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Tuesday, 21 August 1984
Page: 33


Senator MacGIBBON —I would like to join in supporting this motion of condolence before the Senate at the premature death of Kevin Cairns. I knew Kevin Cairns well and I know his family. The central point in Kevin's life was his family. He was a very devoted father, but that devotion to his own family was not a selfish interest; he had a very great concern for all the families of Australia and that was manifested in his great interest for the welfare and quality of life of the Australian community.

I first met Kevin Cairns when I joined the Liberal Party of Australia many years ago, but his association with the Party goes right back to young Liberal days and many years beyond my time. When I entered the Senate in 1978 I had his fellowship when he was the honourable member for Lilley. Senator Grimes said he represented Lilley from 1963 to 1972 and from 1974 to 1980. It is testimony to his personal qualities and his political ability that he represented what was essentially a Labor seat for so long. He had to fight for it but, never mind, he won and he won for very many years. He was an outstanding member and he was a very able parliamentarian and Minister. The outstanding qualities he had as a member were his deep involvement and his total commitment to all of his constituents. No one was too poor or beyond his notice. As he used to say to me, he walked all the back streets of Sandgate. After the 1980 election when he was defeated I became involved in electorate work in Lilley, an interest which I still have. It is quite remarkable to me to meet people in all sections of that electorate who knew him and knew him well. They speak volumes of his care, his concern for their welfare, his understanding and his compassion. That is a side of him that really is not seen by members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives who saw him only in this place. They saw him as a person who had an overriding interest in economic matters and all that flowed from that.

The great interest he had in economic matters carried on after 1980 when he joined the business world in various capacities and served on boards of directors and as an economic adviser to various concerns in Queensland. But, above all, when he left politics after many years of service he maintained that commitment to and involvement in the affairs of the community. As Senator Chaney said, his permanent achievement in politics lives on in the well advanced new Brisbane international airport. He led the campaign by the Liberal senators and members of the House of Representatives to get that airport established, to get a curfew free airport of adequate dimensions able to be a port of entry for international services to Australia. International airports in this era have the importance that seaports had in earlier centuries. He was responsible for the original decision to build that airport being carried by the McMahon Government. It was cancelled by the Whitlam Government in the years it was in office and he fought to have it reinstated under the Fraser Government.

Proposals have been made to have that airport named the Cairns airport, but that is just not practical because we already have a Cairns international airport in Queensland and it would be very confusing for people and pilots coming in from overseas to know which airport to go to. But there is a very strong movement in Brisbane and in Queensland to have the driveway into the airport known as the Kevin Cairns Memorial Drive. I hope that the Government accedes to that request because there could be no more fitting memorial for that man and his years of public service than to name the drive into the Brisbane airport as the Kevin Cairns Memorial Drive.

Everything that Kevin did was marked by his conscientiousness. As Senator Grimes said, he brought a great intelligence and a great dedication to all that he did for his family and for his service to the Australian community. But, above all that, he was his own man. He retained what was at times an individuality which was at variance with his colleagues but he always did that on the strictest of analytical examination and he did it with a great air of responsibility. He called on my office the day before he died and, as has been mentioned previously, he was a voracious reader. He was voted out of office in 1980, but in the four years between 1980 and the present he was turning up every second month or every second week in my office with books that he had borrowed from the Parliamentary Library. These books were not borrowed four years ago, some of them went back about 10 years. It was on such an occasion that he called at my office the day before he died.

Kevin's death was a great shock and, Mr President, it was with sadness that I accepted the honour of representing you at his funeral. I join other members of the Senate in paying tribute to Kevin Cairns and extending sympathy to his family.