14 April 1970

27th Parliament · 2nd Session

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.


Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales -Minister for Supply) - It is with deep regret that I inform the Senate of the death in Sydney last night of Senator the Hon. Gerald Colin McKellar at the age of 66 years. I understand that he was to have had a birthday next month. Senator McKellar was elected to the Senate for New South Wales in the general elections of 1958 and 1961, and in the Senate elections of 1967. He was a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances from 19th February 1959 until 15th August 1962. He was a member of the delegation representing the Parliament of the Commonwealth at the first meeting of the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea in its new council chambers in October 1960. Senator McKellar served on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts from 16th March 1961 until 9th August 1962. He was a Temporary Chairman of Committees in the Senate from 4th October 1961 until 7th August 1962. He held the office of Chairman of Committees of the Senate from 7th August 1962 until 21st December 1964. He was also a member of the Senate Standing Orders Committee during that period.

As a member of the Australian parliamentary delegation Senator McKellar attended the 17th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York in 1962. He was appointed Minister for Repatriation in December 1964 and retained his portfolio until his resignation from it in November 1969. As Minister for Repatriation he visited New Zealand in January 1966 to discuss and sign a new formal arrangement between the Australian and New Zealand Governments for the administration of repatriation benefits. He twice visited Australian servicemen in South East Asia - in December 1966 and again in December 1967. Senator McKellar was Acting Minister for Social Services from 13th to 20th June 1966, from 23rd June to18th July 1966, from 16th June to 13th July 1967 and from 30th January to 24th February 1968 during the absences overseas of the then Minister for Social Services, Mr Sinclair. In 1969 he was leader of the Australian parliamentary delegation which attended the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting in Trinidad.

Senator McKellar had a long association with the Army in which he served in peacetime and in war for some 10 years. He raised and led a troop of the 6th Light Horse in Gilgandra, New South Wales. He was appointed lieutenant on 13th November 1936 and commenced full time duty with the Australian Military Forces on 1st October 1941. He was promoted to the rank of captain on 1st September 1942 and to the rank of major on 9th September 1942. He enlisted in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force on 22nd September 1942. His appointment terminated on 3rd April 1946.

Senator McKellar was a farmer, and naturally his life was devoted to rural affairs and the problems of primary industry. Before entering the Senate as a member of the Australian Country Party he was Chairman of the Gilgandra branch of the Country Party for some 10 years and of the Castlereagh and Lawson electorate councils of the Country Party for a similar period. At the same time he was active in the wheat growers organisation in Gilgandra and the local parents and citizens associations. For some time during that period he was a director of the Dubbo Pastures Protection Board. Senator McKellar was Chairman of the New South Wales division of the Country Party from 1957 to 1959. At the time of his appointment to the Ministry as Minister for Repatriation Senator McKellar was Chairman of the Federal Country Party’s rural finance committee.

Senator McKellar was a kindly, gentle and sympathetic man. However, he was an aggressive fighter for the principles which he held to be true. He was a keen sportsman and in his youth played cricket, tennis and polo. In latter years he turned to bowls. He was always a great lover of horses and was often proud to relate that, as a horseman, he took part in the original movie which was made in Australia and directed by Charles Chauvel entitled ‘Forty

Thousand Horsemen’, which was the story of the Australian Light Horse during the First World War. The late Senator McKellar took some pride in the fact that he rode in the famous charge which was a dramatic scene in the film. But his first love, and indeed the love of his family, was the land and its people.

Senator McKellar was a family man. He left a loving and devoted wife and three sons. Stuart, Graham and Neil who are, as their father was before them, active in primary industry. Senator McKellar was a practising Christian and, with his wife and family, was an active participant in his church. He was a communicant of the church and for 25 years was an elder of the Presbyterian Church.

I am sure that all honourable senators, regardless of party, are saddened by this loss. This is not only the loss of an honourable senator but also the loss of a friend and companion, a man who enjoyed the company of other men, a man of principle and integrity, a man devoted to his country’s progress and a man whom we are all proud to have known and whom we honoured and respected. I move:

That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of Senator the Honourable Gerald Colin McKellar, Senator for the State of New South Wales and former Minister of the Crown, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tenders its sincere sympathy to his widow and to the members of his family in their bereavement.

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - On behalf of all Opposition senators, I endorse the remarks which were made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) and share his sentiments. Senator McKellar was born on the land at Gulgong almost 67 years ago and came into the Senate in 1958. He brought with him the virtues of a true country man. He was quietly spoken but firm in his views. He was a man of forthright opinions which were sometimes expressed sharply but always in a straightforward manner. Senator McKellar was dedicated to his Party and his colleagues. I have little doubt that the hard work which he performed in this Parliament contributed to his death.

The task of a Minister in this chamber is not easy. Senator McKellar, along with other Ministers, had to handle not only his own portfolio, which had many administrative problems, but also to represent in this chamber a number of Ministers in the other place. Much of the difficulty in his task as Minister came from representing those portfolios. We in this chamber had the opportunity to observe him when he was in situations of very great difficulty and very great strain. 1 think we all recall the debates which took place several years ago on the use of VIP aircraft. Senator McKellar was at the centre of that controversy. 1 think it should be said publicly, as it was said privately then, that all honourable senators were convinced of one thing, the complete integrity of Senator McKellar.

