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Tuesday, 16 November 1993
Page: 2920


Senator LEES (Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats) —I rise to give the support of the Australian Democrats to this condolence motion for former President of the Senate, Justin O'Byrne. Justin O'Byrne was President of the Senate from 1974 to 1976 and was a senator for Tasmania for more than 30 years. He not only had a remarkable career as a senator, but he also had an extraordinary life, one which encompassed and reflected a period of significant change in Australian society.

  Born in Launceston in 1912, he was a participant in and a witness to many great events in Australian social and political life. He was a pilot with the RAAF, was shot down over France during the Second World War and was a prisoner of war in Germany for more than three years. He was elected to the Senate immediately after the war, was the opposition whip in the Senate for more than 10 years and the government whip for 16 months prior to being elected President of the Senate in July 1974.

  As a senator he sat through the terms of eight Prime Ministers, from Chifley to Fraser. He sat with the first woman elected to the Australian Senate and his term as Senate President included the end of the Whitlam government. He was one of the old school of Labor Party politicians, committed to social justice and a fair deal for Australian workers. Justin O'Byrne served his country with great honour and distinction and I am sure he will be sadly missed by his colleagues, family and friends. On behalf of the Australian Democrats, I extend sympathy to Mr O'Byrne's wife and family.