Minister Scullion Condolence speech on Mr John Royston Siddons, former Senator. 10/10/2016
I rise on behalf of the Nationals to pay my respects to John Siddons, a man of the people who made a notable contribution to this country both inside and outside of parliament. Big John, as he was known, was a passionate Australian and particularly passionate about Australian manufacturing. It was his family that most notably established Sidchrome tools, a brand of tool found in many a garden shed and in many a trusted tool box.
It was only during my research today that I found out that a previous senator was actually involved with a particular brand of tools without which I would never have survived at sea. I started off with very humble equipment. Without those Sidchrome tools, we would simply have never been able to go to sea. I am quite sure, as with a whole bunch of manufacturing industries, that they were actually made in Australia. That is just fantastic. Senator Siddons was always motivated to increase the efficiency and growth of Australian industries, like his family’s industry.
Senator Siddons served two terms in this place following his election in 1981. Siddons was unsatisfied with the major parties, I think it is safe to say, and gravitated towards smaller parties, where he believed he could have a greater influence and progress his unique individual agenda. No matter what your politics, the strength of John Siddons’s convictions and motivation is apparent and should be commended. In fact, Siddons’s principled stance led to him to create his own party—the Unite Australia Party—which enabled him to push his progressive market-based agenda, involving policies from lower taxes and abolishing compulsory unionism to very a strong anti-uranium and pro-environment stance. That is a very unique mix in this place, I have to say.
Siddons’s passion for industrialism and small business is something that the Nationals can understand. This passion was clearly demonstrated with his Industrial Democracy Bill in August 1981. This bill aimed to establish an industrial democracy board and encouraged the voluntary establishment of elected consultative bodies in private business. These are ideas that have been revisited on a number of occasions since. During debate for this bill, Senator Siddons said:
This Bill offers a practical alternative to centralised wage fixing. It puts in place a voluntary collective bargaining mechanism alongside the present conciliation framework.
It was this kind of thinking, which many have since described as being 20 years before its time, that made him popular with many in the communities he represented.
In light of his approach to work reforms, John Siddons was awarded the prestigious James Kirby Award in 1977, a testament to a man of intrinsic intellect and innovation. We recognise and remember John Siddons as a leader for entrepreneurs. His reputation for action and not just talk is to be acknowledged. Post-politics, unsurprisingly, Siddons created and commercialised the heat pump water heater. This creation innovatively arose from some basic testing in his family’s backyard pool and later developed into a model of domestic water heater which would
become an essential feature of all Australian households and internationally. It is a great story of Australian innovation. It is this innovation and entrepreneurial attitude that makes Australia proud. Senator Siddons was a leader in creativity, and his legacy and creativity is something to celebrate.
John retired to Shoreham on the Mornington Peninsula, a beautiful place to spend time with family and friends and enjoy his pastime activities of yachting and tennis. John was well known for his strong interest and passion for the importance of ethics and the morality of life. This is detailed in the book that he wrote, The Immortality of Goodness. Siddons wrote this book because, as he said, traditional morality needs to be taught to young children in schools. It was this strong sense to do right, to be good and to look after his community, his party and his
country that I think we can remember and commend for John Siddons’s contribution to Australia. On behalf of the Nationals, I pass on my sympathy to Rosemary and his family, his friends and colleagues. Vale, John Siddons.