14 September 1955

21st Parliament · 1st Session

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


Senator O’SULIIVAN (QueenslandMinister for Trade and Customs). - by leave - It is with profound regret that I inform the Senate that our friend and colleague, Senator the Honorable George McLeay, died in Adelaide this morning. The honorable senator was born at Port Clinton, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, on the 6th August, 1892. He was first elected to this Parliament, as a senator for South Australia, at the general election in 1934. On the 26th September, 1935, he was appointed a member of the Senate Standing ‘Committee on Regulations and Ordinances and served on that committee until the 31st August, 1938. From the 3lst August, 1937, he was chairman of the committee. Senator McLeay was Government Whip in the Senate in 1937, and from 7th November, 1938, to the 6th October, 1941, he was Leader of the Government in the Senate. He was a member of the Economic Cabinet from 1939 to 1941, and a member of the War Cabinet in 1939 and 1 940. From the time that he was first elevated to ministerial rank, Senator McLeay held the following offices: -

Vice-President of the Executive Council from the 7th November. 1938, to the 14th March, 1940, and again from the 28th October, 1940, until the 6th October, 1941 ;

Minister for Commerce from the 26th April, 1939, to the 14th March, 1940;

Minister for Trade and Customs from the 14th March, 1940, to the 28th October, 1940:

Postmaster-General and Minister for Repatriation from the 28th October, 1940, to the 26th June, 1941;

Minister for Supply and Development from the 26th June, 1941, to the 6th October, 1941 ;

Assistant to the Australian delegation to the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco in April, 1945;

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate from the8th October, 1941, to the 31st May, 1947.

At the general election of 1946 Senator McLeay was defeated, but he was re-elected to the Senate at the general election in 1949. After this Government came into office in 1949 the honorable senator held the following positions: -

Minister for Shipping and Fuel from the 19th December, 1949, to the 11th May, 1951 ;

Minister for Transport from the 17th March, 1950, to the 11th May, 1951.

From the 11th May, 1951 until his death, Senator McLeay was Minister for Shipping and Transport, and also Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate.

The late Senator McLeay had endeared himself to every member of this chamber. It can be truly said that during his long and distinguished service as a senator, as Leader of the Government, as Leader of the Opposition, and as a Cabinet Minister, he never made an enemy. In his generous and noble soul there was not a shred of meanness or bitterness. I am sure that his sorrowing wife and family will derive great comfort and consolation from the genuine and universal grief that is felt at his departure. We who served with him in the Cabinet have lost, not only a loyal and dependable colleague, but also a devoted and cherished friend. His memory will find an abiding place in the affection of all who were privileged to know him. I move -

That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of Senator the Honorable George McLeay, Commonwealth Minister and senator for the State of South Australia, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tenders its sincere sympathy to his widow and the members of his family in their bereavement.

Senator McKENNA (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition). - I second the motion. The tragically sudden death this morning of Senator the Honorable

George McLeay, after a mercifully brief illness, has shocked and grieved every member of the Opposition. Senator McLeay had the privilege and the high honour of serving Australia for many years at the highest levels in the National Parliament. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) has just placed before the Senate a record of that distinguished service. Senator McLeay fought hard but fairly for all the things in which he believed. He was strong in mind and body, and he has left us at the very zenith of his powers. He was forceful and fearless in debate and administration. He could strike a hefty blow without malice; he could take one in return with great good humour and without the slightest resentment. His outstanding characteristics were his manliness and his good humour. He had a very happy philosophy of life. I am sure the Senate will never forget his sparkling wit and his quick repartee.

On behalf of the Opposition, I extend the very deepest sympathy to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and all members of Cabinet, and, in particular, to Senate Ministers who had such a close and friendly association with Senator McLeay. I extend that sympathy, too, to all members of the Government parties who have lost a friend and colleague, and a very distinguished Minister. The Opposition extends its sympathy also to his brother, Mr. John McLeay, a South Australian representative in the House of ‘Representatives, But very specially, we offer our condolences to his widow,- Mrs. George McLeay - a lady who is well and very favorably and happily known to many of us - and to the other members of his family. We hope that they will be given the strength to bear their burden of sorrow.

