House of Representatives
15 October 1936

14th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

page 1127


Prime Minister · Wilmot · UAP

. -by leave - ]t is my very sad duty to announce to the House the death of one of its members in the person of Mr. David Riordan, the honorable memberfor Kennedy, who has just passed away in Brisbane. He had been a member of this

House since the general election in 1929, and, since 1932 he had beena temporary Chairman of Committees. Immediately prior to his election to this Parliament, he was a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly, having represented the division of Burke continuously since March, 1918. Whilst the death of our fellow member and colleague is not altogether unexpected, because we have known of his serious condition for some days, it actually comes as a shock to the Parliament and to Australia. This Parliament has lost personal contact with one beloved by all honorable members, and Australia has lost the services of a very fine citizen. We who were all closely associated with Mr. Riordan learned to appreciate his splendid attributes. His was a life which was devoted to the service of his fellows. In whatever sphere he moved, as a member of his industrial organization, as a member of the Labour movement or as a member first of a State Parliament and later of the Commonwealth Parliament, he won the respect, confidence, affection and gratitude of all with whom he came in contact. His life was devoted to the service of his country. He was an able and courageous defender of his party and of the principles for which he stood, but no matter how hard he may have fought for any cause’ he had at heart, he never lost the respect and admiration of those who were politically opposed to him, and always remained the personal friend of every honorable member of this chamber. Because we all respected and admired him, we more keenly regret his passing. His cheery; optimistic personality meant a great deal to those who were associated with him in this Parliament, and his death has left a great gap in the ranks of his party and also in the Parliament. To his widow and the members of his family we offer our deepest sympathy. We desire them to feel that we recognize the very great service Mr. Riordan rendered to the nation. To the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the members of the Labour party generally, honorable members on this side of the chamber extend their deepest sympathy for the great loss the Opposition has sustained. I move -

That this House expresses its profound regret at the death of Mr. David Riordan, member for the Division of Kennedy, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders to hia widow and family its heartfelt sympathy in their bereavement.


-With the deepest regret I second the motion. Everything that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has said concerning the late member f or Kennedy is true. Darby Riordan was indeed a very great Australian. In him there lived a sincere and robust patriotism. He loved his country, and he loved the men and women of hia country. As ason of Australia he believed that the highest service he could perform was to do his best for them. He came from Queensland, and, being a big man physically and a big man spiritually, typified, I think, the characteristics of the people of that great State. A high moral conception of life pevaded his every public act. He felt that the Labour movement was one that compassed generally the things that he believed best in ourcountry. He may not have been altogether right in that belief, yet he adherod to it, as do honorable gentlemen who sit behind me in this chamber. But whilst he felt that in working for the Labour movement he was working for Australia, his tolerance and fair-mindedness always enabled him to believe that others who differed from him might possibly be right, and therefore there was no acrimony in his nature towards those with whom for the time’ being he could not agree. While he felt that there should be the fullest liberty in the consideration of public questions, he deported himself as though one should always remain steadfast to one’s principles. His public influence, I believe, was very considerable. It is true, as the Prime Minister has said, that the Opposition to-day stands in need of sympathy, for it has lost one of its most valued members, one who was valued not only because of what he said in open debate, hut also because sound commonsensemarked his contributions to the formulation of party policy, and the determination of party action. He was a friend and a counsellor to the Labour movement and to the workers of Australia, and, as such, was always ready to bear more than his fair share of the tasks and responsibilities that devolved upon his membership” of the movement.

We who were more closely associated with him than were honorable members opposite, realized lately that he had taken a great toll of his strength, and had given more, perhaps, than was wise, having regard to his physical condition. Yet, because it was deemed proper that there should be consultations between representatives of the Opposition in Melbourne and Adelaide during the parliamentary recess, notwithstanding the fatigue of the journey and the strain imposed upon him, such was his loyalty to his party and the cause for which he stood that, unwell as he was, he undertook the long and arduous journeys from Brisbane to Melbourne, and from Melbourne to Adelaide, and played a prominent part in our deliberations in those cities. He has left his mark upon Australia, It is my prayer that his country in the years to come will produce many men like him, for in such an event Australia will fulfil in time the hopes and aspirations of a truly noble spirit and one who has graced public life in the Parliaments of his country.

