Cairns, J(ames) F(ord) 1914-2003

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CAIRNS, J(ames) F(ord) 1914-2003


See index for CA sketch: Born October 4, 1914, in Melbourne, Australia; died October 12, 2003, in Melbourne, Australia. Politician, educator, and author. Cairns was a noted left-of-center politician in Australia's Labor Party who became prevalent in the news for leading anti-Vietnam War protests. After attending the University of Melbourne for several years and working as a clerk for a land company, he became a police officer, and later detective, in Victoria from 1935 to 1944. During this time, he learned firsthand about the social problems that led to crime in Australia, something that would affect his beliefs throughout his life. Next, Cairns served for a year in the Australian Imperial Forces before joining the University of Melbourne at Parkville faculty. Here he rose from senior tutor to lecturer in economic history. Running for office in 1955 on the Labor Party ticket, he won the Yarra seat for the House of Representatives; boundary changes led to his representing Lalor beginning in 1969. About this time, Cairns was making his voice heard in protesting Australia's sending of troops to Vietnam. Raising an army of public supporters, he led one of the biggest protest marches in Australia's history in 1970; his ability to get people involved eventually helped bring the Labor Party to power in the 1972 elections when Gough Whitlam became prime minister. Under the Whitlam government, Cairns was given posts as minister of secondary industry and minister of overseas trade. He was eventually made treasurer and deputy prime minister in 1974. But Cairns' role as treasurer was short-lived when he was accused of misleading Parliament by soliciting loans from a private businessman without the government's approval. Cairns denied the charge, but was removed from office anyway and given the assignment of environmental minister. With Whitlam's defeat in 1975, Cairns' day in the sun was over. His problems were exacerbated that year when newspapers accused Cairns, who was married, of having an affair with one of his staff. Again, he denied the charge, but two years later he left Parliament anyway. Not long before his death, however, Cairns admitted that the affair had been real. He spent the last years of his life selling his books and living on a farm near Melbourne. But he continued to be politically active in the protest movement, most recently making a public appearance protesting the 2003 war in Iraq. Cairns, ever the idealist if not the most pragmatic of politicians, was the author of several books, including Living with Asia (1965), The Quiet Revolution (1972), Survival Now: The Human Transformation (1982), On the Horizon: A Cultural Transformation to a New Consciousness (1999), and A New Day (2002).



Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Australia), October 13, 2003, p. 22.

Independent (London, England), October 16, 2003, p. 22.

Times (London, England), October 14, 2003.