Date:2.02 PM TUESDAY, 21 September 1999
Member:Cowan, Mr Hendy
Barnett, Mr Colin
Page:1406 / 2

Condolence Motion

MR COWAN (Merredin - Deputy Premier) [2.02 pm]: I move -
      That this House record its sincere regret at the death of Hon Sir William Stewart Bovell and tender its deep sympathy to his family.

William Stewart Bovell was born in Busselton on 19 December 1906, the son of Alexander Stewart and Ethel Williams. He was also the nephew of George Barnard, the nationalist member of the Legislative Assembly for the local electorate of Sussex between 1924 and 1933. Sir Stewart was educated at Busselton central school and commenced a long banking career with the WA Bank, later of course the Bank of New South Wales, in 1924 serving in the southern districts, Victoria and the eastern wheatbelt districts and also at head office in Perth from 1924 to 1940. In 1941, Sir Stewart enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force, serving in Australia and overseas until being discharged in 1946 having reached the rank of flight lieutenant. He then became a partner and manager in the family business of shipping agents, tax consultants and land agents and was involved in insurance until retiring in 1947 to contest the by-election for the Legislative Assembly seat of Sussex on the sudden death of the previous member, William Willmott.

Sir Stewart won the by-election against two independent challengers. In 1950 he was re-elected for the renamed seat of Vasse with some 65 per cent of the vote. From then until his retirement, he had very little real opposition except for an ALP candidate in 1965, when Sir Stewart still managed to capture some 70 per cent of the vote. However, when he retired in 1971, that party gained a considerable number of votes and managed to capture some 47 per cent of the vote but not enough to prevent Sir Stewart's successor, Barry Blaikie, from being able to hold the seat for the Liberal Party. That suggests that Sir Stewart had a very strong personal following in the Vasse electorate and in his lifelong home town of Busselton.

During Sir Stewart's 24 years in the Legislative Assembly, he served as the chief government Whip and secretary for the government parties from 1949 to 1953, opposition Whip and secretary of the parliamentary Liberal Party from 1953 to 1957 and opposition front bencher from 1957 to 1959. On the election of the Brand coalition Government in 1959, Sir Stewart was appointed Minister for Lands, Forests and Immigration, retaining those portfolios until his retirement in 1971. He was also appointed the Minister for Labour from 1961 to 1962.

Sir Stewart was appointed to various select committees including the inquiries into the land sales control legislation from 1948 to 1949, the disposal of potatoes in 1949, and other issues. He was also a member of the General Council of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. He represented the Western Australian branch of the CPA at the general conference in Nairobi, Kenya in 1954 and at the third Australian area conference in Melbourne in 1955. When he retired from Parliament, Sir Stewart was appointed as the Western Australian Agent General in London from 1971 to 1974, before retiring to Busselton where he continued to work for that community and, indeed, for the entire south west.

Sir Stewart was a life governor and vice chairman of the Board of Governors for the Church of England Cathedral Grammar School in Bunbury. He was a life member of the Bunbury Race Club, the Southern Districts Agricultural Society, patron of the Western Australian Polocrosse Association and Geographe Bay Yacht Club, and a lay canon at St Boniface Cathedral in Bunbury.

William Stewart Bovell was knighted in 1976 for service to Western Australia and the community. Members may have noticed that a number of members of this House are not present in the Parliament today. They are attending Sir Stewart's funeral at Busselton. On behalf of all members of this House, I extend our deepest sympathy to Sir Stewart's family and friends.

MR BARNETT (Cottesloe - Leader of the House) [2.09 pm]: On behalf of Liberal members of Parliament and the Liberal Party itself, I second this motion of condolence to the family of Sir William Stewart Bovell. As the Deputy Premier has outlined, Sir Stewart had a very long and distinguished career of service to this Parliament and to the wider community. From origins in the south west around Busselton, he proceeded through a career in banking, shipping and 24 years as a member of the Legislative Assembly of this Parliament. In many respects, he represented a style of politician who no longer exists. He was long-serving, had very high principles and always served this community and the Parliament well.

His career included distinguished service during the war, and during his parliamentary career he held a number of positions. He was clearly a person willing to do much of the extra work behind the scenes as well as assuming ministerial responsibilities. He had a long tenure as Minister for Lands, Forests, Labour and Immigration under the Brand Government. His service as Whip in opposition and as party secretary for both the Government and the Liberal Party reflects that. He was also state vice president of the Western Australian division of the Liberal Party from 1949 to 1952, and was a member of the Federal Council of the Liberal Party from 1949 to 1952. Of course, that was very much the formative years of the Liberal Party under its then leader Sir Robert Menzies. Sir Stewart Bovell had a long and distinguished life. He made a great contribution to this Parliament and to public office both here and as Agent General in London. He also clearly played a significant role within his local community, evidenced by his participation in religious activities in the church, educational issues and a wide number of sporting clubs and organisations. On behalf of the Liberal Party I pass on our regret and sympathy to his family and our recognition of a long and distinguished period of public service.