Minister for Commerce · Cowper · CP

– It is with very deep regret that on behalf of my colleagues in the Country party and myself I join in the expressions of sympathy that have fallen from the lips of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), in connexion with this dramatic curtailment of an active and useful public career which many of us had expected would continue for. many years. Although compared with the period of service of some members of this House, the membership of Mr. Riordan has been relatively short, his robustness of thought and expression and his keenness for his work had bo made their mark upon this House that all of us felt that he must have been here for many years; many of us could scarcely recall a time when he was not a member of this chamber. He brought to this Parliament, and to the consideration of public affairs, a practical and specialized knowledge of the industries of, and the working conditions in. the great outback of Australia. By li is breeziness and cheerfulness of disposition he gained many friends, both for himself and for the cause for which he fought for many years. Because of his special representation and knowledge, his death leaves a gap in this chamber that will be very hard to fill.


– I support the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page). I feel that I have lost a dear friend, and that the members of this Parliament have lost, not only a “good friend, but also a noble colleague and a big Australian. The late honorable member and I were colleagues in the Queensland Parliament for years, and, because of my association with him in State and Federal legislatures, I have had every opportunity to judge his sterling attributes, and the great humane spirit for which he was noted. One could not travel with him from North and Central Australia to the southern parts of the Commonwealth, and discuss various problems with him, while sitting in railway carriages and elsewhere, without appreciating hia manly qualities, and the fact that he was ever mindful of those poorly placed in the community. He represented one of the largest electorates in Australia, and he himself was big, not only physically, but also in spirit and in mind. His name is a household word throughout Queensland. He was an exemplary husband and a loving father, and while I deeply regret the occasion for the speeches, I wholeheartedly support the expressions of sympathy voiced by honorable members. I join with other members of the House in extending my deepest sympathy to the sorrowing widow and daughters.

Darling Downs

– It is hard for us to realize this morning that the voice of Mr. Riordan, which we have been so long accustomed to hear ringing its appeal through this chamber, will bc no longer heard. We in this House shall miss him, but he will be particularly missed in the far north of Queensland, where still deeper regret will he felt for his passing. He represented his large constituency with strength, vigour, energy <ind efficiency. Visitors to this Parliament, who saw him sitting quietly in his place in the House, probably never realized the demands made upon him in order properly to represent a constituency such as his. He seemed personally to know every one of his constituents. He was called upon to endure tremendous strain and stress in travelling month after month under the roughest conditions in order to get into touch with his constituents so that he might voice their feelings, and attend to their needs in this House. I have no doubt that the strain imposed upon Mr. Riordan in this way had much to do with his early demise. Because he was in such close touch with his constituents, he understood their problems, and was able to represent them in a sympathetic and understanding way. At the same time, he was able to approach the various matters that came before this Parliament in a truly Australian manner. His presence in Parliament was of infinite value, in that it kept reminding us of those great spaces in the north, and of our duty to the people there. He was a robust speaker, vigorous and forceful, full of practical knowledge, and possessed of a genial humour. He was always ready to co-operate with other Queensland representatives in securing justice for the areas they represented. We shall all miss him, and we realize particularly the loss sustained by the Opposition in bis death. We in this Parliament have our party differences, but in respect of great national issues we find ourselves united, and the late honorable member kept always before him the highest national ideals. Wow he has passed away with an honoured name, and I hope that his widow and children will derive consolation from the fact that members of the Parliament of Australia are paying earnest tribute to his memory. His work will stand ; his mem ory will linger in our hearts.

Wide Bay

– I support the expressions of sympathy which were so kindly expressed by the Prime Minister and others with the relatives of the late Mr. Riordan. I was associated with him for ten years in the Queensland Parliament, as well as in this Parliament since he became a member of it. I know that the people of his great electorate of Kennedy will feel that they have lost a kind friend, and a valuable parliamentary representative. I am sure that I express the opinion of all members of my party, and, indeed, of all parties, when I say that we all feel his loss most keenly. During the time he was a member of this Parliament he made himself loved and respected by all who came in contact with him. He was friends with every one, but his kindly disposition never prevented him from insisting at all times upon his political principles. He was a hard fighter, but with him the fight left no bitterness behind. In this respect he was an example to all Parliamentarians. I sympathize with his constituents, with his wife, his children and his brothers in the great loss they have sustained.

