Peter Andren dies

Very sad news this morning that Peter Andren has died from cancer. Mr Andren was the Independent member for Calare, and until his illness, had been planning to stand for the Senate in NSW this election.

As I wrote when he announced his withdrawal from the Senate contest in August, Australia’s future could have been quite different if we had Peter Andren in the Senate in a balance of power role, compared to how it may pan out with others holding that position. It is a sad loss to the Parliament, but obviously a much sadder loss for his family.

Peter Andren was a very effective advocate and representative for his local area, as  evidenced by the enormous margin he built up in his local seat over the four terms he represented it. What I most remember about him is the very courageous and principled stand he took against the disgraceful attacks on asylum seekers by the Howard government in the lead up to the 2001 election, including the use of armed SAS troops to take control of the Tampa.

While the ALP rolled over in the face of a wave of community antagonism towards the refugees whipped up by John Howard’s disgraceful fear-mongering, Peter Andren was unequivocal in his opposition both to this persecution of vulnerable people, and just as importantly to the draconian wave of legislation that was rushed through the Parliament in the wake of the Tampa. The hysteria has died down, but six years later those laws remain, still wreaking harm on many innocent people.

What made Peter Andren’s stance so admirable is that there is no doubt the majority of the public strongly supported Howard’s approach at the time. While there were some political risks for the Democrats in taking the stance we did against Howard’s approach, it was nothing compared to the political risk Peter Andren took, having to win fifty per cent of the vote in a regional electorate.
The fact that he retained his seat and his margin in that election is an indication of how much his electorate respected his integrity, even though many of them would have disagreed with his view on refugees, which was the dominant issue of that campaign.

It is also a reminder of how much value the public put on their elected representatives being honest in standing up for what they believe in, rather than having politicians using a bunch of focus groups to assist them in telling people what they think people want to hear.

Click on this link to read Peter Andren’s first speech to the Parliament in 1996. Singling out just one issue runs the risk of inadvertently devaluing their record on many other matters, so I would recommend looking through his personal website, which provides a record of his commitment to and representation of his electorate.

Irfam Yusuf has written a good tribute on the ABC website.

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  1. There is something almost eninvitable about Cancer and individuals who support all the good causes and know more than the apparent details put through the usual filter,I have seen this more than once other the Andren case.A certain type of nervousness and then anger ,maybe the start of a decline in health,as being resolute ,also means to filter out some passing details of self concern and remedy.To concentrate on what one knows is unworthy,and turn your personality around in doing, so the issue survives, is a sort of borrowed craft of passion and skill,but payback there is.The Libs on matters refugees,may claim they are passionate and open to the same emotional conditions as those who have found compassionate fault in everything around the refugee reality,they as yet carry no equivalent burden as Andren s death.As some including this Senator will ask anew, ..What is this government under Howard doing to us! For if matters are inenvitable,almost in terms of Health,personal health,a faultless anger,no appearance of anger at a colleague s death… a death call in itself.

  2. That is indeed sad. You’ve got to hand it to Independents like Andren who retain their integrity rather than taking the populist stand on any given issue just to be returned.

  3. I heartily agree with all sentiments. I started to really take notice of Peter Andren during the Tampa travesty. The role of Labor was appalling and gutless, and the Democrats, Greens and Peter Andren stood out as truly people with integrity. It was harder for a brave Independent, but I think his integrity and sense of justice were so strong, that another path was never a viable alternative. Peter Andren didn’t utter words to impress the TV cameras, or to win votes. His honesty, integrity and compassion motivated him always.
    20 years ago, a dear friend was dying from cancer, and she commented on the role that stress had probably played in her case. That thought has been borne out by medical research that says, there are a few main contributors, and stress is one – other 2 are genetic and environmental.If only there were more Peter Andrens and less Howards, Downers, Ruddocks and Costellos, the need for such courage would not add to the loss of life as witnessed now. We will all be worse off without Peter in the national parliament. Perhaps, if we support these courageous people more at the time (not later when the pressure is off)we might also care for their health. It’s ironic, that his professional life started as a journalist, and his colleagues have stressed his allegiance to high principles, when too many so-called journalists these days prostitute their profession for ‘me tooism’ with those who have the power. Howard’s ‘tribute’ almost made me puke!My thoughts are with those who loved him dearly, and his friends and colleagues in his electorate and other places. We have all lost a friend who embraced real democracy, freedom and courage!
    Vale Peter!

  4. Pingback: Vale Peter Andren!
  5. How sad that Peter has gone. Iwonder if I coud have done more to support Peter’s stance on the Tampa travesty, refugees, the war in Iraq…
    I think back to the days when I first knew Peter,as a student in 1964, he never lost his honesty, his passion,nor his intlligence. His stance on these matters comes from a firm belief system and a commitment to represent… “all Australians:those with skills and those without, those with means and those without….unless we provide for all,with real opportunities, then the profits,the growth and the dividends are a fraud, a mirage.” from Peter’s first speech in parliament.
    Peter, out of all his parliamentary colleages, all of his friends from student days and teaching and his peers from journalism, has maintained his integrety and spoken out about injustices from a position where he could make a difference. Peter has made a difference.
    A truly sad loss of a loving, decent man.

  6. Details of Peter Andren funeral service this coming Friday are as follows:

    The funeral service for the late Peter Andren, Independent Member for Calare will be held at 11.00am on Friday, 9 November 2007 at the Holy Trinity Church, corner of Anson & Byng Streets, in Orange NSW.

    Following the service, Orange police will generously provide an opportunity for people to honour Peter, with a funeral procession from Holy Trinity Church along Anson Street, onto Summer Street and continuing along the Bathurst Road.

    The family would like to invite all who attend the service to join them at Duntryleague Golf Club, Woodward Street, Orange, to celebrate a wonderful man and a wonderful life.

    In lieu of flowers the family will accept donations to be distributed to two community organisations that Peter has long supported: the Orange Aboriginal Medical Service and Sailability – sailing for the disabled.

    Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend.

  7. Peter Andren 1946 – 2007

    Every tear shed for Peter is a tribute to Pete’s life. There are many tears.

    Peter has been the essence of integrity for all of us. He has set the benchmark. If we are fortunate, we will know others that meet Pete’s benchmark but I will not know anyone who surpasses it.

    We, who have known Pete, have encountered a daedal human gift. Some of us have had the privilege of calling him boss. As one of those, I know the time working with him laid down for me, in journalism, the essential, ethical parametres of treating each person as an individual, not an issue. Pete knew the importance of respecting the person, listening to the experiences that shaped them, understanding the events that determined their outlook. But he never devalued his own principles and, through that, taught us to value ourselves and each person we encountered.

    I feel deep grief, and it is the grief of loss. But it is also the grief that comes from knowing an inspiring man is no longer in my world, I can no longer touch base with him and affirm the values he generously fostered.

    Anyone who knows Pete knows how deeply proud he was of his boys, Greg and Josh, how immensely grateful he has been for the love he found with Valerie, how much he valued a life with Jen that allowed them to mould the boys’ characters. They are his greatest monuments to life and love.

    I hope the people of Calare, amidst the sadness and disbelief, understand his profound imprint. He loved being able to achieve better outcomes for people. He respected a person’s autonomy. He acted to both do good and do no harm.

    I hope that imprint of his personal and public standards will be etched deeper than the current sense of loss and heartache.

    Vale Pete

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