This is the text of Ted Mack’s Henry Parkes Oration, delivered in Tenterfield tonight.
Ted Mack was an independent councillor and Mayor of the North Sydney Council in the 1970s and 1980s.
He was elected as the independent member for North Shore in the NSW Legislative Assembly in 1981 and was re-elected in 1984 and 1988, retiring two days before he became eligible for a parliamentary pension.
In 1990, he was elected as the independent member for the federal seat of North Sydney, defeating the incumbent Liberal, John Spender. He was re-elected in 1993 and retired in 1996.
In this speech, Mack argues that “no serious observer of politics in Australia, except those with specific interests, can pretend that we do not have major problems with our system of government or that we are incapable of achieving any improvement after a century of experience”.
Mack discusses electoral reform, constitutional reform, the reform of MPs’ entitlements, commonwealth-state relations and the quality of democratic debate in Australia today.
The Henry Parkes Oration is named in honour of Sir Henry Parkes, the man regarded as the Father of Federation. Parkes was five times Premier of NSW in the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s. His Tenterfield Oration on October 24, 1889 is seen as a rallying call to federalists in the colonies. Parkes died in 1896, five years before Federation.