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Monday, 29 November 2004
Page: 27

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (2:12 PM) —On indulgence, I would very briefly like to support the comments that have been made and say how very sorry I was to hear of Janine Haines's death. I think Janine Haines was the most substantial leader that the Australian Democrats ever had, and I really mean that. As others have said, she was a very articulate woman and a very intelligent woman. She was also a very honourable and honest woman. Whilst I did not agree with her on many issues, I really did admire her fortitude, her courage and her integrity. She was, as I said, the most substantial leader that the Australian Democrats have had. She was substantial not just in terms of her high profile but in terms of the substance of the person.

I had a little to do with her, as she came from my own state of South Australia. In particular I think today is the day to confess that in 1990 we were very concerned about her determination to win the seat of Kingston. Janine Haines was very popular at that time. The Democrats were riding very high in 1990, and she put a substantial effort into winning the seat of Kingston against the then Labor member for Kingston, Gordon Bilney. I have known Gordon Bilney for a fair period of time, including before he became a member of parliament. We were both in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade together. But, curiously enough, I did not want to see the Democrats win the seat from the Labor Party, because I believed that if the Democrats won Kingston then that would have given the Democrats a beachhead which they would have been able to build on, and in time the Democrats would have become a significant third force in Australian politics, rather akin to the British Liberal Democrats.

I recall working quite closely with Gordon Bilney to ensure that the Democrats did not win that seat—in other words, that Janine Haines did not win. I can only say that, in the interests of the diminishing support for the Democrats, Janine Haines's failure to win that seat was a very significant development. If she had won that seat, I think the Democrats would have made a beachhead into the House of Representatives. I think she would have been a very significant and forceful figure in the House of Representatives. For those of us who have had significant Democrat votes in our own electorates, it would have been a very major problem for us in terms of holding our seats. I have to confess some self-interest in that regard.

In conclusion, I think she was the most substantial and the most significant leader the Australian Democrats have had. She was a very good woman, a very honourable woman. I extend my condolences to her husband, Ian, and to her children, Bronwyn and Melanie.

The SPEAKER —As a mark of respect to the memory of Janine Haines, I invite all honourable members to rise in their places.

Honourable members having stood in their places—

The SPEAKER —I thank the House.