired from politics many years ago, has left a very significant mark on the next generation of state parliamentarians of whatever political persuasion. Victorian Governor John Landy was there and Bruce Ruxton was there. The Anglican Bishop of Ballarat, David Silk, gave the homily yesterday, and it was a very large funeral.

I was looking at the pictures in the Ballarat Courier today and saw the young men and women—the future leaders of this country—lining the road leading out of the chapel outside the school grounds. To see them celebrating the life of Bill Borthwick as the cortege went past was very important because ultimately those young people will look at the deeds of people such as Bill Borthwick and I think their confidence and belief in the political system would be very much restored having heard the comments that were made about Bill Borthwick yesterday.

To Muffie and the boys, my very deep condolences. This very good man was taken far too early but he had a very fulfilling life with a wife that I know he was totally committed to and a family that he was committed to. I think we are all trying to achieve in this place a mark and make a positive contribution. There will be very few of us who will leave this place, or indeed any state parliament around the country, having left the same mark that the late Bill Borthwick has left.

As honourable members will be aware, in this year's federal budget we increased funding to the ABC, and it is with a great deal of joy that I saw an announcement this morning that there will be a new ABC regional service and regional radio station coming out of Ballarat. This is a great decision and one that I very warmly welcome.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! It being 8 p.m., the debate is interrupted.