TEAGUE, Baden Chapman (1944– )
Senator for South Australia, 1978–96 (Liberal Party of Australia)

Baden Chapman Teague was born on 18 September 1944 at the Ashford Hospital, Adelaide. A fifth-generation Australian, he was the second of three children of Colin Archibald Teague, a builder, and his wife Nita Kathleen, née Readett. While growing up in the suburbs of Glenelg and Somerton Park, Baden Teague was educated at local primary schools and at St Peter’s College, Adelaide, (1955–62), where he emerged as a distinguished all-rounder. He was dux of the college in his final year, was captain of tennis, won the General Rowell efficiency prize for officer training in cadets and played Australian rules football in the college’s first XVIII.

At the University of Adelaide, Teague studied history in the Faculty of Arts, and physics and mathematics in the Faculty of Science, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in 1967, and a Bachelor of Science in 1968. Teague proceeded to Cambridge University, where he was a postgraduate student of the history of ideas in the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science. His PhD thesis, ‘The origins of Robert Boyle’s philosophy’, was accepted in 1972.

Teague was fascinated by foreign cultures and international affairs. Under the auspices of the National Union of Australian University Students, Teague led tours to India (1966–67) and China (1967–68) and during his Cambridge years travelled extensively through Europe. A thoughtful and strongly principled young man, Teague became increasingly committed to the notion that political life would be his vocation and also made a firm commitment to Christianity. Teague described himself as ‘evangelical but not conservative’. As a senator, Teague was a member of the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship.

From 1972 until 1978 Teague held the position of welfare officer at the University of Adelaide, which included responsibility for administering the student loans scheme. He also taught part-time in the university’s Department of History, lecturing on the history of ideas, and served as chairman of the reconstituted University of Adelaide Theatre Guild (1972–75). On 13 May 1972 Teague married Katherine Jane Packard; they would have three sons.[1]

Teague joined the Liberal and Country League (LCL) in 1973 and rose quickly through its ranks. In 1974, the same year as the LCL changed its name, Teague became a policy co-ordinator and a member of the State Executive of the Liberal Party of Australia SA Division (1974–76). He was to serve for over twenty years on the State Council and was involved in numerous election campaigns. In 1976 he was pre-selected as a South Australian Senate candidate, and was elected from third place on the party ticket at the election of November 1977, his term commencing on 1 July 1978. Teague was re-elected in 1983, 1984, 1987, and 1990.

In his first speech, on 13 September 1978, Teague discussed the philosophy of Deakinite liberalism, in which the fundamental value of freedom for individuals to achieve their goals was balanced by the ‘traditional role of government to protect the weak’. According to Teague, liberalism was ‘primarily committed to people—to ordinary people, to people as they are, to people as they wish to develop and to be fulfilled’. He also noted that ‘liberalism in our generation is the least researched and least publicly scrutinised of the political philosophies espoused in our country’.

Teague’s first speech was not confined to questions of political philosophy. He discussed practical matters of immediate concern to South Australians: the state’s high unemployment level; the possibility that car manufacturing in South Australia would cease; and the importance of a projected petrochemical plant at Redcliff. He was also severely critical of the Fraser Government’s budgetary proposal for an eighty-three per cent increase in the excise on brandy, describing it as ‘a catastrophe’ for the Riverland district. Although attacking his own government gave him ‘no pleasure’, he argued that ‘criticism of this kind, honestly given, is the very stuff of Parliament’s process’.

Teague was an assiduous worker who was dedicated to his Senate duties. He was an eloquent and informed contributor to debates, and featured regularly at question time. In 1978 Teague described the standing committee system as a ‘special genius of the Senate’s procedure’ which he believed ‘should be strengthened’. Over the next eighteen years he contributed enormously to parliamentary committee work. At the end of his Senate career, Teague estimated that he had been involved in the writing of over one hundred committee reports.

Teague considered the Privileges Committee to be ‘the leading committee of this chamber’. A member of the committee for nine years, he chaired it from October 1994 until his retirement. For Teague, the committee was not only important in protecting the rights of parliamentarians; equally important was its role in ‘ensuring that there are rights for citizens that cannot be trampled upon and ensuring their access to the parliament’.