The death of Senator George McLeay forces grimly upon us the thought that life is so short and so uncertain. That thought should, and I believe will, condidition for a long time the personal relations of members of this chamber. I express a very deep sense of personal loss at the passing of Senator McLeay, and all my colleagues on this side of the chamber feel exactly as I do. We join with all those who to-day are grieving at the passing of a manly, able, and very great-hearted Australian.

Senator CRITCHLEY (South Australia) [3.10 j.- On behalf of my colleagues from South Australia on the Opposition side, I join in the expressions of regret by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) at the death of Senator George McLeay. This is a most melancholy occasion. George McLeay was a fearless fighter for the things in which he believed, and his record in this Parliament is one that will be long remembered. He and I were opponents at elections for years. His candour left no doubts in the minds of his opponents, but neither did they ever doubt his fairness. For me, his untimely passing has put an end to a lifetime association and a strong personal friendship. Honorable” senators on the Opposition side are extremely sad to-day, and we extend our deep sympathy to the late senator’s wife and family and to his brother, Mr. John McLeay, M.H.B.. On Monday, when I visited Calvary Hospital, Adelaide, on hearing of the serious nature of his illness, I was deeply impressed by the composure of his good wife in such tragic circumstances. We pray that Almighty God will comfort her and her family in their loss. Vale, George McLeay, a great husband, a great father, and a great Australian.

Senator MATTNER (South Australia) 1 3.12 J. - May I, on behalf of honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber, and particularly on behalf of my colleagues from South Australia, endeavour to express very deep regret at the passing of our beloved friend, George McLeay. Very few have been so fortunate in their friendships as those who had the assistance of such a man as George McLeay to help them on the road of life. His two outstanding characteristics were courage and character. He was held in the highest esteem by every one, and we express our deepest sympathy to his wife and family and to his brother and sister. He loved, and was loved by, his fellow men. Even now across the land his memory will shine. Spring, with all its sweet and fragrant- perfumes, has seen fit to claim his body. The sunlight may not easily seem so fair to us again, knowing that the hand that in our hand did lie so lovingly is now gathered unto death and free from earthly pain. May l t is memory in the stilly night ever bring to us kindly thoughts and love for our fellow man, for that would he his wish.

Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales) [3.14]. - I should like to be associated with the motion of condolence to the relatives of Senator George McLeay. He and I fought many exchanges across the Senate chamber, both when he was on r,he Opposition side and when he became n member of the Government. Although at times we became heated, nothing was said by either of us that marred our friendly relationship. No matter how harsh the words we exchanged . in the Senate, when we left this chamber we met on a friendly basis. George McLeay was favoured by nature with a jovial disposition. He was a cheerful character, and his death is a loss not only to the Senate but also to the Government, which will find it hard to fill his place. George McLeay was a good Australian.

I should like to tender to Mrs. McLeay, John McLeay and the family my deepest sympathy, and I hope that the expressions of sympathy which have been uttered here to-day will bring at least some small degree of comfort to Mrs. McLeay in her sad bereavement. My only regret is that some of those lovely things that have been said of George McLeay to-day could not have been said while he lived.

Senator FRASER (Western Australia) [3.1 CJ. - With great sorrow, I associate myself with the motion. I know the feelings of every one of us here to-day. I have been associated in the Senate with the late Senator McLeay for many years, and I have always found him to be a man’s man, a good Australian, and at times, of course, a fighter for the cause for which he stood. I -have happy recollections of his sentiments and of the occasions when we met in a friendly spirit. I shall miss such times very much indeed, just as the members of the Government and many honorable members of the Opposition will miss them.

After an association extending over many years, I felt it very keenly indeed when I was informed of his death this morning. On behalf of Western Australians, I convey to Mrs. McLeay and to John McLeay and the family our very deep regret at his passing.

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

page 113


Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) agreed to -

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

Senate adjourned at 3.19 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 September 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.