House of Representatives
21 June 1943

16th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the .chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers. distinguished visitor

Mr. speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn). - i desire to inform the House that Lord Burghley, a member of the British House of Commons, is within the precincts of the House. With the concurrence of honorable members, i shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.

Honorable MEMBERS - Hear, bear!

Lord Burghley thereupon entered the chamber and was seated accordingly. death of the honorable john Mcneill.

Mr. CURTIN (Fremantle - Prime Minister). - lt is with deep regret that i inform honorable members of the death of the Honorable John McNeill, a former member of the House of Representatives and a Minister of the Crown, which occurred in Sydney on the 14th June, 1943. This sad event has removed from his family, and from a wide circle of friends, a man who, due to his personal integrity and outstanding qualities, was held in the highest esteem by his fellows.

Mr. McNeill was first elected to the House of Representatives for the Division of Wannon, Victoria, at the general election in 1922. He was defeated at the genera] election in 1925, but again SUB.cessfully contested the Wannon seat at the general election in 1929. He was appointed Minister for Health and Minister for Repatriation on the 3rd March, 1931, and held that portfolio until thE resignation of the Government on the 6th January, 1932. He was defeated at the general election in December, 1931.

The late honorable gentleman was a member of the Central Wool Committee, which arranges for the acquisition in Australia by the United Kingdom Government of the Australian wool clip during the war. He was also a representative of the Australian Workers Union on the Trade Unions Advisory Panel, which was appointed to advise the Government on industrial matters in relation to the war.

The experience which Mr. McNeill had gained in the industrial field fitted him to take an honoured place in this Parliament, and his occupancy of the position of Minister for Health in the Labour Government led by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was marked by sound administration. The name of John McNeill will, however, be remembered most by the workers of this country for his zealous and untiring labours on behalf of the principles and ideals of the trade union movement, of which he was both a pioneer and a leader. He gave his life to this work, and the results of his efforts still live on. To the Australian Workers Union, of which he was general president and also secretary of the New South Wales branch, he gave almost a lifetime of service, and to it, as well as to the nation generally, his death is a severe loss. We extend to his widow and family our deepest sympathy in the irreparable loss of one who, by his sterling character, won the affection of all who knew him.

John McNeill was a most lovable as well as a most capableman. He was characterized by the highest degree of integrity, and I venture tobelieve that his name will endure in the industrial history of this country for many decades. He played a foundational part in the development of the great Labour movement -of Australia. He championed always the rights of “the bottom dog”, but he stood loyally by the principle of conciliation and arbitration, believing that if just claims were fairly stated the impartial consideration of them would result in an increasing measure of justice being accorded , to the masses on whose behalf he pleaded. It was my humble privilege, at the first conference that I attended in any capacity in my association with the Labour movement, to sit next to John McNeill. At the time, I was very young; in fact, I was not quite 21 years of age. He helped me very greatly on that day, and all through the years that have since elapsed I have been his debtor. I pay tribute to the work of a great Australian, in thebelief that his memory will endure.

As a tribute to the service which he rendered to theCommonwealth of Australia as a Minister of the Crown, the late honorable gentleman was accorded a State funeral.

I move -

That this Houserecords its sincere regret at the death of the Honorable John McNeill, a former member of the House ofRepresentatives for the Division of Wannon and a Minister of the Crown, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, andtenders its deepsympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.

Mr. FADDEN (Darling Downs- Leader of the Opposition). - I endorse the sentiments that have been so reverently expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and also associate with them the Opposition as a whole. I was not privileged to know very intimately the late Mr. McNeill, but I had some slight association with him. His death may well be described as a national loss. I extend to those who are left to mourn his passing the heartfelt sympathy of those on whose behalf I speak.

Mr. MARTENS (Herbert). - I, too, support the motion. I was privileged to know the late John McNeill for a very long time ; as a matter of fact, he and I worked (together as officials of the Australian Workers Union, in days when the task of a union official was indeed a hard one. There was no job of which he was afraid, and no man whom he could not meet. He was courteous, clean living, and a good worker. If all of us, at our death, have consciences as clean as his, then we shall have done no wrong.

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

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Assent to the following bills reported : -

War-time (Company) Tax AssessmentBill 1943.

Australian Soldiers’Repatriation Bill 1943.

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Leader of the Opposition · Darling Downs

– I give notice that to-morrow I shall move -

  1. That theGovernment no longer possessestheconfidence of this House.
  2. That a copy of this resolution be forwarded to His Excellencythe GovernorGeneral.
Prime Minister · Fremantle · ALP

. - Having regard to the terms of the motion of which the right honorable gentleman has given notice, and also, Iam quite sure, in accordance with the wish of the House as a whole that the motion shall be considered on its merits, I move -

That the House do now adjourn.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 3.10 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 June 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.