News Parliament


I rise to mark the passing of United States Senator John McCain. He was a man who gave a lifetime of service to his country in times of war and peace. He will be remembered here as a true friend of Australia. The McCain family's relationship with our nation has spanned the generations—from John McCain's grandfather, who sailed here in the early 1900s and then in the Second World War commanded US air forces in the South Pacific and later aircraft carriers, to his father, who was a submarine commander out of Perth during that war and then commanded US forces in the Pacific theatre during the Vietnam conflict, to the senator's own service in Vietnam and, more recently, the service of Senator McCain's sons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One of the common threads is Australians and Americans serving together, and that shared service and sacrifice is something John McCain understood and valued. His time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam is well documented. It was undoubtedly a dark and excruciatingly painful time, both physically and mentally. And yet, having gone through that hellish period, after the war he supported the normalisation of relations between the United States and Vietnam. John McCain said:

We have looked back in anger at Vietnam for too long. I cannot allow whatever resentments I incurred during my time in Vietnam to hold me from doing what is so clearly my duty. I believe it is my duty to encourage this country to build from the losses and the hopes of our tragic war in Vietnam a better peace for both the American and the Vietnamese people.

That generosity of spirit marked his time in politics as well. He was a man who was able to put aside partisan politics to serve the national interest.

There is no question that Senator McCain possessed a maverick streak. I think it could be said that he possessed a larrikin streak as well. And he was a straight talker. Those qualities are no doubt why Australians viewed him with such affection. They are sometimes said to be Australian qualities. But it was more than that. He understood the depth of the relationship between the United States and Australia, how important the Pacific is to global security and how important our alliance is to global security as well. Standing by your mates when the chips are down is another Australian characteristic, and Senator McCain was certainly the first to stand by Australia whenever he thought the relationship between our nations was threatened or imperilled.

I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Senator McCain when he was in Australia last year. During his visit he spoke of the bonds between our nations and how we are an alliance of free countries with shared values and a shared commitment to a safer, freer and better world. Australians will remember his courage, service, sacrifice and, above all, friendship. With John McCain's passing, we have lost a great friend, a great mate. We honour our mate in this House today. I extend the condolences of the Calare electorate to his family and to his country.