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Tuesday, 5 November 1985
Page: 1498


Senator SIBRAA —As has been said, Joe Fitzgerald had a distinguished parliamentary career and a lifetime of history of service to the Labor movement. From 1949 to 1955 he was the member for Phillip, one of the most marginal seats in Australia. He was then the private secretary to Dr Evatt and Arthur Calwell and a member of the Senate from July 1962 until the double dissolution in 1974. I first met Joe Fitzgerald when he was a member of the New South Wales Australian Labour Party Executive and later when he was the duty senator for the Mackellar electorate council of our Party of which I was President. He was also of great assistance to me in 1966 when I contested a House of Representatives seat.

I could tell lots of stories about Joe Fitzgerald but I will tell only one because I think it is a lesson for all of us how quickly the political climate can change in this country. In 1966 there was a casual vacancy for a New South Wales Senate seat and the election was held in conjunction with an election for the House of Representatives. Bob Cotton, now Sir Robert Cotton, was the successful Liberal Party candidate. The Labour Party received less than 40 per cent of the vote. That is the only time, certainly in my memory, that that has happened.

A few months later, in 1967, there was a preselection ballot for the Labor Party Senate team. Understandably no one was keen to be No. 3 on the ticket. Mr President, as you would remember, it was one of the most keenly fought preselections in New South Wales Labor Party history. In the result, Senator Fitzgerald was relegated to the No. 3 position on the ticket. After two countbacks he finished level with Senator Murphy. The next day I called into his office to offer commiserations because I had supported him in the ballot. Being Melbourne Cup day, it would be fair to say that I had an each way bet on you, Mr President, and you were successful. Senator Fitzgerald was cleaning out his parliamentary office, packing up his Hansards, books and papers. He said: `The polls show that we have 40 per cent so there is no chance that I will be elected in a half-Senate election in three or four months time'.

It is now history that later that year there was a half Senate election and in New South Wales three Labor senators were elected without the distribution of preferences, which happens very rarely indeed. Three senators were elected on the transfer of the surplus vote and the team received in excess of 50 per cent of the primary vote. After that victory Senator Fitzgerald rang me and he said: `It just proves that there is no such thing as a certainty in politics'. It is something that I have never forgotten. To his wife Pat, his son Paul and all the family, I express my deepest sympathy.