Page 2099 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 2 August 2022
benches of this place—which, in itself, is no small feat, considering our chequered and eventful history, recalling the earlier days of the ACT government, when things were very different. Mrs Cross entered the Legislative Assembly in the wake of the 2001 election, a time when multiple Chief Ministers could rise and fall in the term of an Assembly, and a time when the very idea of a Liberal Chief Minister was not at all far-fetched; in fact, it was very recent history.
It was a very different time, when the ringing of the division bells signalled the resolution of still to be decided contests. Mrs Cross was a politician of such diverse views and opinions that it was apparently literally impossible for one party to contain her. The strength of her convictions was such that she was ready to jeopardise her whole career in the service of them. When you look at her voting record, I would not say that I agree with all of her positions, but it is striking how many of them, which were derided or dismissed at the time, have stood up to the test of the years. All of us can only hope that when our campaigns are considered, 20 years from now, the judgement of history is as kind.
When Mrs Cross campaigned against smoking in pubs and clubs, it seemed impossible, at that time, to imagine those venues without a thick veil of smoke drifting down from the ceiling, to the enormous health hazard of the staff and patrons. Yet, today, we would all recoil in horror if we walked into the choking miasma of one of those early millennium establishments. She was a fierce and vocal advocate for light rail—at the time an impossible vision for Canberra’s future, yet today a much-loved fixture of all the places that it services.
She was decisive, as has been noted, in decriminalising abortion in the ACT when she crossed the floor of the Assembly, defying the will of both the Canberra Liberals and her wider party, including active lobbying by Tony Abbott, for the crucial vote on that issue. All of us in this place know how hard it is to get elected to begin with, to come out on top of those crowded and competitive fields. We do have the unique and shared experience to acknowledge that accomplishment and to appreciate the courage to place it all at risk in the service of conscience, particularly on an issue which, in this city and this country, has been proven by the passage of time and the progress of our society to be the correct one.
Mrs Cross’s subsequent campaigns for re-election also showed how hard it is to win votes without the support of a political party. She was a fierce feminist who cared deeply for issues affecting women and mothers, and a strong advocate for small business, especially in the Woden area. She was proud of her Greek heritage and was renowned for going into bat for constituents who were having a tough time. She was known for being a hardworking and committed local member, and was described by her husband, David, as someone who could light up a room when she arrived.
At this time, as we mark her passing, we should celebrate a brave and far-sighted woman, strong in her convictions, whose decisive vote brought about significant legislative change to make this territory a better place. As we work here in this place, with our colleagues, to find positions which satisfy all of our own beliefs, principles and perspectives, it behoves us to remember those turn of the century days and the legacy of Helen Cross. On behalf of the Greens, we offer our condolences.