Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (4 June) . . Page.. 1803 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
Sir John was a man who sought to raise the consciousness of all Australians about what it meant to be an Australian-a contested concept, even to this day.
The circumstances of his departure as Prime Minister have now become part of our political folklore and mythology. Sir John will be remembered, perhaps kindly, by history as a man of solid values. We recognise that debates he began continue to this day, 30 years later-definitely a tribute to a proud Australian.
MR STEFANIAK: I had the privilege of living for many years in the same street as John Grey Gorton. In 1959 he came to Canberra and bought a place in Hamilton Crescent, Narrabundah-an ex-government house, which he duly extended. Apart from occasionally seeing him in the street, my first real encounter with him was immediately after he became Prime Minister when he threw a street party for the entire street. I had just turned 16.
I cannot remember what I drank at the party, but I do recall thinking, "What on earth do you say to a bloke who has just become Prime Minister?" So I tried to say something intelligent about the postal strike that was happening at the time. After a few pleasantries I said, "What are you going to do about the postal strike?" He said, "Look, I'll tell you." He rattled off a few points, and about a week later I read in the paper that that was exactly what had happened. The strike was solved, and I thought that was pretty impressive.
Not many years later, in 1972, I was at university and, like most students, needed a holiday job. I had one lined up for January but not immediately after the uni exams finished. Another old mate of mine, who is deceased, Neville Herbert, manager of the Royals Rugby Club and a builder, had been doing some work on the Gorton place. He said, "John Gorton's looking for someone. Would you like to do some work there? I have recommended you, and he knows you." So I went up there, and I remember basically digging up his back yard. He was putting in a swimming pool, and I was doing a little landscaping.
It was during the election campaign of 1972, and I can recall him coming home at about 10.30 in the morning. I saw him at the window and was a bit surprised when he knocked back what looked like a quick whisky. He had obviously been campaigning pretty hard. It was a very hot day, and at about 11.15 am-I was still beavering away-John appeared with four or five beers, and we sat around the pool and had a few. He asked me how my course was going and said that one of his sons was a lawyer and, if I ever needed any assistance, to pop in and see his son. He told me where his son was and gave me the phone number. On that occasion I found out what a thoroughly nice bloke he was.
I saw him a few times since then. I saw him in 1989-remember, Mr Speaker? We were in the process of going through the move-on bill, which I subsequently had passed in a truncated form. Interestingly enough, two federal politicians-one current and one former-gave me some good advice there. Ros Kelly quite liked it, and John Gorton rang me at home and offered a couple of very sensible suggestions in relation to it. I was quite surprised but tickled pink that he bothered to do that.