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Thursday, 20 October 1983
Page: 2075

Mr PEACOCK (Leader of the Opposition)(10.14) —I thank particularly the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Griffiths) for his remarks tonight regarding Mr Phil Stokes. Phil Stokes was a close friend of mine, not just in the Parliament but also through another love we shared, namely, the Essendon Football Club. It might be of only passing interest to those who are not from Melbourne or Victoria, but those who are will recognise the deep affinity those of us from that State have with the code of football in which that club is involved. I have been honoured to have the No. 1 ticket for that club for some years. It was Phil Stokes who introduced me not to the club, because I have supported it from childhood, but to the Essondonians themselves.

That is a minor matter when one considers the service that Phil Stokes rendered for this country, both in war time-he retired as a colonel-and in his service to this Parliament in the seat of Maribyrnong from 1955 until he was defeated in 1969. I say quite unequivocally that it was Philip Stokes, and not so much the Liberal Party, who held that seat. He won the seat at the time of the split, of course, and it was always predicted that he would lose it at any election that came along. I well recall as an activist in the Liberal Party in the early 1960s before being State President that that was confidently predicted in 1961, when the times were very difficult for the coalition. Indeed, the majority fell from 32 to one, but Phil Stokes still held Maribyrnong.

He was a great Liberal and a very persistent parliamentarian. Both the honourable member for Maribyrnong and I have mentioned his service to the nation in war, but in the party room, in this Parliament and elsewhere there was no more persistent fighter for the rights of ex-servicemen than Phil Stokes, particularly in seeking to affect long required reforms to the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act. Few who served with Philip Stokes in this Parliament will ever forget his sheer persistence in that area. He serviced not only the widespread and heterogeneous requirements of his own electorate but also the requirements and needs of ex-servicemen throughout Australia. I am very grateful that the honourable member for Maribyrnong paid tribute tonight to one of his predecessors from a different party.

I had cause to have contact with Phil only a few weeks ago. His death is a great tragedy in a personal sense because in only a couple of weeks time he and Mrs Stokes were to have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. On behalf of the Opposition I naturally sent a cable to Mrs Stokes when I learnt of Phil's death. I again express my gratitude to the honourable member for Maribyrnong. Having indicated the Opposition's views personally to Mrs Stokes, I reiterate them tonight.