The range of Teague’s public policy interests was considerable, and included education, foreign affairs and trade, defence and disarmament, immigration, Aboriginal affairs, and, later in his career, the cause of an Australian republic. Between April 1993 and May 1994, Teague held the post of shadow secretary to the family and human resources management group and frequently acted as Opposition spokesman for educational matters. He was also a parliamentary representative on the Council of the National Library of Australia for the period from 1989 to 1992.

Teague chaired the Standing Committee on Education and the Arts from 1981 to 1983. In March 1982 he initiated a reference to the committee to inquire into the development and implementation of a co-ordinated language policy for Australia. Teague had carefully prepared the ground for this inquiry, gathering cross-party support which ensured that his referral motion found ‘ready acceptance’. Teague’s ‘obvious intellectual interest in, and considerable grasp of, language issues revealed itself throughout the inquiry’. The committee’s report, A National Language Policy for Australia (1985), was described in the media as the ‘foundation document for Australia’s official language and literacy policy’. The report incorporated a chapter devoted to Aboriginal languages which included a statement that Australia had ‘a special obligation to foster and develop its unique, indigenous linguistic heritage’. This statement reflected Teague’s own sustained engagement with Aboriginal issues.

Teague’s interest in education policy was not limited to language education. He also spoke about the financing of secondary and higher education, and the provision of financial assistance to tertiary students, in 1985 accusing the Hawke Government of waging ‘a war of attrition … against non-government schools’ through its funding policies.[2]

Teague’s active engagement with Aboriginal issues began in his undergraduate days at the University of Adelaide when he had been the director of the university’s Aboriginal scholarship scheme. During his first few months in the Senate, Teague asked about future funding for the Aboriginal Community College in North Adelaide, and referred to ‘the immediate need for the training of young Aboriginal persons as teacher aides among Aboriginal communities’. From 1980 to 1986 Teague was the Parliamentary Representative on the Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

During his first ten years in the Senate Teague ‘visited the Pitjantjatjara people regularly each year’. He was an unequivocal supporter of the High Court’s recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander native title rights in the landmark Mabo judgment. In the following year Teague proposed amendments to legislation concerning the structure of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). The amendments, which succeeded with the support of the Democrats, provided for the appointment of two of the nineteen ATSIC commissioners by the government and for the chairman of ATSIC to be appointed by the government. Teague argued ‘additional accountability’ mechanisms were needed given the substantial government funding to ATSIC.

Towards the end of his Senate career Teague became involved in the controversy over plans to construct a bridge across the Murray River, between Hindmarsh Island and the town of Goolwa, SA. In July 1994 Robert Tickner (MHR, Hughes), Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs in the Keating Government, gazetted a declaration banning work on the Hindmarsh Island bridge for twenty-five years, after having received a report into the proposed project. The minister had commissioned Professor Cheryl Saunders to inquire into and report on claims that Aboriginal heritage sites would be damaged by the construction of the bridge. Among other evidence, Saunders accepted that the area around the bridge held particular significance for Ngarrindjeri women. On 11 October 1994 Teague moved a motion to disallow Tickner’s declaration. While he emphasised that he was not questioning the sincerity of the Ngarrindjeri spiritual beliefs, Teague argued that the evidence relating to the women had been ‘contrived to meet the concerns of the environmental lobby’, could not be articulated clearly, and was not supported by previous anthropological records. For Teague, a key motive for his involvement in the Hindmarsh bridge affair was ‘justice’ for those involved in the bridge building project: ‘especially when their rights are being cut across by the unilateral action of a powerful minister in Canberra’. The disallowance motion was narrowly defeated the following day.[3]

In 1983 Teague became a founder and co-convenor of the Parliamentary Disarmament Group, also advocating for disarmament as a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. In December 1986 he organised a well-attended Australian Parliamentary Disarmament Forum, which included arms control officials and ambassadors from the five nuclear powers of that time, and twelve months later Teague successfully moved a motion for the Senate to ‘acknowledge the importance’ of the agreement made between the United States and the USSR to eliminate intermediate range nuclear weapons. The motion concluded with the statement that ‘there is a need to maintain effective deterrence and a strong Western alliance’. Despite his ‘passion for peace’, Teague rejected pacifism, later offering his full support to Australian involvement in the 1991 Gulf War.

