Page 230 - Week 01 - Thursday, 12 February 2015

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

Tom endured much in his early personal life and contributed much in his later public one. He was born in Balmain, grew up in the Depression and was caught up in World War II. Deployed with the Second Australian Imperial Force after joining at age 21, Mr Uren was deployed to Timor. It was there that he was taken captive as a POW by the Japanese army, and there that he was dragged into one of the most horrific, but iconic, Australian events of that war: the construction of the Thai-Burma railway.

Tom suffered unimaginable cruelty and witnessed appalling suffering, but he also experienced great compassion and real tenacity, including from the famous Edward “Weary” Dunlop. He spent three years as a POW, surviving not just the Burma railway but later life in forced labour camps, where he witnessed firsthand the destruction of Nagasaki by one of the two atomic bombs detonated in that war. There is no doubt that these arduous experiences shaped his mind and political leanings, in particular his strong anti-nuclear weapons stance.

Despite his robust and sometimes radical forms of public involvement, he was moved to continue to serve his country and his convictions, and moved into federal parliament. With the election of the Whitlam government, he was made Minister for Urban and Regional Development. When Labor was returned to opposition, he was elected as deputy leader. When the Hawke government was elected, he was made Minister for Territories and Local Government.

It was during this time that he made his most obvious contribution to Canberra life, helping to shape the national capital during an important period of growth and maturity. He was famous with his colleagues for fighting hard for his department and for funding local governments.

After retiring from politics, he remained a committed and outspoken activist. Indeed, it was his ability to stand for his personal beliefs––even when at odds with his own political party––and his willingness to say so that led to the recognition and respect across the political spectrum that we now see.

For his service to our nation during wartime and his service to our parliament during peacetime, I pay my respects to the colleagues of Mr Uren and offer my condolences to his friends and family, on behalf of the Canberra Liberals.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo): I rise to speak today to the condolence motion and offer my condolence to Tom Uren’s family and friends.

Tom Uren was born on 28 May 1921 in Balmain, New South Wales. He lived by what he described as the principle of the fit looking after the sick, the young looking after the old, and the rich looking after the poor. He was a boxer, a surf lifesaver, a soldier, a prisoner of war on the Thai-Burma railway, and, famously, someone who witnessed the crimson red sky of the atomic bomb over Nagasaki.

During his time as a prisoner of war under the command of Edward “Weary” Dunlop, Tom and the other Australian prisoners pooled the meagre wages they earned building the railway and funded a hospital for their sick and dying colleagues. It is easy to see

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video