Bill's Speeches

CONDOLENCE MOTION - PASSING OF TOM LEWIS - HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA

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So often, Mr Speaker, there is a melancholy symmetry to the passing of old political warriors. 

Having just honoured a man brought down by the Dismissal, we now offer our respects to someone whose actions helped trigger that constitutional crisis.

Tom Lewis’ decision to fill the casual Senate vacancy created by Lionel Murphy with the conservative mayor of Albury, Cleaver Bunton, helped set the Senate on a path to the gridlock and obstructionism that eventually brought down the Whitlam government.

Yet just as Malcolm Fraser’s part, and indeed Gough’s part, in the bitter conflict of those times does not define those leaders or their legacies, Tom Lewis, as someone who served New South Wales as Premier and Australia as a member of the AIF, deserves a larger part in history than a cameo from 1975.

In particular today, as the Prime Minister and Premier of New South Wales have also noted, we pay tribute to Tom Lewis’ foresight in establishing the National Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales.

Like all great decisions – hindsight makes it appear so obvious.

Yet in the 60s it was courageous in the Yes Minister sense.

Tom Lewis had the fortitude and the integrity to take on elements in his own party and constituencies in his own support base who bitterly opposed ‘locking-up land’. 

That, Mr Speaker, is real leadership.

And its legacy lives around us, and has enriched the lives not just of the people of New South Wales, but all who have been drawn to visit the natural beauty of that state.

I think that Tom Lewis’ contribution to preserving some of our most beautiful country illustrates the truth at the heart of that ancient piece of Greek wisdom:

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

Labor offers its condolences to his family and all who feel his loss.

May he rest in peace. 


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