Parliament Condolences

Condolences - Hon Ian Robert Cathie

Tuesday 14th November 2017

Hon. Ian Robert Cathie

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) (12:24:10) — Ian Robert Cathie was born on 24 October 1932 in Melbourne. He was educated in the state primary school system, Wesley College and at Queen’s College at Melbourne University, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts with honours and a diploma of education. Before entering politics, as has already been said, Ian was a teacher of some 13 years standing, including time as a senior education master at Frankston High School. As someone who was involved in public life, Ian also had many community roles as well. One notable role that I picked out was that he was an honorary probation officer for something like six years, which would have been a demanding role in that position.

As has been said, Ian was an MLC for South Eastern Province from October 1964 until June 1970, when he was defeated, and he was the MLA for Carrum from March 1976 through to when he retired in September 1988. Ian held a number of ministries in the Cain government, including Minister of Housing, Minister of Economic Development and Minister for Industry, Commerce and Technology. As has been said, his role as Minister for Education from 1985 to 1987 was probably the highlight of his ministerial career because it was the portfolio that he had a passion for. He was also the Minister for the Arts and Minister Assisting the Minister for Education with responsibility for Post‑Secondary Education, from 1987 to 1988.

When Ian stood for South Eastern Province it was a by‑election and an election that the Labor Party was not expected to win. In a subsequent interview in 1985 Ian talked about the fact that it was very hard to actually find a candidate for that election and that particular seat. He put his hand up and, as has been said, with an 11.5 per cent swing he won that seat by 2 per cent and then went on to serve that area for two terms.

In his inaugural speech when elected to the Legislative Council he talked about the need for education and he talked about change. You could equally make those comments today — about how we live in a new age, the age of science, the age of technology and the age of electronics, where skills and training are important if the nation is to develop and survive in the future and the wholly competitive world of that time. I think those comments are equally applicable today.

What is also interesting when reading Ian’s inaugural speech is that he had quite a bit to say about the funding of libraries. He talked about the number of shillings that were spent per book per child and the fact that government grants to libraries were capped at £100. That probably dates his speech as he is talking about pre‑decimal currency at that time.

He also talked about the need to have trained bursars in schools to take the workload off teachers and keep them from dealing with administrative issues in schools. He said there was a need for these bursars. We now see those bursars are in place in schools today. They free up teachers to actually do teaching time.

Ian also talked about the disparity between more affluent schools versus some schools in his area, which had assembly halls, sporting grounds and those extra facilities that schools need. He had a particular focus on technical schools, particularly mentioning the Wonthaggi and Frankston technical schools. He was obviously very interested in education from his time as a teacher through to when he came into Parliament.

It is interesting that when Ian stood for the seat of Carrum he actually talked about the trains and buses and the need to coordinate the services better to make sure the trains ran on time and make sure the buses were clean. Equally I think many a member of Parliament in this place has probably made similar speeches in their election pitches to the people of their particular electorate. I suppose it would be applicable down the Frankston line today as it was back at that particular time.

Ian immersed himself into parliamentary life and into Labor Party politics. I was interested to note some of the changes in the leadership of the Labor Party at that time. Ian actually lost his shadow portfolio for backing John Cain against Frank Wilkes, but they created an extra portfolio the day after so Ian could go back into shadow cabinet —

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr WALSH — It’s interesting, isn’t it? But the biggest loss at that time was that Ian was demoted from the eight‑man administrative committee of the parliamentary Labor Party at that particular time — the true power.

Like a lot of MPs, while Ian was a member of Parliament he was immersed in his community. He was the number one member of the Chelsea Football Club. They were very happy about having Ian sign up as the number one member. In that particular news article, one of the claims to fame of the Chelsea Football Club mentioned was that the great Hawthorn star Leigh Matthews apparently started his career with that particular football club.

While Ian was in Parliament I noticed that he had the luxury of a six‑week overseas study tour. I think anyone who has done an overseas study tour would only dream of having that much time. It is more like six days now. I wonder what the press of today would have written about Ian’s six‑week study tour, when he went to America, Canada and the UK.

It was interesting that he talked at that time about the election between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan for President, and the comments he made were that a lot of Americans had said to him that they would prefer not to vote than to have to vote for either of those two candidates — very reminiscent of the recent election that we have just had in the US.

He spoke at one stage, having been an upper house member, about the fact that he would actually like to abolish the upper house. That was an interesting idea that obviously did not get very far.

I suppose, as has already been said, Ian was a reformer in the education portfolio, and like a lot of ministers who are reformers, if you go through the press clips, he started off when he was first appointed as the Minister for Education with the union actually wishing him the best in his new portfolio in April 1985. By 7 April 1987 the teachers had lost respect for their minister. There was a huge fight because he was trying to drive change into the education system, and he was accused of making cuts of $55 million in the spending of that particular portfolio.

He went on to gain the nickname of ‘the truck driver’ because he was trying to drive change through the education system at that particular time. I think as anyone here could relate, if a minister wants to bring change into a portfolio, it is not easy, but he was, as has been said by previous speakers, someone that was very committed to the education system and making sure that students had the best possible educational outcome over that time.

As has been said, when he retired from politics he took on a role as the chief commissioner for the City of Greater Dandenong with the council mergers in 1985, and he carried out that role with distinction. Ian did have a very lengthy parliamentary career spanning both houses from 1964 to 1988 — quite an extensive career. I pass on my condolences to Ian’s family. Vale, Ian Cathie.


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