The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS ( 14:23 ): I rise to endorse the remarks made by the Leader of the Government and Leader of the Opposition respectively. I am probably one of the few members of this place who actually knew Mr John Freebairn for a significant period of time. In fact, he and my father were both members of the Liberal and Country League and members of this parliament around the time the Liberal Movement came to the fore as a part of the Liberal and Country League and, of course, then later as it became a separate party. While my father and Mr Freebairn were on different sides of that scenario, they always maintained good relationships, and certainly later in life that continued.
Mr Freebairn was only 30 when he was endorsed as a candidate for the LCL which, as some might have remarked, in those days was seen as almost an infant. It received a few headlines in the country papers of the day, certainly the papers that covered the area of Alma via Hamley Bridge. I know the Clerk of this place remembers Mr Freebairn as making it clear that is where he came from. While Alma is a very prominent farming area and is close to Owen and Salter Springs and places like that, not everybody knows where Alma is so he always said, 'I come from Alma via Hamley Bridge.'
Certainly I concur with the remarks about his commitment to a number of agricultural organisations, particularly the poultry industry. I do not think that they were specifically mentioned, but certainly he was a director of the Red Comb Cooperative organisation which existed amongst the poultry producers. He was a member of the South Australian Egg Board and, of course, also as a grain grower he was a director of South Australian Co-operative Bulk Handling Ltd for some 10 years.
I think, as has been noted by previous speakers, he held the seat of Light on three occasions—1962, 1965 and 1968—and at that stage, as the Leader of the Government alluded to, it was a different seat than it is today. In fact, The Advertiserelection guide in 1962 described Light as:
A pastoral, agricultural and fruit growing electorate with a few towns and small industrial pockets. Subdivisions are Eudunda, Kapunda, Mo rgan, Riverton and Saddleworth.
Of course, in the redistribution leading up to the 1970 election the seat of Gawler, as it was, was dissolved. The seat of Gawler had not only the town of Gawler but all the Elizabeth suburbs in it, but because of the growth in population there was a need to create new seats to the south of Gawler and so the town of Gawler, and a number of its surrounding areas, went into the seat of Light and changed the nature of that seat significantly.
As it was, the then mayor of Gawler, the Hon. Dr Bruce Eastick, ran for the preselection for the LCL against John Freebairn and , because the number of Liberal members in Gawler probably outswamped those who had come from those northern areas, he won preselection. Dr Eastick then went on to become the leader of the LCL and the Liberal Party, a fter the name change s and went on to become the member for Light for some 23 years.
I noted with great interest in Mr Freebairn's maiden speech a number of issues that I think would still be relevant today. One that was relevant to a lot of people was the need for better east ‑west connections in road transport in the Lower and Mid North of South Australia. I think many people for a long time have been somewhat perplexed by the dogleg nature of how you go from, say, Port Wakefield across to the Riverland.
It is interesting to note that some 54 years ago, in a maiden speech, that was one of the issues that Mr Freebairn raised. In fact, he talked about some of the work that had been done by the government on the Renmark-Eudunda road—which was in those days known as the North of the River Road—and some work that had been done by the District Council of Eudunda on the Eudunda-Marrabel road. He talked also about connections between Saddleworth and Balaklava which, some would say, are still waiting.
The interesting one he talked about was the fact that at that stage there was some progress by the New South Wales government in sealing the Hay-Wentworth road, which we all know is the Sturt Highway going across the Hay Plain, and he was interested in bringing some form of sealed road, I suppose, from Wentworth on the north side of the river to Renmark and then through to Morgan and beyond. To my mind, for that to have been raised in 1962, was visionary. It might have been hopeful, because we still do not have a sealed road, certainly in South Australia between Renmark and Wentworth, but it is interesting to me that he could think of those sorts of linkages, some of which we still have not achieved.
Mr Freebairn had a lengthy retirement from parliament because, he did, as has been said, attempt to come into this august house in 1973 but was unsuccessful. In his lengthy retirement, having left the service of the parliament at the age of 40, he still was very happy to come here to make friendships with people who had not necessarily been here when he was here, and he was a frequent visitor to the place. He was always very respectful in the way he dealt with me and I regard that highly.
I remember one of the more recent times when I saw him at an event in the country, and it must be about 10 years ago, acknowledging the voluntary service of CFS members in the Hamley Bridge area. He was very strong on the emergency services sector in his district and, of course, that area has, in only recent months, been decimated by fire. I am not sure whether his former property was impacted because I think that was probably at the northern end of the perimeter but, certainly, the town of Hamley Bridge was surrounded.
I think it is important, though, to emphasise that Mr Freebairn was a very young man when he came to parliament, particularly for that day. He would have also been a very young man to have lost his parliamentary career, but he never brought any sense of being bitter about that when he came to this place and, as I said, I think he was active in the former members' association, but he was always a friendly person who would come into the refreshment room, I will call it, and I think probably made himself known to many people in this place. With those remarks, I support the motion.
Motion carried by members standing in their places in silence.