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Tuesday, 21 August 1984
Page: 34


Senator MARTIN —Many of Kevin Cairns's friends and associates were deeply shocked on the day they opened the newspapers and read of his death. We were all aware that he had been ill some weeks earlier, but most people thought he was recovering. It was a shock and a feeling of loss to read of Kevin Cairns' s death. Mention has been made today of his service in the Parliament. His distinguished record reached its pinnacle on his appointment as Minister for Housing in the McMahon Government. Kevin Cairns's achievements were many. Senator MacGibbon referred in particular to his activities in relation to Brisbane Airport. Those of us who worked with him for a long time in the Liberal Party and in the Parliamentary Liberal Party know the detail of many of the issues he espoused with such vigour and effect.

Kevin spent most of his life as a member of the Liberal Party. As a Young Liberal 24 years ago, I remember attending a meeting at which he was awarded life membership of the Young Liberals. In my youth he seemed even then to be venerable and wise. His long membership of the Party was always very active. He served the organisation of the Party with great vigour. Before he was a candidate for Lilley which, as has been mentioned, was only ever a marginal seat , he had been a Liberal Party candidate in other elections for safe Labor seats and had campaigned with distinction. After losing his seat in the 1980 election, Kevin Cairns continued to work very hard for the Liberal Party organisation in Queensland and he sought to serve the Party in a number of ways.

Most of those facts are known to the world; they are the public facts. I should like to speak for just a few minutes this afternoon about Kevin Cairns the man. That will be my abiding memory of Kevin Cairns, distinguished and effective though his service in Parliament was. To visit Kevin Cairns in his home was to go into the bosom of a very warm and loving family. His wife Tonia is a most intelligent and wonderful lady and she and her seven children clearly had a loving husband and father. It was always clear that Kevin took a close and loving interest in every one of his children and their deeds. Another thing I will remember about Kevin Cairns is his very high sense of principle, and loyalty must have been very close to the top of the list. He was a very human man. Many of those who knew him through politics, and perhaps did not know him well personally, will remember him as a man of great intellect with a searching and analytical mind, who was tenacious in his pursuit of what he thought was the truth.

Those of us who knew Kevin in both his public and private capacities knew that his personal principles were of overriding importance to him. He was dedicated to his church and its principles. He sought always to serve everyone in the community. He had a real and deep concern for the disadvantaged. The fact that his electorate contained many areas of disadvantaged people was not the element that directed his attention to the disadvantaged: It was the real care and concern he had as a man. I am sure he would have acted with equal dedication had his ambitions in life not taken him into politics.

As has been mentioned, Kevin was a man of great intellect. His professional training was as a dentist. Subsequently he studied economics and did not seek to return to dentistry. He used his knowledge of economics to serve people. He employed that knowledge both to serve Australia and to serve people in humble circumstances. Those of us who served with him in the Parliamentary Liberal Party will recall how many times he would rise to his feet in party room debates to bring another dimension to our discussion, particularly on economics, on the subject of distribution of income. He made sure we had before us the real needs of the poorer people in our community.

I was reminded, when the Minister for Social Security, Senator Grimes, said that he had had a number of conversations with Kevin Cairns on aeroplanes, that my last substantial conversation with Kevin Cairns took place on an aeroplane, on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney, where we talked about a number of things. He was a very entertaining and interesting person to talk to. The greatest part of our conversation on that occasion dealt with technology, its impact on Australia and how it could harm the 'little' person. Even whilst out of Parliament he tried to put the point of view and position of those people about whom he cared so deeply.

At his funeral many tributes were paid to his intellect and achievement. I shall remember Kevin Cairns most for his kindness. He was a man with a very soft heart. I know of instances of his personal kindness to people with whom one might think, if one thought about it only superficially, he did not have much in common or whom he did not have much interest in helping. I know that he had a very deep concern for every human being. If someone needed help, and Kevin Cairns could give it, Kevin left no stone unturned to ensure that help reached that person. In some cases that help might not have been welcome initially, but I know of instances in which Kevin Cairns's help was the turning point in the lives of people who deeply needed personal help.

Kevin Cairns did not have the academic concern of an economist for figures relating to people or incomes when talking about the disadvantaged; he had a total concern. He raised that concern in public life and lived it totally in private life. I am sure that I speak for many people in Queensland when I say to Tonia and her children that Kevin Cairns contributed a great deal to the lives of many people. He will be truly missed.