John Thwaites (Australian politician)

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The Honourable
John Thwaites
John Thwaites (29 November 2002).jpg
22nd Deputy Premier of Victoria
In office
March, 1999 – 30 July 2007
Preceded by Pat McNamara
Succeeded by Rob Hulls
Constituency Albert Park
Personal details
Born (1955-10-15) 15 October 1955 (age 59)
Oxford, United Kingdom
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Melanie Eagle
Profession Barrister

Johnstone William "John" Thwaites (born 15 October 1955), Australian politician, was Deputy Premier of the state of Victoria from 1999 to 2007.

Early life[edit]

Thwaites was born in Oxford, in the United Kingdom, and came to Australia as a child with his family. He was educated at Melbourne Grammar School and Monash University, Melbourne, where he graduated in science and law. He practised as a barrister before entering politics. He was a ministerial advisor to Australian Labor Party state government ministers Jim Kennan and Andrew McCutcheon before being elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly for the seat of Albert Park.

Local council and Mayor[edit]

Thwaites was elected to the South Melbourne City Council in 1985 and served until 1993, and was Mayor in 1991-92. He is married to Melanie Eagle, who was mayor of the neighbouring city of St Kilda at the same time. Both councils are now part of the City of Port Phillip. Thwaites and Eagle have one son.

State Parliament[edit]

Thwaites entered Parliament at the 1992 election, as member for the inner city seat of Albert Park. Labor, having been in office for ten years, suffered a landslide defeat at the hands of the Liberal Party under Jeff Kennett. In the last three years of its term, Labor, under Joan Kirner, had presided over a sharp recession and a series of financial disasters including the forced sale of the State Bank of Victoria, and the collapse of Pyramid Building Society. Most commentators expected Labor to be in opposition for many years.

In the greatly reduced Labor Caucus, Thwaites gained rapid promotion. He became Shadow Minister for Health in January 1994, Shadow Minister for Health and Community Services in April 1996, and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in December 1996. Thwaites belongs to neither of the dominant factions of the Victorian Labor Party, the right-wing Labor Unity or the left-wing Socialist Left, and was an acceptable compromise candidate as Deputy to the then Opposition Leader, John Brumby.

Labor was again heavily defeated at the 1996 election, and it became apparent that the party could not recover under Brumby's leadership. Thwaites had been a loyal deputy to Brumby, although in March 1999 he supported moves to have Brumby resign. Thwaites could not become Leader himself because he had a small factional base, but instead supported Steve Bracks for the leadership.

Deputy Leader[edit]

In September 1999 Bracks polled surprisingly well in the election, and three rural independent members gave Labor the opportunity to govern as a minority government. As Deputy Leader, Thwaites became Deputy Premier and was given the senior Health portfolio, with a mandate to increase funding to the public health system which had been the subject of cutbacks under the Liberal government. He was also Minister for Planning from 1999 to February 2002. Like all state health ministers, he had only limited success in reducing waiting lists at public hospitals, but did succeed in restoring the numbers of nurses.

After the November 2002 state election, at which Labor was returned with a record majority, Thwaites asked for a less demanding role and was appointed Minister for Environment, Water and for Victorian Communities. However, in recent months these portfolios have seen the emergence of the water shortage crisis in regional Victoria and in his own electorate of Albert Park the Gas Works Park contamination issue is concerning the local council and residents as well as closure of Albert Park Secondary College at the end of 2006.

Thwaites was re-elected at Victorian elections 2006 with a comfortable but slightly reduced majority. While there was some speculation he might be dumped as Deputy Premier, Premier Bracks has supported him continuing in this role. In the cabinet re-shuffle after the election he became minister for climate change but lost the portfolio of Victorian communities.[1]

White anting[edit]

In June 2007, rumours of Steve Bracks resigning as premier, a series for leaks from inside government about Mr Thwaites and his family been given free accommodation, lift passes, food and drink at ski resorts over the last five years without declaring it. The family stayed at government-owned apartments at the invitation of the management boards, which he had appointed.[2][3]

Documents obtained under freedom-of-information laws show Thwaites made 17 taxpayer-funded visits to Victoria's snowfields and national parks between 2003 and 2007. He had eight stays at Tidal River on Wilsons Promontory, five trips to Mount Hotham and two each to Mount Buller and Falls Creek in the four years he was environment minister. Expenses for the trips, which each required at least one night's accommodation, totalled more than $17,500.[4]

Resignation[edit]

When Premier Steve Bracks announced his surprise resignation on 27 July 2007, only hours later Thwaites announced he too would resign.[5] He said he had been Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party in Victoria for ten years and it was now time "to give someone else a go and bring in some new blood".[6] He officially resigned on 30 July 2007.

Post-ministerial career[edit]

Since leaving politics, Thwaites has become a Professor at Monash University and Chair of its Sustainability Institute and ClimateWorks Australia. He is on the boards of the Climate Group (Chairman of Australian board),[7] and the Green Building Council.[8] He is also a consultant to the Sustainability and Climate Change group at Maddocks, an Australian law firm.[9]

In 2011, Thwaites was appointed as Chair of the Australian Building Codes Board, the body responsible for developing and managing Australia's building regulations. In 2012, he was appointed as Chair of the National Sustainability Council that provides independent advice to the Australian Government on sustainability issues and produces independent reports on sustainability indicators and trends.

References[edit]

Victorian Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Bunna Walsh
Member for Albert Park
1992–2007
Succeeded by
Martin Foley