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Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Page: 28


Senator SCULLION (3:35 PM) —I seek leave to incorporate two speeches made at Sam Calder’s funeral. I have made them available to those opposite.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

Tribute to Sam Calder

State funeral Friday 10th October 2008

In his first speech in the House of Representatives (on 28th February 1967) Sam Calder said a lot about the Northern Territory he then knew, much of which is still relevant to today’s political and community agendas. He led his speech with the statement:

   “I am very conscious of my responsibility to all sections of the community to press continually for development and security in the north.” His comments then embraced communications, defence, growth rates and rapid development of the Northern Territory, mining, the Central Australian railways, meatworks, irrigation, sealed roads, air services, tourism, the pastoral industry, statehood and self-government, and aboriginal affairs.

Sam Calder always remained true to this gospel and that honed his priorities throughout his effective political career, and well on into his active and influential retirement. His commitment, sincerity and hard work were never questioned.

As both the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have already said when he entered Federal Parliament Sam Calder was tagged “Silent Sam” because the Member for the Northern Territory then (in 1966) had voting rights only on proposed laws relating to the Territory and on disallowance motions relating to regulations made under Territory ordinances. Thankfully, in 1968 the Commonwealth gave Sam (as the MHR for the NT) equality of powers, immunities and privileges with members from the states. Sam was never again silenced.

In his final speech in the House of Representatives (on 16th September 1980—ironically for our famous pilot on a piece of ‘Air Navigation’ legislation!), after thanking so many with whom he had worked, he characteristically said:

   “I feel that parliamentary life is not confined to this chamber. It is not even confined to the electorate. There are many pluses and minuses to a parliamentary career. I will not talk about the minuses at this time to any great extent. The pluses do not relate to the great headlines that one might achieve ...”

Like so many others, Sandy and I had the great opportunity of working, and socialising, with Sam Calder for over 30 years from the 1960s through to the 1990s. With his good humour he mentored a whole cadre of us—far too many to name or implicate—suffice it to say he was the ‘god-father’ and an icon to a complete generation change of Northern Territory politics. We all frequently caucused with Sam and his legion of friends, mainly in the bars of the Darwin Club, the Green Room, the RSL and Memorial Clubs of Alice Springs & Tennant Creek, Sylvia Wolf’s Katherine hangouts and Mataranka Manor, and the RAAF Officers Mess - because in those days that is where you met the ‘real Territorians’, engaged in debates about ‘real politics’, and got up to some incredible mischief. The solutions to many of the problems of Darwin reconstruction following Cyclone Tracy, the early moves on Constitutional Development and financial negotiations for Self-Government, and his recommendations to so many other important parliamentary committees, were hatched under Sam’s watchful eye. His experience, success and contacts were invaluable.

I succeeded Sam Calder as Member in the House of Representatives when he retired in 1980 and inherited his well trodden relationships with the Country Liberal Party in the Northern Territory and the Parliamentary wing of the National (and Country) Party in Canberra where we both partnered with Bernie Kilgariff and the Liberal Party. One of the greatest photographs of Sam Calder, which will always jolt my memory, is hanging in the National Party rooms in Parliament House—it depicts Sam with Doug Anthony, Ian Sinclair, Peter Nixon, Ralph Hunt and his other colleagues following a great election win which led to so many political deals of benefit to the Northern Territory. Well done, Sam Calder.

Grant Tambling


To Sam Calder DFC from Bern Kilgariff, Alice Springs

Dear Sam

I am thinking of you in a very special way in these recent days, and remembering the young adventurer I first got to know in 1939. Life had many challenges to throw at you and they were met with your well known smile. In those flying days of Connellan Airways and during the World War II in England where you and the other young Australian may pilots aided England and the free world nations to victory. Your skill was recognised appropriately when you were awarded your DFC

You chose to make your future along with that of the Northern Territory and returned to Connellan Airways. As a very experienced bush pilot your life had many other experiences from then on, as a pastoralist with your wife and young family, as a business man and then, eventually, as the lone representative of the, Northern Territory in politics in Canberra

A lone voice until the granting of Senate representation. You understood and promoted action for the defence of the north among other items of debate for the development of the Northern Territory. Your voice and profile became so well known as part of our vast outback of Australia.

Gone now is the playing field in which you participated as leader with your mates.

And now Sam, dear old colleague and friend, we honour you and, as we bid you farewell, thank you for your friendship. May God bless you and in your words “cheers”

Bern Kilgariff.


Senator SCULLION —by leave—Sam Calder was a member for the Northern Territory from 1966 to 1980. He led an incredible life, a life that was very much an exemplary life to all other Australians. He was a Typhoon pilot and a pastoralist as well as a politician. During his time in politics, Sam was a member of the House of Representatives, a member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Public Works. He was also appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1981.

Sam Calder will be much remembered by many of his colleagues for his distinguished flying career prior to his career in politics. He was a flight lieutenant with the RAF. He flew Typhoons and he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Many would remember 6 June 1944 but I know that a date that stood very much in the mind of Sam Calder was 5 June. That was the day before D-Day, when the Allied forces invaded France. Sam Calder was actually the individual who was asked to fly solo across the channel on 5 June to inspect the weather at the battlefield prior to the invasion of Normandy. Of course, he was selected because of his particular skill as a pilot, his particular courage and his particular leadership. He was a fantastic leader. I commend very much to this place the book, Not so Silent Sam, by Bobbie Buchanan—and I will be returning this book to the Parliamentary Library—which details his wonderful life.

