On this day…. Janine Haines

On 18 August 1986, Janine Haines became the leader of the Australian Democrats and Australia’s first female party leader.

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’ 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]

Read more from her Parliamentary Biography.

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