Assistant Minister · Maranoa · CP

– I endorse all that has been said by other honorable members regarding the late honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), and wish to add my personal tribute to his memory. He represented a constituency of a kind similar to my own, stretching out to the far west of Queensland. I first met him when I was making my political debut in 1921. He came into the electorate to support the candidature of a member of his party, and remained there until the poll. He campaigned vigorously in support of his party, but fought cleanly and squarely, never introducing personalities. Afterwards, I came into close personal contact with him and met his relatives. In the back country of Queensland no bitterness or personal feeling is ever introduced into a political campaign. All the people call one another by their Christian names, end the late honorable member was known to every one as Darby Riordan. I have met men in his electorate, opposed to him politically, who always spoke of him as a good chap; as one who did his best for them, even though he was aware they did. not vote for him. We all know that in this Parliament, though we may bc opposed politically, we frequently make firm friendships with members of opposing parties, and I have just as staunch friends among the Labour party as I have among the members of ray own party. Darby Riordan was a close friend of mine, and there existed between us the closest understanding. I always entertained for him the kindliest feelings. Never once did he do anything politically in the area where our electorates met to which I could take exception, and in that respect, I reciprocated. One is sometimes tempted to wonder why a man apparently so robust, healthy and vigorous as he was should be called away, when others of us, who might perhaps be excused if we “ slipped our cables “, are spared. I know Lis wife and family, and 1. hope that the sympathy that we are now expressing with them will tend in some measure to comfort them. I take this opportunity to express my personal sorrow at the loss they have sustained.


– While I regret the need for so doing, I join with others who have paid tribute to the memory of th’o late honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). It was my good fortune for nearly a quarter of a century to know Darby Riordan, and to work with him. I call him by that name because David Riordan was known to few, but Darby Riordan was known to thousands of people, because of the sterling work he performed in the interests of his constituency. I can say without any hesitation that lie was one of the best men who ever lived. He represented a constituency of 300,000 square miles. That is n pretty big lump of country, but his, heart was big enough to embrace it all. He was a true .son of ihe outback, and only those who have been associated with that area know what is demanded of a man who would represent it in Parliament. £ know that many thousands of persons, including those politically opposed to Darby Riordan, will regret the fact that lie has passed, away. I, who knew him well, wa3 aware that, although he looked so robust, he did not enjoy good health, and often suffered when most of those who came into contact with him were not aware of it. I remember that, before he took the trip to Melbourne and Adelaide to attend the party gatherings, mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), he had just completed a vigorous campaign in support of the candidature of his brother for the Bowen electorate in Queensland. He was not well at that time, and I urged upon him that it would be foolish to undergo the strain which would bc involved in a trip to Melbourne and Adelaide. His reply to me was, “ George, I wouldn’t miss it for quids.” He spent himself in the service of his party and of his country, and now he has died. Somebody once wrote “ God give us men !”, When God gave us Darby Riordan He gave us a man. May He give us many more of the same kind to work for the Labour party and for Australia.

Sir DONALD CAMERON (Lilley).I also wish to express my deep and sincere sympathy with the sorrowing widow and family of the late honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). I sympathize also with the Opposition in the loss of so valuable a member, and I realize that the nation too is a loser by his passing. I know that, in the far-western country of Queensland, which he knew and loved so well and which constituted his vast electorate, there will be to-day mourning in every household, whether it be the station homestead or the lonely hut of the boundary rider. The late Mr. Riordan was typical of the men who live in those wide, open spaces. He was always generous in his judgments, broadminded and tolerant, and ever ready to help those who were finding life a struggle. It has been given to few men in public life to enjoy in such full measure the esteem and affection of their fellows.


– I join with other honorable members in paying tribute to the memory of the late honorable member for Kennedy- (Mr. Riordan). As Chairman of Committees, I have lost a temporary chairman who was always extremely loyal in the discharge of his duties. He was one whom we liked better the longer we knew him. I think I am sufficiently acquainted with the outback interests of this great country of ours to know how well the late honorable member represented the people in far-flung portions of his electorate. He possessed the highest attributes to a very marked degree. Though some in ay have regarded his ever-present humour as having the characteristics of levity, it was, nevertheless, a very hig asset to this chamber; and behind it all were, a strong purpose and a determination to serve faithfully the interests which he represented. I am deeply sorry at his passing.

