House of Representatives
24 March 1953

20th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.


Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong - Prime Minister). - I have to inform honorable members officially that the Honorable John Solomon Rosevear died on the 21st of this month, at the age of 61 years. Before Mr. Rosevear entered political life, he played a leading part in the affairs of the Timber Workers’ Union. Indeed, his industrial activities were widespread. He first entered the Parliament in 1931 as the member for the New South Wales Division of Dalley. He represented the division continuously thereafter until the date of his death. He was re-elected for the division seven times.

During his long period in Parliament, Mr. Rosevear rendered distinguished services in many and varied capacities. From 1932 to 1936 he was a member of the bankruptcy legislation committee. He was a member of the parliamentary committee, established early in 1941, that inquired into man-power and resources for war purposes. From 1942 to 1945, he held the important position of Controller of Leather and Footwear. During the war, that was a very important and responsible position. During 1944 and 1945, he was chairman of the post-war planning committee for the leather and footwear industries. He was the Speaker of this House from 1943 to 1949 - a long period of service in the most responsible office within the gift of the House. In recent years, as honorable members know, our late friend, Mr. Rosevear, had drastically to curtail his parliamentary activities. A couple of years ago, he contracted a severe illness, from which, as was quite obvious to those of us who knew him well, he never quite recovered. It left him seriously impaired in health. He is survived by a widow, a son and a daughter.

On occasions such as this, it is always profitable to go behind the controversies of the political kind that we all have one with another and recapture the really warm personal relations that exist between most members - I hope all members of this House. It is in that sense that I put aside all kinds of .arguments that have occurred and remember what, to me, were the outstanding features of our late colleague. In a land which, I am happy to say, is still a land of opportunity for men of talent and vigour, he was a conspicuous example of a man who made his own way in life with no adventitious aids. He became the Speaker of this House. That, of itself, is a very remarkable story. I always thought he was a man of notable native ability. He was an admirable debater. When he became a member of this Parliament, he took the opportunities that presented themselves to him and added enormously to his store of knowledge. I think that all honorable members will agree with me when I say that until his elevation to the Chair removed him from the ordinary debating arena, he was one of the most powerful debaters in this House. He was a man with whom it was always a pleasure to cross a sword, if I may say so without being misunderstood. So we remember him as a consistent, able and vigorous fighter for the things in which he believed. His own career exemplified the wonderful opportunities that exist in this great and free country for a man, by his strength of mind and his own efforts, to rise to one of the highest positions in the land. I should like to pay this tribute to him, and, on behalf of the Parliament, offer to his widow and children our deep sympathy in their irreparable loss. I move -

That this Houses expresses its deep regret at the death of the Honorable John Solomon Rosevear, a member of this House for the division of Dalley and a former Speaker of the House, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

Dr. EVATT (Barton- Leader of the Opposition). - On behalf of the Parliamentary Labour party, I second the motion. It is sad to think that comparatively few honorable members remember the late Mr. Rosevear in the power and strength of his manhood. During the last few years, he was stricken by illness, which took the form, first of one attack, and then of another, but he showed tremendous physical courage in sticking to his job, and trying to perform every one of his duties. I am pleased that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has looked back into the past to recall for a moment what this man was and what he did. Many years ago, he was the honorary secretary of the Leichhardt Labour League, and an honorary official of the

Timber Workers Union. He was an expert machinist in the timber industry, and was an outstanding figure as a secretary of that industrial organization. He suffered great hardships during the most acute years of the economic depression in the early 1930’s, and that experience led him gradually into the active political arena. So he became the honorable member for Dalley. He was active in the political sphere and the trade unions sphere.

The Prime Minister has correctly referred to the work of the late Mr. Rosevear during World War II. He was the Commonwealth Controller of Footwear and Leather Supplies, which was a most important and responsible job at a time when leather could be described as almost a strategic material. He proved himself to the late Mr. John Curtin and the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, and also to the present Prime Minister, as a most able administrator. He also was a member of some of the important war-time committees appointed by the Parliament.

