CONDOLENCE MOTION FOR TOM UREN
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MONDAY, 9 FEBRUARY 2015
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As a soldier, and a POW, Tom Uren saw the worst of war – the personal nightmare of prison camps and the stained skies over Nagasaki.
And he fought to build the best of civilisation after that war, as a champion for peace, a warrior for the working class and as a Minister.
A working class boy from Balmain who grew into a talented sportsman and a gifted boxer, Tom spent his 20th birthday in his country’s uniform – and his 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th as a prisoner of the Japanese.
None of us can truly imagine the hardship and cruelty that the brave men of the Burma railway knew.
But like so many of his Australian comrades in camp, Tom never lost faith in his fellow man.
In fact, the horror of those years only fed his faith in collectivism, in our enduring human duty to be our brother’s keeper.
When Tom looked at the British prisoners: the officers taking first choice of the food and accommodation– he saw the ‘law of the jungle’.
Yet, in the Australian camp – as Tom would often say, including in his maiden speech in the old chamber down the hill:
The fit looked after the sick.
The young looked after the old.
The rich looked after the poor.
For him, that was the difference.
And it was this noble philosophy that guided his political life.
As a Minister in both the Whitlam and Hawke Governments, Tom’s great passion was for our ‘national estate’.
Reimagining and reconfiguring our inner cities – and revitalising our regional centres.
As Tom told the Parliament, his guiding mission was:
‘to create and preserve things and places of great beauty for all Australians, and for the Australians who follow us’.
His success, his legacy, lives around us.
Above and through all this, Tom was the keeper of Labor’s conscience in often-trying times.
He was a moral centre.
Tom was a fearless foe and a loyal friend.
Many of my colleagues – the Member for Grayndler in particular – but many of them, knew and loved Tom, and will have their own personal tributes and stories to share.
For me, the last words belong to Tom Uren, from the final page of his memoir, Straight Left:
‘In my years of living, giving and serving our human family is the most rewarding achievement.
When you walk down the street, the beauty of people’s eyes and faces give you so many rewards.’
Our condolences to his friends and loved ones.
May he rest in peace.
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