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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (4 June) . . Page.. 1800 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

Sir John was born in Melbourne on 9 September 1911. His father was an immigrant from England who became wealthy through citrus farming in Victoria's north. He was the child of John Rose Gorton and Alice Sinn. His grandparents cared for him for the first five years of his childhood. He then moved to live with his parents in Sydney until his mother passed away in 1920. Following the devastation of his mother's death, his father left for Melbourne and John was left in the care of Kathleen Gorton, his father's first wife. Sir John was educated at the Shore School and was a boarder at Geelong Grammar School. He went on to complete a degree at the University of Oxford.

Sir John Gorton had a strong social conscience. During his younger years he developed compassion for the disadvantaged, particularly ex-servicemen of the Great War who were living in poverty and people in destitute circumstances that were out of their control.

As well as being one of Australia's highly renowned politicians, he was also a military man and trained as a fighter pilot. He served as a pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II between 1940 and 1944. During World War II he served in the United Kingdom, Singapore, Darwin and at the battle of Milne Bay in New Guinea. He was shot down twice and suffered injuries requiring facial reconstruction. He was discharged from the RAAF on 5 December 1944 with the rank of flight lieutenant.

Like many contemporary ex-servicemen, Sir John entered politics after the war. His political career began in 1946 upon his election to the Kerang Shire Council. In 1949 he entered national politics. He became Minister Assisting the Minister for External Affairs in 1960, and two years later he was appointed minister in charge of the CSIRO. Sir John became Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works in 1963, also taking charge of Commonwealth activities in education and research. In 1966 he was appointed the inaugural Minister for Education and Science.

In January 1968 he was commissioned Prime Minister of Australia, following the disappearance of Mr Harold Holt in December 1967. He became the first senator to be appointed Prime Minister. During his time as Prime Minister, he made his mark on national politics. He is famously quoted as saying, "Politics is the art of the possible, because you do not know what the possible is until you've tried to do it." Sir John occupied the office of Prime Minister until 1971.

Sir John moved to Canberra in 1959. He was one of the first Commonwealth ministers to own a house in Canberra. He loved the city and quite often enjoyed walking through Manuka. After retiring in 1975, he chose to make Canberra his home. Sir John was a likeable man. He was known as the larrikin politician and had a great ability to inspire affection and community following. As Prime Minister he sought to raise the consciousness of all Australians about what it meant to be Australian.

Upon leaving his parliamentary political career, Sir John commenced a radio series which had a focus on drug law reform. It advocated the legalisation of marijuana and the provision of heroin to addicts 20 years before its time. Sir John kept well abreast of modern ideas and had a good feel for the mood of the nation. He received a knighthood from the Queen in 1977, one of only nine former prime ministers to gain this honour.

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