Senate debates

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Condolences

Forbes, Dr Alexander James (Jim), CMG, MC

3:52 pm

Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) Share this | Hansard source

I rise on behalf of the Nationals party to pass on our commiserations and condolences on the passing of the Hon. Jim Forbes, and particularly to pass on our condolences to his family and many children and grandchildren, as well as to members of the Liberal Party. As has been expressed here, Dr Forbes was a remarkable contributor to our nation over decades of service, not just in this parliament but also in wartime. Serving with distinction in the south-west Pacific region in World War II, Doctor Forbes was awarded a Military Cross and also participated in the victory celebrations in London as part of the Australian delegation. After the war, Dr Forbes committed himself to study, first in Adelaide and then overseas at Oxford, eventually returning to take up a lectureship in political science at the University of Adelaide.

When he decided to go into politics, Dr Forbes entered the seat of Barker and succeeded the then member, Archie Cameron. Archie had himself been a leader of the Country Party in previous times, although by that stage Archie had himself left for first the United Australia Party and then the Liberal Party. As has been expressed here by others, Dr Forbes served with distinction as a minister within the Menzies government in the portfolios of Navy, Army, Immigration and Health. He made enormous contributions in all of his portfolios—particularly the establishment of the national health service, a precursor to the broader universal healthcare Australians enjoy today, and his advocacy for the disestablishment of the White Australia policy in the portfolio of Immigration. And he wasn't averse to making controversial decisions from time to time that he thought were right. Senator Keneally mentioned kicking out Joe Cocker, although I think that was because, at the time, the Prime Minister thought that might have been a popular decision. It didn't save him, in any case. Dr Forbes also made a controversial decision to shut the then government-owned Canberra abattoir. That decision caused the resignation of all members of the ACT Advisory Council, at the time. Dr Forbes as Minister for Health also banned the importation of cheese made from unpasteurised milk into our nation—another controversial decision.

He was the last surviving member of the Menzies government, a government that helped build modern Australia. I looked back at his first speech to parliament. He could have taken great pride in the fact that a lot of what he outlined was the focus of that government, and it was achieved in great measure by that government. In his first speech, Dr Forbes said:

Our capacity to import the capital goods we require for development depends upon the export income with which we pay for them, and that income is the most important single factor in our progress.

In the past week, after Dr Forbes's passing, we have for the first time in 44 years as a nation delivered a current account surplus. A lot of that is because we've maintained an open environment for the importation of those capital goods and supported the industries that produce the export income, as Dr Forbes mentioned, that allow for that importation. The result of a current account surplus is the long-term support for development of those income-producing industries that Dr Forbes advocated for in his life and helped deliver as part of the Menzies government.

I would like to, once again, pass on my condolences to his wife, Margaret, and broader family, and, again, pass on the National Party's commiserations to the Liberal Party. Vale, Dr Jim Forbes.

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