Peter Andren, Australian MP dies aged 61

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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Peter Andren.
Image: peterandren4senate.com.
Peter Andren and Tony Windsor vote to force a review of the AUSFTA.
Image: Calare Independent.

Australian federal member of Calare, Peter Andren died on Saturday after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. He was aged 61.

Mr Andren who had held the seat since being elected in 1996 had previously announced his intention to run for the senate after his electorate was changed for the 2007 federal election. After Mr Andren was diagnosed with cancer in July, he announced that he would be retiring from politics at the election.

Mr Andren's 1996 campaign platform was based upon retaining services in regional Australia, particularly banking, health and telecommunications. Over the next 11 years, Mr Andren's primary vote grew and at the 2001 and 2004 elections was elected without preferences, achieving a majority primary vote.

In 2001, Mr Andren disagreed with his electorate on refugees. The electorate supported the government's tough stance but Mr Andren could not support the government's border protection measures. Following this, a vicious letter-box campaign rose up saying "you might like Peter Andren ... but you won't like what he's got to say about keeping our borders safe".

Fellow NSW independent member, Tony Windsor said Mr Andren's stance on asylum seekers was just one sign of his compassion and strong belief in human rights.

Mr Windsor described Mr Andren as the "conscience" of parliament. "Peter Andren was a true representative of the people of the Calare electorate, a man of the highest integrity and the conscience of the Parliament," he said.

"He was subjected to vitriol from time to time within the Parliament over issues, but if he believed in something he stuck to it. He didn't compromise and I think that's a lasting legacy that Peter will leave."

Prime Minister John Howard said despite having a difference of opinion with Mr Andren on many issues, he had a lot of respect for him.

"I respected his skills as a local member," he said.

"Mr Andren and I frequently disagreed on major issues and he made no bones about that and I made no bones about it either but that didn't stop me respecting him and acknowledging the tremendous work he did for his electorate."

Labor leader Kevin Rudd described Mr Andren as a true independent.

"Peter Andren will be a great loss to the Australian parliament," he said.

"He was a man of principle, a man of commitment, a man who was an absolute independent."

Leader of the Greens, Bob Brown said Mr Andren was an example of how a politician should be.

"He was an exemplar of representative politics for his electorate and the people of Calare kept returning him with a bigger and bigger majority," he said.

"[If] anybody ever asks me how a politician should be, I am going to say, 'Look at the record of Peter Andren'"

"He was a great Australian representative and he is a great loss to this country."

During his political career, Mr Andren fought the sale of Telstra, introduced a bill to allow MPs to opt-out of their generous superannuation schemes, opposed the Iraq war and campaigned on environmental issues.

Mr Andren was born at Gulargambone, near Dubbo in Western NSW in 1946. Before he entered politics Mr Andren worked as a teacher before moving into journalism. Mr Andren worked as a news producer in Sydney for the Seven and Nine networks, before moving back to regional NSW where he worked as the news editor for both Radio 2GZ and Prime Television.

Mr Andren is survived by his partner and two sons.

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