West Sydney

– This is an occasion when the chill hand of death brings home most forcibly to us the real significance of the shortness of time we all have on this earth. The passing of Mr. Riordan has brought sorrow into the hearts of every member of this Parliament, because, although it has been said that he suffered quietly, we all thought he enjoyed reasonably good health. We least expected that such a comparatively young man would be called away so early in life. On this account, therefore, the suddenness of his death strikes us more forcibly than would otherwise be the case! The Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) has said that the late honorable member brought to this Parliament a knowledge which the Parliament needed. With that I agree. I believe that our democracy is daily calling for men of the type of Mr. Riordan, men who have the courage of their convictions, who will play their part in this House in ventilating as forcibly as they can the social injustices under which the people suffer and the adjustments considered immediately necessary. Darby Riordan had a full knowledge of the requirements of democracy. His life was truly proletarian. Though he lived and worked in industry long before he became a member of this Parliament, he was able to mix with those in his vast electorate who are engaged in many phases of primary production, and he could discuss their difficulties with a sound knowledge of their requirements. I understand that during his early life he was engaged in the Queensland railway service. During that period of his career, he travelled from north to south and from east to west, and became conversant with the requirements of the meat, wool, and sugar industries. When we were endeavouring to find the best formula for meeting the requirements of those industries, his speeches from his place in this House, particularly during the worst years of the depression, have, I am certain, had a marked effect on the final decisions of the Government. Most likely in the Cabinet room his opinions w«re discussed. If they were not discussed directly, I am sure they had an influence on the minds of those to whom the care and welfare of the country are entrusted. On that account, in a national sense, no words of mine can adequately express our regret at his passing. His loss to the Labour party is even greater than I can adequately indicate. In the formulation and preparation of policies, the Labour party needs the advice of men of his type, men with broad and tolerant views, and with a general knowledge of the requirements of the country as a whole. It is always anxious to know the real requirements of the men outback and to learn how their interests can best be served. In this great task Darby Riordan played an important part. The late honorable gentleman’s cheery disposition and entertaining qualities endeared him to all, and very often helped us to look on the brighter side when we were not in the best mood to deal with the many troubles that crossed our paths. The late honorable gentleman always exhibited in the lobbies and in the party room a disposition of light-heartedness and optimism. Although mindful of the fact that we must all bow to the inexorable hand of death, nevertheless it is sad to see a young man of such great promise called away at a time when we need his services most. May the memory of his many kindly act? and good deeds he a source of consolation to his sorrowing widow and children. .1 feel that the speeches delivered here today will convey to them the deep sympathy which every honorable member in this House feels at his sad and untimely death.

Minister without portfolio assisting the Minister for Commerce · Batman · UAP

-The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) have spoken for the Parliament; my friend the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), himself a bushman among bushmen, has spoken for the distant north ; the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has spoken eloquently for the equally distant west; the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), has spoken for what might be termed the middle distance; and I venture, therefore, to say a word for the extreme south, in order that every portion of the Commonwealth of Australia may be linked together in tendering this garland of sorrow and sympathy to the widow and family of the late Mr. Riordan. To the eloquent tributes that have been uttered to the late honorable member’s memory, I would only add that I believe that the qualities which he possessed inspired in his fellow men who knew him more than anything else the responsive quality of personal affection. He was a man one felt one loved. It was a privilege on occasions to find oneself seated alougsidc him in the club room or elsewhere, because he breathed the very spirit of Australia, and, in his simple way, told stories of life in distant parts of the Commonwealth. Australia is all the poorer for not having recorded them, for of such things is the real history of a country made. Parliament is a sad Parliament to-day, and I am sadly grateful for having the opportunity to join my own State in the south with the north, the east and the west in a motion which, in due course, will convey to the widow and family of our late colleague the tribute of this Parliament and a message of goodwill and sympathy.


– “When I first came into this Parliament I was under a great debt of gratitude to the late Mr. Riordan for the help which he freely gave me, because, although he and I both came into this Parliament at about the same time, he had already had great experience in the Queensland Parliament. On many occasions he visited Tasmania and made many friends there who will learn of his death with the deepest regret. I join with the Prime Minister in expressing the sincere sympathy of Tasmanian members for his widow and family.

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

Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -

That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit tothe widow of the lute Mr.Riordan the foregoing resolution, together with a copy of the speeches delivered thereon.

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Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to-

That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.

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Prime Minister · Wilmot · UAP

– 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 11.13 a.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 October 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.