11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007
“UNVEILING OF MENZIES BUST”
SUNDAY, 15 JULY 2007
Well thank you very much Mr Mayor for this opportunity to unveil a bronze sculpture of Sir Robert Menzies, surely one of Kew’s greatest citizens, Australia’s longest serving prime minister and one of the greatest Australians ever. It is a great honour to have here with us today Mrs Heather Henderson, Sir Robert’s daughter who has been involved in the choosing of the sculpture. I hope the artwork will meet the approval of members of the family who are also here for this unveiling.
Many of us remember the greatness of Sir Robert’s life but it’s worth bearing in mind he came from very humble beginnings. He was born in Jeparit, educated in Jeparit and Ballarat before coming to the great city of Melbourne, the then Federal capital, winning a scholarship to Melbourne University, becoming a first class barrister, a Kings Counsel, a State MP and then eventually the Member for Kooyong.
As the Mayor said, Sir Robert was the Member for Kooyong from 1934 until his retirement in 1966, surely the longest period of service as Member for Kooyong and something that the constituents of Kooyong can take great pride in – that they were represented by such a wonderful Member of Parliament and of course Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister.
Sir Robert not only was Member for Kooyong and Australia’s longest serving prime minister, he holds the distinction of having founded one of Australia’s two great political parties. He was not only the leader of the Liberal Party but the founder of the Liberal Party. This is an honour which very few people in the history of politics have:- to have founded a political party that endures long after your own lifetime. The Liberal Party of Australia has been, at the Federal level, the most successful political party in terms of holding office.
Sir Robert founded the Liberal Party in 1944 out of the ruins of the United Australia Party and many other non-Labor parties. During the period when he was out of office and forming the Liberal Party, he gave a series of speeches, probably the most well known being The Forgotten People. And he outlined the philosophy that motivated him in politics and I’d like to read to you very briefly an excerpt, perhaps the most famous excerpt from his speech The Forgotten People. He said this:
“I do not believe that the real life of this nation is to be found either in great luxury hotels and the petty gossip of so-called fashionable suburbs, or in the officialdom of organised masses. It is to be found in the homes of people who are nameless and unadvertised and who whatever their individual religious conviction or dogma, see in their children their greatest contribution to the immortality of their race. Their home is the foundation of sanity and sobriety. It is the indispensable condition of continuity; its health determines the health of society as a whole.”
The Liberal Party was founded for those forgotten people – neither those of great wealth and power nor the organised trade union movement, but the shopkeepers and the merchants and the people who saw in the home and in their children their greatest contribution to our society. And that’s why it’s so important that we have so many generations of Menzies here because truly apart from his great political career, Sir Robert would have seen his contribution as being the contribution his children and grandchildren make to our modern society.
The Liberal Party has been in existence for 63 years and in office at the Federal level for 42 years – surely a very successful political party. And for those of us who represent it today, it’s a great honour to do so and to follow in the footsteps of Sir Robert.
The Sydney Morning Herald journalist, Peter Bowers, no friend of the Liberal Party, wrote:
“There was a touch of magic about Menzies that made you aware of his presence. You watch people in the public gallery: suddenly animation, faces brightened, heads tilted, eyes focussed on the heavy slow figure who somehow contrived to make his entry lightly, with the practised stealth of a nurse, gliding so as not to disturb the patients. Perhaps that was Menzies secret, he glided so as not to disturb the electorate.
At least not to disturb them against him but to disturb them in favour of him.
Sir Robert had many achievements. I think the achievements that he was the most proud of were probity in Government, the long economic expansion of the 1950s and the 1960s, Commonwealth engagement in education, a commitment to excellence, and an Australia which during the 50s and 60s came of age as a prosperous and proud country in the great company of nations.
The bust that has been cast in bronze today was done by Meridian Sculptor Founders in Fitzroy who have been extremely helpful during this process, and I want to thank them for all of their work. And I want to thank the members of the family and supporters of the Liberal Party, citizens of Kew and of Kooyong for coming here today. Kooyong should be proud of Menzies, Melbourne should be proud of Menzies, Australians are proud of Sir Robert Menzies. I now ask his daughter Mrs Heather Henderson to come and to say a few words at this unveiling. Thank you very much.