Page 1848 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 17 June 2008

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Trevor Kaine led the Liberal Party into the 1992 election, and his slogan at that time was “government you can afford”. This slogan had a Liberal flavour, but it was even more than that—it was a catechism that was distinctly Trevor Kaine’s own. His political career was a long and epic one, and he continued to serve the community long after he had lost the job of Chief Minister.

Altogether Trevor contested seven elections, and he won six of them under a Liberal banner. He served the Legislative Assembly from 1974 to 1977, then in the renamed House of Assembly from 1982 to its disbandment in 1986. He was re-elected to the new Legislative Assembly in 1989, 1992, 1995, and 1998. He was elected as a representative for a northern seat, Fraser; a southern seat, Brindabella; and was also elected as an ACT representative at large during the d’Hondt elections.

He also had the experience of being elected under three different electoral systems: initially the old Senate system, then d’Hondt and finally Hare-Clark. He served under several leaders, and he also served as leader. He worked most of his political career under the Liberal banner but, for a short period, he had a falling out and ended his career as an independent.

He was a man with ambitions. He had some failings, as all politicians and people have, but he was a serious contributor. He was no froth-and-bubble politician. He was a heavy lifter in the big debates on policy and in the hard yakka of administrative reform. His biggest legacy has been to help establish self-government in a viable form in spite of considerable opposition. He was not only a champion of the ACT, but also a big believer in the importance of cooperation with the region around Canberra’s borders.

Trevor was instrumental in initiating ACT government discussion with neighbouring councils and the south-east economic region. His thinking on the ACT’s role in the region remains radical to this day. He proposed that the ACT should subsume some of the land in surrounding New South Wales so that Canberra could have common planning, development and business laws with the satellite communities around our borders. In his vision, rural communities in the enlarged jurisdiction would benefit from better education, health, nursing, police and transport services. But ever the realist, he knew not to push the idea too hard among a community that was still reluctant to accept the burden of self-government.

One quirk among his proposals could have been very far-sighted if it had been taken up. I am told he had proposed that the ACT government look after the national institutions based in the ACT but that the funding be quarantined from other budget items and subject to regularised indexation. Had this approach been the approach today, the funding for our national institutions such as the Australian War Memorial, the National Library, and the National Gallery could have been safeguarded from all short-term fluctuations in government spending, whether they be ACT or federal.

Trevor Kaine’s contribution to public life did not end after retirement from politics. Trevor is credited with proposing the establishment of the ACT’s first stroke unit. He suffered his first stroke late in 2003 and, through his experience in the ACT health system, he saw the failure of the system to provide specialised support to victims of stroke. He was quick to lobby Mr Stanhope over the need for a stroke unit. The government responded, and the unit opened in 2004.

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