House debates

Tuesday, 16 February 2021


Anthony, Rt Hon. John Douglas (Doug), AC, CH

4:29 pm

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The last time I had merely started and have had to stay in abeyance until this point in time. In starting again, to Margot, to Dugald, to Jane and to Larry, and to Doug Anthony's grandchildren, I'd like to first and foremost offer my condolences, but condolences in a spirit that reflects the great life of Doug Anthony and what a great person he was not just for his family but for his nation.

There is an unverified but I believe very true story that really epitomises the character of Doug Anthony. When they were going to get rid of the single deck in its first iteration, Doug Anthony saw the then prime minister Billy McMahon and he said to him, 'Prime Minister, you're not going to do this.' And the Prime Minister said, 'Well, yes, I am.' And he pulled from his pocket the resignation papers for the coalition and said, 'The government falls at six o'clock tonight.' They kept a single desk! The reason it is unverified is that it happened, obviously, in the room. It was kept within the room. But it shows that Doug Anthony was fair dinkum. When he said something he meant it. And that's the reason that in politics—I imagine Billy McMahon didn't really like him, but I bet you he respected him.

Of course, there are other ones too—this one is on the record. Coming back jaundiced, Doug Anthony had to deal with the fact that they were going to have one vote, one value, and this, of course, was going to decimate many regional areas, many regional centres, because we have the geographic weight in our area, but we don't have the demographic weight. And we don't have the demographic weight because we can't get the services that will bring the people in because we don't have the population. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. We did have a weighting of the vote, but that was being removed. And Doug Anthony said: 'This is not fair. You will have all the power. All the democratic power will then reside in the capitals. That's where everything will happen and that's where all the investment will be, too.' He said he wasn't going to accept it. Then, when they pursued it, he said, 'Well, then we must have more seats in the parliament so that regional areas have a chance to basically have a local federal politician.' The joint party room went off their mind about it—were basically openly hostile. Remember that he was sitting in the Deputy Prime Minister's seat. They were openly hostile. They were taunting him. But he just took it. He wore it, and he continued to fight so that we did get more seats. It's yet another example of his character and why he is held in that sort of pantheon of the gods for the National Party, which is the second-longest existing party in Australia. It is not the easy road; it's the hard road that is the one that is remembered by the history books. It's not the jolly, good times; it's the tougher times that they actually write the chapters about.

The Anthony family themselves are like the Kennedys of Australia—three generations of ministers, three generations of people who have served in the highest offices of this country. In meeting the grandchildren at the public service for the Rt Hon. Doug Anthony, I would say that there's a strong possibility that others may follow in their father's, their grandfather's and their great-grandfather's footsteps.

Doug Anthony was a child of the Northern Rivers, that very particular and beautiful part of the state of New South Wales and our nation. Doug Anthony had to deal with the transition of more people and people with different views to what would have been Country Party views moving into his area. One of those classic towns was the former very strong dairy town—a place called Nimbin. You might have heard of it. One of the stories that was relayed to me was of Doug Anthony having to go to the festival of Aquarius, I think it was, and dealing with a sea of naked people smoking marijuana and asking them if he could get their vote. But he turned up! He said: 'These people are here. We've got to acknowledge it, and we've got to reach out to them and work out what's the connection; how do we make this work?'

So, in closing, I would say this: of all the things that Doug Anthony achieved, the fact—I think he retired at 54 years old. Many people start their political career there. He was the longest-serving Deputy Prime Minister and he retired from politics at 54! But his greatest success was this: despite his stature and the political grandeur that he inevitably had by reason of his career, he never let the shade from that mighty tree shade out his family and leave them in a poorer light. He made sure that the centre of his life was his family. And the discussion and the photos that we saw in the service were of his family. His family was the centre part of his life. I think that is possibly the most pertinent lesson that we can take back to this place—that ultimately, when you leave here, there will be no politicians waiting for you at home, but what there will be are the ones who are closest and dearest to you. For Doug Anthony, that was his family.

4:36 pm

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party, Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I, too, rise today to pay tribute to one of the true titans of Australian politics and the National Party, the Rt Hon. John Douglas Anthony.

