House of Representatives
18 October 1955

21st Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 1655



Prime Minister · Kooyong · LP

Mr. Deputy Speaker, the fates have dealt very unkindly with this Parliament. Therefore, not for the first time, I have to rise and refer to the death of a parliamentary colleague, on this occasion, as all honorable members know, the death of Geoffrey William Brown, who died on the 14th October, at the age of 61 years. Geoffrey Brown was well known to, and warmly and deeply regarded by, every member of this House. He was educated in Victoria, and subsequently at Cambridge. In World War I. he served with the Royal West Kent Regiment, and he attained the rank of captain. After he left his regiment at the end of the war, a war in which he became a Member of the British Empire in the Military Division, he joined the British Civil Service and was for some months in the Colonial Service in Nigeria. He became a bachelor of arts at Cambridge, and, as I said, he achieved a military distinction. Shortly after he came back to Australia he became an orchardist in the Merricks district in Victoria. He was one of those most valuable men, sometimes criticized, occasionally under-estimated, but of immense value to this country, who devote themselves, not only to their own affairs but also to a very large extent to the affairs of others. Therefore he became, as he would do, being the man he was, president of the Victorian FruitMarketing Association for eight years, and he had been a member of the Victorian Fruit Growers Council for the last seven or eight years. He was a director also of one of the leading co-operative cool stores associations in Victoria. In all those capacities he obviously established a high reputation for integrity, public spirit, and a devotion to the interests of other people. In 1949, he became a member of this Parliament for the new seat of McMillan, which seat he held until the time of his death.

In 1952, he succeeded our late friend Rupert Ryan as the chairman of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, and I know from my colleague, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), anc! from many others of all parties and all sections in this community that in that capacity he did splendid work of a distinguished, honorable and intelligent, kind.

Nothing, I believe, is more difficult than to have to refer to the loss of a colleague of this kind and to utter words about him which, as they ultimately appear, may be only words. But I know that I am right when I say that there is not a man in this place who does not feel a sense of personal loss and personal sorrow at the death of Geoffrey Brown. We were all immeasurably disturbed when, not so long ago, in this House, while the House was still sitting, he was struck down by a serious illness - an illness which, as it turned out, was a mortal one.

If to be a man of personal honour is a great thing, as we all know it is, then he was a great man. He had a personal honour which was beyond criticism. If to devote himself incessantly to the affairs of his country is a mark of excellence in a man, then he was an excellent man, because he devoted himself in that way. Indeed, it is quite right to say that, if he had preserved a private life of comfort, without strain, probably he would be alive to-day. He was one of those men who regard their service to their country in public matters as something that requires, not the third best or the second best, but the best that can be given. So Geoffrey Brown, with all his humanity and his personal attraction, passes into our memory, an affectionate memory, having established, I hope, a record of parliamentary service to Australia which the people of Australia ought to value and respect, and which I am sure they do value and respect. Whatever may be said by a few, it is in the tradition of this country that we like to have in the service of the country men of that kind.

To-day all that we can do is to utter poor words about him and say to his splendid and courageous wife, whom I think we all know, how deeply we sympathize with her and, at the same time, how proud we are of what he did both in war and in peace. We would also like to convey, through her, to her children our profound belief that they have - whether in terms of money, I do not know, but I profoundly doubt it - in terms of real substance a splendid inheritance - a good name. There can be no better inheritance than that. I move -

That t1 is House expresses its deep regret at thu death of Mr. Geoffrey William Brown, who was at the time of his death a member of this House for the Division of McMillan, plates 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 think we are filled with a special sense of loss at the sudden death of Geoff Brown. It was extraordinary how quickly he became so friendly with everybody in this House and in this Parliament. I was struck, first, by the courage that he displayed when he was overtaken by acute pain some months before he collapsed in the House. Some honorable members probably were unaware of his extraordinary record of public service, which has been detailed by the Prime Minister. He was a great soldier and a fine scholar. He did not stop at any point. At the end of the war, he joined the colonial service, and subsequently returned to Australia, where he helped his fellow orchardists, was a leading figure in a co-operative cool stores association, and the like, assisted in immigration work, and ultimately was elected to the National Parliament. We should place on record the appreciation of the Parliament, representing the nation, of a man of his character.

