18 June 1946

17th Parliament · 3rd Session

The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

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Death of Senator the Honorable: R. V. Keane - Election of Senator A. J. Fraser.


– It is with extreme regret that I have to inform the Senate of the death of the Minister for Trade and Customs and Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator the Honorable Richard Valentine Keane, which occurred at Washington in the United States of America on the 27th April Australian time. On behalf of honorable senators I conveyed an expression of sympathy to Mrs. Keane, pending the more formal resolution of the Senate, and a reply has been received from Mrs. Keane expressing her appreciation and thanks for the message of sympathy.

I have also, to inform the Senate that, pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution, I notified the Governor of the State of Victoria of the vacancy caused in the representation of that State in the Senate by the death of Senator the Honorable Richard Valentine Keane, and I have received through His Royal High- ness the Governor-General a certificate of the choice of Alexander James Fraser as a senator to fill such vacancy.

Certificate laid on the table, and read by the Clerk.

Senator A. J. Fraser made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.

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Senator ASHLEY:
Minister for Supply and Shipping · New South WalesMinister for Supply and Shipping · ALP

– Honorable senators will have heard with deep regret of the sudden and tragic death of the Minister for Trade and Customs and Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator the Honorable Richard Valentine Keane. The late Senator Keane died at Washington, in the United States of America, on the 26th April American time. He had had a lengthy political and parliamentary career. He was elected to the House of Representatives for the Division of Bendigo, Victoria, at the general elections in 1939, and in that House he was a Temporary Chairman of Committees from July, 1930, to November, 3931. He was elected to the Senate as a- Victorian senator at. the general elections in 1937, and was re-elected in 1943. In the Senate he was a Temporary Chairman of Committees from 1938 to 3940, and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in 193S and 1941.

In October, 1941, the late Senator Keane became Minister for Trade and Customs and Vice-President of the Executive Council, holding the latter office till 1943. He was appointed Leader of the Government in the Senate in September, 1943, and continued in that position till his He had also been a member of the Social Security Committee and the

Special Committee on Income Tax on Current Income. He had been a member of the Production Executive of Cabinet from September, 1943.

In 1944 the late Senator Keane visited the United States of America and Canada on a mission for the Australian Government, and at the time of his death was again engaged on important work in the United States of America on behalf of the Government in connexion with important negotiations relating to lend-lease aid. A State funeral was accorded the late honorable senator at Melbourne on tire 31st May.

The details of appointments and offices which have been recited exemplify that the late Minister had a distinguished political careel1, and that he took an important share in the work of governing this country, and guiding its policies through difficult .and. formative years. He has made a splendid contribution to the well-being of bis country. Honorable senators will associate themselves with me when I pay tribute of a more personal nature to our ki.te colleague. It was my privilege to -work in close association with him over a period of years, when ho was Deputy Leader of the Opposition and I was the Opposition Whip. When he was Leader of the Government in the’ Senate, 1! was Deputy Leader. Our relations were always cordial, as honorable senators will appreciate, when they recall his accessibility as a Minister, his u nfailing courtesy, and his ready assistance to those who approached him. Perhaps his most marked qualities were hi.1; energy and cheerfulness, and the delight he took in mixing with his fellow men. His passing is a great loss to the Government and a source of sadness to his colleagues. “ Dick “ Keane and his cheery greeting of “ Halloo, brother,” will be sadly missed, but his memory will not fade. I move -

That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of Senator the Honorable Richard Valentine Keane. Minister for Trade and Customs and Leader of the Government in the Senate, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and extends its sincere sympathy to his widow and members of his family in their bereavement.

Senator McLEAY:
Leader of the Opposition · SOUTH AUSTRALIA · UAP; LP from 1944

– I second the motion. I am sure it came as a great shock to all members of the Senate to learn of the sudden and tragic death of the late Minister for Trade and Customs and Leader of the Senate. I believe that this is the first time in the history of the Senate that a Leader has passed away while holding that office. Most of the members of the Opposition have bad an opportunity to be associated with the late honorable senator) both when we were in office and when in opposition. He was forthright and courageous and had an abundance of common sense. As Leader of the Senate he was always cooperative and generous. Members of the Opposition have lost a worthy opponent, but, more than that they have lost a good friend. We shall remember him as “ genial Dick “. I have had an opportunity of expressing our sympathy with his widow and family, and I commend the Government for its recognition of his services by honouring him with a State funeral, which I attended on behalf of the Opposition.

