Hon. Ian Robert Cathie

It is with sadness and a great deal of respect that I join the condolence motion to honour the life of Ian Robert Cathie. I think it will be rare to see any of us in this place or even in the other chamber who will serve the Victorian Parliament for almost 30 years, like Ian Robert Cathie did. In his inaugural speech in October 1964 he began by mentioning respecting people of all political faiths — this was nine years after he had joined the Labor Party; the time of the split — but he immediately went on to mention education:

Now I wish to give a review of education, and I want to examine particularly the inequalities that are embodied in the educational structure of Victoria. After all, we live in a new age, which is an age of science, technology and electronics, where skill and training are the important needs if this nation is to develop, or even to survive, in a highly competitive world during a time which will probably go down in history as the space age.

If in our schools we fail to develop our human resources, our whole existence as a nation could be jeopardized.

To say that up-front in his inaugural speech and knowing the difficulties of being a member of the Labor Party at the time, I think it must have taken an enormous amount of strength to join the Labor Party in 1955, which was a very difficult time. In the Age on 26 October 1985 he was interviewed by Jill Baker:

Ian Cathie is fumbling through a thumbed black leather wallet. His brow furrows as he struggles to search all the pockets, every long-forgotten cranny.

A smile darts across his face. Triumphant, he pulls out two crumpled yellow scraps of paper. For a minute they lie on the desk, then treating them gingerly like errant jigsaw pieces, he fits them neatly together.

They make the small square of his 1955 Australian Labor Party membership ticket.

So he had held onto that for 30 years. In that very short period of only nine years from when he joined the party, he was elected to the Parliament, serving for seven years in the upper house. He was not cowed by that defeat in June 1970, and he became that classic, dogged, marginal seat campaigner. He had previously run for federal Parliament in 1961 for the seat of Flinders, then he stood for the seat of Mentone in 1973. Then he came back for it again on 20 March 1976, when he represented the district of Carrum, as the member for Carrum so beautifully outlined, until his retirement in 1988.

On coming to government — I think in the stuff that he talked about in his inaugural speech with education, with housing and with being concerned about first home buyers — you see in Ian Cathie someone who, throughout those dark years of the 1970s and early 80s, worked really hard on policy and made sure that Labor was able to get into government. He helped drive Labor out of opposition and into government in 1982.

Others have spoken about his reforms — the Victorian certificate of education — and I think every child in this state can benefit from his passion for education and his drive for success. Those of us in government now often say to each other, ‘Let’s not waste 1 minute’, and I think that is what Ian Cathie did.

I had the privilege of working alongside Ian Cathie as a young public servant in the early 1990s when, after his retirement from Parliament, he was asked to chair a ministerial advisory committee on homelessness and housing. I was a young public servant in the secretariat for that ministerial advisory committee. Ian was incredibly diligent, thoughtful, well-mannered, respectful and gave advice to those around him. He was a very humble man. He had been the honourable minister but I think he was still that family man who cared about kids education, who cared about housing affordability, and it seems like these are the values he held all his life.

Vale, Ian Cathie. It has been a privilege to have had someone like him in our Parliament.