Mr. Rosevear, in the days of his strength, was unrivalled as a debater, not so much for his eloquence in the ordinary meaning of the term, as for his complete command of the weapons of parliamentary debate. He studied his facts, and stated them, and was ready to debate a case on the basis, common to all debaters. When great debates took place in this House, he participated in them. Looking back on those days, I think that very few people could ever have excelled him as a debater. One thing I should like to say, because I think Mr. Rosevear should be remembered for it, is that at a time when very little attention was being given to the matter, he took up the fight for the ordinary members of the Parliament, both of this House and of the Senate. He was always prominent in defending the privileges that are so necessary to the conduct by members of the Parliament of their duties, and he was largely responsible for things which to-day we take for granted. He was not alone in that activity, because others supported him, but it was an extremely important activity. I think that honorable members on both sides of the House who have not been aware of that aspect of Mr. Rosevear’s life should now know of it. Of course, during the last two and a half years, beset by attacks of illness, it was very difficult for him to carry out his work. The last service that he rendered to the Parliament and, in particular, to the Opposition, was to come specially to Canberra only about ten days ago to do a job for the Labour party in connexion with an important election that was taking place in that party. It was a pathetic thing in a way, but he considered that he should do it, and there he was, mastering the bodily weakness that was so apparent to everybody. But he was determined to do it, and he did it.

He was a man who was devoted to his party and to the cause of Labour, as I have tried to explain, in all its aspects. Yesterday, at his funeral in the little Church of England at Leichhardt, where he worshipped, the clergyman who conducted the service referred to something that was very important in itself. It was that, being all that he was in public life, in his electorate and amongst the people who knew him best, he attended to the tiniest wants of his electors so far as he could, always taking up the cause of the less privileged and those who could not well help themselves.

His death is a great loss to this party, but it is also a loss to the Parliament and to the nation. The Labour party appreciates the tribute that has been paid to him by the Government, which has been repeated to-day through the Prime Minister. I sincerely hope that what we say to-day will be of some comfort to Mrs. Rosevear and his family. He was really a man of great ability who rendered considerable service, not only to the Labour movement, but also to Australia.

Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPhersonTreasurer). - I associate the Australian Country party and myself with the very appropriate sentiments that have been expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the’ Opposition (Dr. Evatt) . We all shall miss Mr. Rosevear from this House. Those of us who knew him in his days of vigour always appreciated his debating qualities and his powerful presentation of whatever case he might have been presenting. I always regarded Mr. Rosevear as the possessor of one of the most analytical minds in this House. He rose from the ranks of Labour, as the Leader of the Opposition has stated, to the position of a branch secretary, then to that of secretary of a trade union, then to the executive of that union, and ultimately to membership of the executive of the Labour party. During the course of that rise he had the honour of sitting, as Speaker, in the chair of this House, and thus occupied the most important position that the House has to offer. He was a most congenial man. He had a most acute sense of humour, and he was always good company. We all regret his passing. All of us’ will miss him, particularly the members of the Australian Labour party, to which he rendered meritorious service and in which his counsels always prevailed. I join with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in expressing heartfelt sympathy to Mrs. Rosevear and her family who are left to mourn him.

Mr. SHEEHAN (Cook).- In the absence of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), who was Deputy Speaker during the period of the late honorable member’s speakership of this House, and of other Opposition members who were very closely associated with him, I wish to say that Sol. Rosevear, as we knew him here and as a traveller to and from Canberra for many years, was a great and good man and a splendid friend. I have reason to remember his kindness when I first entered politics for he assisted me considerably in the preparation of my early speeches. I was associated with the late honorable member on the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee, of which he was chairman for some years, and on which he did very valuable work. He was a man whom we all admired because of his personality and integrity. I join with other honorable members in offering our condolence to his widow and family.

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

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Prime Min- ister · Kooyong · LP

– As a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased honorable member, I move -

That the House do now adjourn.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 2.47 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 March 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.