Senator McKellar’s appointment as Minister for Repatriation in 1964 was well deserved and he showed sympathy and understanding in dealing with ex-servicemen and their families. He knew of the problems facing ex-servicemen, having served as a captain in the 6th Light Horse from 1936, and as a major in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force from 1942. By service, experience, temperament and conviction he represented the ideals of the Returned Servicemen’s League. We all had great respect for the way in which Senator McKellar put his views. He was not the easiest of antagonists. He was never reluctant to put his point of view, even brutally, to his opponents, but he did so always with the straightforward manner which was so characteristic of him. Outside the Chamber we all found the other side of his character; we found that he was a gentle man, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate has said. He had a sense of humour He was a person who had chosen throughout his life to pursue certain simple notions of truth, of integrity, of fairness and of tolerance as he saw those attributes. He lived within limits and within those limits he endeavoured to- do the best that he could by all manner of men.

Senator McKellar was a man of whom his own Party, the Australian Country Party, could be proud. Mr President, the Australian Labor Party shares with other honourable senators in this Chamber sadness at the sudden passing of this man who all through his public life endeavoured to do his best for his country and his best for his Party. On behalf of the Opposition we extend our sympathy to his widow and children.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia - Minister for Air) - My Australian Country Party colleagues and I wish to join the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) in paying a tribute to the late Senator McKellar. It was with great sorrow and distress that I learnt of his passing. Admittedly he was a fine, dedicated politician, but Colin McKellar meant much more to me. By good fortune I sat next to him in this Senate from 1959 for a number of years and shared an office with him. It was during this time that 1 came to know Mac as a man who commanded the highest respect at all times. He became a close friend, a trusted and respected adviser, a man of whom one could say with pride: ‘He is my colleague, he is my friend’.

He gave to me, and indeed to all these who were closely associated with him, a new meaning of the words ‘honesty’ and integrity’. No matter what the job was, whether it was in relation to rural industry or to repatriation - he served the Cabinet and Australia so well in that regard - there was always that fighting quality. It was not so much his desire to best his parliamentary opponents but rather to serve his constituents and his country to the highest limits of his undoubted ability. 1 think that honourable senators will understand the dedication that I am talking about when 1 recall to them that by his own choice he, as Minister for Repatriation, spent Christmas 1966 and Christmas 1967 with the Australian troops in Vietnam.

Politically he enriched the reputation and standing of the Australian Country Party. He was a farmer and he understood the problems of the man on the land. He will be sadly missed from the ranks of our Party. I believe that the same can be said also in regard to the loss to this chamber. Senator McKellar made his indelible mark on this place by serving with distinction on various committees. Men of his calibre are hard to replace and, indeed, hard to forget. Whatever our personal reasons, we will all mourn him. My Country Party colleagues and I extend our deepest sympathy to his widow and his sons.

Senator McMANUS (Victoria)- The Australian Democratic Labor Party associ ates itself with the sorrow that is being expressed at the passing of the late Senator McKellar. Colin McKellar was such an active man and he gave the impression of enjoying life so much that it is hard for us to believe that he now has gone. His death came as a shock to me. I had been friendly with him since his entry into the Parliament and there was a time when he was my regular opponent at billiards. We were associated in quite a number of activities, and I found him to be a good friend and a wonderful colleague. He was one, I believe, who would do you a good turn if he could and who would never try to do you a bad turn. He was a hard hitter. It has been said that he was quiet in his manner of speaking. That is true. But he ceased to be quiet when he took up a cause in which he believed and in relation to which he felt there was a fight that had to be fought.

Like everyone else, I will miss him. When 1 noticed that he was not in his place in the chamber I wrote to him and expressed my wish that his health would be restored and that he soon would be back with us. I had a note from him only last week to say that he felt better and that he soon would be fighting on. That was not to be. We regret his passing. I am sure that we all will remember him. On behalf of my Party I offer condolences to his wife and family.

Senator bull (New South Wales) - As one who knew the late Senator Colin McKellar for a number of years I should like briefly to support the remarks of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson), Senator Murphy, Senator Drake-Brockman, and Senator McManus. I knew him prior to coming to the Parliament. I knew him in his own district and knew what a great man he was for the primary industry of this country. Later it was Colin McKellar who guided me through my early days in the Parliament.

I was present with Colin McKellar last night and witnessed the high regard that his friends had for him when they saw him at the function. They surrounded him and said how delighted they were to see him about again. He told me that he was looking forward to coming back to this Parliament. He told me that while away ill he had listened in with tremendous interest to the deliberations of this chamber whenever he had the opportunity to do so. So I join with others in expressing our condolence to Mrs McKellar and their 3 fine sons in the grief that is so much with them at the present time. T support the motion.

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

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Minister for Supply · New South Wales · LP

– As a mark of respect to the memory of the late Senator the Hon. Colin McKellar, I move:

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 3.21 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 April 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.