Page 1844 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 17 June 2008
While Trevor is perhaps remembered most vividly as a former Chief Minister, his contribution to local politics in this town began many years before the advent of self-government. He contributed to the life of his community through the ACT Advisory Council and the ACT Legislative Assembly between 1974 and 1977, and through the ACT House of Assembly from 1982 to 1986, before becoming a part of the grand experiment of self-government between 1989 and 2001.
In the Assembly on 24 May 1989, in response to then Chief Minister Rosemary Follett’s statement of objectives, Trevor, as the Leader of the Opposition, rose to formally detail his party’s objectives for the first ACT Assembly. I will read from Trevor’s speech, as it clearly highlights the attributes and personal qualities that he brought to this place:
Concepts of justice and economic security for all; individual liberty in terms of freedom of speech, education, assembly, organisation and religion; and compassion and tolerance amongst members of the community are fundamental ...
In the same speech, other areas that Trevor identified as priorities for the first ACT Assembly included raising environmental issues to the top of the government’s agenda, high standards and excellence in education, and ensuring an affordable healthcare system. Nearly two decades later, these are all issues that still resonate.
However, the issue that was paramount to Trevor during the early days of the ACT Assembly was establishing a sound economic and financial base. He clearly acknowledged the difficulty faced by the ACT given its lack of natural resources, but he strongly advocated the need to develop a policy framework that provided economic certainty for business activity.
Trevor well understood the fragility of minority government, and early in the life of the Assembly he put the minority government on notice that his party would seek to secure the government benches. Trevor also understood the implications of deposing the government—an action which he said at the time “is not to be undertaken lightly”.
As Chief Minister, Trevor pursued commonwealth government support for the ACT as it transitioned into self-government. During these early ACT Assembly days, the need was acknowledged through the Grants Commission for a rational and ordered basis for the transition of ACT finances onto a state-like basis. The ACT’s economic security was a key platform of Trevor’s oversight of the government, and one he pursued with great vigour.
Trevor was a natural leader. He was also a natural politician. Both aspects of his make-up were tested during the early days of the Second Assembly, and he rose admirably to the challenges of the times. His air force training had accustomed him to working with teams and perhaps helped him to handle and extract value from the volatile mix of Liberals and independents that coalesced around him to make up the government of the day.
Trevor Kaine was conscious that the quality of a community’s life can be elevated by the arts. He was a lover of classical music, a watercolourist of some talent, and in