Tuesday, 29 July 2008
Condolence: Hon. Lindsay Hamilton Simpson Thompson, AO, CMG
Mr O'BRIEN (Malvern) -- Having the honour to represent the electorate of Malvern in this place I am particularly pleased to speak on this condolence motion for the most distinguished of my predecessors.
Lindsay Thompson represented the people of Malvern with distinction between 1970 and 1982. This was only a part of his extraordinary parliamentary career that commenced in 1955 in the other place. The affection in which he has been held by his constituents is something which is made plain to me on an almost daily basis. His essential decency inspired the respect of people from all walks of life. I had the privilege to speak with Lindsay Thompson on a number of occasions. He was as generous with his time as he was wise in his counsel, and he has the most tremendous memory for people, places, dates, times and faces that put me to shame.
Lindsay's teaching career started at Malvern Central School. It was there that he had one of his first, but certainly not last, encounters with the teacher unions in this state. Having been asked to coach the school cricket team, Lindsay was putting the boys through their paces after school until about 5.45 p.m., and a teacher on the staff who was a member of the Victorian Teachers Union suggested to Lindsay in no uncertain terms that he should knock off by no later than 4.00 p.m. As Lindsay recounted in his autobiography:
I thanked him politely for his advice and informed him that other members of staff could decide what time they left the school but that I would decide what time I ended the school day. My reply was repeated to other staff members, and for a while I was not too popular.
However, as the year progressed three other young teachers joined the staff, and I succeeded in winning them over to my way of thinking. We used to tease the union representative at 4.05 p.m. about his late departure and offer to call him a taxi.
This episode illustrates the dedication to serving those in his charge that was the hallmark of Lindsay Thompson.
Lindsay served his country in the army and later endured five operations for complications from malaria contracted in New Guinea while on active service. Lindsay also endured four unsuccessful preselections before finally entering Parliament as the member for Higinbotham Province in 1955. He was nothing if not determined, and as the member for Sandringham said in his eulogy, he was a great overcomer.
Lindsay's parliamentary career was unprecedented in this state. He served as a minister longer than anyone else in the history of Victoria, as has been stated by other members, but it was, of course, as Minister of Education between 1967 and 1979 that Lindsay had his greatest impact.
He was a great builder of schools, he opened up the teaching service and he was committed to quality in education. This occasionally brought him into conflict with the teacher unions of the day, but despite his courteous manner, Lindsay Thompson had a spine of steel. He stood firm in the face of not only political threats but even death threats. His courage in the circumstances of the Faraday and Wooreen kidnappings is the stuff of legends, as was very well recounted by the Leader of The Nationals.
This is not to say that Lindsay Thompson could not be diplomatic when the occasion demanded. In his autobiography he recounted his meeting with then President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, which took place on the fairways of Kingston Heath Golf Club in 1967. Teeing off being scheduled for 5.45 in the morning to meet the president's flight schedule, Marcos arrived with his entourage of advisers, official photographers, armed bodyguards, a caddy, an assistant caddy and a scorer. Lindsay was there with his then 13-year-old son, better known to us now as the honourable member for Sandringham. After a round in which the president blamed his bad shots on letting his thoughts drift back to the communists in his country, the official scorer presented the card for Lindsay's signature. In Lindsay's words:
I found that he had taken three shots off the president's score and added two onto my total. With that minor arithmetical adjustment his master had emerged triumphant. I said to the scorer, obviously a man bent on retaining his job, 'The scoring seems a little loose to me, but in the interests of good international relationships I'll sign the card'.
The mode of counting in the last election in the Philippines suggests that this ingenious scorer may have risen to the rank of chief electoral officer in Manila.
Respected by his colleagues and loyal to them, Lindsay Thompson was elected as deputy to Dick Hamer in 1972 and elected as Premier in 1981. Facing what was by all accounts an almost impossible campaign in 1982, Lindsay Thompson's decency shone through. As he wrote:
It was suggested from time to time during the course of the campaign that I should go for the jugular vein and tear strips off John Cain personally. During my life in politics I had always tried to refrain from personal abuse contests ... If Cain had been a fool or a crook, I would have said so, but he was neither. It seemed to me that if the only way we could win an election was by using personal abuse, then we must be going badly.
If that approach makes me a bad politician, well, so be it.
No, that did not make Lindsay Thompson a bad politician. It made him a wonderful human being. It simply reflected what a thoroughly honest, honourable and decent man he was -- a man who rejected the whatever-it-takes approach that seems to characterise so much of modern political exchange, a man who lead by example, a man who gave loyalty and inspired it in others, and a man who epitomised the virtue of service above self.
Though Lindsay Thompson will be sorely missed, his legacy will endure. On behalf of my constituents I extend my sincere condolences to Lindsay's wonderful and loving wife, Joan, to their children Murray, David and Heather, and their extended family.