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Monday, 26 November 1973
Page: 3791

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Prime Minister) - I move:

That the House expresses its deep regret at the death on 22 November 1973 of John Johnstone Dedman, a member of this House for the Division of Corio from 1940 to 1949 and a Minister of the Crown from 1941 to 1949, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

It can be said of the Honourable John Johnstone Dedman, more perhaps than of any of his contemporaries, that his true qualities and the true impact of his work were not widely perceived until after his active political career had come to a close. That career covered a particular era, a particular event, in our history - the war and its aftermath. As a practising politician he had no experience of pre-war sterility or post-war prosperity. He had no experience of Opposition and very little as a backbencher. His efforts were concentrated, with a singular intensity, upon the rigours of ministerial office during the most testing and difficult time in our history. His name became identified with the events and with the mood of those anxious years in a way that did much to obscure his great and lasting contribution to Australia's development in peace.

That contribution was a remarkable one. He was a man of great vision and idealism. I have always thought it a particular misfortune that he was associated so irretrievably in the public mind with images of hardship and austerity. Undoubtedly there was something in his character and, may one say it, his Scottish upbringing that gave currency to the popular view of him as a severe man, as a moralist. Yet it can now be seen that this impression sprang partly from the dedication and zeal he brought to his work and partly from the high standards - some would say old-fashioned standards - that he applied to his personal and public life. He was a convinced, practising Christian; he worked for many years in the resettlement division of the World Council of Churches. Throughout his life there was a touching and unmistakably upright quality in all he did, a palpable sense of honour and rectitude, that informed his decisions and commanded admiration.

Within the Labor Party he is remembered with special affection as one of the last representatives of the national Labor governments of his day. His contribution to the style and philosophy of those governments was as marked, as characteristic in its way - though not of course as celebrated - as Chifley's or Evatt's or Curtin's. He brought to those governments a far-sighted trust and purpose. He was largely responsible for the decision to undertake the Snowy Mountains scheme. He steered through Parliament the Bill which founded the Australian National University and for years afterwards, as a member of the ANU's Council until his death, he retained his interest in the University's growth and development. The honorary Doctorate of Laws which the University conferred on him in 1965 was a gracious and welcome recognition of his work. A year later, at the age of 70, he received, through his own studies, the degree of Bachelor of Arts.

John Dedman will be remembered, above all perhaps, as a great and gifted administrator. He became Minister for War Organisation of Industry in 1941, Minister for Postwar Reconstruction in 1945 and Minister for Defence in 1946. As Minister for Post-war Reconstruction he quickly applied himself to the expansionary needs of peacetime. He built up a truly remarkable department. It was a nursery for many of the finest talents and most notable personalities in Australian public life. The enormous scale of that achievement will be understood if I list just a few of the men who served in his Departments: Dr H. C. Coombs, Sir Allen Brown, Professor L. F. Crisp, Sir John Bunting, Sir Arthur Tange, Sir Lenox Hewitt, Mr J. F. Nimmo, Mr Walter Bunning, Professor Gerald Firth, Dr Lloyd Ross, Sir John Crawford, Mr G. Paul Phillips, Mr A. C. B. Maiden, Sir Giles Chippendall, Sir Ronald Walker, Professor S. Butlin, Mr R. G. Osborne, Mr Walter Ives, Mr Jack Campbell, the late Professor R. C. Mills, Sir Harold Wyndham and Professor R. I. Downing. The Department of Post-war Reconstruction was extraordinarily far-sighted and contemporary in the policies it followed. It is not too much to say that in its emphasis on regionalisation and the planned allocation of resources, we had a foretaste, in vastly different circumstances, of many of the principles applied now by the present Government.

John Dedman had an instinctive Australianism, He was a nationalist and a true patriot. His defeat in the seat of Corio at the elections of 1949 was singularly untimely. It was a loss to the Parliament and, more keenly still, to the Labor Party, which stood sorely in need of his competence and consistency in the following years, I believe the word 'great' is an epithet we should use judiciously on occasions such as this; I believe it can be justly used of John Dedman.

For years after his defeat he remained a familiar figure in the precincts of this House - eating here, reading in the Library - and at all times he retained the affection and respect of his comrades. He was exhilarated by his Party's victorious by-election in Corio in July 1967, just over 27 years after his own by-election victory in Corio. He was equally exhilarated by his Party's success in the general election a year ago. For myself, I was always touched by his loyalty and friendliness. In every sense we shall miss him. His presence here on so many occasions in the past year, among friends, among former colleagues, among those of a new generation who perhaps barely knew him, was a poignant reminder of the great service he rendered to the country he loved during a long and remarkable career.

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