18 February 1953

20th Parliament · 1st Session

The Senate, on the 6th November, 1952, adjourned to a date and hour to be fixed by the President and to be notified to each honorable senator.

The Senate met at S p.m. pursuant to such notification.

The CLERK - I have received advice that the President (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) will be unable to attend the sittings of the Senate this week. In accordance with. Standing Order 29, the Chairman of Committees will take the chair as Deputy President. ‘

The Deputy PRESIDENT (Senator George Rankin) thereupon took the chair, and read prayers.

Motion (by Senator O’SULLIVAN agreed to - . That, during the absence ‘ of the President, the Chairman of Committees (Senator George Rankin) shall, on each sitting day, take the chair of the Senate an Deputy President, and may, during such absence, perform the duties and exercise the authority of President in relation to all proceedings of the Senate and to proceedings of Standing Committees and Joint Statutory Committees to which the President is appointed.

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The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator George Rankin). - It is with very great regret that I have to announce to the Senate the death of Senator J. H. Chamberlain, which occurred on the 16th January . last. On behalf of honorable senators, the President (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) conveyed to Mrs. Chamberlain an expression of sympathy pending the more formal resolution of the Senate. In accordance with Section 21 of the Constitution, the President also notified the Governor of the State of Tasmania of the existence of a vacancy in the representation of that State.

Minister for Trade and Customs · QueenslandMinister for Trade and Customs · LP

by leave - Honorable senators will have heard with deep regret of the death of our friend and colleague, Senator J. H. Chamberlain which took place in his home State, Tasmania, on the 16th January last. Senator Chamberlain had a parliamentary career extending over a period of approximately twenty years. In 1934 he was elected to the House of Assembly in the Tasmanian Parliament for the Division of Darwin, and was the representative of that division until 1950. In that house be was a member of the Standing Committee on Public Works, becoming the chairman of the committee in 1948. He was Deputy Leader of the Opposition from November, 1949, to June, 1950. He resigned from the State Parliament in 1951 to contest the federal election in that year. He was elected to the Senate in 1951 for tho State of Tasmania.

Senator Chamberlain served in the Australian Imperial Force in the first world war, and was wounded in action. He was an active member of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and held several executive positions in both local and State organizations.’ He was a member of the State executive of the league for more than twenty years. Such was the public life of our departed friend. It is a record of faithful service to his country in war and in peace. But we, who knew him, even if only a little while, will remember him for his sterling personal qualities, his courtesy and his unsimulated friendliness, which endeared him to all who knew him. Whenever he spoke in this chamber, he received respect and attention. He spoke with courtesy and restraint and with impressive earnestness and conviction. The Senate is much the poorer for his passing. When my wife and I were in Tasmania recently, we took the somewhat melancholy occasion to call upon Mrs. Chamberlain and I conveyed to her the sympathy .of his colleagues and honorable senators of all parties in her sad loss. I am sure that honorable senators will approve that action. I move -

That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of Senator John Hartley Chamberlain, senator for the State of Tasmania, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tenders its sincere sympathy to his widow and members of his family in their bereavement.

Senator McKENNA:
Leader of- the Opposition · Tasmania

– On behalf of the Opposition, I second the motion that has been moved by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan).. Every honorable senator on the Opposition side deplores the untimely and wholly unexpected passing of Senator Chamberlain ‘ during the parliamentary recess. I agree with the honorable senator that Senator Chamberlain had a fine record of unselfish and efficient public service. Although he was a member of the Senate for only a relatively .brief period, his very lovable personality made a marked impact upon, every honorable senator. He approached all political issues quite objectively. It is true that there was no rancour in his make-up with regard to those issues or any other matters that Were discussed in this chamber. The golden thread of loyalty ran through the whole -career of Senator Chamberlain - loyalty to his family, to his constituents, to his party and to the various bodies with which ,he was associated. As the Minister for Trade and Customs has stated, Senator Chamberlain also proved clearly his loyalty to his country. Senator Chamberlain was known to all honorable senators as a kindly and truly charitable man. ‘ When I use the word “ charitable “ I recall the definition of charity that was given by .Saint Paul on one occasion. I thought of Senator Chamberlain when I read recently this paraphrased version of Saint Paul’s words as recorded in his Epistle to the Corinthians -

Chanty is patient, is kind : Charity does not envy, is not pretentious, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, is not self seeking, is not provoked; thinks no evil, does not rejoice over wickedness but rejoices with the truth.

