House of Representatives
9 May 1928

10th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

page 4695


AttorneyGeneral · Kooyong · NAT

(By leave.) - It is my sad duty to announce the death of the honorable member for Martin, the Honorable H. E. Pratten, Minister for Trade and Customs. When we last met, but a few days ago, he was with us, apparently in good health, and his sudden death at a public gathering held in his honour last Monday night was wholly unexpected.

Mr. Pratten came to Australia about 40 years ago, and by hard work and ability achieved marked success in business. In additionto taking a leading part in municipal affairs, he was three times President of the New South Wales Chamber of. Manufactures, and gained an extensive knowledge of Australian industries which was of great value to him in later, years.

In 1917 he was elected a senator for New South Wales, and in 1921 won the representation of Parramatta in this chamber. Upon a redistribution of the New South Wales constituencies, he became member for Martin in 1922; was promoted to Cabinet rank in . 1924; and continuously held the portfolio of Minister for Trade and Customs until his death.

The department over which Mr. Pratten presided controls many important activities of the Commonwealth, including not only customs and excise, but also bounties, navigation, shipping, lighthouses, and film censorship. Its administration involves not only control of a large staff, imposing extensive pecuniary responsibilities, but also the formulation of far-reaching principles and the capacity to apply them in infinitely varying circumstances. Mr. Pratten piloted through this chamber three major tariff schedules, the preparation and explanation of which involved an enormous amount of detailed work. The discretionary powers of his high office imposed upon him a particularly arduous responsibility.’ The administration of the navigation and lighthouse branches presented many difficult and complex problems, whilst the censorship of films also demanded careful and judicious attention. Mr. Pratten was a most conscientious and able administrator of a difficult department.

Last year he had the pleasure of revisiting England, the country of his birth, as a Minister of the Crown, and there he did valuable service in removing misunderstandings and laying the foundation of improved trade relations. At the time of his death he was engaged in an intensive study of certain of our major economic problems, and was particularly concerning himself in an effort to protect the people of Australia by strengthening the law and its administration against the smuggling of cocaine. Honorable members, both those who accepted and those who rejected his views, will agree that he never spoke on a subject without having studied it thoroughly. The matters with which he as a Minister dealt were often of a highly controversial character, yet he earned and retained the goodwill of the members of all parties. His assiduous industry and attention to duty were notable. He never spared himself in his work, and he abandoned many private interests in order to devote the whole of Mb energies to his Ministerial duties.

As a colleague, I knew him to be loyal in action and in speech. His ambition was to render service to the country of his adoption, of which he was proud to be a citizen. Australia owes to him a great debt for’ the public service he gave.

On behalf of the Government and the House, I express very sincere sympathy with Mrs. Pratten and the members of the deceased gentleman’s family in the great sorrow they are now experiencing. I move -

That this House records its sincere regret for tlie death of the Hon. Herbert Edward Pratten, who was a member of this Parliament since the year 1917, and who held the office of Minister for Trade and Customs since 1024; expresses appreciation of the energy and ability with which lie devoted himself to his public duties; and tenders its deep sympathy to his bereaved widow and family in their great sorrow.


.- Every member of the House, and every official associated with it, sincerely regrets the death of Mr. Pratten. His sudden end was a shock to all of us, for only .on Friday last he seemed to be in as good spirits as we had ever known him. We shall see him in this place no more.. An outstanding feature of his public life was his unfailing courtesy to friend and foe alike. Even in the heat of debate, he was always a gentleman, and because of that won the admiration and esteem of all his fellow members. We admired, too, his wonderful energy, strict attention to duty, and remarkable knowledge of every detail in the most intricate affairs of a most important department. One of his greatest responsibilities as a Minister was the introduction of a series of tariff schedules to this House. He gave effect to fiscal principles that met with the approval of the majority of honorable members, and it was a privilege to be associated, in connexion with these proposals, with a man who served Australia well according to his views and ability. He brought to bear on all public questions a very keen brain and an extensive and varied knowledge. His public life proved that one may fight strenuously for a cause without losing the personal esteem and respect of political opponents.

The manner of Mr. Pratten’s death shows that he would not suffer even a great physical disability to deter him from doing what he thought to bp his duty. Never a robust man, he proved that physical strength is not essential to great mental effort. .In the controlling of his department, and particularly in the formulation and explanation of tariff schedules, he applied to the utmost his physical and intellectual powers. The spirit that sustained him in his work had not its source in mere physical strength; his actions were animated by the desire to do what he believed the best thing to be done. Whether we differed from him or not in what he said and did, we can pay tribute to him as a man who rendered valuable public service in return for the trust and confidence that were reposed in him.’

On behalf of the Opposition, and I say with confidence, of every member of this . Parliament and all its officials, I offer the fullest sympathy to his widow, and to those loved ones who now mourn the loss of a good father and a good man.

Hon. Sir Littleton Groom

– Before putting the question to the House may I, as one who was for some time a colleague in Cabinet with the late Minister, be permitted to express my very deep regret at h’is untimely death. He gave of his best to his country, discharging all his duties with marked zeal, industry, and ability, and he has left behind him a fine record of public service. May the knowledge that his work has been so highly appreciated by his fellowmembers and by the community be a true consolation to hi3 widow and family in their great sorrow.

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

Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -

That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit to Mrs. Pratten the foregoing resolution, and a copy .Qf the speeches delivered thereon.

AttorneyGeneral · Kooyong · NAT

– As a mark of respect to the memory of the late Honorable H. E. Pratten, I move - …. the House do now adjourn.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 3.12 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 May 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.