What impressed many of us about him as a man, as we know, of outstanding physical and moral courage, was his gentleness. I use that word in the direct sense. We shall never forget Geoffrey Brown, in his place, on the other side of the chamber. His observations on every subject were always well thought out, always expressed from the point of view of public interest, and always showed a tolerance of opinions from which he differed. The Opposition supports the motion, hoping that it will be of some slight solace to his widow and family. Over a short period of time the Parlia ment has lost some notable men, like Tom Sheehan, George McLeay, and now Geoff. Brown. In some respects they were very different from one another, yet they had one attribute in common - they were all men of gentle character. They were lovable and were loved. I think that the strain of public life greatly contributed to their deaths. It is right that we should record to-day what we feel about the honorable member whose services we have just lost and whose death represents a loss to this nation.

Minister for Commerce and Agriculture · Murray · CP

– I wish to associate the Australian Country party with the motion that has been moved by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). My colleagues and I join in the expressions of sympathy and sorrow at the loss of our colleague, who was a friend of every member of the Parliament. He engendered the respect and the friendliness of everybody. I think it can be said that transparent honesty was a characteristic of Geoffrey Brown. He had, as we have been reminded, a magnificent record of service to all that we stand for, and to this country - a record of service that extended over a wide variety of spheres. He carried into the Parliament, as he practised in his private life, the highest standards, and. he managed to conduct himself in this controversial arena in a manner which never forfeited for him. for one moment the respect or the friendship of either colleague or political opponent. He was a very good agriculturist and horticulturist, a leader in, and an organizer for, the industry in which he was engaged. That fact is very well known in Victoria, and, I think, is widely known throughout Australia. He served with great value, as guardian of the interests of the Australian fruit-growing industry, at the time of the difficult negotiations associated with the Ottawa Agreement. He served in organizing and arranging, and in leading, marketing arrangements for the fruit industry in this country, and at all times his knowledge was clear, and his personal integrity transparently clear. He was a very great citizen of this country, and a good companion to all who had the benefit of working with him, or of knowing him. On behalf of my colleagues, I join in conveying our expressions of sympathy to his sorrowing widow and children, and support the motion.

Leader of the Anti-Communist Labour party · Ballarat

– It is with sadness that I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other speakers in this condolence motion. Geoff. Brown was an earnest and sincere man, kindly and well liked. I need say no more than that. If that can be said of us at the end of our term, it will be sufficient. His work on behalf of new Australians will be remembered by them. It has been of great value to this House. I join with the Prime Minister and the other speakers in conveying our deepest sympathy to Mrs. Brown and her family.


– I desire to add my expression of sympathy to those that have been extended to the widow and family of the late honorable member for McMillan. The tributes paid, sir, to our friend and fellow-member, summarize for people outside this place what we ourselves already knew. I think they well describe the wide ability and the colourful personality of the late honorable member. To my mind, if there were some of his qualities which were greater than the rest I would say that they were his great capacity for friendship, his personal honour and service, and his great inspiration to loyalty. As one of those to whom he offered friendship, I desire to express my great gratitude for it. I hope the thoughts that have been expressed in this Parliament to-day will help to comfort Mrs. Brown and the members of her family.


– The late honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) was a good friend to many members of the Parliament, and even a slight acquaintance with him was sufficient to make one realize that one was in touch with a most attractive personality. He had that sanity and balance and respect for the ideas and feelings of others which are ingredients of real wisdom. He was the kind of man who was easy to approach and easy to know. In his parliamentary demeanour and in his personal life he was singularly free from rancour or bitterness or sarcasm, and he was conspicuously open-minded. Geoff. Brown’s deepest interest was not in the passing issues of politics, and he had no interest whatever in destroying the credit of people who disagreed with him. When he disagreed it was by way of assertion of a positive - his own belief and the reasons for it.

It has been said, that a politician is a man whose main interest is in the result of the next election, and that a statesman is a man whose main interest is in the fate of the next generation. On that definition Geoffrey Brown had the attributes of a statesman. He was deeply and humanely interested in immigration. His interest was not in numbers, but in a new life for people and in the future of this nation. He was deeply interested in the land, in husbandry, and in the improvement of the soil as a heritage to be passed on to the next generation. He was interested in the real efficiency and real responsibility of farming as a development of this basic national asset, and not in the short-term grab of commercialism in farming. And in politics, although a convinced Liberal, he was not so much interested that his party should govern as that it should be worthy of governing. He stood for wholesome values and real national interests. Like many other members of this Parliament, I can look back with pleasure and gratitude upon many acts of graciousness on his part, and value the memory of his gentlemanly demeanour and courtesy. The sympathy of all honorable members will be with his family.

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

page 1657


Prime Minister · 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 2.50 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 October 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.