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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 1 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 193 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

As Minister for External Affairs, as it was then called, he noted with concern an increasing Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean, this being the height of the Cold War. His response was more that of a lawyer than a politician: he said to the public at large, "Why don't we talk to them and see what it is that they want?"

Of course, talking to Russians was not exactly popular with large sections of the Western world, and many here in Australia-the Country Party, the DLP, and even many members of the Liberal party-began to bay for Sir Gordon's blood. Even his cabinet colleague, Black Jack McEwan, accused Sir Gordon of being soft on communism, a dangerous tag to wear in that period of international stand-off. The report is that, at the first meeting of cabinet after the statement had been made by Sir Gordon, John McEwan began proceedings by saying, "What is this I hear about us going soft on communism?"

We might be tempted to see Sir Gordon Freeth in that sense as a man ahead of his time. The upshot of all this was that there was a swing against him in his Western Australian seat, Forrest, at the 1969 election, and he lost that seat. Ironically, his opposition came mainly from wheat farmers, who happily sold their grain to communist China. It was the end of Sir Gordon's political career, but not, of course, the end of his career in public life, because he went on to serve as Ambassador to Japan and as High Commissioner in London.

Sir Gordon Freeth was a man dedicated to public service, a person with many important achievements to his name. In particular, he was a man who administered well the department that was responsible for the administration of this city during a period when Canberra was experiencing unprecedented growth, in its development from a small and sleepy country town into the city familiar to us today.

Mr Speaker, I am very happy to support this motion of condolence on behalf of the Liberal Party.

Question resolved in the affirmative, members standing in their places.

Death of Ms Helen Leonard


(Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women): I move:

That the Assembly expresses its deep regret at the death of Helen Leonard, prominent ACT women's activist, and tenders its profound sympathy to her partner and family in their bereavement.

Mr Speaker, it is with much regret that I learned of the unexpected and sadly premature death of the women's activist, Helen Leonard, on 12 October, aged just 56 years. Helen touched more women's lives than most could imagine. She began life in Sydney, attended Hornsby Girls High School, and then moved on to Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital as a student nurse. Following the births of her son and two daughters, Helen commenced the work whose legacy we now enjoy.

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