On 1 August 1988, the then Leader of the Opposition, John Howard, made public statements suggesting that the rate of Asian immigration could be curbed, contradicting the Liberal Party’s established policy of non-discrimination. Teague, who was chairman of the Coalition’s backbench immigration committee, was one of a number of prominent Liberal parliamentarians, state and federal, who criticised Howard, describing his remarks as ‘objectionable’. Subsequent remarks by the National Party Deputy Leader, John Stone, that ‘Asian immigration has to be slowed’ exacerbated tensions within the Coalition. Teague declared that it was ‘essential’ that the party repudiate Stone’s statement. Later that month, at a joint party room meeting, the Coalition agreed to accept the principle of ‘sovereignty’, asserting Australia’s right to determine the size and composition of the immigration program in response to changed circumstances. Media reported that although Teague found the new policy offensive he was appeased by colleagues who confirmed that the party’s commitment to the principle of nondiscrimination was not at risk. In response, he committed to remain vigilant in defending the principle. Years later, Teague confirmed that he had warned Howard at the time that ‘the public won’t wear racism’.

Notwithstanding his role in publicly contesting the terms of his party’s new immigration policy, Teague chose to vote against a subsequent Labor motion that sought to condemn the use of race or ethnicity as criteria upon which to base future immigration policy. He justified his actions by labelling the motion a political ploy ‘cleverly aimed to discredit the coalition’s position’ and highlighted that ‘no coalition policy makes specific reference to a region or a race’.[4]

Teague’s engagement with Asia, especially China, was a constant theme of his career, continuing from his student days through to his speeches and committee work in the Senate. Teague visited China in three consecutive years from 1985, finding that the country had achieved an enormous amount of progress when compared to his first visit twenty years earlier. In 1987 he told the Senate that the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 had resulted in a greater degree of freedom in China, including the flourishing of Christian churches and the adoption of a multicultural approach towards minority groups. He anticipated the ‘dramatic prospect’ of greatly expanded trade between China and Australia, and urged increased educational and cultural exchanges.

In February 1991 Teague acknowledged that ‘the deadly tragedy’ of the ‘massacre’ at Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989 had been devastating for those who had become optimistic about expanding relations with China. However, he went on to argue that, given two years had passed, it was time for Australia to end its imposition of sanctions and normalise relations with the Chinese regime. Teague’s argument was supported by a thorough analysis of the background to the events of 4 June 1989 and of reactions within China to those events. He pointed out that deaths only occurred in Beijing: ‘There were no massacres anywhere else in China’. He argued forcefully that China had ‘nothing more to learn’ from international sanctions because ‘the great majority of Chinese officials … have felt from the beginning the horror and rebuke of the Tiananmen events’. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Gareth Evans, promptly acknowledged Teague’s ‘substantial contribution’ to the national debate on China.

During his final week in the Senate, Teague endorsed the report of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, Australia-China Relations. He was ‘directly involved in the formulation of the terms of reference’ and described the report, three years in the making, as ‘a comprehensive assessment’ of all major aspects of the relationship between Australia and China, including human rights and the situations of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Teague did not limit his attention to China. He also pressed for closer ties with Latin America and in 1995 was awarded Chile’s highest honour for non-Chileans, the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins.[5]

Teague was very much a ‘small-l’ liberal, telling an interviewer in 1999 that ‘there would be few in the Liberal Party further to the left than me’. However, he was also regarded as a ‘very committed’ member of the party, crossing the floor only once during his eighteen years in the Senate. In May 1987 he was one of seven Liberal senators who crossed the floor to vote in support of the third reading of the Hawke Government’s Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Bill. Teague endorsed descriptions of his party’s objections to the bill as ‘specious’, ‘pedantic’ and ‘hollow’, and declared that he had ‘not felt so moved by any legislation until now … This bill involves a principle which I feel very deeply about—equality of opportunity. I honestly want to put my feet where my heart and mind are’.

