House debates

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


Hon. Peter Drew Durack QC

2:15 pm

Photo of Brendan NelsonBrendan Nelson (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | Hansard source

On behalf of the opposition, I strongly support this condolence motion for Senator the Hon. Peter Durack. Peter Durack was born in 1926, the descendant of a family who were pioneers in the settlement and the early economic life of the Kimberley region of Western Australia. He was also the cousin of distinguished authors Mary and Elizabeth Durack. The Durack family’s history, beginning with the mid-19th century migration from Ireland, is presented by Mary Durack in Kings in Grass Castles and its sequel, Sons in the Saddle.

He served in the Western Australian Legislative Assembly as the Liberal member for Perth from 1965 until 1968. He was elected to the Senate, representing the state of Western Australia from 1971, where he served until 1993. Peter Durack was co-founder of the University of Western Australia Liberal Club, just a few months after the party was conceived in 1944. In 1949 he was selected as Western Australia’s Rhodes scholar, and tutored in law at Oxford before returning home to work as a barrister in Perth.

In 1965 Peter Durack was elected to the Western Australian Legislative Assembly, where he served until 1968. After serving as State President of the Liberal Party from 1968 until 1971, he was elected to the Senate, where he served until 1993. He remains just one of a handful of Australians to have served in the Senate for over two decades. Having served as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Peter Durack was appointed Attorney-General in the Fraser government from 1977 until 1983 and as Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Peter Durack was an early advocate for freedom of information laws and, as Attorney-General, presided over the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act in 1982. He was a champion for the rights of individuals who had disputes with the government, putting forward a freedom of information bill in 1972 and presiding over the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act in 1982. He was also one of the early advocates of economic reform in Australian politics, being among those calling for lower tariffs and labour market deregulation well before it became economic orthodoxy.

Durack was acknowledged by Fred Chaney as one of the best political and legal minds in the country. Former Prime Minister John Howard noted:

His first interest was not conniving and plotting; his first interest was good policy and good government.

As the Prime Minister has further observed, he had a reputation for being a thoroughly decent individual.

Peter Durack has mentored a generation of Liberal parliamentarians throughout Australia. As a fellow Western Australian, our deputy leader, the member for Curtin, has particularly noted how his wise counsel will now be missed but that his influence will continue. Peter Durack is survived by his wife, Isabel; children, Anne and Philip; and four grandchildren, to whom we offer our condolences and respect.


No comments