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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Dr John Kaye remembered as honest, humorous and relentless

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Late NSW Greens MP Dr John Kaye. (AAP)
Late NSW Greens MP Dr John Kaye. (AAP)

It is rare in the cut and thrust of modern politics for politicians to speak well of one another, especially in the chamber.

An exception is condolence motions, where many a mealy mouthed word is often half-heartedly spoken.

But this speech by Labor’s shadow minister for the north coast Walt Secord, made during a condolence motion on Wednesday for the late Greens MP Dr John Kaye, is so heartfelt and sincere that we publish it here in its entirety as a tonic to all the blather and nonsense being uttered during the federal election campaign.

As Deputy Leader of the Opposition and shadow Minister for the North Coast I make a brief contribution to this condolence motion for Dr John Kaye. I extend my personal condolences to his widow, Lynne, family, staff and supporters. Dr Kaye was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Council in 2007, but I have known him on a professional and personal basis since 2009. I knew him firstly as a ministerial staffer when I returned to New South Wales from Canberra and when I became a member of this Chamber five years ago. In this Chamber Dr Kaye was honest, humorous and relentless.

Shadow minister for north coast Walt Secord . Photo AAP Image/Mark Graham
Shadow minister for north coast Walt Secord . Photo AAP Image/Mark Graham

He had an incredible ability to advocate and speak with authority and intelligence across a broad spectrum of issues. He could speak at length with intelligence and clarity on almost all bills and subjects—greyhound racing, medicinal cannabis, TAFE cuts, free-range chickens, the monarchy, renewable energy, public education, health and hospitals, urban planning, coal seam gas or his views and strong advocacy for vasectomies.

Outside of this Chamber on any given day of the week one could hear, particularly on the ABC, or read in the Sydney Morning Herald Dr Kaye spell out a coherent and intelligent position on any subject. There were many occasions when we shared approaches and views, such as his sincere push to provide a humane approach to egg production in New South Wales through truth in labelling. When he was The Greens’ health spokesperson in the last Parliament, Dr Kaye earned my personal respect for his principled stand in support of vaccinations or, more to the point, in reducing deliberate misinformation campaigns about vaccination. In doing so, he was taking a stand against people in his own party and the Australian Vaccination Network, which, despite its name, can only be accurately described as an anti-vaccination lobby group.

I still remember Dr Kaye’s comments in April 2013 to the Byron Shire Echo when he called the Australian Vaccination Network ‘disgraceful’. At the time, Dr Kaye said the health Minister Jillian Skinner must take aim against the ‘voodoo claims and conspiracy theories’ spread by the group.

He also told the Byron Shire Echo, ‘I welcome the diversity of the debate that comes from the north coast but where the health and safety of children is concerned there is an overriding public health responsibility to ensure all children are vaccinated.’

When I asked him about his stand against the anti-vaxxers, including those in his own party, he just turned to me and said, ‘Come on, Secord, I’m a scientist.’ He even correctly pronounced my surname. However, there were many occasions when we disagreed, such as on gaming, liquor regulation, religious education in schools and the State of Israel.

For the record, we had sharply different views, but Dr Kaye was no hypocrite; his positions were considered and strong and he was a man of integrity. You always knew where he stood and that his standing was firmly grounded. He did not tell an audience one thing and then go to another audience and say what they wanted to hear, in direct opposition to what he had told the first audience. His word was his word and he was straight with community groups. I note that ClubsNSW, who fought with Dr Kaye, while it disagreed with him on repeated policies, admired his ‘passion and tenacity’.

In short, New South Wales has lost a conviction politician—perhaps no more so than for the North Coast. Dr Kaye’s advocacy on North Coast environmental issues will be missed, as will his contributions on health, education and animal welfare. He was one of the first to speak out against the sale of Murwillumbah TAFE and he was one of the first to oppose the construction of Byrrill Creek dam by The Nationals.

Dr Kaye was born in 1955 and it is far too soon for us to be reflecting on his life, but he became one of the State’s most formidable and effective politicians in a generation. He leaves us with an extraordinary legacy of community contribution. I will sincerely miss him, and so will public debate and discourse in New South Wales. I commend the motion and I extend my sympathies to his family, staff, friends and supporters.


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