Doug Anthony has been remembered as a man of “strength and decency” who cemented the coalition, opened up trade and adored his family and home in the Tweed Valley.
The former deputy prime minister was farewelled at a state memorial in Tweed Heads on Thursday after he died aged 90 in a Murwillumbah aged care home late last year.
Mr Anthony was leader of the Country and National parties for 12 years and deputy prime minister for nearly 10, wielding his greatest influence through the 1970s and 1980s.
He served under six prime ministers, starting with Sir Robert Menzies.
Former prime minister John Howard said Mr Anthony’s “strength and decency” had a great impact on him as a young politician.
“Doug was a very strong man, he didn’t bully people, but the strength of his personality and the strength of his arguments won though,” Mr Howard said.
Following John McEwen as Nationals leader in 1971, Mr Howard said Mr Anthony had big shoes to fill but “he filled them well and filled them truly”.
A cabinet minister between 1966 and 1972, and again from 1975 to 1983, Mr Anthony served as deputy prime minister in the Gorton, McMahon and Fraser governments.
Mr Anthony opened up new trade markets for Australia in Japan after World War II, as well as New Zealand and the Middle East.
Mr Howard said he moved the Nationals away from protectionist policies to cement their enduring coalition with the Liberal Party.
“He made a lasting contribution to what I will loosely call our side of politics,” he said.
“He was a person who had very strong views, but he was not obstinate, and he was willing to change and adjust and to respect the longer term interests of the coalition.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, federal MP Barnaby Joyce, Senator Bridget McKenzie and businessman Clive Palmer attended the memorial.
Mr Anthony entered federal politics in 1957 at 27 when he won the NSW seat of Richmond at a by-election, replacing his father Larry who died suddenly.
His son Larry won Richmond in 1996 and served on Mr Howard’s front bench, making it the first three-generation all-ministerial dynasty.
The Anthony men held the electorate for more than half a century.
The former deputy prime minister was surrounded by powerful politicians from an early age, and had even supposedly been read bedtime stories by then Labor prime minister John Curtin.
“Doug did not seek public office, it sought him,” his son Larry said.
“My father did not directly seek power, but power and responsibility came to him, and he discharged his with enormous capacity, enthusiasm, energy and wisdom.”
Mr Anthony famously ran the country over 10 summers from a beach shack in New Brighton and then a caravan, where he took his family for holidays.
Larry remembers his dad queuing up with a handful of 20 cent coins to use a public payphone to contact Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser during national crises.
“You can appreciate the idea of confidential conversations or national security being discussed over public phone with surfies milling around eventually didn’t go down well,” Larry joked.
After retiring from politics in 1984, Mr Anthony and his wife Margot made huge contributions in support to the arts and education.
They donated land to set up the Tweed Regional Art Gallery and the Margaret Olly Arts Centre, and he secured federal funding for the University of Sydney’s veterinary pathology facilities.
Larry likened his father’s life to the flow of his beloved Tweed River in the Richmond electorate, the mouth of which is beside the Twin Towns club where the memorial service was held.
“The headwaters start slowly like his childhood, then gather pace with velocity, purpose and intention like his political career, then it flows at a gentler pace in his retirement until a final rush from the mouth of the river into the Pacific Ocean,” he said.
“Dad’s life had this flow.”