HAINES, Janine (1945–2004)
Senator for South Australia, 1977–78, 1981–90 (Australian Democrats)

Janine Carter, later Haines, was born in Tanunda, South Australia, on 8 May 1945, the eldest of three children. Her father, Francis Claude Carter, a policeman, was posted to various South Australian country towns and later joined the Commonwealth Public Service; her mother, Beryl Madge Carter, née Winton, became a primary school teacher during the 1950s. Janine was educated at six primary schools; the last was Black Forest, where she spent three years (1954–57) before attending Brighton High School (1958–62), and the University of Adelaide. She completed a BA in 1965, majoring in English and mathematics, and a Diploma in Teaching at Adelaide Teachers’ College in 1966. She was a high school teacher in Adelaide from 1967 until 1977. On 13 May 1967, Janine married Ian Grenville Haines, also a school teacher. They had two daughters.[1]

Janine Haines’ entry into politics was low-key. In 1974, ‘at something of a loose end’ after a car accident had caused her to withdraw from postgraduate English studies, she joined the South Australian-based Liberal Movement (LM)—the party had been formed a year earlier as a breakaway movement from the Liberal Party. In 1984 she wrote:

One of the reasons I first went into politics was because it seemed to me that Australia was being governed by middle-aged, middle-class men and that this was the case no matter which political party was in power. These men were probably well-intentioned but they were removed from the real world—the world of mortgages, education costs and child rearing.[2]

Haines worked as a volunteer in the office of the LM’s Robin Millhouse, a member of the South Australian House of Assembly and formerly the state’s Attorney-General. She was impressed by Millhouse’s preparedness to stick to his principles and speak his mind. An unsuccessful LM candidate for the Legislative Council in July 1975, Haines was third on the party’s ticket for the Senate election of December 1975, at which Steele Hall, was re-elected for the Liberal Movement. When Hall resigned from the Senate to contest a House of Representatives seat for the Liberal Party, Haines was appointed by the South Australia Parliament on 14 December 1977 to fill his casual vacancy in the Senate. This was the first appointment made after the 1977 amendment to section 15 of the Constitution requiring Senate casual vacancies to be filled, as far as possible, by a member of the same political party as the vacating senator, although neither Haines nor Hall were still members of the party for which they had contested the 1975 election. A majority of LM members had returned to the Liberal Party in 1976, and the remainder, including Millhouse and Haines, had become part of the newly-founded Australian Democrats (AD). The state government took the view that the nearest equivalent of the vacating senator’s party should be appointed, a view that it was not obliged to adopt. Haines was the first Australian Democrat in the federal Parliament and initially served for six months before her term expired on 30 June 1978.[3]

Haines’ entry to the Senate was greeted by the press with clichés about women politicians such as ‘Can the family cope?’ and her phone rang hot with similar patronising comments. Haines and her husband, who was a constant source of personal support, were offended by this attitude, which many female politicians have had to face, and which continued through her Senate career. Speaking of the prejudice of the press and some male senators in an interview for the Melbourne Age in 1986 she said:

I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. If I raise questions of pornography, child abuse, incest, domestic violence, they say I’m obsessed with sex. If I raise equality of opportunity, difficulties women face, they say I’m a man-hating feminist. If I’m flippant about myself it’s lack of confidence; if I’m flippant about them, I’m a sarcastic bitch. If I make strong statements, I’m aggressive; if not, I’m weak. If I’m angry, I’m ’emotional’.[4]

In her first speech to the Senate on 22 February 1978, Haines spoke confidently, though she later described her address as ‘a rather pompous twenty-minute lecture’. She began by promising, as had several women parliamentarians before her, that it was not her intention ‘to restrict myself to so-called women’s issues … On the contrary, I intend to concern myself with as many issues as possible’. Accordingly, she discussed the inadequacy of government measures to improve the lot of the Aboriginal community. However, Haines also urged the Fraser Government to insist upon ‘equal promotional opportunities’ for women in the public service, including ending discrimination against married women. She attacked the prevailing attitude to women as men’s playthings:

How can women ever respect themselves if their bodies are photographed being subjected to treatments that are not legally permitted to be done to animals—simply for the perverted pleasure of some men? How can they walk with dignity if this sort of behaviour by some men has the tacit approval of others?

