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Friday, 30 October 1970

Mr McEWEN (Murray) (Minister for Trade and Industry) - Mr Speaker, let me first offer my good wishes to you and thank you for the manner in which you have discharged your duties. I should like to express the thanks of myself and my Party to all those whose work enables the Parliament to function. This is the most difficult speech I have ever made in my 36 years here and I think all my friends and colleagues knew that I hoped there would be no reference to myself and that I would be allowed to pass out quietly, but they would not have it. First of all, I thank the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) very deeply for the words that he used in referring to myself and my service. I endorse completely and gladly your reference to the friendship that has developed between us and the relationship of mutual trust and respect without which a coalition government could not work, but which has developed between us and has enabled the coalition Government from that point on to work and to work successfully. I will always remember the tribute that you have paid to me.

I am most grateful to the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) for the manner in which he has spoken. He is a bonny fighter himself and we have exchanged many verbal blows in all the years we have been in this place. He might think I am uninsurable but I felt some of the hits. The thing is not to disclose it. I do appreciate the tribute the honourable member has made. I accept the explanation for the unavoidable absence of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitiam). There is a relationship between myself and the Leader of the Opposition, and between my wife and the Leader of the Opposition, that is curious. When I first got a job in the Commonwealth Public Service at the age of 15 it was as a young clerk in the Crown Solicitor's office and my boss was Gough Whitlam's father, Fred Whitlam. And many years later when my wife, who was a stenographer in the Crown Law Department in Adelaide, came to Canberra Gough Whitlam's father was her boss. On many occasions I have been to the home of the Whitlams senior. I have been unrestrained, as was my duty and as I conceived it to be, in hitting out at the Leader of the Opposition across the table in this place as the occasion required but I have always had a little notch in the back of my mind remembering that I was unfortunately hitting at the son of a man whom I had very greatly respected. Fred Whitlam was a man who enjoyed enormous respect.

My Deputy, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), has spoken most generously of me and spoken on behalf of our colleagues. And Doug, I cannot express how deeply I appreciate what you have said - very deeply do I appreciate it. I thank the other honourable members who have spoken. The honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) explained that he was glad to have been with me and more glad to see me go. I took that in good part. I treasure the remarks of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) who speaks always from his heart. He and I are close friends, have been for a long time and always will remain close friends. I thank you very much, Winton, for what you have said. To the Opposition Whip, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), I say that I appreciated his remarks. He painted me in a very dark black - not in a light black, but in as dark a black as you could get. He turned back to the days when I sat on the other side in Opposition. I think what he said is true but I have no regrets. I thank the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) very much for his tribute and particularly, Ian, for your tribute to my wife. I thank the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) for the rather unique experience of a new member who knows little of me standing up and speaking as generously as he did.

To ruminate for a moment, I would like to say that it is a good thing to have something to guide you. I once had the privilege of talking to Winston Churchill and he said: 'If you are going on a journey it is a good thing to have a map.' It was another way of saying: 'It is a good thing to know where you are going.' I believe I have had a guiding star. I try to believe I have observed it. It is that the first thing always is the good of the country. The good of the country is at present tremendously important. The survival of the country in the long run is absolutely dominant over every other consideration and I believe this has never been out of my mind for one moment during my political life. It has given me a guiding star.

I have great devotion to my Party. I am tremendously proud of it and tremendously indebted to it. I have said before that all the opportunities I had arose because the Country Party allowed me to carry its brand. It was as a representative of the Country Party that I stood for Parliament, that I went into the Cabinet, that I am Deputy Prime Minister, and I am never unconscious of the fact that the Country Party is the basis of all that I am and have been. Of course, it has always been my duty and my privilege to work for the Government of which I am a member and it is quite a wonderful thing for any person to have the opportunity of being a member of a government and so have the opportunity to influence great events related to the well-being of the community or sectors of the community. Of course, I have carried the banner of the special interests and requirements of the rural industries but this has never been an exclusive responsibility; the whole well-being of the country has been in my mind at all times