All those attributes were markedly present in Senator Chamberlain. Honorable senators on the Opposition side deplore his passing and extend to his widow and family, to his relatives and friends, the very deepest sympathy in their bereavement. On behalf of the Opposition 1 extend also to all honorable senators on the Government side condolences in the loss of their esteemed colleague. I agree with the Minister that this chamber is the poorer for the passing of Senator Chamberlain.

Senator COOPER:
Minister for Repatriation · Queensland · CP

– The members of the Australian Country party desire to be associated with the _ motion before the Senate and to join with the Minister for Trade and ‘Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in expressing our deep regret at the death of .Senator J. H. Chamberlain. Although Senator Chamberlain had been a member of this chamber for barely two years he brought to it a wealth of parliamentary experience, as for seventeen years he had been a member of the House of Assembly in Tasmania. When he was elected to the Senate it soon became evident that he was thoroughly conversant with the conditions and needs of his own State. Senator Chamberlain served in the 1914-18 war -and he always took a keen interest in the welfare of ex-service men and women. As Minister’ for Repatriation I have had an opportunity to appreciate the valuable work he performed on behalf of the less fortunate “ digger “. For over twenty years he was a member of the State executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial’ League of Australia, in Tasmania. His death will be a great loss to his “ digger “ comrades. “We extend our deepest sympathy to his widow and f amily in their bereavement.

Senator AYLETT:

– I should like to endorse everything that has been said about our late parliamentary colleague by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). At the same time, I believe that we should place more fully on record his sincere and sterling work. Probably, I knew Senator Chamberlain for as long, if not longer, than did any other honorable senator. I knew him intimately for over twenty years. By his death the people of the north-west coast, of Tasmania have lost one of the best friends that they ever had in political life. Regardless of polities, or creed, ho was always ready to do a good turn for anybody who sought his aid. Perhaps the best tribute that I can pay to Senator Chamberlain, who was my personal friend, is to say that he was always a man among men.

Senator GUY:

– I associate myself with the sentiments that have been expressed by those who have already spoken to this motion. The death of Senator Chamberlain has brought to a close a very long and honorable career of public service. All of us have lost a valuable and highly respected parliamentary colleague. I have lost a great personal friend. Jack Chamberlain was a man of the people. He was a man of great warmth with deep perception and understanding of humanity. His was, indeed, a great Christian character without a trace of bitterness. He loved his fellow men and his fellow men regarded him with the warmest affection. He was a man of high ideals and was prepared to fight for whatever he thought was in the best interests of his country. He gave of his best unselfishly to the people in all that he did. No question was too large or too small to engage his attention. He devoted the whole of his time to the interests of the people whom he was privileged to represent. It can be truly said that Jack Chamberlain served his country well not only on the field of battle but also in the legislative halls of this country and in scores of community activities. We mourn the loss of a true and trusted friend who will be sadly missed. To Mrs. Chamberlain and members of his family I express my heartfelt sympathy. I trust that the Almighty may assuage their grief, that He may give them strength and courage to. carry their sore burden, and will comfort them in their hour of sorrow.

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

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Minister for Trade and Customs · Queensland · LP

by leave - It is with regret that I inform the Senate of the death of a former Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Eight Honorable J. H. Scullin, who died in Melbourne on the 29th of January last. Mr. Scullin was first elected to the House of Representatives for the Electoral Division of Corangamite, Victoria, in 1910 and represented that Division until 1913. He was again elected to the House of Representatives in 1922 for the Division of Yarra, which he continued to serve until his resignation in 1949. He was Leader of the Labour party from 1928 to 1935, and Leader of the Opposition in 1928 and 1929. He was Prime Minister, Minister for External Affairs, and Minister for Industry from October, 1929 until January, 1932. He was also Treasurer from the 9th July, 1930, until January, 1931. Mr. Scullin was made a Privy Councillor in 1930. He represented Australia at the Imperial Conference in London and at the Eleventh Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva in the same year. In 1944 he was a member of the joint committee on income tax on current income.

