Former State Member for Shepparton Peter Ross-Edwards, who died on Wednesday aged 90, was devoted to his community and had a wonderful life, family and friends say.By Fiona Broom
When Peter Ross-Edwards made his inaugural speech to the Victorian Parliament on September 20, 1967, he did not know how long and fruitful his contribution to state politics would be.
That speech was the first of many the State Member for Shepparton would make during his 24 years as the electorate’s representative — including 18 years as leader of the then-Country Party, now Nationals Party, from 1970 to 1988.
In his first speech he said: ‘‘Whether my term of service in this house is long or short, I shall endeavour to make a constructive contribution to the legislation in this house.’’
Mr Ross-Edwards died on Wednesday aged 90, prompting hundreds of tributes for a man widely regarded as a model parliamentarian and community member.
Son David Ross-Edwards said his dad loved his life in Shepparton.
‘‘It is sad he’s passed on, but he really has had a wonderful life,’’ David said.
‘‘I said to him just the other day, ‘It’s been a great journey.’ I know he’s loved every minute of it.
‘‘On behalf of mum and Sarah and Rich all I can say is we’ve had a wonderful life with dad and even though I’m not prepared I think it’s been a great innings.’’
David said his father came to Shepparton as a solicitor in 1951, where he and wife Joy brought up their five children — David, Timothy (deceased), Richard, John (deceased) and Sarah.
Mr Ross-Edwards was ‘‘devoted’’ to the community — he was president of the Legacy and Rotary groups, Shepparton Lawn Tennis and Shepparton Golf clubs, vice-president of Shepparton Agricultural Society and involved with Shepparton United Football Club.
‘‘Having grown up with all that .
Described as ‘‘a gentleman and a statesman’’ by Victorian Nationals leader Peter Ryan, Mr Ross-Edwards was as committed to his local community as he was to his country.
He was a member of the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II and was awarded an Order of Australia in June 1989 for his services to politics, the Victorian Parliament and the community.
Bruce Lloyd, Federal Member for Murray, 1971-96:
‘‘When parliament was not sitting we’d quite often have lunch together in Shepparton,’’ Mr Lloyd said.
‘‘Peter was a great representative for Shepparton and regional Victoria and, in particular, northern Victoria.
‘‘For many years he was the dominant figure in the Country/National party.
‘‘He and (Federal Member for Gippsland) Peter Nixon, by working together, ended the years-long friction between the party at the state and federal levels and they changed the party in Victoria from a corner or third party to (a) coalition.
‘‘That was a very significant achievement that I think people don’t fully realise. He had a very high standard of personal behaviour in parliament and in his parliamentary duties.’’
Stuart McDonald, State Member for Northern Victoria, 1967-79:
‘‘I formed a very high opinion of his intellectual ability and, most importantly, a high opinion of his personal integrity, that was never questioned,’’ Mr McDonald said.
‘‘He had respect for the parliament and worked well with other parties and members of the house. He was a strong advocate for country people to see they received the right education and medical and hospital facilities.
‘‘From a personal point of view he was a great friend of mine and I regard him as one of the finest men I met in public life.’’
PV Feltham colleague and friend Lance Woodhouse:
‘‘We were almost like brothers,’’ Mr Woodhouse said.
‘‘Peter had an interesting career as a lawyer and as a politician and, of course, what’s more we were good friends. I had great respect for his attitude as a politician, his door was always open.’’
Mr Woodhouse said his friend had time for everyone, no matter their status or political persuasion.
State Member for Shepparton Jeanette Powell:
‘‘I am sure the community will be saddened at the passing of Peter Ross-Edwards AM,’’ Mrs Powell said.
‘‘He worked tirelessly for the people of Shepparton and Victoria and was recognised for his contribution by the naming of Peter Ross-Edwards Causeway between Shepparton and Mooroopna. On a personal note, I have always valued his support, guidance and friendship and I, like many others, will miss him.’’
Victorian Deputy Premier and Nationals leader Peter Ryan:
Mr Ryan said the death of Peter Ross-Edwards marked the passing of a man who made a remarkable contribution to Victoria and Australia.
‘‘Peter Ross-Edwards was an extraordinary man who has left a wonderful legacy in a variety of spheres.
‘‘But it was in politics that he excelled. He undertook this leadership with the courage and commitment which were the hallmarks of his parliamentary career. He has left a lasting and indelible legacy upon his state, his nation and the party which he led so proudly.’’
Victorian Nationals president Peter Schwarz:
‘‘He was a man of extraordinary ability, foresight, and dedication, and his contribution to the Nationals went far beyond his service in the Victorian Parliament,’’ Mr Schwarz said.
‘‘Peter dedicated himself to strengthening the National Party both as a political force and vibrant, viable organisation. His contribution and legacy to the party continues to influence the Nationals two decades after he retired from Parliament.
‘‘Peter and his family remained involved in the Nationals following his retirement, and his passing leaves an enormous sadness for all our members and a lasting legacy to our party.’’
Shepparton Golf Club president Graham Scott:
‘‘Peter was president of the club in 1960-61 and established the new clubhouse in 1960,’’ Mr Scott said.
‘‘He was a very esteemed member and well-respected past president and it is a sad loss for the golf club and the community.’’
A state funeral for Peter Ross-Edwards will be held on Wednesday next week at St Augustine’s Anglican Church, Shepparton at 2
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