HON MARGARET MCALEER, MLC
HON N.F. MOORE (Mining and Pastoral - Leader of the House) [3.31 pm]: I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of Hon Margaret McAleer, a former member of the Legislative Council for the Upper West Province and the Agricultural Region, Government and Opposition Whip; and places on record its appreciation for her long public service and tenders its profound sympathy to the members of her family in their bereavement.
It was with some shock that I learnt recently of the death of Hon Margaret McAleer. In fact, I had not been made aware that she had been so ill. In a sense, it is the epitome of Hon Margaret McAleer that she kept her problems to herself. Her funeral was private at her request and, again, that epitomises the character of Hon Margaret McAleer because she was a very private person who did not want to burden others with concern about herself. I was pleased that the Shire of Three Springs, in association with her brother Tony, arranged for a memorial service to be held in Three Springs last week, because it gave members and former members an opportunity to meet publicly to express their sympathy to the family and to record their appreciation of her work. Hon Margaret McAleer will be remembered as a conscientious, respected member of the Legislative Council and as an effective and popular representative of a major region of this State. In her quiet way she was a trailblazer for women's representation in this Parliament.
Margaret McAleer was born in February 1930 and was educated in Geraldton and Perth, and then obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree with honours from the University of Melbourne. From 1961 she farmed at Arrino. Her father, Dr James McAleer, served as Mayor of Geraldton and contested the seat of Geraldton for the Liberal Party in 1953. Margaret followed this family example of community involvement and was elected as a member of the Three Springs Shire Council in 1967. In 1968 she became a member of the Rural Committee of the Liberal Party, and in 1970 was elected President of the Kalgoorlie Central Division of the Liberal Party and contested the half-Senate election as the third member of the Liberal Party team. The respect with which she was held by the Liberal Party was demonstrated when she was elected a State Vice President of the party in 1973. At the same time she contributed to community organisations such as the Pastoralists and Graziers Association, the Farmers Union, the Country Women's Association, the Red Cross, and many business and professional women's associations. She was a keen equestrienne who participated in polocrosse.
In 1973 Margaret McAleer was selected to contest the Upper West Province seat of the Legislative Council, following the retirement of its long-serving incumbent Hon Les Logan. She captured the seat in the 1974 election by a comfortable margin, to become the first Western Australian woman member of the Legislative Council from the Liberal Party and the conservative side of politics. The Upper West Province at that time consisted of the Legislative Assembly seats of Moore, Geraldton and Greenough. It was a strong conservative electorate but it was not secure for either of the coalition parties. Margaret McAleer was re-elected in the Upper West Province by large margins in 1980 and 1986, although in the intervening elections the other province seat was won by Hon Tom McNeil for the National Party. She never failed to gain a majority of the vote in Geraldton, even though the Liberal Party failed to win the seat at each of these three elections. As the first woman parliamentarian to represent a broadacre farming electorate, Margaret McAleer exploded the myth that women candidates were unlikely to succeed in rural seats. She was a most effective representative of both men and women in her electorate and of the rural community in general.
Within this House, Margaret McAleer became Government Whip in 1980, and continued in the role of Opposition Whip until her retirement in 1993. She also assisted as shadow Minister for Women's Interests between 1990 and 1992. Her contributions to this House include membership of the Joint Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation from 1987. It was fitting recognition that she headed the Liberal Party ticket for the Agricultural Region in the 1989 election when the Legislative Council was reconstituted. She topped the poll with 41 per cent of the vote in a three-way contest over a large region that includes much of the State's farming areas. Margaret McAleer's 19 years of service in this House is the second longest record of service for any woman parliamentarian in the Western Australian Parliament.
In retirement she continued to contribute to the Western Australian community in her usual quiet and unselfish manner, notably as a member of the Medical Board and of the Centenary of Women's Suffrage Committee. I repeat only one tribute to Margaret McAleer: One former federal colleague said that she was a very kind person - never patronising, just kind. It is a fitting accolade.
Having been elected to this Chamber in 1977, I knew Margaret McAleer for many years and served with her for a long period in this House. I remember many things well about Margaret. She was always prepared to provide advice and assistance and to compliment members if she thought they had done something well. Most members of this House do something well at some time, and Margaret was always prepared to let them know they had done something worthwhile. On the other hand, she was never critical of anybody, even though on occasions we all deserve to be criticised. She was a very generous person in that sense and I very much appreciated the advice she was able to provide to me personally on many issues. She was well educated and intelligent, and the contribution she made to many debates was as a result of her deep understanding of many issues and her excellent education. Margaret McAleer was able to comment in a sensible way on