29 August 1928

10th Parliament · 1st Session

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

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The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - It is with very great regret that I have to announce to the Senate the death of Senator Thomas

Givena, which occurred on the 19th June last. Pending the more formal resolution of the Senate, I conveyed on behalf of the Senate an expression of sympathy with Mrs. Givens and family, and I have received from Miss Givens a letter expressing the thanks of her mother and the other members of the family.

I have further to inform the Senate that, pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution, I notified the Governor of the State of Queensland of the vacancy caused in the representation of that State in the Senate by the death of Senator Thomas Givens, and that I have received from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral a certificate of the choice of John Valentine MacDonald as a senator to fill such vacancy. The certificate will be laid on the table and read by the Clerk.

Certificate read by the Clerk.

Senator MacDONALD made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.

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Motion of Sympathy

Vice-President of the Executive Council · Western Australia · NAT

[3.4]. - (By leave’.) - It is with profound regret that I submit the following . motion : -

That the Senate expresses its sincere regret at the death of Senator the Honorable Thomas Givens, and places upon record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and extends its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their sad bereavement.

I am sure that the news of the death of Senator Givens, which occurred during the recent adjournment; was received with deep regret by all. The late honorable senator had a very long, honorable, and useful public career. His entry into public life was in 1889, whenhe became a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly. After serving in that House ho was elected a member of the Senate in 1903, and retained his seat in this , chamber continuously until his death.

Senator Givens rendered valuable service as a member of the Select Committee on the Press Cable Service in 1909, and again in 1913 as a member of the Royal Commission on the Pearling Industry. He was elected President of the Senate in 1913, and was re-elected on four subsequent occasions, but owing to failing health retired from the Presidency on the 13th June, 1926.

To most of us the deceased gentleman was not only a political associate, but also a close personal friend. His was a rugged personality. He never went out of his way to say “ soft nothings.” He was a man of courage and decision, and those of us who were associated with him for any length of time came to value hia judgment and the advice he could give as the result of his long political experience. His ruggedness was sometimes mistaken for austerity, but those who knew him best were well aware that he was a very warm-hearted man. His was an intelligent courage. He was not only widely read, but in addition had learned much in the greatest school of all - the school of human experience.

I have no desire to revive bitter memories, but in my opinion the finest speech ever delivered in the Senate - and my experience of it dates from its inception - was that on the conscription issue made by the late Senator Givens from the President’s chair. We may not all agree with the attitude which he ‘then took up, but his speech was a masterly contribution to the debate, and one that I shall never forget. It was a characteristic of the honorable gentleman that he always refrained from speaking until he had made himself thoroughly familiar with his subject, and whether we agreed or disagreed with his opinions we could not fail to recognize that they were the result of deep convictions. He never spoke to the gallery. Having made up his mind that a certain course was right, he followed it regardless of the consequences, political or otherwise, to himself. Naturally a strong man of that type must occasionally come into conflict with those holding equally strong convictions; but, speaking as an old colleague of Senator. Givens, I can say that by his death Australia has lost a great man, that he rendered distinguished service to his country, and achieved a place in its history of which his family may well he proud.

I knew Senator Givens not only in the world of politics but also in his family life. i.I know that he was a devoted husband and affectionate father, and I realize how much his loss is felt by his widow and children. Honorable senators, I am sure, greatly regret his death and will join with all sincerity in passing this motion tendering our sympathy to his widow and children.

Senator NEEDHAM:
Western Australia

– I rise to second the motion so feelingly moved by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), and to express on hehalf of my colleagues of the Opposition and myself our very deep regret at the decease of Senator Givens. It was my privilege to be intimately acquainted with him for approximately a quarter of a century, and I always found him to be as big in heart as he was in stature. As the Vice-President of the Executive Council has said, he was a man of strong convictions, and at all times had the courage to give expression to them. He carried out faithfully every duty entrusted to him, and undoubtedly rendered valuable service to this, his adopted land. As a private member on the floor of the Senate, he was always vigorous in debate, applying himself earnestly to the task of solving the many difficult questions that came before us, and later, during the many years that he had the honour to occupy the chair which you, sir, now fill, he conducted the business of the Senate with conspicuous fair-mindedness and impartiality. His loss to Australia ia great, but the loss to bis widow and family is greater still. We on this side of the Senate join with the Government and their supporters in condoling with. them. Australia could ill afford to lose such a man as Senator Givens, and I am sure that his memory will always he honored.

Senator REID:

.- As one of the oldest friends of the late Senator Givens, I endorse all that has been said by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham). I was a member of the Queensland Parliament when the late Senator Givens entered public life in that State, and I was associated with him from that time until his death. It has been truly said that he was a man of strong convictions, and believing them to be right he gave expression to them fearlessly, wholly indifferent to what might be the consequences to himself.

