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Tuesday, 14 October 2003
Page: 21349

Mr SERCOMBE (6:19 PM) —I join my colleagues in extending my condolences to the family and the very many friends of Dr Jim Cairns. Inevitably, most contributors to this motion have focused on Jim Cairns's national role. He was a most effective leader of the broad left of Australian politics, perhaps most notably manifested in the moratoriums back in the late sixties and early seventies which had such a profound influence on so many Australians, including many people in this place and me. Naturally, members have focused on his political career in this place which led to him taking the office of Deputy Prime Minister. I want to focus more on his role as a local politician—not so much in the sense that my colleague the member for Burke has focused on, in terms of doorknocking, but on the very substantial contribution he made, as the member for Lalor, to the western suburbs of Melbourne.

My own constituency nowadays includes a fairly large swathe of what Jim Cairns represented in the old Lalor, particularly the suburbs of St Albans and Sunshine. Cairns is remarkably well remembered, with great affection, by very large sections of that community, not only for the very real contribution he made, particularly in the time of the Whitlam government, but also as a man with the onerous duties of Deputy Prime Minister and the capacity to deliver local outcomes. This was massively impressive. For example, in the area of community health, one of the areas in which the Whitlam government achieved great success, Cairns was instrumental in the funding of the very first community health centre in the west of Melbourne in the suburb of Deer Park. That community health centre continues as a legacy to him and has become very much the focal point for a network of related health services right across the western suburbs of Melbourne.

Jim Cairns was instrumental in the establishment, under Tom Uren's department—DURD I think the department was charmingly known as—of the Western Region Commission. This was an organisation primarily made up of local councils, but with Commonwealth government partnership, which laid the foundations for many of the assets that characterise the western suburbs of Melbourne nowadays. Back in the sixties and early seventies, the Maribyrnong River valley was, frankly, a place with a very low-grade environment. It is now a major recreational focal point for the whole of the west and north-west of Melbourne. The Western Region Commission laid the foundations for that, in cooperation with Jim Cairns in particular, by developing a coherent strategy for the preservation, improvement and development of the facilities around the Maribyrnong River valley. A range of a other initiatives that grew out of that period of urban and regional development—which Cairns, and particularly Uren, led—laid the foundations for many of the major assets that the western suburbs of Melbourne now have, in terms of locational advantages, job creation possibilities and proximity to the airport, the port of Melbourne and the road and rail network. All of these were things that Cairns, in his role as a local member in the area, put extraordinary focus on. He contributed massively to the strength of the western suburbs of Melbourne.

In the social development area, Jim Cairns was actively involved and took an active interest in a program within Bill Hayden's province as minister, called the Australian Assistance Plan. This was a program that provided Commonwealth government partnerships to a very wide variety of community organisations. It crossed the western suburbs of Melbourne, and in the west of Melbourne there are still many lasting legacies to those days and to the foresight that was exercised in those programs. There is, for example, the Moonee Ponds Community Centre, which is now one of Melbourne's emerging and very strong arts precincts. It was a facility that was earmarked for demolition for road widening back in the mid-seventies. The Australian Assistance Plan, which Jim Cairns contributed to sponsoring and supporting in terms of its focus on the western suburbs, was the funding source that saved that facility which is now such an important part of the cultural life of the north and west of Melbourne. There are also a range of ethnic community facilities in the area, such as the St Albans community centre. These are facilities for which Jim Cairns was, amazingly, very much hands on as Deputy Prime Minister. He was hands on in terms of ensuring that this social, as well as economic, town planning infrastructure was laid for the west of Melbourne. He will be sorely missed. As I said before, he is certainly regarded with extraordinarily great affection right across the west of Melbourne, and he is sadly missed and mourned.