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Tuesday, 4 May 1993
Page: 43


Senator TAMBLING —Sir Paul Hasluck will be remembered by many as the unpolitical politician who nearly became Prime Minister of Australia in 1968. Yet Sir Paul, who disliked the wheeling and dealing of politics, left an even greater legacy to this country as a journalist, historian, university lecturer, diplomat, politician and Governor-General.

  Born into a Salvation Army family in Perth in 1905, he joined the West Australian newspaper at the age of 17 and later lectured at the University of Western Australia. As has already been mentioned by my Senate colleagues, he entered politics in 1949 as the member for Curtin and, within 15 months of being elected, was appointed Minister for Territories, a portfolio he held for 12 years. This therefore brought him a very close relationship and partnership with the constituency that I represent—that is, the Northern Territory. In 1963, Sir Paul was made Minister for Defence and, a year later, the politician who hated politics was promoted by Sir Robert Menzies to the crucial post of Minister for External Affairs.

  Yet Sir Paul remained an enigma. A brilliant Minister, he was a private man who believed that merit should bring its own reward and that it was undignified to have to persuade people of the fact. On one occasion, in 1974, the usually reserved Sir Paul announced that Australians were:

. . . less distinctively Australian than they had been for 100 years.

In comments that could apply to Prime Minister Keating's current republican debate, Sir Paul said that Australians were:

. . . crying aloud in the middle of the night with our own disturbing version of Australian roosterdom.

Importantly, Sir Paul believed that the Northern Territory could, and eventually would, manage its own affairs. This was demonstrated in the changes he initiated and supported in the structure of the Northern Territory Legislative Council as well as the progressive transfer of responsibilities to the Administrator and his council from the Department of Territories in Canberra.

  Indeed, Sir Paul made it patently clear to his officers in Canberra that administration as well as policy proposals from the Territory Administrator would be adopted unless there were compelling reasons to the contrary. This led to friction between the Administrator and his officers and the department's secretary and his officers. However, Sir Paul's judgment and wisdom were such that he could effectively balance strong and competing interests.

  At this time in the 1950s, I was a teenager in the Northern Territory. I can certainly recall Sir Paul being one of my political icons. Naturally, he was well publicised in the Northern Territory. I can certainly recall meeting him on a number of occasions personally and feeling very challenged by both his presence and the activities that he undertook. He had a close relationship with my father in developing Aboriginal education, also in the early 1950s.

  Mr Harry Giese, a retired senior Commonwealth public servant still living in Darwin, recalls that one of Sir Paul's first tasks in the Northern Territory was to assist the transfer of the Institute of Aboriginal Studies to Darwin from Melbourne. According to Mr Giese, Sir Paul subsidised linguists from the institute to study and record some of the 103 Aboriginal languages spoken in the Territory. It was the first concentrated effort to record Aboriginal languages in Australia.

  Despite the wide geographic and administrative diversity of the territories portfolio, Sir Paul maintained close contact with department heads in the Northern Territory, regularly joining them on field trips. In 1958, Sir Paul made the first major change in the composition of the Northern Territory's Legislative Council by appointing some non-official members, letting members elect their own president and generally extending the authority of the Administrator. Certainly in his later capacity as Governor-General he took a very keen and continuing interest in the Northern Territory.

  Sir Paul will also be remembered for his lifetime interest in Aboriginal affairs, an interest that led him to complete a master's degree on Aboriginal policy in 1936 and establish a group designed to promote Aboriginal interests. A report in the Canberra Times earlier this year described Sir Paul as:

. . . not an architect of assimilation, though he always defended it, particularly against what he regarded as its opposition—apartheid; he believed in rights for Aborigines, fought against prejudice, and argued that Aboriginal development depended on education, training and access to services.

Sir Paul's merits have brought us all, and will continue to bring us, reward. On behalf of Northern Territorians, I convey condolences to the Hasluck family.