Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Mr Donald Michael Devitt
On behalf of the coalition I am pleased to have the opportunity to offer our sincere condolences to the family of former senator Donald Devitt. As Senator Conroy mentioned, Don commenced in the Senate as a representative for the Labor Party from Tasmania. I think it is worth noting that one of the great things about our Constitution and the make-up of this chamber is that a state like Tasmania has equal representation with all the other states, which enables people like Don Devitt to have the opportunity to serve in this place.
It is recorded that he was a quiet but very conscientious senator. He came here with much administrative experience in local government in Tasmania, and I think that is a good background for service in this chamber. As I understand it, he was passionate about local government and, in his first speech, highlighted his concerns about the financial support for that level of government, which no doubt is an ongoing and perennial issue, but one that we must all be conscious of.
As someone who also served on the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee, I think it is also worth nothing Don’s long service as a member of that committee, which, I think, is one of the most important and perhaps undervalued committees that we have in this place. He was a member of the committee from 1967 to 1976 and he chaired it from 1973 to 1975. He was a long-serving member of the very important Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory and a member of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, from 1967 to 1969, but those of us who have our doubts about this place should not blame him. I also understand that in 1976-77 he became the first senator ever to visit Macquarie base and Mawson’s Hut in Antarctica, which was a great achievement.
He was of course also in the Senate during the three extraordinarily turbulent years leading up to the dismissal of the Whitlam government, and thus was one of those privileged or otherwise to be part of the most controversial and dramatic period in Australian political history, and one I am sure we will never see repeated. Therefore he witnessed the tumultuous changes of government that occurred in 1972 and 1975 from the perspective of the Senate.
I am advised he remained active in the Labor Party after his retirement and was very well respected in his home state of Tasmania. I think it is worthy for former senators to continue to serve their parties after their service in this chamber. To Don’s wife, Dorothy, and his children, we the coalition place on record our appreciation of his public service and we tender our profound sympathy to the family in their bereavement.