At Sam Calder’s funeral, Ian Tuxworth, a former Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, spoke to me and to all of us about some of Sam’s achievements and the circumstances under which, as a Typhoon pilot, he lived. We all know, and we have all had experiences with, returned servicemen. They have a natural reluctance to provide lots of stories about their lives. It is a quiet time, and a time that often they do not wish to share. But Sam Calder obviously shared some of his with ‘Tucksy’. Ian Tuxworth said, ‘Imagine taking off on a flight each day when on average each day five fewer pilots would come back.’ So by the time Sam Calder flew 15 flights, he really believed that he had almost won the lottery. We were told by Tucksy that when Sam flew 80 flights, it was, as he said, ‘Just a matter of time.’ Sam Calder had thrown the dice so often that he was simply a dead man walking. It would be hard for us to even imagine continuing to go out in those circumstances. It is hard to imagine getting up every day knowing that your time is definitely up; that it must be this day. We were all very lucky.

Sam Calder flew a total of 125 missions over Europe and came back to continue to fight for the benefits of every Territorian. We were all so glad—and I am sure that Sam would say that he was very glad—when all the dust of the war had settled. After 125 missions, he had managed to make it, and I am sure that, if he were here, he would say that he was the most grateful. All Australians should be very grateful that he came back because he continued to fight. He fought against the elements on his property of Argadarga out at Alice Springs when he returned. The property had very basic amenities and was very remote. It is a wonderful cattle property, and he fought the elements and carved out a wonderful property. He took a leadership role in the pastoral industry way back in the early fifties.

I would like to speak about his role and the responsibility of the Northern Territory. He took his responsibility as the member for the Northern Territory extremely seriously. In his maiden speech he said:

I am very conscious of my responsibility to all sections of the community to press continually for development and security in the north.

It is interesting that his comments embraced communications, defence, growth rates, the rapid development of the Northern Territory, mining, Central Australian railways, meatworks, irrigation, sealed roads, air services, tourism, the pastoral industry, statehood, self-government and Indigenous affairs. Well, I have to say that that might as well have been my own maiden speech, because all of the issues that he touched on are issues that are still of concern to Territorians today.

Sam played a very important role on a number of committees that led to the Northern Territory having its own legislative assembly. He played an important role in the joint committee for constitutional development in the Northern Territory. The terms of reference were to:

Examine measures that might be taken to provide the Northern Territory with responsible self government, having regard to the Government’s wish to establish a fully elected legislative assembly for the Northern Territory by 31 December, 1974.

We would all remember that any plans for 31 December 1974 were in fact thwarted by the visitation upon Darwin of Cyclone Tracy a few days earlier. Most of those plans were put on hold while Territorians dealt, in their normal pragmatic way, with the devastation created by Cyclone Tracy. The second inquiry in 1975 effectively said that the original report should be implemented in its current form and implemented as soon as possible. Of course, Sam was an individual who drove continuously for self-government. We were granted self-government in 1978 and I think that was in no small part as a result of Sam Calder, and I would like to acknowledge that here today.

Sam Calder also fought long and hard for the rights and opportunities of Aboriginal people, with the formation of the Aboriginal land rights act of the Northern Territory. That was debated in 1979. What he said then reflected the way that Sam always thought. He said.

I represent the Aboriginals and other people who live in the Northern Territory. This bill refers to my people in the Northern Territory.

He always saw our first Australians as his people and he had a special relationship with them, not only through his relationship with so many people in the Centre as a consequence of being a pastoralist, but also as through moving around the Northern Territory. We can look back and see a long history of his fantastic relationship with Indigenous Territorians. He really worked hard to realise their dreams and future, and he continued to engage with them about development opportunities to ensure that they were part of the economic future of the Northern Territory.

He also embarked on a number of huge exercises examining the work and the construction of the Stuart Highway to Darwin and the standardisation of the Alice Springs-Adelaide railway and its extension to Darwin. As a result of his efforts in particular, works on the Stuart Highway and the Adelaide to Alice Springs railway were eventually completed. I remember the budget line item for that; it was some $300,000. You could hardly pay a surveyor for a year to do that, but that was the entire budget item for the surveying of that area.

When Sam first entered federal parliament, he was tagged ‘Silent Sam’, because the member for the Northern Territory in 1966 had absolutely no voting rights whatsoever. The only time that they could speak was on issues associated directly and specifically with the Northern Territory. They were not allowed to stand on any other occasion. So he was very unfairly tagged ‘Silent Sam’—I think it was by the editor at the time of that tome of truth the Northern Territory News. But, due to many of his own efforts, he later looked back and was able to see self-government come about.

Thankfully, in 1968 they gave Sam equality as the member of the House of Representatives for the Northern Territory with the members from all other states in terms of powers, immunities and privileges. As you can see from the comments, the Territory grew and developed enormously from then on, thanks to the not-so-silent Sam. We were privileged to have such a great gentleman serve the Territory. Sam Calder, we salute the enormous contribution you made to Australia throughout your life and, in particular, your remarkable legacy, to be enjoyed by all Territorians.