Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (13:16): I am very pleased to join in this condolence motion today. John Cain—member for Bundoora; Labor leader; three-term Premier; husband to Nancye; father to John, James and Joanne; grandfather and great-grandfather—was a true son of Northern Metropolitan. His father, the 34th Premier, was a long-serving member for Jika Jika, later named Northcote, and his mother a successful businesswoman with a string of millinery stores throughout the north. As a child he ran through the schoolyards of Bell Primary, he spent many years at the historic Northcote High School and of course the University of Melbourne.
I think today it has been a great privilege to hear the many contributions from you all. While I was not at the memorial service, I listened to it on the radio, and it was just such a delight. As Mr Atkinson said, to hear of those achievements and to hear what one man was able to do is daunting but obviously incredibly inspirational. There is no doubt that he stood for integrity, compassion and fairness, and from everything I have heard today and from everything I have read, he lived that way and he led this state that way.
Many of the achievements have been mentioned before, but I too must take note of his changes to equal opportunity. Many of us would not be here today had it not been for such changes. I note his passion for social justice reform in the prison system, in creating a solicitor-general and in freedom of information legislation. As we have heard, the list goes on. Greater government transparency is one of those other achievements.
In a piece penned not long after his death, Don Woolford wrote that many saw Mr Cain as:
… a … wowser whose idea of a good Saturday night was to stay home and sort his sock drawer.
And I have heard that repeated here today in various different ways, but I think we would all note that his record in government tells a very different story: Sunday footy, the National Tennis Centre, Sunday trading. And also he ushered in the first nude beaches in Victoria, despite his position on sunbaking, as it may be. Sadly, we have seen those beaches rezoned and disappear since 2014, so I would hope that one day we may see a John Cain memorial clothing-optional beach in this great state.
He revolutionised the sex industry in Victoria by legalising brothels, which was a world first, and I am very pleased to see that the work that he did back then is continuing with the current review into the decriminalisation of sex work.
In 1983, when many state governments were in a moral panic about the advent of home videos and the advent of adult videos, John Cain took a very different view. He actually felt that they were fairly dull, probably—they were his words—but that there was nothing really that surprising about what you saw in those films. Even though legislation was introduced to prohibit the sale of adult films in Victoria, Mr Cain ensured that there was a sunset clause in that legislation so that if non-violent erotica was to become a classification, they would be made available again in Victoria. Sadly that clause was never implemented.
In recent times I have had the opportunity and the great pleasure to share a lunch table with him as well as be on numerous polling booths in Northcote standing beside him, and as many others have said he certainly was never backwards in telling me what he thought. Initially I would have to say he was almost cross that I had been elected and forecast that the minor parties and the crossbench would be the ruin of the democracy that he felt this state deserved.
He also thought that the name of my party was absolutely terrible—and he told me that, actually, many times. But over the years he did provide me with very good advice and his thoughts on many things, and like all of us no doubt who had the opportunity to have those pearls of wisdom dropped upon us, I listened.
But over the years I have to say his opinion of me did soften and his opinion of the crossbench did soften, and he felt that maybe the corroding influence of the crossbench was not as bad as he had first anticipated. In fact there were a number of times when he even conceded that it was not that bad—especially when we changed the name of the party.
I think what I have seen over this last few weeks since his death is the respect and the generosity of comments that has come from everyone, regardless of their political stripes. I have to say that that shows the true man that I believe he was. We have heard from so many people across that political spectrum that they absolutely respected the man and that they stood in awe of what he was able to achieve.
I think that today we do recognise that our state is a much, much, much better place for having John Cain here. I extend my condolences to his family.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Condolence motion 5/2/20