Tuesday 11 August 2020
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Australian PM - 1 month ago

Condolence - Jim Forbes

Mr Morrison: (Cook—Prime Minister and Minister for the Public Service) (14:00): I move: That the House records its sadness at the passing on 10 August 2019 of the Honourable Dr Alexander James Forbes, CMG, MC, a former minister and member for Barker, and place on record its appreciation for his remarkable public service and tender its sympathy to his family. Alexander James Forbes was a soldier, a scholar and a statesman. He was the last surviving Liberal minister of the Menzies government and one of our last links to that big-hearted generation of World War II veterans who returned home to serve the citizens of Australia in this parliament. He was born in Hobart in 1923. Jim Forbes was educated at Knox Grammar School in Sydney and St Peter s College in Adelaide. His youth was interrupted, as so many of his generation, by war. After graduating from Duntroon Military College, he enlisted on 15 December 1942, the day before his 19th birthday. In 1943 he was in Darwin when it was under attack, and on June 1945 Jim Forbes was awarded the Military Cross for his service in the South Pacific. His father was Brigadier Alexander Forbes, who had received the same award in the First World War and his brother, Lieutenant Patrick Forbes, would receive it during the Korean War. This may be the only instance of three members of an Australian family being awarded the Military Cross in three consecutive wars. That is remarkable service from a remarkable family. On returning home from the war, Jim Forbes left the Army to pursue further study. He completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Adelaide and went to Oxford, where he earned a PhD. It was at Oxford that he married the love of his life, Margaret Blackburn. She is the daughter of one of Australia s most remarkable soldiers, Arthur Blackburn, an Anzac who landed at Gallipoli, a VC recipient and a Second World War prisoner of war. Margaret and Jim had five children and were married 67 years. Jim Forbes entered this parliament as the member for Barker in 1956. He would be re-elected seven times. He would serve as minister in five different portfolios under five different Prime Ministers. Sir Robert Menzies appointed him Minister for the Army and Minister for the Navy. Menzies s view of Jim Forbes was unequ he described him as a very great man. In this position, Jim Forbes brought the controversial policy of national conscription to cabinet in 1964. This was a decision that will be debated throughout the ages. His argument was that conscription through a lottery was fairer than a voluntary army, where the burdens fell on some groups more than others. What we can say, more than half a century on, is that Jim Forbes never asked a young Australian man to do what he himself and his family had not done. Later, Jim Forbes would serve in the Holt, McEwen and Gorton governments. However, it was as immigration minister in the McMahon government that Jim Forbes drew the attention and ire of his kids, something that I think none of us in this House ever want to do. Jim s daughter Emma was a teenager at the time and had taken little interest in her father s career. All that changed when he deported British rock star Joe Cocker for possessing marijuana. Emma would later remark: … can you imagine being a teenager in 1972 and your father has just thrown Joe Cocker out of the country? Jim Forbes retired from parliament at the 1975 election, but he continued to serve his party and nation. Over the next decade he would serve as a federal president of the Liberal Party and the chairman of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. He also served on the Council of the National Library, including as its chairman. But war and politics had taken their toll on this great Australian, and in his retirement Jim realised it was time, in his words, to catch up with normal life —to do the sorts of things that the average person does. So he reconnected with old friends. He played golf and he gardened. He surrounded himself with books and family. He said, at the age of 90, I have now arrived at the point where I feel normal. There is hope for us all! To mark that milestone, there was a family celebration and he was asked to say a few words about his life. On that day, he didn t speak of war or politics, or the honours that he had received. Instead, he simply turned to the woman he loved, raised a glass and said, To Margaret . It s his love that endures. Jim Forbes lived to the age of 95, and is survived by his much beloved wife, Margaret, and his children Sarah, Emma, Alexander and David, as well as nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. What a marvellous life! We send them our deepest sympathies as we remember the life of an honourable and brave Australian.

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