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Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Page: 5034


Mr MORRISON (CookTreasurer) (10:48): Last Saturday I had the honour and the privilege to attend, with the Prime Minister and the former Prime Minister John Howard and his wife, Janette, the funeral for Sir John Carrick KCMG, AC. Sir John survived his wife, Angela, by about four months. He lived to the age of 99. He was one of the finest of his generation. I have not seen a finer generation of Australians. It was a generation that served in the Second World War, a generation that did so much to build the country, and Sir John was a giant amongst those who did all of these things. Sir John's service reminded us all of the impression that one individual can make, and I speak of it as an impression because it is something that lasts. He made an impression on all of those he came in contact with: a lasting one, a firm one, an affirming one, a positive one and an encouraging one.

I knew Sir John because I served as the party director in New South Wales for many years and it was my habit then to go and sit in his apartment in Burwood and spend time with Sir John, seek his counsel and his advice. We would sit and talk about many things over hours and I was always so incredibly impressed about not only his command of detail and knowledge but also the graceful wisdom that he was able to impart. There was always a generosity of spirit. There was always a kindness behind every sentiment that he expressed. He was a truly remarkable person, and I was very honoured to have known him in the way that I did. So many others knew him far better but I do consider myself privileged to have had the opportunity to have known him in the way I did. So he did leave an impression. He was not just one of, I would say, the founding fathers of the Liberal Party, having served first as a research assistant and then as the general secretary of the party of New South Wales for 22 years—a record that I am quite sure no-one would seek to emulate because, in the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party, there is no more significant figure, other than, of course, John Howard.

As a founding father of the party, he brought the principles, pragmatism and intellectual values and capacity he had to this task, which provided our party with the right framework, the right basis and the right platform to become what it is today. We owe so much to not just Sir John but Bob Cotton and of course Robert Menzies and that whole generation of Liberals at that time, who set about creating the party that has become the most successful political organisation in Australia's history.

But Sir John's life before he entered politics was quite different. He served as a young man in Sparrow Force in Indonesia where he was captured, and he then went on to Changi, the Thai-Burma railway and Hellfire Pass. As an officer there, he had special responsibilities to lead his men in the darkest of hours. As the Prime Minister reminded us in the House, they had a practice that no-one died alone and, while they were far from home, their fellow prisoners of war would hold each other as they passed on. Indeed, as Sir John passed on, he was held by his daughters, as the Prime Minister reminded us. This went on for some time. They slept through the night on the floor or in the room—I am assuming—and they stayed there and were with him until the very end. He passed on in the same way that his comrades when he served as a POW also passed on—in the arms of the people that loved him.

But it was in what he said at the end of their time, which was recalled at the funeral on the weekend, that I found so much of the character of Sir John Carrick, and it was this: as they were going to be going home, he told the POWs to put all of this behind them—all of its horror, all of its awfulness, all of its deprivations, all of its pain. He said, 'You are young men. Go back and live your lives in a positive way.' The capacity to say that after having experienced what none of us today can imagine speaks to a quality of a person that runs very, very deep and that we were very blessed to have amongst us.

Sir John went on to be married to Angela for 67 years. To hear his grandchildren speak at the funeral was just tremendous. Noah, Joel and Ben Campbell, and Matthew Woods and Genevieve Woods paid tribute to their 'Pa' with the hair flopping over the front of his face in the pool and his hands clapping together like an alligator as he chased them around the pool. They didn't speak of the war hero or the political titan of the Liberal Party. They spoke of Pa and the love and the joy that he brought to their lives as a family and as a member of this place. It was a great reminder that you can serve here and you can have a wonderful family, provided you continue to commit to it and see it as the most important thing.

Sir John is just an incredibly great reminder, and this is why I talk of the impression that he potentially put on all of us but particularly those who met him. He was able to achieve a balance in life. Yes, he was away for long stretches and periods of time from his family, but to hear them speak of him and the investment that he made in them—and the songs from the 'song machine' he would often to sing to his grandchildren in the evening when he was looking after them later in life—showed he was able to walk between the great corridors of power, the battlefields of wartime and the simpleness of home and do it all so effortlessly—an extraordinary thing.

But the sad part of all of this is not that Sir John has passed on—we celebrated a man of great faith that afternoon and he is with his lord now. It was the reminder of the 40,000 Australians who didn't come home from the Second World War and the loss to Australia of all the John Carricks who never came home and were never able to make the contribution that Sir John and so many of his generation did. That was the tragedy when I reflected on Sir John's passing. It reminded us of those who didn't come home and what they would have otherwise been able to contribute to our country and, indeed, the 60,000-odd in the First World War and those who have fallen in conflicts since. That is the great loss of war—not just the loss of life but also the loss of contribution that was able to be made.

So, with Sir John—his contribution—it's hard to find a peer. We can only hope to try and serve to the same standard with the same integrity that he served as a father, as a husband, as a member of the Senate, as a leader in politics, as a lieutenant in command, and serving with fellow prisoners of war. We can only hope that we can approach his standard. We also can reflect on the loss of so many others who could have served in the same way, but, sadly, did not come home. His time as a senator, his time as a Leader of the Government in the Senate, his time as a minister in resources and education—he was particularly passionate about education. He would often tell me those stories. We would be sitting in his apartment, talking about how to negotiate coalition agreements or things like this—which he had great wisdom about.

A government member: And success.

Mr MORRISON: And success, true. Then he would change topic and he would be talking about the OPEC oil crisis and the people that he met in the Middle East and how he dealt with those issues. He would often return to his most favourite topic—early childhood education and the duty we owe to those in their early years. His passion for issues of intellectual curiosity, as much as anything else, stayed with him right until the end.

As we left the church on Saturday at the end, 99 bells were struck from the church. For several minutes there, as we listened to them, we had the opportunity to reflect on one of the greatest Australians I've ever known. I hope to meet many more like him, and I hope all of us can seek to aspire to his standard. Thank you, Sir John. You've left an incredible impression.