Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 28, 2022



Cameron, Hon. T.G.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:17): By leave, I move:

That the Legislative Council expresses its deep regret at the recent death of the Hon. Terry Gordon Cameron, former member of the Legislative Council, and places on record its appreciation of his distinguished public service, and that as a mark of respect to his memory the sitting of the council be suspended until the ringing of the bells.

Terry Gordon Cameron was born on 11 October 1946 with what can only be described as an impeccable Labor pedigree. His father was Senator Don Cameron, a Labor senator for South Australia from 1969 to 1978 and former state secretary of the Australian Workers' Union. His uncle, Clyde Cameron, also served in the federal parliament at the time as the member for Hindmarsh. Throughout the Whitlam government Clyde Cameron held senior ministries, including Minister for Labour, Minister for Labour and Immigration and Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs.

In his first speech in this place Terry Cameron recalled having been a member of the Labor Party since the age of 14, attending Labor and union meetings throughout his life and campaigning at countless Labor elections. He also recalled his deep family connections within the union movement, particularly the AWU. Indeed, in that speech he noted:

I have been privileged to hold almost every position possible within the Labor Party, from membership officer, sub-branch secretary and president to party secretary, national vice-president, and I am currently a member of our national executive.

Terry Cameron would go on to serve as state secretary of the South Australian Labor Party, including through the difficult period of the 1993 State Bank election. I think it is clear from later events that the State Bank saga weighed heavily on his mind, as it did for many, if not all, Labor members at the time.

Terry Cameron entered this place on 11 October 1994, replacing retiring former Labor member and former Attorney-General Chris Sumner. He joined a Labor caucus still reeling from the 1993 election loss. He would later serve on the Labor front bench as shadow minister for transport and shadow minister for small business in 1997, under the leadership of then future Premier Mike Rann.

Of course, Terry Cameron is most well-known for his decision in 1998 to cross the floor of this council and vote to support the privatisation of ETSA. This decision cost him membership of the party and many of his friends and colleagues in the Labor movement at the time. All of us in public life will be judged by the decisions we make publicly, and I am not sure how history will, in future years, regard those who advocated and supported the sale of ETSA. I wonder now, if he had known the effect it would have and the consequences that have played out for electricity prices, whether he would make the same decision again.

Regardless of decisions made, it is a sad occasion on the passing of a former member of this place, and I think it is important that we acknowledge the long service of Terry Cameron to the Labor movement in that time and his important service in this place. On behalf of the government, I extend my sympathies and best wishes to his family, who will be going through a very difficult time. At the passing of someone who has certainly made his mark on this council, I commend the condolence motion to members.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:20): I rise on behalf of the opposition to acknowledge the life of the Hon. Terry Cameron MLC and to pass on our sincere sympathies to his family and friends, following his recent passing. Terry Cameron was born on 19 October 1946 to parents, Don and Colleen Cameron. He grew up in a very political and trade union family. His father was the former Senator Don Cameron, and his uncle, Clyde Cameron, was the former federal member for Hindmarsh, who pioneered industrial relations reforms under Gough Whitlam.

At just six years of age, Terry would join his father on visits to the Botanic Gardens to listen to the speakers who would gather on Sundays to express and debate their political philosophies. In his maiden speech, Terry paid tribute to the influence of his grandparents, particularly his grandmother, who was politically active and passed on their philosophies to their children and grandchildren.

By the age of 14, Terry was a member of the Australian Labor Party. He spent his formative years attending union and party meetings, pounding the pavement and letterboxing, on the hustings handing out how-to-vote cards, and at the office of the Australian Workers' Union. The Australian Workers' Union would play a central role in the life of the Cameron family but not always a positive one. At one point, his father was involved in a bitter dispute with the AWU, having been elected to the position of secretary of the Australian Workers' Union in South Australia, only to be thrown out of office by the union's national executive. A lengthy battle ensued, but Don Cameron was eventually reinstated to his position—a testament to his strength and resilience, traits that were clearly passed on to Terry.

Terry spent nine years working as an industrial advocate with the Australian Workers' Union. Reading Terry's maiden speech, it seems that history repeated itself to some degree in his own tussle with the AWU as he stood up for what he believed in—an early test of his strength and character, which, as we all know, is a quality he will always be remembered for.

Terry was appointed as a member of the Legislative Council in October 1994, filling a vacancy following the resignation of the former Attorney-General, the Hon. Chris Sumner. Terry entered parliament at a tumultuous time for South Australia, with the state still reeling from the State Bank disaster. He spent some time on the front bench as spokesperson for transport and small business, and he was also a strong advocate for the importance of mineral and oil exploration in South Australia. He had a strong interest in industrial relations, public sector management and the state's tourism potential.

The defining moment of his time in parliament came on 20 August 1998, when he crossed the floor to support the sale of ETSA. With South Australia saddled with crippling debt and the impending second wave of the Asian economic crisis about to hit the nation, Terry spoke in parliament about the proposed sale of power assets in New South Wales and South Australia, saying:

One would have to be an economic idiot to come to any other conclusion other than that they have made out a compelling case in NSW and we must have even more compelling reasons in this State for getting rid of ETSA.

His stance and decision to vote against his own party took immense character and bravery. He knew the consequences would be swift and severe, including automatic expulsion from the party, ironically under rules brought in by his uncle, Clyde. In the lead-up to the critical vote, The Advertiser reported:

If Mr Cameron supports the legislation, he will face being drummed out of the Labor Party in disgrace, a member without a friend. As a former secretary of the Labor Party, Mr Cameron could not expect any friends among the Liberals. And Labor does not tolerate defectors. So Mr Cameron would run the risk of being driven into an isolated life in the political wilderness.

He knew that if he crossed the floor he would be ending his 40-year relationship with the Labor Party. He knew that if he crossed the floor he would lose friends, colleagues and supporters. He knew that if he crossed the floor he would most likely be ending his political career. Despite all that would be lost if he crossed the floor, he did it anyway. Why? Because he made a decision that was not based on his own personal interest, because he made a decision to put the interests of others, of this state, ahead of his own.

Terry Cameron's courage and convictions are to be applauded. It is courage that should characterise everyone who has the privilege of sitting in this chamber. We are here to represent the best interests of South Australia and South Australians. Terry Cameron understood this, he respected this and he lived by it. Vale, the Hon. Terry Cameron MLC.