In May 1993 Teague gave notice of a motion that the Senate consider options for ‘the minimum constitutional changes necessary to achieve a viable federal republic of Australia’. In August of the following year, he explained to the Senate why he believed ‘we should move in Australia to an Australian head of state’. This made him the first federal Liberal parliamentarian to advocate an Australian republic in Parliament, reportedly ‘in defiance of the wish of senior figures’ in the Liberal Party. His reasons for advocating constitutional change included a desire that Australia’s head of state should bear allegiance only to Australia and a belief that the gender and religious biases inherent in the monarchy are no longer tolerable. Shortly before leaving the Senate at the end of June 1996 Teague introduced a private senator’s bill, ‘to alter the Constitution to provide for a President of the Commonwealth of Australia’. The bill did not proceed beyond Teague’s second reading speech.[6]

On 1 December 1994 Teague informed the Senate that he would not be contesting the next election. Although he had only just turned fifty, he explained that he ‘would rather go a little early than stay on a little too long’. His main reason for leaving Parliament was personal: he wished to spend ‘much more time’ with his wife and children, and with his parents. Teague retired from the Senate on 30 June 1996. In his final Senate speech he re-stated the core principles that had underpinned his career in federal politics: ‘truth and justice, compassion, excellence, practical common sense, equality of opportunity and the Australian sense of a fair go’.

In late 1997, representing the Australian Republican Movement, Teague was elected as a South Australian delegate to the 1998 Constitutional Convention, held in Canberra. In 2004 he made a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee, in which he put forward a ‘minimal change’ proposal for the achievement of an Australian Republic.

Teague served as a member of the Council of the University of Adelaide (1995–97, 2003–04). He was a member of the Council of governors of St Peter’s College (1997–2010), and chairman of the college’s history committee (2000–11). He has served as people’s warden and lay reader at St Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide, and as a member of the Anglican synod of the diocese of Adelaide.

In the Senate valedictories for Teague, senators generally agreed that he was ‘very courteous’ and ‘the gentleman of parliament’. The strength of his Christian faith was also acknowledged. His South Australian friend and Liberal colleague, Senator Robert Hill, noted that Teague was ‘committed to advancing public policy’ and Labor Senator John Faulkner (NSW) said that Teague had treated his responsibilities as a senator ‘with a very great degree of seriousness’, and had ‘been a very significant contributor’. NSW Liberal Senator John Tierney, after highlighting Teague’s ‘very high reputation’ for policy development and his ‘excellent work, firstly in education and later in foreign affairs’, stated:

But what we remember particularly about Baden are his personal qualities, qualities that are rare in human beings and extremely rare in politicians. Baden is without guile, despite 18 years in the place. His nature and character have not been altered by this institution and its people. But I feel that, by his example, he has in some ways affected all of us.[7]

Carol Fort

[1] Chronicle (Adel.), 21 Sept. 1944, p. 4; Papers on Parliament No. 26, Aug. 1995, p. 20; Advertiser (Adel.), 4 Dec. 1942, p. 8; News (Adel.), 6 Nov. 1952, p. 19; Advertiser (Adel.), 4 Nov. 1941, p. 4, 8 Nov. 1951, p. 13; ‘Profile: Baden Teague’, House Magazine, 24 May 1983, p. 3; St Peters College Magazine, Dec. 1962, p. 50; Advertiser (Adel.), 10 Feb. 1954, p. 4; B. Teague, ‘The origins of Robert Boyle’s philosophy’, PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 1972; CPD, 5 Sept. 1989, pp. 1012–17, 10 Dec. 1987, pp. 2872–4; CT, 16 Feb. 1968, p. 11; CPD, 21 Feb. 1991, pp. 1072–3, 20 Dec. 1989, pp. 4960–2, 4 Nov. 1988, pp. 2068–70; CT, 15 Nov. 1978, p. 28; Marion Maddox, For God and Country: Religious Dynamics in Australian Federal Politics, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2001, p. 53; CPD, 13 May 1981, pp. 1900–3; Kerrie Round, As Many Lives as a Cat?, University of Adelaide Theatre Guild, 1999, pp. 77, 139–140; CPD, 27 June 1996, pp. 2463–8.

[2] CPD, 13 Sept. 1978, pp. 554–8, 27 June 1996, pp. 2463–8, 25 March 1982, pp. 1223–4; Uldis Ozolins, The Politics of Language in Australia, CUP, Melb., 1993, pp. 215–6; CT, 29 Sept. 1993, p. 16; CPD, 27 March 1985, pp. 896–8, 27 Feb. 1985, pp. 281–3.