Senator GIBSON:

– The members of the Australian Country party in this chamber desire to be associated with the motion. The late Minister was one of the most popular members of this chamber, and he was esteemed- by honorable senators on both sides. He had served the public in both branches of the Commonwealth legislature. ., For some years he represented the Division of Bendigo in the House of Representatives. He was an able debater and .took a keen interest in this country’s affairs.’ When the. Government of which he was a member was formed he was , soon raised to the position of Leader of the Government in this chamber, and hedischarged the duties of that office with dignity and courtesy. He never. induced unnecessary debate with regard to bills presented to the Senate, and when amendments were submitted by the Opposition he knew how to say "”No”. He was respected by every honorable senator. His work was effective and he was a good administrator. He carried a heavy load of responsibility, which I have no doubt contributed largely to his death. The Australian Labour party is a great loser, because it has lost one’ of , its staunchest members. The Senate also is a great loser, because it has lost a great Leader. To his widow and family we extend our sincere sympathy.

Senator SHEEHAN:

– lt was my privilege to be associated with our late Leader over a long period, both in industrial and political circles, and in this chamber. 1 When the late Minister began his career as a leader in the industrial movement 26 years ago, it was appreciated that he was destined to play an important part in the councils of the Australian Labour party. He made rapid progress. as a member of the administrative body of the Australian Bail ways Union. He became vice-president of the Victorian Branch of the organization, and afterwards, its president. In later years lie was general secretary , of the Australian. Railways Union. He played a prominent part in the work of securing improvement of the wages and industrial conditions of railway men throughout Australia. As the. chief advocate on behalf of that organization, he conducted one of the most lengthy Arbitration .Court cases that have come before that tribunal. The . completion of the case took some, years, and in the course of. its hearing hundreds of different types of workmen were dealt with. The late Minister dealt with the. log in a most efficient manner, and it was with much satisfaction. that his friends noted his election to the Commonwealth Parliament as the honorable member for Bendigo, and later to this chamber: The late Minister was a most likeable man, and although he held strong views, and expressed them fearlessly, in both political and industrial spheres, there was not the slightest trace of” enmity in his make-up. However strenuous the political fight, and regardless of what might have been said in the heat of donate, “ Dick “ Keane met his opponents with a smile, and was always ready to return shaft for shaft; in the political battle -he displayed his keen sense of humour. I regret greatly th.e necessity for this motion.. We shall indeed miss him greatly. I regret the passing of a great man and extend to his widow and family my deepest sympathy.

Senator LECKIE:

-I cannot allow this occasion to pass without paying a tribute to my. friend and colleague, the late Senator Keane. He has gone from among us, but he leaves in our minds only the pleasant memory of a man who was a friend to all of us. He was, of course, an opponent of mine in politics, but I always found him willina to examine views other than his own. No one, least of all the late Minister himself, would have called him a brilliant man,, but he was the epitome of sound common sense. He had a wider knowledge of his fellow mcn than is possessed by most people, and as a consequence he was able, not only to manage the members of his own party, but also to get on. well with those opposed to him in politics. As a “man of affairs and a capable negotiator, the deceased gentleman did a big job as a member of this chamber; he also did a big. job for Australia. I think that his qualities have been rather underestimated in the past. His last work was the biggest ever undertaken by him. As a personal friend of the deceased gentleman I am glad to know that before he died he had almost brought to a successful conclusion the biggest undertaking of his life- an accomplishment which will prove of lasting benefit to the- State which he represented and. to Australia as a whole. I shall miss him as a personal friend and also- as a man who was always willing to consider the views of others. Whenever he refused a request wc knew that it was not a personal matter at all, but that his decision was due to a difference of opinion on something over which he had no control. We shall miss his cheery’ voice, and the public life of Australia will be the poorer for the passing of this man who to’ok such a prominent part in it.

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

Sitting suspended from 3.50 to S.SO p.m.

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Senate called by the ‘ Clerk.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon Gordon Brown:

– I have’ to inform’ the Senate that, all honorable senators with the exception of Senators Crawford, Foll, Lamp and Large have answered to their names, and I direct that the names of those who have not answered be called again.

Names called by the Clerk.


– I have to inform the Senate that of the honorable, senators absent, Senator Lamp is overseas, and Senator Large is ill. I understand that Senators ‘Crawford and Foll cannot be here until to-morrow.

Senator McLeay:

– I desire to tender an apology for the absence of Senator Foll, who has informed me that he will be present to-morrow.

Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-

That, in view of the fact that Senator Lamp is absent overseas, and that Senator Large is ill, the said senators be excused for failure to answer the Call of the Senate.

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Third Reading

Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -

That the bill bc now read a third time.

Debute (on motion by Senator Leckie) adjourned.

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Third Reading.

Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -

That the bill be now read a third time.

Debate (on motion by Senator Leckie) adjourned. ‘

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Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -

That the bill be now read a third time.

Debate (on motion by Senator Leckie) adjourned.

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Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to- ‘

That, as a mark of respect to the memory, of the lute Senator Keane, the Senate do now adjourn.

Senate adjourned at 3.37 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 June 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.