Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1521 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
Sir Leslie loved Canberra. He and his wife were involved in the ANU community. He saw the city grow into a thriving capital of learning and decision-making. He chose Canberra as his home. It is indeed fitting that students begin enrolment and complete final exams at ANU through his namesake, Melville Hall.
Sir Leslie was a close friend of Professor Heinz Arndt, remembered only last week in this Assembly. Professor Arndt said his friend had an unassuming, uniquely unpompous manner, and that courtesy and good humour characterised all his dealings with other people.
Sir Leslie Melville is survived by his sons, Tig and Anthony, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. I know all members will join with me in expressing our sympathy to the Melville family. Australia and Canberra have lost a national treasure, a man of integrity, honour and immense character.
MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition): Mr Speaker, the opposition rise to support this motion of condolence to the family of Sir Leslie Melville. The Chief Minister has described the achievements of this man.
I think it is worth again going over the fact that, at the age of only 27, he became the first professor of economics at Adelaide University. That was an extraordinary achievement, and one which was to set the tone for the rest of his life. It was a life of achievement, a life of responsibility, a life of passionate commitment to the things he believed in, particularly education and advancing economic understanding in Australia.
Sir Leslie served the ANU as its Vice Chancellor for a period of some seven years. That is the reason for which I think most Canberrans will remember him. His time there was a very difficult period for the university. It was a time of enormous change in the period after the war, when a great deal of leadership was required. That was when the university amalgamated with the Canberra University College, and it was not an easy time. More recent amalgamations of universities have proven to be just as difficult. Because he was a leader as well as an academic, he did not always excite popularity among fellow academics. However, there is no doubt that he led the ANU with great strength and vigour, and had a long-term view about its future place in Australian society.
Sir Leslie was respected not only for his work as an economist but also for his quality of leadership. Interestingly, after his time at the ANU, he was appointed chair of the Australian Tariff, as it was then called. His sense of leadership and his preparedness to speak out for what he believed in are evidenced in the fact that, at one time in that role, he recommended to the government of the day that there should be a more liberal tariff policy in Australia. The government of the day rejected that recommendation. It was, no doubt, a government consisting of lots of National Party members! As a result, Sir Leslie resigned from his position, indicating that he felt the principle was more important than the politics.
He remained an honorary fellow of the ANU in the Department of Economics at the Research School of Pacific Studies. Well into the 1980s, when he was in his eighties, he was still taking part in seminars and presenting papers.