Articulate and outspoken, the new senator was clearly no mealy-mouthed politician—as she put it, six years later: ‘This 32-year-old nonentity waltzing into the Senate and getting stuck into it straight away … I think I stunned them’. Although some people were put off by her forthright comments, Haines gained respect for her eloquence, intellect, energy and humour.[5]

Haines relished political life, enjoying the challenges of debate and party skirmishes. Her experience during her first term as a senator, which expired on 30 June 1978, whetted her appetite for more and she enthusiastically returned to the fray in 1980, having worked in the interim as a publicity officer for the South Australian Democrats. She was given first place on the AD Senate ticket for South Australia for the election of November 1980, and was one of three Democrats elected Australia-wide; they joined fellow AD senators Don Chipp and Colin Mason. Haines served from 1 July 1981, and was re-elected in 1983 and 1987. When Haines first returned to the Senate, the Democrats shared the balance of power with the Tasmanian Independent, Senator Brian Harradine, and from July 1983, the party held the balance in its own right, a situation which endured for the remainder of Haines’ time in the Senate.

In 1982 Haines wrote, as a statement of her ideals: ‘I am totally committed to the fight for equal representation of women in all areas of business, commerce and government in Australia—at levels other than secretarial!’ Her concern for women’s rights was constant and was confirmed in many of her speeches, most particularly in 1981, when she proposed the discussion of a matter of public importance: discrimination against women. She explained eloquently that women are tainted with a ‘slave caste aura’ due almost entirely to ‘discriminatory attitudes which are buried deep in the mores of our society’. The Domicile Bill in 1981 won her backing because it ‘enshrines in law a woman’s right to independent domicile from her husband’. On education, a topic close to her heart, she argued fiercely for girls to be encouraged to study mathematics and the sciences, and not be too readily sidelined into the humanities or domestic subjects: young girls and women should ‘take their full place in all courses available within educational institutions’.

Haines strongly supported the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, which sought to eliminate sexual discrimination and harassment from work places, education, and other areas. The legislation included an amendment moved by Haines, to make clear that the provisions of the Act applied to mixed sporting activities for children under the age of twelve. She described sexual harassment as ‘a national sport in Australia’. Although she believed the legislation did ‘not go far enough’, Haines wrote that at least it ‘may make the troglodytes of the right realise that God gave women a brain as well as a womb and that our brain functions a damn sight longer than our womb!’[6]

The Democrats’ small representation in the Senate (their numbers fluctuated between five and seven senators from July 1981 to June 1990) meant that each of its members was spokesperson on a range of issues. Haines’ responsibilities included, at different times, finance, law, health, social security, industry and commerce. As finance spokesperson, Haines was a central player in the struggle between the Senate and House of Representatives over the Fraser Government’s sales tax bills in September 1981. She supported Harradine in moving a resolution criticising the government for including non-amendable provisions in otherwise amendable bills and classifying them as bills imposing taxation. The Labor Party Opposition in the Senate sought the support of the Democrats to veto the bills, but the Australian Democrats senators had signed statutory declarations prior to the election of October 1980 stating that ‘I shall not cast my vote as a Senator in a manner [which] … through blocking of supply or money bills might bring down the Government’. With the support of Harradine and the Opposition, Haines successfully moved requests for amendments to remove new or increased taxes on items such as clothing, footwear, books, newspapers and building materials, which she defined as being among ‘the necessities of life’. The House of Representatives declined to make the requested amendments, and to further consider them when they were pressed by the Senate, an action regarded as a ‘failure’ to pass the bills for the purposes of section 57 of the Constitution. The Democrats joined the vote to refuse a second reading for bills in the same form when they were introduced in February 1982. The legislative history of the sales tax bills became a basis for the recommendation by Prime Minister Fraser to the Governor-General for a simultaneous dissolution of the Houses of Parliament in February 1983.[7]

