9 May 1928

10th Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

page 4693



Minister for Defence · Queensland · NAT

[3.1].- (By leave.) - It is with very great regret that I have to inform the Senate of the death of the Honorable Herbert Edward Pratten, Minister of State for Trade and Customs. I move -

That the Senate expresses its sincere regret at the death of the Honorable Herbert Edward Pratten, Minister of State for Trade and Customs, places upon record its high appreciation of his meritorious public services, both as a member of the Senate and also of the House of Representatives, and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their great bereavement.

Honorable senators are aware of the tragic circumstances that surrounded Mr. -Pratten’s death. The honorable gentleman, while attending a meeting of his constituents on Monday evening last, was suddenly overcome by illness. Partially recovering, he tried, with great courage, to reassure his audience, but was overtaken by a second seizure and passed away. His demise has come as a great shock to all of us, and it is with profound sorrow that I submit this motion.

Mr. Pratten was first elected to the Senate for New South Wales at the general election in 1917, and ably represented his State in this House until November, 1921. His ability was well known to honorable senators. He was strong in debate and held very definite views, but, no matter how keenly he contested any point, he was always courteous and fair. The careful thought and attention he gave to every subject and his complete mastery of detail were also noteworthy features of his career -in the Senate.

On the resignation of Sir Joseph Cook, Mr. Pratten successfully contested the consequent election for Parramatta on the 10th December, 1921, and held that seat in the House of Representatives till the expiration of the eighth Parliament in 1922. He was elected unopposed for the new division of Martin at the general election in that year, and was again elected for Martin at the general election in 1925.

Mr. Pratten joined the Cabinet ns Minister for Trade and Customs and Minister for Health on 13th June, 1924. He resigned the office of Minister for Health in January, 1925. The portfolio of Trade and Customs has always been regarded as an onerous one, but on accepting it Mr. Pratten applied himself with “characteristic energy and ability to the task of obtaining a complete grip of the many services of the department, and throughout he displayed great zeal and industry, in obtaining a thorough knowledge of the various questions with which he had to deal in the course of its administration.

As Minister for Trade and Customs Mr. Pratten piloted three tariff measures through the House of Representatives This involved a very close and prolonged study of the various items in the schedule, and he undoubtedly felt the strain of the heavy task thus imposed upon him. Without thought for himself, however, he continued the administrative work of his department until his death. It may well be said of him that “ he died in harness.”

He was a courteous and loyal colleague, and I personally deeply feel his passing. I am sure that all who were associated with him in this Parliament and elsewhere will mourn his loss, and that sincere regret will be felt also by those of the public who knew him only by reputation.

Mr. Pratten was a firm believer in the future of Australia as an integral part of the British Empire. All his work in the direction of the expansion of Australian industries and the progress and development of Australia in co-operation with Great Britain was inspired by that belief. He rendered important services to the Commonwealth and his name will go down in history as one of our great nation builders.

His widow and family have lost a most devoted husband and father, and our sympathies go out to them in their sorrow. We can only hope that the knowledge that the sympathies of this Parliament and the people are extended to them will bc some solace in their grief.

Senator NEEDHAM:
Western Australia

– I rise on behalf of my colleagues and myself to second the motion so feelingly moved by the Acting Leader of the Senate, expressing our sorrow and heartfelt grief at the tragic and sudden demise of the late Mr. Pratten. I endorse every word that has fallen from the lips of my honorable friend. When I first met Mr. Pratten as a member of the Senate J at once recognized in him a man of outstanding ability. His ability was equalled only by his sincerity and courtesy. He brought to bear on every duty he undertook a capacity for mastering detail, and a matured judgment, which won for him, not only success, but the esteem and admiration of all who knew him. Many and difficult were the problems which he essayed to solve; and his work in the Customs Department will stand for all time as a monument to his ability, zeal and devotion to duty. Without in any way reflecting on other honorable gentlemen who have held the portfolio of Minister for Trade and Customs, I think we can agree that, not even excepting the right honorable gentleman who first occupied the position, Mr. Pratten stands foremost on the list. His idea of what should be the fiscal policy of Australia was to him not merely a principle, it was practically a faith, and the work he did when last he was in England, and, later, in New Zealand, bears striking tribute to the cause which lay so near his heart.

His sudden and tragic end is another evidence of the heavy toll that is taken of men who devote their lives to public service, and are leaders of public thought. One of the marked characteristics of the honorable gentleman was displayed even on Monday night, when the Grim Reaper gave his first intimation of the call he was about to make. The determination and tenacity of purpose for which he was always noted were evidenced when, after that first attack, he rose again to reassure his audience, and endeavoured to carry on.

His loss to Australia is great, but his loss to his widow and family is greater still. My colleagues and I join with the Acting Leader of the Senate in tendering to them our sincere sympathy. We re-echo the hope expressed by him that the universal regret felt throughout Australia at the death of Mr. Pratten may tend to soften the blow to his dear ones, but we recognize that time alone can heal the wound.

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

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [3.14]. - As a mark of respect to the memory of the late Mr. Pratten, I move -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 3.15 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 May 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.