Page 5008 - Week 13 - Thursday, 12 November 2009

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and I would like to acknowledge the remarkable story of Mrs Campbell, who has been kind enough to share with me some of the details and recollections of her time as a loyal Liberal.

Valerie joined the Young Liberals in Camberwell at the age of just 16 in February 1949. Her introduction to grassroots politics and party membership was the December 1949 election. Valerie letterboxed and handed out how-to-vote cards along with many fellow members. The 1949 election was, of course, the election that saw Robert Menzies swept to power, a momentous occasion for a young Liberal and an exciting introduction to party membership.

Valerie tells me she has been letterboxing and handing out how-to-vote cards for the Liberal Party ever since, for which many successive candidates owe her thanks. She was Secretary of the Camberwell Young Liberals for three years in the late 1950s and was rewarded with a life membership of the Young Liberals. Her brother, Bill Collett, now of Portland in Victoria, is also a life member of the Camberwell Young Liberals for his service as president of the club in the early 1960s.

As you might imagine, such a long association with the party has furnished Valerie with a multitude of memories and a wide array of anecdotes. From correspondence with Valerie, I would like to share just two of those stories as illustrative of the ebb and flow of grassroots political life. Valerie has recounted to me her memory of a night time rally in Balwyn in the mid-1950s to welcome back Prime Minister Menzies from overseas. Seventy Young Liberals formed a guard of honour, holding aloft flaming kerosene torches while Mr Menzies, his wife, Pattie, and daughter, Heather, were piped across the park. That sort of histrionics is not evident in this era of politics, but it shows the sort of engagement that the party membership could engender in those early days.

Other anecdotes show how party members can have an intimate connection with those who go on to shape history. Valerie recalls another event which stands out in her memory, which was the suspension by the Victorian state council in 1951 of Alan Missen, who was Vice-President of the Young Liberal and Country Movement, as it was then known, for writing to the Argus newspaper criticising the government’s Communist Party referendum. According to Valerie, Alan had written the letter as a private person and not as the Vice-President of the Young Liberal and Country Movement, but the newspaper recognised his name and inserted his details at the end of the letter.

The Camberwell Young Liberals were holding their monthly meeting the same night, and Valerie was present when Ivor Greenwood, later Attorney-General in the Fraser government, and Vern Hauser, afterwards a Victorian state MP, arrived to inform the meeting of the council’s decision. Alan himself was subsequently elected as a senator for Victoria in 1974 and held that seat until he died in 1986.

Valerie and her husband, Russ, who are now here with us in the chamber—and I acknowledge their presence—subsequently moved to Canberra, where Valerie joined the Long Gully branch of our own branch of the Liberal Party. Valerie was Secretary of Long Gully branch for a few years in its early days, and she and her husband were

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