Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (4 June) . . Page.. 1801 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
In a speech he gave in 1977 he reflected on the responsibility of public office. He said:
To make a difference, a difference to people's lives in a positive way, Prime Ministers need to grab opportunities when they arise ... Grasping opportunities means taking risks. It involves going out on a limb to do something you feel strongly about, and doing it regardless of the short term cost.
Sir John Gorton is survived by his second wife, Nancy Home; his sons, Michael and Robin; and a daughter, Joanna. His first wife, Bettina, died in 1983.
I know all members will join me in expressing sympathy and sincere regret at the death of a great Australian. It is with respect and admiration that we, as Australians and Canberrans, remember Sir John Grey Gorton's contribution to the nation.
MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition): The opposition joins in on this motion of condolence. I quote:
John Gorton was stubborn, wilful, erratic, open, sharp-minded, rubber-tongued, self-destructive, immensely charming (when it suited), immensely natural, just as immensely rude (when it suited), hugely likeable (mostly) and, while ever there was breath in his body, intensely and passionately Australian.
Those were the words written by Alan Ramsay in his obituary for John Gorton. He captured with those words the fact that, while John Gorton was a man who excited enormous passions, he was always a controversial figure. He was nonetheless recognised for his qualities and the powerful use of those qualities in the political life of his country and for being a man who made a difference because he chose to put those energies and passions at the disposal of his country and his government.
As a war hero turned politician, he epitomised for many everything that is wrong-and right-about politics. He also epitomised the value of holding personal and national beliefs and the courage it takes to stand up for those beliefs. He demonstrated that courage when, subject to an internal struggle in the Liberal Party, he voted himself out of office in recognition of the fact that he needed support from his party to be Prime Minister and that support was lacking.
Members have heard that he had a distinguished career in the RAAF and served in local government before entering the Senate as a senator for Victoria. He served as a minister in Sir Robert Menzies' government-details of that have been recorded by the Chief Minister. He contested the leadership of the Liberal Party after the death of Harold Holt and outlasted his rivals to become Prime Minister in January 1968 and hold the position until 10 March 1971.
One word that has been used to describe John Gorton is "nationalist". Although the impact of this has been somewhat devalued by overuse, it is true that John Gorton was a nationalist in the true sense. He broke what had become something of a tradition in government in Australia: to be strongly pro-British, sometimes even at the cost of Australia's national interest. Gorton's allegiance or otherwise to Britain was never an issue. He was Australian. He fought for Australia during the war, and as a politician he fought for Australia and its values.