Page 899 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 29 March 2023

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He lost his seat in the Labor defeat of 1975 and returned to ABARE before being re-elected as a member for Werriwa in 1978, replacing Gough Whitlam in his seat. Elected to Bob Hawke’s ministry in 1983, John held the primary industry portfolio, in which he was highly regarded for his work until 1991. He subsequently served as Treasurer of the commonwealth and Minister for Transport and Communications in 1991 and Minister for Trade and Overseas Development from 1991-93 in the Keating government before retiring from politics.

In 2001, Mr Kerin was appointed as a member of the Order of Australia for service to the Australian parliament and was also awarded in the same year a Centenary Medal for service to Australian society in technological science and engineering.

Whilst John was the federal member in Western Sydney, he moved to Canberra and, in his later years, he was actively engaged on public policy, particularly around agriculture policy and research, where he also held board appointments to the Crawford Fund.

He released his memoir of his experiences as the primary industries and energy minister between 1983 and 1991, which became essential reading for any new public service graduate to the agriculture department or, indeed, for any aspiring agriculture minister.

I know John as a member of the Woden branch of the Australian Labor Party in the ACT, which he joined in 2012 following a merger which I had instigated. It was a reminder to new members of the Labor Party in the ACT that you better look around you because you never know who might be sitting next to you. It could be a federal Treasurer! John was esteemed company in the branch and a regular contributor in person and in writing, with a focus on national and international issues.

Following treatment for cancer in 2015, which prevented him from attending meetings regularly, he regularly researched contemporary issues and circulated through the branch regular informative contributions on matters which ranged from the rise of the far right overseas to tax reform. These were always well read and well received.

In one of John’s often long but cogent contributions, showing his enduring commitment to Labor values, he said, “For me, the starting point for policy development has always been to be contemporarily relevant and work to give our population a quality of opportunity”—a good starting point for tax reform, in the context in which he was writing, but also a good starting point, indeed, for any policy development.

I, the Labor Party and the nation will miss his contributions. I am very grateful for his support over many years. I know that my constituents will miss seeing him down at the Garran Shops at the bakery. John Kerin’s warmth and intellect lasted to the end—a true gentleman with a big heart. My condolences go to his wife June and his family. Goodbye, Mr Kerin.

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