Sir John Carrick AC, KCMG
30 May, 2018
Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan—Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services) (11:37): I rise to honour and pay tribute to the late Senator Sir John Carrick—as the Prime Minister says, a lion of the New South Wales Liberal Party, an exemplar of dignity and character, a wonderful mentor and, indeed, friend.
When I first joined the New South Wales Liberal Party in 1968, Senator Carrick was then the general secretary of the party. I was pleased to be able to attend his memorial service last Saturday, along with some now not-as-young Young Liberals, Philip and Heather Ruddock, Robyn Kerr, Bruce McCarthy and many others. Former Senator Nick Minchin was also in Sydney but unable to attend the service, so I offered to include his words today: 'It was a great privilege to know John Carrick and be inspired by him to follow in his footsteps as a Liberal state director, senator and government leader in the Senate. John was a true Liberal hero, a humble man and great man who was an inspiration to so many of us.'
As you would expect, it was a moving service with wonderful eulogies and memories from family and friends. From former Prime Minister John Howard and Sir John Carrick's biographer, Graeme Starr, to his grandchildren, all of course Pa's favourite, and all with loving and special childhood memories. I should note that the service was held at one of Sydney's historic churches, St Paul's Burwood, which is just two years shy of being 150 years old and notably still has real bells and bellringers and at the end of the service the bells were rung 99 times, once for each year of Sir John's life.
Senator Carrick, as I knew him, was one of a number World War II veterans on both sides of the House and the Senate who came to politics after the war with a deep and abiding commitment to public service in the very best sense of those words. Then Senator Robert Cotton convinced him to stand for the Senate and I feel honoured and privileged to have worked for him. Indeed, when I joined his staff in 1975 the Senate included Robert Cotton, John Carrick, Ivor Greenwood and Reg Withers, a most formidable team. He was a generous, considerate and inclusive boss. Always proper and always on top of his brief, he was a good friend whose political advice was worth its weight in gold, as was his advice generally. Even after I left his staff and moved to Queensland he was always available whenever I needed advice. He could always find time to talk, even to a junior staffer just starting in politics.
Like my father, a prisoner of war, his character was forged through war, Changi and the Burma railway. He described his captivity as 'a great and enduring learning experience', which through 'the strong amalgam of mateship' disclosed reserves of spirituality and moral strength in his fellow prisoners. I remember how concerned he was when veterans with whom he had served, who like him has survived and come home and rebuilt their lives, had later need to apply for a TPI pension. He always stressed the importance of staying fit, physically and mentally. Every day that I worked for him, he went for either a walk or a swim and every morning he would give the staff a small puzzle or riddle to ensure that we exercised our minds.
I paid tribute to Sir John Carrick in my maiden speech in this place as a special leader, a great mentor and a man of immeasurable compassion. I noted that, when considering new legislation, he always cautioned us to be mindful of our responsibility to assist those in need, and, as we all know, he was passionate about the importance of education. In establishing the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, Dr Brendan Nelson, as the then minister for education, said of him:
Sir John Carrick has made an enormous contribution to our country.
… … …
He did many things, but one of them was the establishment of the National Tertiary Education Commission, to play for the first time, a serious role in co-ordinating the higher education sector throughout Australia and at arm’s length from Government ... of all of the people that I have met in my adult life there are few that I consider more noble and decent, nor intelligent nor committed to the cause of education ...
The name of the Carrick Institute was immediately accepted throughout the university sector and beyond. Even in political circles there was no express disapproval and the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education was an immediate success. I can still recall the day, many years earlier, when we were unable to leave our offices in Chifley Square as a result of a large student protest outside. As staff and security officers rushed around in a panic trying to find ways to get the minister out of the building, we turned and found Senator Carrick calmly cutting out paper dolls for the then very young Melanie Howard.
At the memorial service on Saturday, we were all given a white rose and a copy of a poem that Senator Carrick had handwritten with a notation: 'I've no idea of its origin or author. I doubt that I've ever seen it in print. It is out of my childhood.' Indeed, it exemplifies how Senator Carrick approached his life. Well, Senator Carrick, I will now read it into Hansard so that it is in print with your name for perpetuity. It's known as The Bridge Builder and reads:
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
… … …
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
Sir John Carrick's generation of senators and members set standards that are applicable today because they stand the test of time. Knowing Senator Carrick also included knowing his wonderful family: his wife Lady Angela Carrick, who sadly passed away just a few months ago, and his daughters, Diane, Jane and Fiona. My thoughts are with them and their children and grandchildren. Just as your mother made such an enormous contribution generally and to the Girl Guides movement in particular, your father was a giant of a man whose contribution to our nation should never be underestimated.
I'd like to finish with Sir John Carrick's own profound words. He said:
Man has always shown himself more willing to seek to understand his material environment than to understand himself or his neighbours. Indeed, in recent decades, we have given great prominence to the physicists, the chemists, the engineers, and their kindred scientists, while failing to appreciate that mankind's currently intractable problems are those essentially for the philosopher, the educator, the psychologist and the political scientist.
Senator Carrick, I'm honoured to have known you and your family. May you rest in peace.