Mr. Scullin has now passed into history. His eloquent tongue will no longer plead the cause to which he dedicated his life. But no history of this land will be complete that does not accord to him an honoured and abiding place among Australia’s most devoted and illustrious sons. All Australians may well contemplate with profit the life of James Scullin. He was a model of all the domestic virtues and an outstanding example of devoted service and complete integrity in public life. To the youth of Australia his record and achievements are an abiding source of inspiration and encouragement, and a constant- reminder that the highest honour within the gift of the Australian people is available to any Australian child, not upon the test of birth or privilege, but upon the solid test of character, devotion, industry and integrity.

To those of an older generation, his record reveals again the tremendous strain carried by those in high public office. Probably no Prime Minister of Australia in days of peace faced such harrowing and difficult problems as confronted Mr. Scullin during the dark days when Australia was afflicted by the devastating blight of the world depression. Those years of anxiety and worry left a permanent mark upon a physique never very robust, and Mr. Scullin laid down the burden of office a prematurely aged .and physically impaired man.

To parliamentarians, Mr. Scullin will long remain an edifying example of parliamentary deportment and behaviour. His eloquence and zeal were never marred by discourtesy or personalities. There is a certain cynical section of our people who claim that we parliamentarians always reserve our tributes and compliments to our opponents until after they have died. That is quite untrue. There has existed throughout the years,, and I am happy to say there exists to-day, a bond of deep respect and, in many instances, genuine affection between members whose political views are in violent conflict. Despite political differences, James Scullin enjoyed throughout his long public life the affection and respect of all who knew him. His sincerity and integrity were never challenged. I first met Mr. Scullin over twenty years ago and I know that at all times in days of difficulty and turmoil he was sustained by a simple but profound faith. May he rest in peace ! I move -

That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of the Eight Honorable James Henry Scullin, former Member of the House of .Representatives for the division of Yarra and former Prime Minister and Commonwealth Minister, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tenders its sincere sympathy to his widow in her bereavement.

Senator McKENNA:
Leader of the Opposition · Tasmania

– -On behalf of the Opposition, I second the motion. With the death of Mr. J. H. Scullin, a figure of outstanding stature has passed from the Australian scene, but we can be assured that he will remain an abiding memory for so long as Australian history is written and preserved. Mr. Scullin was the first native-born Australian Labour Prime Minister. He won that distinction through the most outstanding qualities of mind, heart and character. One of Mr. Scullin’s most notable characteristics was his intense Australianism, which pervaded his whole being and coloured the whole of his outlook. It found expression, honorable senators will remember, in his fostering of Australian industries, his campaign for the Australian right of selfdetermination, and his insistence upon the appointment of a native-born Australian Governor-General. As the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) has stated, Mr. Scullin had the misfortune to be the Prime Minister of Australia during the economic blizzard of the ‘thirties, a period which we remember so well as the depression. The worry and anxiety of those times, coupled with Mr. Scullin’s distress at the plight of so many of his fellow Australians, wrecked his health but certainly did not impair either his spirit or his character.

It is conceded, universally I believe, that Mr. Scullin was one of Australia’s great orators, probably the greatest. His speech invariably was marked by a freshness, a virility, and a power of intellect that is very rare indeed. Until 1949, when he retired, his knowledge and his wisdom were heavily drawn upon by Australian Prime Ministers and governments, and he was a tower of strength in many ways throughout the troublous times of World War II. As the Minister has put it in other words, I repeat that Mr. Scullin was marked by a transparent honesty and integrity in matters public and private, in matters great and small. For him there was no compromise when a matter of principle was involved. He was a very worthy and distinguished servant of Australia, and he lived to know the respect and the affection of all Australians. I had the privilege of serving with him oil many occasions on non-official committees in this Parliament. I there had an opportunity to observe the fineness of his mind and of his character. He was a specialist in taxation laws and concentrated upon the removal of anomalies and injustices and upon the closure of opportunities for evasion. It is generally conceded that he had a genius for matters financial.

