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Tuesday, 10 September 1985
Page: 311


Senator BUTTON (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —I inform the Senate of the death on 31 August 1985 of Sir Macfarlane Burnet. I seek leave to move a motion of condolence.

Leave granted.


Senator BUTTON —I move:

That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death, on 31 August 1985 of Sir Macfarlane Burnet O.M., A.K., K.B.E., places on record its recognition and esteem for his meritorious public service and unique contribution to medical science, and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and the members of his family.

Mr President, in both Houses of Parliament we customarily offer condolence motions on the deaths of political colleagues and have only rarely moved motions of condolence for distinguished Australians who have not joined the Parliament. Such motions have been passed for Dame Nellie Melba and for Sir John Monash, and it is my privilege today to propose that the Senate pass a similar motion for Sir Macfarlane Burnet.

When we talk about Sir Macfarlane Burnet we are dealing with an Australian with a large and ambitious vision. His great work has made life safer and better for generations of people in this country and around the world. His career was distinguished by intellectual brilliance, by unswerving diligence and dedication and by a determination to push forward the boundaries of medicine and science. The range of Sir Macfarlane's work was daunting. He moved from one field to another, innovating and making improvements in every field he addressed. Today we remember especially his pioneering work in the study of viruses, including the investigation of influenza and the examination of polio, Murray River encephalitis and smallpox-like viruses. Sir Macfarlane's peers fully recognised his unique talents. He was a Nobel Prize winner; he won the Copley Medal; he won a royal medal from the Royal Society of London; he was President of the Australian Academy of Science; and he was knighted. These honours were all due and proper recognition for outstanding service.

It is proper that we should honour Sir Macfarlane Burnet, as Australia is fortunate indeed to have enjoyed the benefits of his research, his teaching, his guidance and his experience. We have lost one of our most intelligent countrymen. We cannot make up for that loss but we can indicate to his widow and family, his colleagues and the scientific community both in Australia and overseas that we respect, honour and commemorate what he did for all Australians and the world beyond.