[3] CPD, 27 May 1992, pp. 2771–5, 27 Sept. 1978, p. 970, 19 Oct. 1978, p. 1447; Senate, Journals, 26 Nov. 1980, p. 29, 23 Aug. 1983, p. 212; CPD, 6 June 1994, pp. 1324–9, 27 June 1996, pp. 2463–8, 19 Oct. 1994, pp. 1988–91, 19 May 1993, pp. 821–4, 863–5, 11 Oct. 1994, pp. 144–51, 12 Oct. 1994, pp. 1496, 1503–7, 29 May 1996, pp. 1287–91; Senate, Journals, 11 Oct. 1994, p. 2252, 12 Oct. 1994, p. 2260.

[4] CPD, 13 April 1988, pp. 1450–2; Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Disarmament and Arms Control in the Nuclear Age, Canberra, Nov. 1986; CPD, 25 Nov. 1986, pp. 267–9, 8 Oct. 1986, pp. 1034–7, 9 Dec. 1987, pp. 2758–62, 22–23 Jan. 1991, pp. 252–7; Paul Kelly, The End of Certainty: The Story of the 1980s, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW, 1992, pp. 423, 427; CT, 11 Aug 1988, p. 1, 19 Aug. 1988, p. 3, 23 Aug. 1988, pp. 1, 2; CPD (R), 25 Aug. 1988, pp. 402–9; M. Murray, ‘John Howard: a study in policy consistency’, PhD thesis, University of Adelaide, Aug. 2010, p. 183; CPD, 25–26 Aug. 1988, pp. 224–8, 352–7.

[5] CPD, 25 Feb. 1988, pp. 672–3; 14 Dec. 1987, pp. 3039–42, 11 Sept. 1985, pp. 480–1, 6 June 1989, pp. 3488–90, 12 Feb. 1991, pp. 365–72, 377–8, 26 June 1996, pp. 2266–8, 18 June 1992, pp. 3907–8; CT, 26 June 1995, p. 23.

[6] Maddox, For God and Country, p. 205; CPD, 27 June 1996, pp. 2451–2, 1 May 1987, pp. 2157–8, 5 May 1993, p. 95, 29 Aug. 1994, pp. 530–1; CT, 23 Aug. 1994, p. 3, 14 July 1994, p. 3, 30 Aug. 1994, p. 2; CPD, 25 June 1996, pp. 2125–7.

[7] CPD, 1 Dec. 1994, p. 3762, 27 June 1996, pp. 2463–8; Constitutional Convention, Transcript of Proceedings, 2 Feb. 1998, p. iii; B. Teague, Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee inquiry into an Australian Republic, 30 March 2004, p. 910; K. Thornton, The Message of its Walls & Fields: A History of St Peters College, 1847 to 2009, Wakefield Press, Mile End, SA, 2010, p. xii; CPD, 27 June 1996, pp. 2446–9, 2451–2, 2455–8, 2446–9, 2508–10.

This biography was first published in The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate, Vol. 4, 1983-2002, Department of the Senate, Canberra, 2017, pp. 270-275.

Auspic DPS

Auspic DPS

Commonwealth Parliament

Senator, SA, 1978–96 (Lib)

Senate Committee Service

Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, 1978–80

Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, 1978–87

Standing Committee on National Resources, 1978–80

Estimates Committees G, 1981–83; B, 1981–83;1992–94;1994; D, 1983–85; 1986–87; 1990–92; E, 1985–86; 1994; C, 1988–90

Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, 1981–83; 1985–87

Joint Standing Committee on the New Parliament House, 1981–84

Library Committee, 1981–85

Committee of Privileges, 1987–96

Select Committee on the Education of Gifted and Talented Children, 1987–88

Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training, 1987–90

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, 1987–94

Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, 1987–88

Joint Select Committee on Migration Regulations, 1989–90

Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, 1993–96

Joint Committee on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, 1993

Procedure Committee, 1993–96

Employment, Education and Training References Committee, 1994–96

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, 1994–96

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, 1994–96