Doug Anthony served our nation with passion and distinction, whether from his famous caravan at New Brighton or within the corridors of Old Parliament House. Born in Murwillumbah in New South Wales on 31 December 1929, Doug grew up living and breathing politics with his father, Hubert Lawrence Anthony, serving as a minister in the Fadden and Menzies governments. He was elected to the House of Representatives following the sudden and extraordinarily sad passing of his father in 1957. By 1964 he'd entered the ministry, and was also elected the deputy leader of the Country Party. He took over the party leadership in 1971, following another great titan and legend of Australian politics Black Jack McEwen.

As Deputy Prime Minister in the Fraser government, he held the vitally important role of Minister for Trade and Resources, amongst others. He understood the importance of country Australia in generating jobs and the wealth of our nation. He understood that the regions were part of Australia's strength in growing and advancing our national economic and social welfare, and also our future.

In doing so, he forged new bilateral trade agreements that have had long-lasting economic benefits for all Australians. In particular, he's remembered for championing the establishment of stronger trade ties between Australia and Japan, as he believed this relationship was critical to Australia's future—not the easiest thing to do back in that postwar era. He also opened up critical new markets in the Middle East, as well as with our close ally and friend New Zealand. Doug was the driving figure in forging the Closer Economic Relations agreement with our friends across the ditch in New Zealand.

In April 1979 Doug visited New Zealand for the annual ministerial review of the New Zealand-Australia free trade agreement, to broach the subject of a closer economic association between the two countries. Cablegrams at the time record that at an informal discussion at a dinner given by then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, Doug expressed the desire to open up thinking about a new, expanded and more rewarding form of economic cooperation. In his proposition to the New Zealanders, Doug made the case that both nations should look at establishing a stronger association that was based on mutual benefit. He also put to Prime Minister Muldoon that any association should achieve greater strength in dealing with the rest of the world.

Following Doug's proposal that evening, the New Zealand Prime Minister agreed that it was time for Australia and New Zealand to give serious thought to a closer economic association against the background of new global circumstances. I don't think at that time he could have imagined that his work would have resulted in the development of such a close and strategic relationship that now exists between our two countries. Doug also oversaw the transition of the Country Party to the National Party, which today is Australia's second-oldest political force, where we celebrated 100 years just last year.

At the time of his retirement from parliament, at just 54, Doug had been Deputy Prime Minister for almost 10 years and leader of the Nationals for 12 years and was recognised as 'Father of the House'. It was an honour to attend the state funeral for Doug at Tweed Heads recently. Many eloquent tributes were made by Doug's family—his son Larry—and of course former Prime Minister John Howard. Doug's daughter, Jane, delivered a beautiful recollection of her father's love and affection for his family. Jane recounted him giving each of his grandchildren a specially minted coin and a letter. Doug told all his grandchildren to hold the coin in their hands when they had moments of self-doubt and to draw upon the magic of the coin. He said to each of them, 'This is your confidence coin.' Doug encouraged all of them to be optimistic, to have confidence, to try different things and to seize opportunities along the way.

I think there's much we can learn from Doug's approach to life. All of us in this place should remain optimistic about the future and about Australia's place in the world. All Australians should be confident and try different things, and seize the many opportunities our great country delivers. And all of us in this place could learn from Doug's approach to politics. As this House has heard, when Doug had to be tough, he was tough. But he also approached politics with a great decency and a great humanity. All of us in this parliament should take a leaf out of Doug's book, as should future generations of politicians. He was an extraordinarily decent man and was held in enormous respect and regard by both sides of the aisle of parliament.

In closing, I would like to pass on my heartfelt condolences to Margot, Dugald, Jane, Larry and the entire Anthony family and to thank them for sharing Doug with us and supporting him in making such an enormous contribution to country Australia and to the entire nation. Farewell, Doug Anthony, and thank you for your remarkable contribution to the life of this nation.

4:42 pm

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a great honour to stand in this place to speak on the condolence motion for a great Australian. Doug Anthony was part of the National Party family, and it is a great loss to our party and to our community. We all are privileged to stand in this place, but very few of us leave this parliament with the ability to say we have left a legacy. Doug Anthony was a titan, and not just of the National Party; he was a titan of this parliament, because of the dignity and respect that he held, not only from our side of the aisle but also from those opposite. That was because of the way he thought about his country and acted for his country, in a dignified manner, whether on the beach in the caravan in the summer or governing our country in a uniquely Australian way. Nowhere else in the world would a leader be able to do that, except here in Australia.

