House of Representatives
19 April 1955

21st Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

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Mr. Kim EDWARD Beazley made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as Member for the Division of Fremantle, Western Australia.

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- Mr. Speaker, I desire to announce that the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews), the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Bourke), the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens), the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean), the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson), the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) and I, at the express wish of the rankandfile members of the party in our electorates, and of the constitutionally elected central executive of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party, no longer recognize the leadership of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). I have been chosen to act as the leader of these honorable members in this House, and the honorable member for Yarra will fill the position of deputy leader. We wish to be known, Mr. Speaker, for the purposes of distinction from the followers of the right honorable member for Barton, as the Australian Labour party (anti-Communist).

Mr Menzies:

– I congratulate the honorable member and his deputy leader.

Dr Evatt:

– I note the congratulations expressed by the Prime Minister. It transpires that the secret alliance between the Government and the Santamaria group is now replaced by an open one.

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Prime Minister · Kooyong · LP

– Since the House last met we have lost one of our colleagues who was very deeply regarded on both side3 of this House. Thomas Sheehan died on the 26th March last at the age of 63 years. He was born in Sydney and entered the service of the New South Wales Department of Railways. He took an interest in union affairs and became prominent in them. He was elected as an alderman of the Newtown Municipal Council in 1934, and was, in fact, Deputy Mayor in 1935. In 1937, he was elected to this House as the member for the Division of Cook, and he continued to represent that electorate for the better part of eighteen years until the time of his death. During his association with this House he was a member of the Man-power and Resource? Committee in 1941-42; lie was a member of the Public “Works Committee from 1.940 to 1943; he was Government Whip from 1943 to 1946; he was a Temporary Chairman of Committees from 1946 to 1949; he was a member of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee from 1946 to 1949; he was Parliamentary Secretary of the Labour party from 1946 until his death; and he was a member of the Committee of Privileges from 1946 until his death. He is survived by a widow, three sons, and a daughter.

Before I submit the motion which conveys our sympathy to the berea ved ones, I hope that I may say, and I am sure that I shall do so on behalf of all honorable members, that our late friend, Tom Sheehan, was a man of complete integrity whom we all respected and regarded. Ho was also a man of great simplicity, and he possessed the most remarkable personal charm and generosity. It is not given to the lot of every member of this House, particularly if he has sat here for eighteen years, to be able to say that he has no enemies. I myself might boast, or regret, a few in my own time, but Tom Sheehan, on this side of the House as on the other side, was always regarded as a person of an infinitely friendly and generous mind. I am bound to say, Mr. Speaker, that whenever you call a division in the future, I shall look back to the time when it was our practice to see Tom Sheehan, come down to tell in the division, to make our own little side remarks with him, and to know that we were talking to a man of great honesty and directness of mind. Therefore, I shall remember him, as indeed, all my friends in this House will remember him, with affection and respect.

I say those things, because, though words cannot afford comfort to those who lose a husband or a father, in the long run perhaps, the knowledge of how he was regarded in this House will provide some balm for the wounds that death at his age must have caused. I move -

That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of Mr. Thomas Sheehan, who was at the time of his death a member of this House for the Division of Cook, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

Leader of the Opposition · Barton

– I second the motion. I should like to add to the record of public service mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in relation to Mr. Tom Sheehan the fact that he served as an alderman for many years in the district of Enmore and Newtown in Sydney, and that he was very prominent as an official of one of the greatest Australian unions, the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, the same union, incidentally, as that to which so many members of the Parliamentary Labour party have belonged, including the late Mr. Ben Chifley.

The loss that we have sustained by the death of Mr. Sheehan is a very great one. For many years, he was, first, whip and then secretary of the party. He was always of great assistance in the business that had to be carried on by the party. He was, as the Prime Minister correctly pointed out, a man of great simplicity. He was kindness itself to all new members, and I cannot help thinking now of the friends of his whom death has taken away from us so recently - men like Jack Rosevear and Dan Mulcahy. The friendship of those three was remarkable. Mr. Sheehan seemed to know by instinct what was the right thing to do, and he did it. His loss will be grievously felt by his family. His children and grandchildren will always miss him. They cannot possibly replace him. We shall take some comfort from the great example of his life. We have lost a very true friend and true comrade.

Leader of the Anti-Communist Labour Party · Ballarat

– I desire to support the motion, and to say that I found the late Tom Sheehan a kindly and genial soul, and yet very earnest in his work as secretary of the party. He was possessed of great determination and great depth of character. Among the many things that he did in Ms life it will be remembered that, on the 2nd May, 1940, he was a member - of the Australian- Labour party (nonCommunist). T desire to support the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Br. Evatt), aud to extend to Mrs. Sheehan and the members of her family our. deepest sympathy.


-Very briefly, though none the less sincerely, I wish to be associated with the sentiments that, have been expressed with regard to the passing of my colleague, the late TomSheehan. With other members of this Parliament, I was associated with Mm for many years, and share with them all regret at ‘ Ms passing. As has been stated by the previous speakers, he was held in the highest esteem among the ranks of parliamentarians and also in the electorate that he represented in such a distinguished way for many years. “With other members of this Parliament, and my colleagues, I join in extending to his family, who are all very well known to me, the deepest sympathy.

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

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Prime Minister · Kooyong · LP

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

That He House do now adjourn.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Souse adjourned at 3.14 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 April 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.