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Monday, 29 November 2004
Page: 60


Senator MURRAY (4:38 PM) —I was honoured to be at Janine Haines's state funeral and I was impressed by the courtesy and generosity shown by Premier Mike Rann, who spoke at the funeral. Senator Lees, who is present in the chamber, gave a eulogy, as did Janine Haines's brother. All political parties were represented and there was genuine respect for and a proper send-off given to a woman who was not just a great South Australian but one who rightly won the accolade of a great Australian. Indeed, that was recognised by her being appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2001. She leaves behind—far too early, frankly—her husband, Ian, and a lovely family, I thought: her daughters, Bronwyn and Melanie, their husbands and three grandchildren.

In these circumstances her very longstanding husband, Ian, deserves a special mention. He has been through what many carers go through towards the end of a long, drawn out illness. I can only imagine the great trauma and great difficulty. I know Ian better than I knew Janine, and I can only think that her life was greatly enhanced by having a man like that by her side to support her in both her family and personal life and her public and political life. Like all Democrats I am very conscious of the contribution Janine Haines made to advancing the cause of liberal humanism. I have admired her commitment and her aggression—humorous aggression, but nevertheless aggression—in making sure those ideas were properly presented and available to the people of Australia over the decades she was in public life.

Janine was in representative politics for 13 years. She was succeeded by Senator Lees, who is in her 15th representative year. It is unusual, frankly, for any Democrat politician to even get to 13 years of political life. It is extremely difficult for a minor party to get representation in parliament and for those who are elected to be re-elected. Democrats and other minor party representatives have found over time that there is no such thing as a safe seat; we are all in unsafe seats. The great thing I liked about Janine Haines was that she did not give a toss about that. She just fought the battle because she enjoyed the battle, thought it worth fighting and was prepared to take the bruises and losses with great courage.

This morning my office contacted former senator the Reverend John Woodley to find out what he loved most about Janine Haines. He said what he loved about her was her ability to be enthusiastic with the members and their ideas. He described her as a great encourager of people. We heard that theme picked up by Senator Bartlett earlier. It is a side that does not come out that much in remarks about Janine Haines, because many of the remarks about her are of her public advocacy and the political life in the Senate in which she was publicly on the record. But her private work as a very hardworking motivator of ordinary—and some extraordinary—members of the party deserves the recognition that Senator Bartlett, former Senator Woodley and Senator Lees have accorded her.

In political terms only former senators Don Chipp and Janine Haines have led the Democrats into election battle more than once. There is a story of survival in that statistic alone. The Democrats constitution includes the right of members to choose their party leader. That well-intentioned provision has at times produced leadership churning and terrible instability, but not in the early days. For 13 years, from 1977 to 1990, the Australian Democrats had just two leaders: Don Chipp and then Janine Haines. In the next 14 years, from 1990 to 2004, the Democrats have had nine leaders including soon to be leader, Senator Allison, and a couple of interim leaders. So she was in the party at a time of greater stability in the public presentation of the Democrats, but of course internally it was far from that picture.

It is important to look at her leadership in two periods: from 18 August 1986, when she first became leader, to early 1989 and then from 1989 to 1990 when she lost her seat and the leadership on 24 March 1990. In that first period of leadership, Janine had to fight no less than four leadership ballots in a row. I am aware that former Senators Siddons and Vigor were part of those contests. I do not recall enough of Democrat history to know if any other leaders had to fight as many challenges—I suspect Senator Lees did.

Janine Haines then went on to an unexpectedly early election just months after finally nailing the last internal leadership ballot. Bear in mind that here is a tough, capable political operator able to see off the challenges internally. The election that she first had to contest was a double dissolution and, to be truthful, if that election had been a normal half-Senate election, it may not have been as flash for the Democrats in terms of seats won. Nevertheless, the Democrats achieved 8.5 per cent in the Senate in that 1987 election. To put that into perspective, Senator Lees, her successor, got 8.48 per cent 11 years later in 1998; so it was not an extraordinary result. After that 1987 election Janine's polls and popularity soared as the public got interested in her and got used to her. I think there is a lesson there that leaders need to be in harness for some time. In the 1990 election, this remarkable woman delivered a 12.6 per cent Senate result, the highest the Democrats ever achieved, and 11.3 per cent in the House of Representatives, also by far the highest the Democrats ever received. Again, to put that in perspective, three years later in 1993, under the leader John Coulter, the House of Representatives Democrat vote plunged from 11.3 per cent to 3.8 per cent.

The decision of the Democrats' Senate leader, Janine Haines, to go for election in the South Australian seat of Kingston was—I am advised and I think it is accurate—in reaction to Janine's own very cold, very down-to-earth analysis of the state of the party and its prospects. She thought that without creating the drama of a high-risk strategy such as that the Democrats' future might have been bleaker and things might end abruptly. Liberals whom I know and respect say that at the time Mayo would have been a better choice for her and she might well have succeeded there, but of course that is a matter of history now and she did not succeed. Sadly, the strategic shift from the Democrat Senate leader to the House of Representatives election—it is probably too long to detail the pros and cons here—necessitated giving her opponents 14-months notice of her intentions which was long enough for some very capable opponents to queer the pitch in Kingston. She might have done better than the 26 per cent she achieved because the Liberals were certainly determined to defeat her, and that of course is a recognition of her quality and character. You do not put a lot of effort into knocking off an opponent unless you really fear them, and they certainly did respect her ability. But she achieved her goal, which was not just the survival of the Democrats, who are still here 14 years later, but the reaffirmation of their strength.

I have taken a little time to sketch out a more political perspective because I think in the circumstance of condolence it is important to place a great person like this—with all the remarks my colleagues in the Senate have made—into the full range of how it was at the time. I will conclude on a personal note. The times that I met her I was delighted to meet her. She was a charming and interesting person, and particularly wise to go with her wit and her ability, and I am sorry to see her pass so early.