So, Doug Anthony was unique for his times but was not unique to our country. He personified what it was to be an Australian. Doug Anthony was probably always destined to come to this place. His father was a member of parliament. In fact, he grew up just down the road, in Old Parliament House. From a young age he got a very good grounding in what it was to be in federal parliament. And he was thrust into it at a young age, in the tragic circumstances of the loss of his father.

As a 27-year-old, to come into federal parliament, in the era of 'Black Jack' McEwen and all the other names that adorn this place—Menzies and all the names that Australia fondly looks back on as the titans of Australian politics—and to hold his principles, to hold his values true, all the way, and to rise to Deputy Prime Minister of this country, is a testament not just to Doug Anthony but to our country: that a young man from the bush can ascend like anyone else. And Doug Anthony did that. But he also made sure he took advantage of that opportunity. He wasn't intimidated by the fact that he came from a small country town. He wasn't intimidated when he came to Canberra, and he wasn't intimidated when he went on the world stage, because he believed in the people he represented. He believed in the values and principles of them and the values and principles of this nation.

That is why he has left a legacy that still lasts today—and not just for the National Party, not just in setting the values and principles that we sill live by today, but also a legacy of change in terms of trade. When you think of the National Party, there are many who say that we're a protectionist party. Well, it was the National Party that in fact forged new trade agreements, particularly with Japan, post the Second World War. We can think back to that era and understand the emotion across this country after the Second World War and understand the pain and hurt that came out of that. Under the leadership of Doug Anthony, we forged those relationships—thinking ahead, not just in a commercial sense but about how our place in the global community should stand. For a young bloke from northern New South Wales to lead his country in that is testament to our nation and testament to this great man.

We are forever grateful to Doug Anthony and his family and need to understand what he and his family have sacrificed for this nation, coming into this place and enduring the rigours of not only being a member of parliament but also being the Deputy Prime Minister. There were those rigours on his family. He was then able to retire on his own terms. He was able to decide when he wanted to go, when it was right. In fact, just after Doug Anthony announced his retirement, his wife, Margot, was meant to address a National Party branch meeting in Warwick, in my electorate of Maranoa. Doug had announced it. He rang the chairman of the local branch and asked if he was allowed to come along to this meeting with Margot. The whole town turned up to see Doug Anthony in Warwick. This great Australian who achieved so much and was no longer the Deputy Prime Minister decided to support his wife, who had supported him for so many years and had let him support the Australian people and achieved so much for us. For him to go along and be the sidekick in Warwick was something that people in Warwick still talk about today. Doug Anthony is still a legend, not just in Warwick but across the country.

This is the type of character that only comes along once in a while in a nation's history. It's important that we don't just celebrate his life but understand and make sure that his legacy isn't forgotten, not just in what he'd done but also in how we act and in how we represent the people who send us here, and, more broadly, how we represent the Australian people. That is the legacy that should last from Doug Anthony for each and every one of us. From a National Party perspective, that's the legacy when we sit in that sacred room that is ours. Those are the principles that guide us. It's our responsibility now as custodians to continue with that legacy and respect the great work and the legacy of one of the greatest Australians we have seen. He had respect from both sides of the aisle because of the way he interacted and because of the passion and commitment he had for his people and his nation.

As members of parliament, we have a privileged position. To be able to stand here and talk, trying to aspire to somebody like Doug Anthony, is something that I think every member of parliament should reflect on and understand. If we are guided by those values and principles that Doug Anthony took to this place and took to our nation, then we'll be a greater nation for it. He has given us the building blocks, not just from the National Party perspective but as a nation, because of all that he achieved for our nation. To him and his family, for all their commitment and sacrifice, I say: it was worth it. On behalf of a grateful nation, I say thank you and God bless.

4:48 pm

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Today, I wish to acknowledge the contribution and the legacy of former Deputy Prime Minister Doug Anthony, whom we remembered at a state memorial recently. Without Doug Anthony, the economic fabric of regional Australia would not be as strong as it is today. What he achieved as leader of the Country Party and as trade minister 41 years ago for Australia is virtually unheard of now. There were visiting nations, and they had never welcomed an Australian cabinet minister on their soil to forge new trade partnerships. He brought back to his constituents something that modern politicians too often forget: opportunity. He gave landholders, growers, producers and small businesses the chance to sell their food and fibre to new populations. Today, our farmers feed more than 60 million people outside the borders of our nation. That would not be possible without the work of Doug Anthony four decades ago.