I do not wish to touch upon anything of a controversial nature, but it is only just that I, as a Queenslander, should say that the speech on the conscription issue which was delivered by the late Senator Givens from the presidential chair on the occasion mentioned by the Leader of the Senate, had a big influence upon the decision of the State in which he lived. Out of that issue, and many others which arose at the time, there came into existence what is now known as the National party. The stand which the late honorable senator took on that question was most courageous. He knew only too well that it would result in the severing of many long friendships; but despite that knowledge, ho stood by his convictions and gave vigorous expression to them, regardless of what the political consequences to him might be.

He was always a big-hearted generous man, and although his attacks on political opponents were, sometimes, severe, and always vigorous, they were never at any time personal. Those of us who were members of this chamber during his long presidential term agree that he was a staunch defender of the rights of the Senate, and never allowed any attempted infringement of its privileges to pass unchecked. He administered the duties of his office with absolute fairness. As his oldest friend in the Senate, I offer this brief testimony to his service.

Senator MacDONALD:

– The circumstances responsible for my presence in the Senate to-day are such that it would ill become me to allow this motion to pass without adding a few words to those which have already been uttered concerning the death of Senator Givens, whose place I now fill in this chamber. As a journalist, and, later as a member of this House some years ago, I knew him well, and found him to be a very fine type of man. I can scarcely recall an occasion, even in heated debate, when he displayed any unfriendliness, and that, as we all know, is difficult to avoid in any walk of life.

On a motion such as this set speeches are not to be desired; all that is said should come from the heart.. As one of the least worthy of those who have been sent to this chamber by our side in politics, I wish to endorse what has been said in support of the motion, and to tender my sincere sympathy to the relatives of the late honorable senator.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Before putting the motion I desire to associate myself with all that has been said by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Pearce), the leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham), Senator Reid, and Senator MacDonald. As the late honorable senator’s direct successor to the Chair, I may bc permitted to say a word or two in appreciation of the services which he rendered to this chamber. It is well known that he was a stalwart upholder of the privileges of the Senate, and insisted also on a rigid observance of. the Standing Orders. He presided over our deliberations with conspicuous ability, and following him immediately, as I did, I found it somewhat difficult to observe the high standard which he had set.

I offer this tribute to his memory as one who did not have to contest the office of President with him. Failing health, compelled him to retire from the Chair; there was no rivalry between us, so that, happily, I have no occasion for regret in that connexion.

I endorse all that has been said concerning his public and private life, and express my sympathy with Mrs. Givens and the members of the family in their bereavement. It will be gratifying to them to know that, at the end of the honorable gentleman’s long period of public service, all those who were associated with him joined sincerely in attesting his great worth as a citizen, and in commending the manner in which he discharged every public duty entrusted to him.

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

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Motion of Sympathy

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the

Executive Council) [8.21.] - (By leave.) - During the recent adjournment the Commonwealth Parliament suffered another loss in the death of Mr. Corser, the member for Wide Bay in the House of Representatives. Mr. Corser was elected as the representative of that division on the retirement of the Right Honorable Andrew Fisher in 1915, and from that time until his death sat continuously as a member of the House of Representatives. Prior to his election he was for a term a member of the Queensland State Parliament, and was, therefore, in every sense well fitted to carry out his important public duties as a member of the National Parliament.

The deceased gentleman was most conscientious in all that he undertook to do. Many of us who knew him must have been surprised during the last year or two of his life at the unremitting attention which he gave to his work as a public man, despite advancing years and the fact that his health was failing. His death is another illustration of a public man virtually dying in harness, and I am sure that honorable senators would wish to carry a resolution . expressing the sympathy of this chamber with the members of his family. I move, therefore -

That the Senate expresses its sincere regret ofthe death of the lateEdward Bernard Cresset Corser, member of the House of Representatives for the division of Wide Bay, and places upon record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and extends its profound sympathy to his family in their sad bereavement.

Senator NEEDHAIt (Western Australia) [3.25]. - I rise to second the motion moved by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Pearce), mourning the death of Mr. Corser, for many years a member of another place, and I join with him on behalf of my colleagues and myself in expressing our sympathy with the members of the bereaved family. I did not have the pleasure of an intimate acquaintance with the late Mr. Corser, but on the few occasions that we met I judged him to be a man of undoubted probity and strong character. As the Leader of the Senate has said, he was conscientious in the discharge of his public duties, extremely fair-minded in the handling of public questions, and particularly careful in all his public utterances not to offend the susceptibilities of those who differed from him. In all his transactions he was an honorable man. It is sad to think that, since Parliament has been sitting in Canberra, the Grim Reaper has so frequently visited us. This, I think, is the fifth call he has made upon this Parliament during the last twelve months. Mr. Corser, like his late colleague in the Senate (Senator Givens), served his country well, and I can only say of him, as I said of Senator Givens, that Australia can ill afford to lose such men who have worked so hard in its interests.

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

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Vice-President of the Executive Council · Western Australia · NAT

[3.27]. - As a mark of respect to the memory of the late Senator Givens and Mr. Corser, I move -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 3.27 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 August 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.