The passing of the former Premier of Victoria and a Patron of the Victorian Division of ACM, the Honourable Lindsay Thompson, AO CMG, has saddened the state and the nation.
His State Funeral in Melbourne on Thursday 24 July 2008 was attended by his widow, Joan, other members of his close family, and his many friends across the political spectrum. Prominent among the mourners was the Premier of Victoria, the Hon. John Brumby.
Among other mourners were the former Prime Minister, the Hon. John Howard, the former Premier of Victoria, the Hon. Jeff Kennett and the former Treasurer, the Hon. Peter Costello.
ACM was represented by our Victorian Convenor, Mr. Brett Hogan.
Lindsay Thompson was an enthusiastic supporter of ACM, regularly attending functions as long as his health allowed this. His affability and charm was a source of considerable encouragement to many supporters.
His version of the loyal toast given at an ACM function at Victorian Parliament House shortly before the referendum in 1999 is testimony to the loyalty he always retained to the Throne:
"To the health and prosperity of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Australia – and long may she remain so!"
…tributes to a courageous and affable gentleman….
In proposing a State Funeral , the Premier stressed the importance of the state to recognising “the contribution, the great contribution, that he has made to the people of Victoria.”
The Premier said Mr Thompson would be remembered as a gentleman who always put the State first and for the huge contribution he made to Victoria as a premier, education minister and treasurer.
Mr Brumby told The Australian on 17 July 2008 that “Lindsay was a great Victorian, he was premier for nine months, he served in parliament for more than 25 years.”
“Lindsay … was a very courteous man, a very humble individual, a gentleman, a true gentleman in every single sense of the word,” the Premier added.
Perhaps the most dramatic moment in Mr. Thompson’s career was in 1972, when he displayed considerable courage, the sort of courage he had also showed when he joined the Army in the nation’s darkest hour.
According to an obituary by Virginia Peel in The Sydney Morning Herald published on 18 July 2008, a 19-year-old teacher, Mary Gibb, and six pupils from the Faraday primary school near Castlemaine were kidnapped by two armed men.
The kidnappers demanded a $1 million ransom from the Victorian Government for their release, with the instruction that the Minister for Education deliver the money.
As minister, he had spent most of the night at police headquarters and did not hesitate to comply. The ransom was never collected but the teacher and pupils escaped and the kidnappers were finally caught.
Ms. Peel writes that the “photograph of the lone minister standing anxious but resolute in the dawn gloom remains one of the most evocative Australian press images of the 1970s.”
As a result Mr. Thompson was awarded a Royal Humane Society Bronze medal for bravery.
…superb Minister of the Crown…
Ms Peel says that Lindsay Thompson was arguably the most successful Victorian politician of the 1970s in surviving and making successes of challenging portfolios in transport, housing, education and police.
And in addition to his role in the kidnapping, she notes that his parliamentary career was lit with extraordinary flashes of drama.
She notes his heroic preparedness to do it all again during the hostage taking at another small school at Wooreen in 1977, his dealing calmly with death threats suffered by his family during the fiery days of teacher union activity in the early 1970s, and his surviving possible disaster when, as acting Liberal premier on inspection of the Gippsland fires in January 1978, his light aircraft was forced down with engine trouble.
Born into a line of teachers, he won a scholarship to Caulfield Grammar School, declining a free university place to return for an additional year at school.
He joined the army in 1942 and contracted malaria in New Guinea, which seriously affected his health throughout his life.
He then resumed his education, graduating in arts and education from the University of Melbourne.
He taught at Melbourne High School, but became interested in politics.
He married Joan Poynder in 1950.
Ms Peel records his career in Victorian politics: elected a member of the Legislative Council for the province of Higginbotham from 1955 to 1967 and for Monash from 1967 to 1970.
He transferred to the Legislative Assembly, for Malvern. He served as a minister of housing, forests, police and emergency services, and for 12 years as minister of education.
He was chief secretary in the government of Sir Henry Bolte, and deputy premier to Sir Rupert Hamer. He was the State’s longest serving Minister.
He was a most highly regarded and Minister for Education from 1967 and 1979, during which the number of the state's schools tripled, and state responsibilities were decentralised.
He became Premier in 1981.
When after twenty seven years of Liberal governments, Labor was returned at the general election in 1982, Mr. Thompson delayed a well deserved retirement for some six months to ensure a smooth transition.
Ms. Peel notes that he was an avid supporter of the Richmond Football Club, an elder of the East Malvern Uniting Church, president of the Royal Life Saving Society and an enthusiast of cricket, tennis and golf.
He was also a strong supporter of our constitutional system and of the Australian Flag.
In 1975 he was made a Commander of the Order of St. Michal and St. George (CMG) and, in 1990, an Officer of the Order of Australia. He received a Centenary Medal in 2001.
He is survived by his wife, Joan, and their children, Heather, Murray and David, and seven grandchildren.
Lindsay Thompson will be remembered most for his courage, his considerable affability and charm, for his solid and consistent support for the Australian constitutional system, and the role of the Australian Crown. All those who saw his most effective contributions to our work, will share that assessment.
Lindsay Thompson AO CMG will be sorely missed.