House of Representatives
9 December 1914

6th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker took the. chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

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Prime Minister and Treasurer · Wide Bay · ALP

– At 4 o’clock this morning the late Minister for External Affairs, the Honorable John Andrew Arthur, passed from among us. I am sure that I speak the mind of every member of this House, and indeed of both Houses of the Parliament, when I say that we all regret the death, at such an early age, of so capable a representative of the people and so distinguished a son of the Commonwealth of Australia. I had the privilege and pleasure of intimate acquaintance with Mr. Arthur for but a comparatively short time, yet it was long enough to enable me to appreciate his lovable personality. Mr. Arthur’s ability was known throughout Australia, and one of the most promising political careers has been cut short by his untimely death. His teachers, I have been told by those who knew him well, spoke of him, from his earliest boyhood - until the conclusion of his university training, in the most laudable terms. Those who have met him in contests in the schools, in the Courts, on the public platform-, and in this arena know that, while he was strenuous in the advocacy of his views, he was always fair towards his opponents. His was a character which we could ill afford to lose, and he has left an example which we may with advantage emulate. We deplore the loss to the nation of one who promised such brilliant service in the public life of the country, but to hia widow and his children that loss is irreparable. Our sympathy goes out to them in their severe trial. May the blessings of Heaven rest upon them and sustain them through it. Before submitting the motion which I wish to propose, let me read this telegram which has been received from the Administrator of the Northern Territory -

Beg you will convey deepest sympathy and sincerest regrets self, staff, and people of the Territory to Mrs. Arthur in her great bereavement, also to members of the Government in their sad loss of friend and colleague.


I move-

That this House places upon record its high appreciation of the great public services of the late member for Bendigo, the Hon. John Andrew Arthur, and tenders its sincere sympathy to the bereaved widow and family of an eminent citizen whose untimely decease is a great loss to the Commonwealth.

I request the Leader of the Opposition, the right honorable member for Parramatta, to second the motion.


– I am very sorry that it has been my lot to Shave to rise so frequently under the circumstances in which we are assembled to-day. I sympathize very deeply with my honorable friends opposite for the series of calamities which has deprived them nf so many of their brilliant men. In Mr. Arthur’s case there was a career full of promise; indeed, there seemed no doubt of his future success, because he possessed to a rare degree qualities which ingratiated him with members on both sides, and won their good opinion and esteem. It is melancholy to reflect that one who was but young, in the parliamentary sense, has been cut off in the bloom of his promise and at the beginning of what looked likely to be a useful political life. We. cannot pretend to know the reason of happenings like this, but I am old fashioned enough to believe that there is a reason at the back of them, although it is one which we cannot understand. We mourn the loss of a member who had rendered distinguished service to his State and to his country. Whittier has said that “ Earth gets its price for what earth gives.” In this case there was given a brilliant brain, a well-balanced judgment, a fertile mind, and an interesting personality, and the price exacted is the bereavement we suffer by the early death of one who was capable of rendering such great services to his country. Our sympathy goes out especially to the widow in her loneliness. I echo the prayer pf the head of the Government that she may be constrained to look for alleviation and mitigation of her sorrow to the only source whence comfort can come. A strange fatality appears to rest on this Parliament; the toll of death that it has paid has been altogether too great. We can only conclude that our’ exacting parliamentary duties in these trying times lay too heavy a hand on those who, while giving their best services to the country, must at the same time busy themselves in other employment for the sake of those who are near and dear to them. I join with the Prime Minister in expressing the hope that Mrs. Arthur and her children may bo sustained in their hour of trial.


– May I be permitted to add a few words to the expressions of sorrow that have fallen from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition? I was for many years more or less intimately associated with Mr. Arthur in the practice of our common profession, and in that practice we came to have a very thorough knowledge of each other’s capacity and characters. Mr. Arthur had gained the respect of all of us for his courage, his determination, and hia ability, which had secured him already an assured position in the legal profession. He was just on the threshold of what would have been a brilliant political career when death cut him off. I can only say with the utmost feeling that I sincerely hope courage may be given to his wife to bear the great blow that has fallen on her.


.- As a friend, neighbour, fellow-student, and for an all too short time a fellow-member of this House with the late Mr. Arthur, I should like to have the sad consolation of recording my sense of deep loss. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, in their touching tributes, acknowledged that they had not known Mr. Arthur for a great number of years, but I had known him for very many years, and I can say, what I think all members of the House from their short experience of the late member will re-echo, that to know him was to love him, and to know him longer was not to love him less, but to esteem him more. I am certain that, following on the words of sympathy which have been appropriately uttered by the leaders of both parties in this House to-day, expressions ofsincere regret will come not only from the masses, of the people, but from men in very distinguished positions, who had come to know his worth, notably, the members of the High Court of Australia. We may know a man publicly, but to form an adequate estimate of his true worth one has to know something of him in his own home. Knowing him in his own home, surrounded by his now bereft young family and his amiable and admirable helpmeet, I can only say that this House and this country are immeasurably poorer by the loss we have suffered.


.- May I add a word of brief but earnest expression of regret for the loss this House has sustained by the death of the Honorable John Arthur. It was not my privilege to sit in this House with him, but it was my privilege to know him in association and deep friendship for many ‘years, and I feel a keen personal loss that no words of mine can express at this stage. I am certain that the Commonwealth as a whole is bereft by his death. I know the party opposite will naturally feel the loss which the withdrawal of his advice and assistance will impose on them, but to his friends scattered throughout the community, the loss is quite irreparable. I, like the honorable member forBatman, had the privilege of knowing him in his own family circle, and I learned to recognise in him one of wide learning, deep human sympathy, and a model father and husband. Our hearts go out to his bereaved widow and his young children in profound sympathy.

MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

.- I think that I knew the late Mr. Arthur longer politically than any other member of this Parliament at the present time. I knew him first as one in practice as a barrister and solicitor, and in that profession he was recognised to be a “straight” man in every sense of the word. A firm friendship became established between us. and that has endured through all the years that have followed. Later, when he joined the Barristers Union, I felt certain that his great abilities would carry him to success. I recognise, as every honorable member in the chamber recognises, that words are almost useless to assuage the pain and grief of those who are bereft by this sad event. I have always found consolation in the thought - and I say it to the bereaved widow and children, as I have often said it to myself - that every one we have loved and lost in this life will but add to the number of those who will welcome us when it comes to our turn to pass through the shadows.

Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.

Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -

That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit a copy of the resolution, and the addresses delivered thereon, to Mrs. Arthur.

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Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -

That the House at its rising adjourn until 3.30 p.m. to-morrow.

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Funeral of the late Mr. Arthur.

Prime Minister and Treasurer · Wide Bay · ALP

– In moving -

That the House do now adjourn,

I should like to inform the House of the arrangements that have been made in regard to the funeral of the late Mr. Arthur. I saw Mrs. Arthur this morning, and she accepted my offer of a State funeral. It was her wish that the remains should be brought to this building and . thence removed to the place of interment. To that I assented, subject to the approval of the President of the Senate, which has been given. A brief service will be held in the Queen’s Hall at 10.30 a.m., and the remains will be removed from Parliament House at 11 o’clock. The funeral cortege will proceed along Bourke-street, Elizabeth-street, and Sydney-road to the Coburg Cemetery.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 3.19 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 December 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.