Knowing the depth of his religious convictions and the blameless life that he led, I do not in my heart to-day to mourn for him. It seems very characteristic of him that some years ago, in Canberra, he said to me that he was ready to go; indeed, that he would pray to be taken were it not for the loneliness that would thereafter befall his wife. I suggest that he is a very happy man indeed who is prepared and eager to meet his Maker. I believe that he is now enjoying the reward of a well-spent, busy and blameless life. That is why I do not mourn for him. But on behalf of every member of the Opposition I extend to his widow who was his constant companion and who, in fact, was as familiar a figure in Canberra as he was, our sincere and deepest sympathy in what must be for her a tragic loss. I extend that sympathy to his relatives and to his innumerable friends throughout Australia. Mr. Scullin will never be forgotten by members of the Australian Labour party and I suggest that he has well merited the tributes that have been paid to him by the Minister for Trade and Customs in this chamber and by honorable members in another place.

Senator COOPER:
Minister for Repatriation · Queensland · CP

– The members of the Australian Country party desire to be associated with the motion before the Senate and join the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in expressing their deepest regret at the death of the Right Honorable J. H. Scullin. The late right honorable gentleman, who was known to his many friends as Jim Scullin, served his country well over a great number of years. He was Prime Minister at a very critical time in Australian history, during the depression years of the 1930’s. He was a man of high principles, vast human understanding with a love for his fellow men. The great strain of his period of office took a heavy toll of his health which he never fully regained in after years. We join with the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Leader of the Opposition in tendering our deepest sympathy to his widow and his relatives in their sad bereavement.

Senator SHEEHAN:

– I desire to associate myself with the motion that ha3 been moved by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) and seconded by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). In doing so, I desire to Compliment those gentlemen upon their excellent presentation of the life of our former Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin. I was associated with the right honorable gentleman for many years in the movement which he and I both served. I had my baptism of political life in endeavouring to enter this Parliament under his leadership. When eventually I did reach the Senate the right honorable gentleman was most kind to me as I know he was to others who made their first appearance in the National Parliament. Mr. Scullin was a most inspiring man. Reference has been made to his eloquence. Prior to his entry into the Parliament I well remember his espousal of the political beliefs which he held. When he spoke it was obvious that he spoke from his soul. Someone has stated that Mr. Scullin was a great Australian. I believe that he was even more than that. He loved not only Australia and its people but also humanity. He believed that he had a political faith which, if it could be fulfilled, would lead to a better world and a better life for all humanity. In addition to his efforts to. establish industries in this country, he also played a great part in endeavouring to popularize Australian literature so that our poets and writers might be enabled to give expression to the spirit of this young land. It was once my very great pleasure to listen to the right honorable gentleman delivering a lecture on the Australian bush. It was an inspiration to all who heard it. He loved our coat of arms and, in fact, all things Australian.

It is indeed regrettable that the man who so loved this country and who planned for its welfare should have reached the height of his political career during the dreadful times to which the Minister for Trade and Customs has referred to-day. I Was associated with Mr. Scullin in endeavouring to devise means by -which the depression could’ be overcome, but, unfortunately, the forces against us were overwhelming. The depression loft him a. very disappointed and saddened man. However, history has since Vindicated him. To-day it ‘is appreciated that had the ideas which he hold been given effect, the duration of the depression and the suffering of the Australian people would have been lessened considerably. It is with regret that I associate myself with the motion before the Senate. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said Mrs. Scullin was a true friend and companion of her husband. They were mates and were always together. I can appreciate her loneliness to-day. I offer her my sympathy in her

Bad bereavement.

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

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Motion (by- Senator O’SULLIVAN agreed to -

That, as a mark of respect to the memory of the late Senator J. H. Chamberlain and the late Eight Honorable J. H. Scullin, the Senate do now adjourn.

Senate’ adjourned at 3.35 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 February 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.