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Tuesday, 14 October 2003
Page: 21296

Mr CHARLES (2:27 PM) —I rise to add my condolences to the Cairns family and to speak in favour of the remarks made by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Jim Cairns was a constituent of mine. I have read in the paper that he died at his property on Harkaway Road in Narre Warren East. Jim Cairns was a bigger-than-life character. He was one of those people that, I suppose, helped to raise politics and political issues to a different level. The first time I met Jim was on 3 September 1988, when the two of us sat in chairs together all day, handing out pamphlets on the yes and no positions for the 1988 referendum to have fixed four-year terms, to have so-called fair elections, to have local government recognised by the Constitution and to support something called `rights and freedoms'. We sat there all day long and, from time to time during that day, when one of us got a bit hungry and had to leave, the other would hand out both yes and no pamphlets.

Mr Melham —Are you sure he did?

Mr CHARLES —I can tell you it was a long day and, because it was a long day, we chatted about just about everything. Certainly his views and mine did not often coincide. You might take that as read, Mr Speaker. When the polling booth closed and we went inside to scrutineer—it was just the two of us scrutineering, as I recall, in Belgrave South—Jim did not stay long because the `no' pile kept getting higher and higher and the `yes' pile hardly existed at all. He did not even say goodbye; he just left.

I am told that he sold his books and pamphlets not only in the markets at Prahran and St Kilda but also in Kallista in my electorate of La Trobe. I remember well the early 1970s and I remember the big Vietnam moratorium march in Melbourne, although I was a resident in Sydney at the time. I was an American citizen on a permanent resident visa. Some of the events surrounding those marches and then the later Whitlam government actions—particularly Rex Connor and his pipeline—so frightened the mining industry that they just about closed up business, and caused me to resign my position as managing director of a publicly owned company and immediately seek to become a citizen and, immediately after becoming a citizen, join the Liberal Party. I did not need to ask what the Liberal Party stood for, because I knew what I did not stand for. In any case, I respected Jim Cairns, as I respect all political and ideological opponents; there is no question about that. I have to say honestly that there will be many Vietnam vets who will not remember Jim Cairns fondly for the danger that—I am told by some of them—they feel he put them in through those passionate public appeals to stop our participation in the Vietnam War.

I read in the Herald Sun yesterday that, during those years, Dr Cairns became disillusioned with the Labor Party and ceased being a member. In one of his last interviews he told the Herald Sun that he did not see `the light on the hill' any longer. I could not comment on that because I had not seen Jim for a few years. Back when Peter Milton was the member and I was the candidate, in 1987 and 1990, there was a huge dead gum tree at the entry to his property on Harkaway Road, and there was always a Peter Milton sign on the gum tree. But after I became the member he quit putting up signs. I cannot tell you why. Do not read anything into that. I would not pretend to tell you that Dr Cairns voted for me, because I am quite confident that he did not. I want to send my condolences to his daughter-in-law, Alyce; his son, Barry, and the rest of his surviving relatives.