In September 1981, as the result of a motion initiated by Haines, the Senate referred the subject of the conduct, administration and ownership of nursing homes and private hospitals to a select committee. Haines was appointed a member of that committee, the first Senate committee, in its initial membership, to be composed entirely of women, and Haines was proud of her role in establishing it. Although supportive of a universal basic health insurance scheme in principle, as a ‘necessary social reform’, Haines fought between July and September 1983 for changes to the Hawke Government’s Medicare bills. She played a leading role in thwarting the government’s attempt to establish Medibank as the sole private health agency for the new Medicare universal health scheme, and negotiated government acceptance of an amendment to ensure that chronically ill patients would not be financially disadvantaged by the introduction of Medicare.

Haines was an early and vigorous opponent of the Hawke Government’s proposed introduction of a national identity scheme, known as the Australia Card. She considered the Australia Card to be a threat to civil liberties, and was a member of a joint select committee which reported on the scheme in 1986. The Australia Card Bill was twice defeated in the Senate in 1986, resulting in the dissolution of both Houses of Parliament on 5 June 1987. The Hawke Government was returned at the subsequent election, but the Australia Card legislation was eventually dropped later that year. Haines was equally critical, on privacy grounds, of an alternative scheme based on tax file numbers, adopted in 1988.

Haines did not forget her constituents in South Australia and was a determined advocate for the state. In 1981 she spoke of the ‘water piracy’ suffered by South Australia in regard to its right to use Murray River water: ‘The Murray is dying. It must be the one river in this country on which one can walk’. Haines declared that the powers given to the River Murray Commission were entirely inadequate for the task of managing the competing claims of the states.[8]

Elected Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats in August 1985, Haines was regarded as the obvious successor to Don Chipp as party leader. Twelve months later, following Chipp’s retirement, she assumed the leadership, comfortably defeating John Siddons in a ballot of party members. Haines was the first woman to lead an Australian parliamentary political party. Over the next ten months, Siddons and another AD senator, David Vigor each attacked Haines’ leadership and resigned from the Democrats, but Haines easily survived the subsequent party leadership ballots, which were mandatory under AD membership rules. Siddons and Vigor stood as candidates for the Unite Australia Party at the 1987 election. Both were defeated, and the Democrats retained their numbers in the Senate. At the election of March 1990, again with Haines as leader, the party’s share of the Senate vote reached 12.6 per cent, the highest point it would ever attain.

As party leader, Don Chipp had famously pledged to ‘keep the bastards honest’. Rather than simply checking the excesses of the two major political groupings, Haines worked to broaden the scope of the party’s policies to offer an alternative third way. This had been part of Haines’ political thinking since first casting a vote at the 1966 federal election when she ‘instinctively … distrusted the two-party system’. Haines, who considered herself a ‘right wing’ Democrat, shifted the party’s emphasis from the environment and nuclear disarmament towards traditional social welfare issues (though by 1989 she was attentive to the potential challenge from the Greens). She pursued with passion and persistence the rights and needs of children, pensioners, supporting parents and the unemployed. These groups she considered to be the ‘most vulnerable, the most susceptible, the least powerful members of the community’. Haines attacked the Labor government for ‘turning its back on its traditional supporters’ among low income families, opposed the introduction of HECS fees for tertiary students, and in 1989 suggested taxation reforms to assist first-home buyers, ease mortgage costs, and encourage savings. She also compelled the government to amend its superannuation tax proposals when she identified a significant flaw in the legislation. Taxation expert Daryl Dixon described Haines’ contributions to the tax policy debate as ‘outstanding’.[9]

Haines introduced fourteen private senator’s bills, but none passed in the Senate. A temporary chairman of committees from September 1981 to September 1986, she was the first Australian Democrat to chair a meeting of the Senate. In the late 1970s, Haines had suggested induction seminars for new senators, an idea that has since become standard practice.

