19 April 1955

21st Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

page 3


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

by leave - It is my sad duty to inform the Senate of the death of Mr. Thomas Sheehan, a member of the House of Representatives. Mr. Sheehan died in Sydney on Saturday, the 26th March, at the age of 63. He was born in Sydney, and before entering on a long parliamentary career served with the New South Wales Government Railways, in which service he became a locomotive engine driver. His public service extended over many years. He had been associated with the Australian Labour party since 1912. While a railway employee, he became an executive officer of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen. He was elected as an alderman of the Newtown Municipal Council in 1934. He was Deputy

Mayor in 1935, and remained on the council until 1937, when he was elected to the House of Representatives as the member for the Division of Cook, which electorate he represented until the time of his death. During his long association with the Parliament, Mr. Sheehan was an active member of many parliamentary committees. He was a member of the Man-power and Resources Committee during the war years of 1941 and 1942 and a member of the Public Works Committee from 1940 to 1943. He served on the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee from 1946 to 1949, and on the Privileges Committee from 1946 until the time of his death. From 1943 to 1946, he was Government Whip in the House of Representatives, and he was a temporary chairman of committees from 1946 until 1949. From 1946 until his death, he held the very onerous office of Parliamentary Secretary of the Australian Labour party. He made many friends during his long parliamentary service, and his good fellowship and sterling qualities of character and mind were appreciated by all who knew him.

Perhaps, Mr. President, it would not be inappropriate on an occasion such as this to take stock of our duties and responsibilities as members of the National Parliament. Ear too often are the pleasant and agreeable courtesies of a well-ordered and civilized existence discarded in the hurly-burly of political controversy. Ear too often are the friendly exchanges postponed until a personal friend, but political opponent, has passed to the Great Beyond ; then it is too. late. We can best do honour to the memory of our departed colleague by contributing, as he did, towards enlarging our area of agreement, and narrowing our area of dissent. I move -

That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of Mr. Thomas Sheehan, member of the House of Representatives for the Division of Cook, New South Wales, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its sincere sympathy to his widow and the member* of his family te their bereavement.

Senator McKENNA:
TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition

– I second the motion which has been moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On behalf of all members of the Australian Labour paTty in this chamber; I express the deepest regret at the untimely passing of the member for Cook. Mr. Thomas Sheehan. He represented that electorate in this Parliament for a period of about eighteen years: On behalf of all my colleagues, I extend the very deepest sympathy to his sorrowing widow and the members of his bereaved family. I extend that sympathy to his many friends and to all those in the electorate who have lost a valuable and highly respected representative. We of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party have lost, not only a colleague, but also a friend who was a- gentleman;

The late Tom Sheehan radiated geniality and kindliness on all occasions. Those outstanding qualities reflected a. peaceful, kindly and very happy mind. Mr. Sheehan was ready at all times to help others. He was always prepared” to lend a helping hand where it was needed!. I thank the Leader of the Government for his- kindly references, to our late colleague and for his very complete account of the fine and varied record’ of public service rendered by the late member. I am sure that all my colleagues on this side- of the chamber’ join1 with me in hoping and believing that Mr. Sheehan is now enjoying the reward of a life that was lived far more for others than for himself.

New South Wales

– I desire to associate myself, even if shortly, with the motion so ably moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and supported by my own leader, Senator McKenna. Those of us who come from New South Wales knew the late member for Cook for many years. I remember that when I was working on the selection ballot that first brought Senator Amour, Senator Ashley and myself to the Senate, Mr. Sheehan was working on the selection ballot that ultimately won for him the seat of Cook. He was a man of mild manners and very simple tastes, but he was also a man of very great courage. He has left many friends in the Federal Parliament who admired those- simple qualities that were evidenced so strongly in him. He was a man who served his party in official positions, as Whip and Secretary, down the years. When the need arose, he showed great strength of character. It is interesting to note - it is, I suppose, a part of history now - that Mr. Sheehan was the last member of the House of Representatives who was. a member of the nonCommunist party. At that stage, there had been very strong infiltration of the New South Wales Labour party and Mr. Sheehan, with others> stood up and fought that infiltration - to my mind, to his eternal credit. He was a simple man, but in his thoughts and deeds he was strong.

He lavished on. his family an affection: that I have never seen, equalled, an affect tion that it would be impossible to describe, to this chamber.. The sorrow, in his home now is’ evidence of. the tremendous affection that Tom. Sheehan, lavished om his people. Naturally, the love and affection which, he bore them and which he expressed in so many ways. is returned a hundredfold’ by those near and dear to him-.. I join with the Leader of the- Government, and my own leader in expressing my deepest sympathy to- Mr. Sheehan’s widow, and family. May he rest in peace:

Question resolved’ in the affirmative^ honorable’ senators standing’ in* their places.

page 5


Motion (by Senator 0’Sm.LivAir) agreed to -

That, as a mark of respect to the memory . of the deceased member, the Senate do now adjourn.

Senate adjourned at 3.10 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 April 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.