Bill's Speeches

CONDOLENCE MOTION: PASSING OF SIR JOHN LESLIE CARRICK, AC, KCMG - HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA - TUESDAY, 22 MAY 2018

Thank you, Mr Speaker and I commend the Prime Minister for those moving words.

The Prime Minister has detailed Sir John Carrick’s long life of achievement, from Hellfire Pass to high office.

I understand that his loss will be deeply felt throughout the Liberal party which he took from a fledgling, amateur operation to a national political force. 

For some Australians who are unfamiliar with Sir John Carrick's career, he was a most significant figure in Australian politics. Some have described him as the soul of the Liberal party.

No other figure in Liberal history could lay claim to such a long and distinguished association with the party’s success:  

  • a trusted counsellor to Prime Minister Menzies
  • a senior minister under Prime Minister Fraser
  • an influential mentor for Prime Minister Howard

John Carrick was present at the creation and travelled the journey from young backroom operator to elder statesman. And as an enthusiast for the political contest, I hope he would appreciate the fact that the Labor Party, which he did so much to keep out of office, pauses to pay its respect today.

Mr Speaker 

The Labor icon Tom Uren famously said that his time as a prisoner of war in the Japanese camps was what made him a ‘collectivist’.

Because amidst the brutality and the starvation and the backbreaking labour it was up to the fit to look after the sick and the young to look after the old.

Yet from these same camps, out of the same unimaginable trial of body and spirit, John Carrick took his liberalism. 

Because for him, the lesson of these dark days was that: “It is not the people who create the savagery…It’s totalitarian leadership”  - where the lives of individuals count for nothing.

I think it is remarkable that amidst all that senseless, soulless punishment of one group of people by another there are individuals of such strength of character who can still find meaning in the experience.  

And indeed to emerge from it with faith in their fellow human beings, hope for the future of the world.  

Because Sir John, like so many of the ‘greatest generation’, returned from the trauma of war determined to build a peace worth winning. And in every sense, he served his country all his life.  

From his first Federal election as Party Secretary, right through to his last run as a senior Senator, Sir John Carrick never sought to mount a campaign built around minimising difference, blurring lines or presenting a small target.  

He believed in taking the opportunity to draw sharp distinctions, to enhance contrast, to respect the intelligence of the Australian people by offering them a clear choice. 

I think it's a big part of the reason of why Sir John was so successful as a political strategist. 

And I know it’s why he was so respected, for so long, by his adversaries on the Labor side of politics.

Giants of our movement, across the generations, knew and admired John Carrick not just as a worthy foe, or an opponent of great civility and courtesy – but also as a person of substance. 

Someone always prepared to argue sincerely-held differences in principle, in philosophy, in the convictions that underpinned policy.

He revered the Senate as a house of review, he prized the committee process and the opportunity it provided for genuine, considered debate. 

I was interested to read in his biography by Graeme Starr that he opposed lowering the quota for the election of Senators. 

He warned that it would: “reduce the possibility of any government ever commanding a majority”.

He went on to say it would lead to the balance of power being determined by – and I quote: “dozens of unknown and almost unsupported candidates, many with quite eccentric policies”.

He could be remembered, I think too, as a fortune teller.

But in reflecting on his life today, I think we are reminded that the best traditions of our democracy are not bland slogans or supine agreement.

It is when both sides present competing visions for the future, from a place of principle where we argue for what we believe in and we trust Australians to choose.

Mr Speaker 

Sir John Carrick’s name will live long in the Liberal pantheon - and the example of his life is one for all Australians. 

May he rest in peace. 


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