Haines developed a respect for the role of the Senate. In December 1989, she claimed that the Senate puts ‘a brake on any sort of dictatorship that could occur if both Houses were held by the same political party—it would simply be a two-House version of Queensland [under Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen] and I do not think anyone ever wants to see that happen’. In 1994, after she had left the Senate, Haines published an address titled Unrepresentative Swill or Defenders of Democracy? The Role of the Australian Senate, in which she argued that the Australian Parliament was bi-cameral for the same reason as the US Congress: ‘to ensure that the system is as fair as possible for as many people as possible. If that occasionally inconveniences governments and sends prime ministers into childish rages, tough’.

In 1988 Haines noted that the Democrats’ absence from the House of Representatives meant a lack of media exposure: ‘The work we do, the amendments we move, the bills that pass or fail with or without us drift past because no media covers the Senate’. On 1 March 1990 Haines resigned from the Senate to stand for the South Australian House of Representatives seat of Kingston at the general election of 24 March. Her bold bid for the Labor-held seat was prompted by her belief that the Democrats needed a high-profile presence in the House of Representatives; it was a course of action she had foreshadowed four years earlier, and her campaign for Kingston had effectively commenced in February 1989. Haines ruled out any attempt to return to the Senate if she lost. Though she polled well, gaining 26 per cent of the primary vote, she failed to win the seat. Haines called her loss a ‘crushing blow’, and retired from politics.[10]

After leaving politics, Haines wrote Suffrage to Sufferance, a history of women’s struggle to be granted the right to vote and to sit in parliament, published in 1992. In it she repeated remarks which had found a strong audience response at a women’s forum:

it has been my unfortunate lot over the last 25 years of my life to belong to three of the most reviled, underrated and overworked professions in the world. In that time I had been, occasionally simultaneously, a mother, a teacher and a politician. If one of me wasn’t being blamed for the problems of the world one of the others of me was.[11]

Haines visited Iraq in November 1990 as a member of a delegation seeking the release of Australians held hostage after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. She served as Deputy Chancellor of the University of Adelaide from 1997 to 1999, and as President of the Australian Privacy Charter Council for three years she travelled the country speaking on a variety of subjects and engaging in radio, newspaper and consultancy work. In 2001 Haines was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia ‘For service to the Australian Parliament and to politics, particularly as Parliamentary Leader of the Australian Democrats, and to the community’.

Haines was characterised as feisty, determined, impatient, a workaholic, extremely driven, and a tough negotiator. She was also a superb communicator, eminently quotable, with the gift of summing up an issue in pithy down-to-earth terms. She disliked pomposity, was uncomfortable with compliments and, by her own admission, did not suffer fools gladly. Don Chipp described her ‘explosive temper’ in her early days in politics. She was sometimes criticised as flippant or cynical. Haines sometimes used the latter term herself, explaining that her cynicism was a defence against taking oneself too seriously. In 1987 Haines counted as a ‘personal triumph’ her efforts to curb what she described as her ‘vitriolic tongue’.

From 1999 Haines suffered from a degenerative neurological condition from which she died on 20 November 2004, survived by her husband and their daughters. A state funeral was held at the Heysen Chapel, Centennial Park Cemetery, on 26 November. The eulogies delivered in the Senate acknowledged her formidable personality, but also recorded that in private she was a great encourager and motivator of others in her party. The Democrats’ leader, Senator Andrew Bartlett (Qld.), noted that in spite of ‘the focus on her charisma and wit’, Haines ‘was very active and effective in the hard-nosed policy area’. Senators Meg Lees (SA), Lyn Allison (Vic.) and Natasha Stott Despoja (SA) each acknowledged Haines as a powerful role model for themselves and for other women.[12]

Sylvia Marchant

[1] Transcript of interview by Jenny Palmer with Janine Haines, 18, 20 June 2001, POHP; ‘Questionnaire’ completed 9 Sept. 1982 for Parliament’s Bicentenary Publications Project, NLA MS 8806.

