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Tuesday, 12 March 1968


Mr HOWSON (Fawkner) - Mr Speaker,I should like to add my tribute to Harold Holt, our late Prime Minister, who was my colleague and my friend. Our yesterdays are our history. Harold Holt has an enduring place in our history. In time we will see his achievements in their full perspective and we will come to know how significant they were. He was a man of great gifts and he had a long record of distinguished service to the nation. He was known to so many of us personally as a warm hearted friend, big in his generosity and so rich in his talents. There was nothing mean in anything he ever said or did.

Each one of us has special memories of him to call his own for he was a friendly man with a genius for making that friendship so personal to so many. Mr Holt was a former member for my electorate of Fawkner and there he commanded a rare loyalty, as he did later in Higgins. I had the privilege of his friendship for many years and served him as a Minister when he assumed the tasks of Prime Minister of Australia. I am proud to have served him, brief though that span was to be. I acknowledge, as so many of us do, a great debt to him and cherish that memory of his friendship.

Public life makes many demands on those who accept it as a vocation and Harold Holt was tireless in his dedication to the task. He bore many burdens and he never spared himself because he felt there was so much to be done and so little time in which to do it. Consideration for those who served around him was a special part of his character and he attracted affection and loyalty to a most unusual degree. He always made time in a crowded day to see as many as possible of those who came to his door.

As the Leader of this House he was always available to members of it, ready to listen to their problems. He knew the wisdom and the sensitive art of compromise and conciliation but on matters of high principle he yielded nothing. He became Prime Minister by the unanimous choice of his party. To quote his own words - because they are the measure of the man and his character: 'I walked over nobody to get there'.

Others have recorded in detail the full story of Harold Holt's long and distinguished career but we here in our national Parliament have vivid memories of his prime ministership cut short so tragically before he had completed 2 years in office. His achievements in that time were remarkable. He had a vision for Australia; he saw Australia standing on the threshhold of change, with opportunity beckoning and a great prospect of growth ahead. He saw Australia clearly in its Asian environment. I like to feel that the cornerstone of the arch that he was building somehow seemed to stand in its place at the memorial service in Melbourne. He saw Australia giving help and friendship to our neighbours and as a staunch Pacific partner of the United States of America and a steadfast member of the Commonwealth of Nations, loyal to Great Britain and our Sovereign, the Queen.

As has been said already, he took a special interest in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. He was its Chairman for several years and presided at its conferences in 1952 and 1954 as well as the great dinner at the time of the Coronation in 1953. He spoke for a new order in our affairs and sincerely believed that' our destiny was linked with the future of Asia. He accepted the challenge of the change that is around us: yet he kept the old loyalties and the traditional ties with our kinsmen secure. In so short a time so much was achieved. He left the nation in a fine and healthy state and for this we will be grateful. I stand here today knowing that he gave us a course to steer and a star to steer by. I should like to quote the immemorial words of Chaucer:

Me never yet a boorish thing had said In all his life to any; come what might. He was a true, a perfect gentle knight.







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