Doug Anthony worked to make those in the bush the breadwinners of the country: agriculture, energy and minerals. He knew his constituents hated to rely on government handouts. They knew the value of what they had and wanted to trade to bring prosperity back to regional Australia. He pinpointed responsibility and outward-looking trade policies as the way for Australia to take full advantage of its potential and to develop both natural and primary resources. He knew that many countries blessed with abundant resources had failed to take advantage of them. Mr Anthony laid the crucial ground work to open up new markets for Australian growers, farmers and businesses across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. He worked to secure better access to the existing agricultural markets of the world, to create conditions for the opening up of new markets and to set up a code of behaviour on agricultural export that established fairer and more equitable conditions for trade.

Operating in a delicate diplomatic environment in the latter half of the 1970s, he flew around the world to open and to expand trade with the Soviet Union and Japan respectively, opening Australia's first trade fair in the Soviet Union and signing a new trade agreement with Japan in 1979 worth $180 million back then. That was a deal which, adjusted for inflation, would be worth $880 million today. He negotiated what would become Australia's first free trade agreement with New Zealand and he sought to increase agricultural and mining exports to the European Economic Community, which had shut its doors to Australian markets.

When he wasn't focused on growing regional economies he was protecting them—so much so, that when the Liberals sought to revalue the dollar to the detriment of the Australian agricultural sector he threatened to break the coalition. The policy was dumped three days later. Doug Anthony's legacy is what we gain when regional people hold the reigns of senior ministries. Our regional economies are no different today; they don't want handouts, they want opportunities.

I extend my condolences to his wife, Margot, to his children, Dugald, Jane and Larry, and to the rest of the extended family. Vale Doug Anthony.

4:52 pm

Photo of Jason FalinskiJason Falinski (Mackellar, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

John Doug Anthony was born in Murwillumbah, New South Wales, on 31 December 1929. Having attended school locally, he finished his education at The King's School in Sydney and Gatton College in Queensland. His father, Larry Anthony Sr, was the member for Richmond and a minister in the Menzies government. Despite his father's political interests, the path of politics did not originally call to him. It wasn't until his father's death that, despite his self-described reluctance, Doug entered the political theatre.

Although he may have been a reluctant politician, that did not stop Doug leaving an impressive legacy. Entering parliament at the young age of 27, leaving a full-time job managing his farm, 1957 marked the beginning of a long and successful political career. By 1964, Doug had been appointed Minister for the Interior and three years later he became Minister for Primary Industry.

When portrayed by some in the media as a bit of a country bumpkin, Doug said, 'I loved it; that was me.' He was an approachable, relatively relaxed politician, but he was also a sharp political operator who fought hard for his electorate, region and rural Australia. Doug's parliamentary career spanned more than 26 years, 16 of which involved service as a government minister. Doug held a variety of portfolios during this time, including trade and industry, energy, resources and, of course, Deputy Prime Minister. At 41 years of age, Doug was the youngest-ever leader of the National Party, formerly the Country Party, elected as leader in 1971 to 1984. He served as Deputy Prime Minister to Malcolm Fraser throughout the years of the coalition government, from 1975 to 1983.

Doug was renowned for fighting hard for his party and constituents and for never taking a back seat as the junior coalition partner. He flexed his political muscle in the early 1970s, when former Prime Minister Billy McMahon was pushing to increase the value of the Australian dollar. Fearing the plan would hurt rural exports, they stormed out of cabinet three times and even considered leaving the coalition. He tackled the big farming issues of wool and wheat and publicly lambasted Britain in the early 1970s when it left Australian farmers high and dry by joining the common market.

Doug retired from federal parliament in January 1984 and subsequently served on the Old Parliament House Governing Council. He campaigned for an Australian republic at the 1999 constitutional referendum and for a time even advocated for a formal merger between the Liberal and National parties. Doug is survived by his wife, Margot, whom he married the same year he was elected, in 1957. The have three children and nine grandchildren. Doug's son, Larry, carried on the family tradition by serving in the seat of Richmond for three terms in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although in the humble Anthony fashion, Larry never liked to refer to it as a dynasty—or 'dynasty' if you were in Texas—but as a responsibility. Doug's legacy will forever live on in this place and across the country.

Photo of Lucy WicksLucy Wicks (Robertson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I understand it is the wish of honourable members to signify at this stage their respect and sympathy by rising in their places.

Honourable members having stood in their places—

I thank the Federation Chamber.

4:57 pm

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That further proceedings be conducted in the House.

Question agreed to.