[2] Mercury (Hob.), 19 Oct. 1984, p. 8.

[3] Janine Haines, ‘A Sort of Crusade’, in Jocelynne A. Scutt (ed.), Breaking Through—Women, Work and Careers, Artemis, North Melb., Vic., 1992, pp. 64–70; Janine Haines, Suffrage to Sufferance: A Hundred Years of Women in Politics, Allen & Unwin, Syd., 1992.

[4] Age (Melb.), 14 April, 1982, p. 21, 20 Aug. 1986, p. 24.

[5] CPD, 22 Feb. 1978, pp. 49–51; Advertiser (Adel.), 15 March 1984, p. 2; Scutt, Breaking Through, 1992, p. 65; Haines, Suffrage to Sufferance, 1992, p. 142.

[6] Who’s Who of Australian Women, Methuen Australia, North Ryde, NSW, 1982, p. 216; CPD, 28 Oct. 1981, p.1730; Press Release, Senator Janine Haines, 28 Oct. 1981; CPD, 21 Oct. 1981, p. 1481, 20 Aug. 1981, p. 207, 21 Oct. 1983, pp. 1928–30; Press Release, Senator Janine Haines, 13 Oct. 1983.

[7] CPD, 9 Sept. 1981, pp. 575–8, 944–55, 26 Aug. 1981, pp. 356–61, 16 Sept. 1981, pp. 936–43.

[8] CPD, 21 Sept. 1983, pp. 843–7; Transcript, ABC Radio ‘PM’, 8 July 1983; CT, 8 Sept. 1983, p. 12; CPD, 2 Dec. 1985, p. 2725, 15 Sept. 1987, p. 65, 18 Sept. 1987, pp. 317–21, 9 Nov. 1988, pp. 2266–71, 7 Dec. 1988, p. 3674, 20 Oct. 1981, p. 1490, 25 Feb. 1982, p. 504.

[9] Haines, Suffrage to Sufferance, 1992, p. 10; The Bulletin (Syd.), 6 Nov. 1984, pp. 74–5; Australian (Syd.), 6 Nov. 1989, p. 6; CPD, 29 Oct. 1981, p. 1854; Australian (Syd.), 15 Nov. 1988, p. 14; Age (Melb.), 7 May 1988, p. 22; Glenda Korporaal, ‘Forward and left with the Democrats’, The Bulletin (Syd.), 20 Feb. 1990, pp. 22–3; AFR (Syd.), 7 June 1989, p. 3; CT, 14 June 1989, p. 8.

[10] CPD, 20 Aug. 1985, p. 26, 22 Dec. 1989, p. 5177; Janine Haines, Unrepresentative Swill or Defenders of Democracy? The Role of the Australian Senate, ADFA, Canberra, 1994, pp. 4, 6; David O’Reilly, ‘Crash through or crash’, The Bulletin (Syd.), 29 Nov. 1988, pp. 46–51; Daily Telegraph (Syd.), 26 March 1990, pp. 4–5.

[11] Haines, Suffrage to Sufferance, p. 5.

[12] Don Chipp, Chipp, Methuen Haynes, North Ryde, NSW, 1987, p. 100; CPD, 29 Nov. 2004, pp. 45–68.

This biography was first published in The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate, Vol. 4, 1983-2002, Department of the Senate, Canberra, 2017, pp. 261-266.

Auspic DPS

Auspic DPS

Commonwealth Parliament

Senator, SA, 1977–78, 1981–90 (AD)

Leader of the Australian Democrats, 1986–90

Senate Committee Service

Select Committee on Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes, 1981–87

Standing Orders Committee, 1981–83

Estimates Committee B, 1982–83

Scrutiny of Bills Committee, 1982–87

Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority, 1984–86

Select Committee on Allegations Concerning a Judge, 1984

Joint Select Committee on an Australia Card, 1985–86

Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications, 1986–87

Procedure Committee, 1987–88