I am an extraordinarily lucky person to be able to say that not only have I known but I have worked as a Cabinet Minister with Mr Joe Lyons who was himself a great man; with Menzies, whom we all know was and is a great man; with Harold Holt who was a charming man and a very, very solid citizen and Prime Minister. I have said, and I repeat, that I have the privilege of serving under and working with my coalition partner, the Prime Minister, in my own Party 1 have worked with a mass of good fellows over the years and I do not attempt to mention them all. But to have worked with Sir Earle Page in his earlier years was to work with a man who would bear comparison with any man in the public life of Australia. He contributed greatly to it. Many will remember Artie Fadden as a great man, a great parliamentarian and a great Leader of the Country Party. I have sat in Opposition in the House in the days of the Prime Ministership of John Curtin. I do speak and ever will speak with respect for John Curtin. He came to office as Prime Minister in the blackest days of the war. He had not the advantage of having been a Minister before. He had only one man in his whole Cabinet who had been a Minister before and he had to take up the responsibilities in an hour of black crisis. He did it and he did it well. I never hesitated to recount this. Chifley was a great man too and a great man to his party. I have seen a number of Leaders of the Opposition in my day. I go back to Jim Scullin who was a magnificent debater in this place. Curtin, as Leader of the Opposition, was a magnificent debater. Chifley, although not so articulate, was certainly a very powerful man. I remember Dr Evatt who wore himself out working for his Party and for the causes that he sponsored. Another leader of the Labor Party was Arthur Calwell, who is a man to be relied upon implicitly and who has followed the flag of the Labor Party with absolute devotion. And now I have been sitting with the present Leader of the Opposition, Gough Whitlam.

Through all of this I have enjoyed a most wide experience. Difficulties: Yes - there have been very great difficulties. Opportunities: Yes - there have been very great opportunities. I do not propose to ruminate on those other than to say that in my view I am a very, very lucky man to have had the opportunities that I have had. I have been very lucky to have had the opportunity to take a part in doing things which, according to my light and judgment, I have thought to be right. All I want to say of my own efforts is that I have always put the best that I have into what I have done. In the course of this long life one makes many friends. I have many friends in my own Party and in the Party of our coalition partner. My friendships are not confined to this side of the House. I have had opportunities to enjoy friendships overseas which have arisen because of my political opportunities to travel as a Minister. Twenty-four years, 25 years - whatever it is - as a Minister is a long time and I confess that recently I have found the exacting duties and the sheer physical pressures of office increasingly onerous. But there it is: One works for the nation and works for his Party to the best of his ability.

I have worked in the field of overseas trade. I have availed myself of the opportunities I have had since 1956 of trying also to strengthen greatly the fabric of Australian manufacturing industry because here is a tremendous base of our strength - the base in which most employment is to be found and therefore the base upon which our immigration policy depends. I want to thank all of those with whom I have worked. Firstly, I thank my Cabinet colleagues. I could allow myself to start naming members of the Cabinet but I will not do so. I thank not only my Cabinet colleagues but all of the members of the Ministry. I have had great pleasure and satisfaction out of working with such fine colleagues. I have made a great many friends in my own Party of course. But enough of politics.

Before resuming my seat I would like to comment on the very generous things said of me by honourable members. No-one can work in the fields in which I have worked without valuable advisers. I have been extraordinarily fortunate in having the benefit of Sir Alan Westerman, at present the head of my Department, and before him Sir John Crawford. They are very, very great Australians; they are 2 very able and dedicated men. We who work hard in the political field like to feel that we are dedicated. I would like to put it on record that you find nowhere dedication of a greater degree than you find in the Commonwealth Public Service. I pay this tribute to those men and to the many other officers who have been my advisers through the years. May I offer a spot of advice to Ministers and those who may become Ministers: Whenever a man comes into my room for the first time to offer me advice I say: 'If you do not tell me that I am wrong when you think I am wrong, you are no good to me as an adviser. You must press your point.' In this way you get the benefit of the total strength of the Public Service.

Turning from the level of the great advisers, no busy Minister could carry out his duties without the benefit of a competent personal staff of secretaries and stenographers in his office. I pay a tribute to the very few people who over this long period of years have comprised my personal staff. They have served the country through me magnificently. Whatever I have been able to achieve I could not have achieved without that assistance.

In retirement it is my intention, of course, to observe the political scene with interest. Politics is so much in my blood that it would be impossible for me not to observe the scene with interest. But I have no intention ever to think of interfering in the scene or in my Party or any other Party. I have done my piece and I go away. However, this is not to say that if my advice is ever sought I will not give it. The best advice that I can give will be available. Now, like the Roman senator of old, Cincinnatus, I return to my Sabine farm.

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