Gary Nairn

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Gary Nairn
Nairn in 2018
Special Minister of State
In office
27 January 2006 – 3 December 2007
Prime MinisterJohn Howard
Preceded byEric Abetz
Succeeded byJohn Faulkner
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Eden-Monaro
In office
2 March 1996 – 24 November 2007
Preceded byJim Snow
Succeeded byMike Kelly
Personal details
Born(1951-01-03)3 January 1951
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died1 June 2024(2024-06-01) (aged 73)
Queensland, Australia
Political partyLiberal Party of Australia
Alma materUniversity of New South Wales

Gary Roy Nairn AO (3 January 1951 – 1 June 2024) was an Australian politician.

Early life


Nairn was born in Sydney on 3 January 1951, and was educated at Sydney Boys High School from 1963 to 1968[1] before attending University of New South Wales. He was a surveyor in private practice and managing director of a surveying and mapping consultancy before entering politics. He moved to the Northern Territory where he lived for many years.[2] He was the President of the Country Liberal Party between 1990 and 1994, during which time the CLP won two elections with an increased vote.[3]

Federal political career


Nairn returned to New South Wales and in March 1996, was elected a Liberal Party of Australia member of the Australian House of Representatives, representing the seat of Eden-Monaro.

In 2003, he headed a federal inquiry into the 2003 Canberra bushfires. He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister John Howard in October 2004. In January 2006, he was promoted to the front bench as Special Minister of State which included responsibilities with Ministerial and Parliamentary Services, the Australian Government Information Management Office, Australian Electoral Commission, Defence Housing Authority, and Film Australia.[2] He served in Howard's outer ministry.

Nairn's hold on Eden-Monaro was always rather tenuous. For most of the time since the late 1960s, the seat has been highly marginal; it had been held by the party of government without interruption since 1972. Even in the midst of a massive swing to the Coalition in 2004, for instance, Nairn only managed a swing of 0.4 percent.

In the 2007 federal election, Nairn lost his seat to Labor candidate Mike Kelly. Nairn was one of five members of the Howard ministry to lose their seats at the election. Howard also lost his own seat of Bennelong.

Phelps-Kelly controversy


In September 2007, Nairn's chief of staff, Peter Phelps, engaged in a heated verbal exchange with the Labor Party candidate for Eden-Monaro, Mike Kelly at a forum on the Iraq War in Queanbeyan, New South Wales. At the meeting Phelps claimed that Mike Kelly was a hypocrite as a former soldier running for the ALP when they are opposed to the war in Iraq. Phelps stated at the meeting that he thought Kelly was using the Nuremberg defence, and compared it to the kind of defence used by guards at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.[4] Nairn did not agree with his staffer's sentiments.[5]

National Spatial Action Agenda, ANZLIC and SIBA


During his time in Parliament, Nairn worked closely with Warwick Watkins who was the Chairman of ANZLIC, the Australian New Zealand Land Information Council (also known as the Spatial Information Council) to advocate federal government support for the National Spatial Action Agenda and other related initiatives including the Australian Spatial Consortium (ASC) and the Cooperative Research Centre, CRC for Spatial Information (CRC-SI). Further, Nairn worked closely with the Australian Spatial Information Business Association (ASIBA), which later changed its name to the Spatial Information Business Association (SIBA), to support the agenda.

Nairn advocated the Agenda to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet and was supported by ASIBA and ANZLIC throughout. Arising from these efforts, Warren Entsch, then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, launched the establishment of a steering group to drive the Spatial Information Industry Action Agenda in November 2000.[6]

The Action Agenda was released in September 2001. Under the Spatial Information Industry Action Agenda, on 25 September 2001, then Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, Senator Nick Minchin announced a $2 million Grant to a consortium of private "spatial firms" to increase the effectiveness of spatial information. ASIBA was identified as the industry body to lead most of the responsibility under the action agenda. Minchin also identified the key intergovernmental roles of ANZLIC under the Action Agenda. Nairn continued his support for the agenda until he lost his federal seat in November 2007 election. Thereafter, he remained engaged through ASIBA/SIBA. In 2012, Nairn was appointed the Chair of SIBA.[7][8][9][10]

Nairn, in his role as Special Minister of State, announced the establishment of ASC, with initial membership including ANZLIC, ASIBA and CRC-SI. Watkins was designated as Chairman of the ASC Steering Committee. ASC was reported as being established “to accelerate the unlocking of the potential of spatial information for economic, environmental and social benefit for Australia within key industries, and the development of tools, new technologies and capabilities relating to the fundamental future needs of the nation.” The actual role and achievements, if any of ASC, remain vague.[11]

Under the National Spatial Information Industry Action Agenda, the CRC-SI was established in 2003 and launched by Nairn after significant advocacy by ANZLIC led by Watkins and also ASIBA. In its 2011-12 Annual Report (page 12), CRC-SI reported that Watkins, a Director of CRC-SI since inception, had resigned from the CRC-SI Board following his retirement from the NSW Public Service. The CRC-SI reporting was false as Watkins was officially sacked by the NSW government.[12]

There is no doubt there has been much controversy with the spatial industry development in Australia, linked to key figures like Watkins and Elizabeth O'Keeffe and the roles of ASIBA/SIBA and ANZLIC.

Watkins was subsequently sacked by the NSW government over the illegal Currawong land deal, on which Watkins lied to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in delivering its official findings in December 2011 reported that Watkins acted corruptly. Watkins admitted to ICAC he had used a letter backdated by former planning minister Tony Kelly to mislead investigators. Watkins was subsequently convicted on two of four criminal charges. Watkins was the only person charged and convicted.

Elizabeth O'Keeffe, the ANZLIC delegate for Victoria, represented Watkins on the steering committee for the Spatial Information Industry Action Agenda until July 2002, when she was reportedly sacked from her position as Executive Director, Land Victoria. It was also reported that O’Keeffe had approved an illegal $100,000 contract for ASIBA to “lobby her own Minister” Sherryl Garbutt to promote the Spatial Information Industry Action Agenda. However, it was also disclosed in the Victorian Parliament that O'Keeffe's primary agenda in engaging the ASIBA lobbyist was to discredit the Surveyor-General as well as the professional and industry bodies, the Institution of Surveyors Victoria and the Association of Consulting Surveyors Victoria. The contract was agreed between O'Keeffe and then ASIBA Chairman, Tony Wheeler, and then ASIBA Chief Executive Officer, David Hocking. The contract was signed with the concurrence of O'Keeffe's superiors, Minister Garbutt and Department Secretary Chloe Munro. Following adverse media and Opposition reporting of its illegality, the contract was found to not be appropriate and was cancelled after the first tranche of $25,000 was paid to ASIBA.[13][14]

O'Keeffe was also to depart from her public service appointment under controversial circumstances. On 12 July 2002, the prominent Melbourne newspaper, The Age, reported that O’Keeffe had separated from Land Victoria and that the Opposition claimed she had been sacked. O'Keeffe threatened legal action against anyone claiming she had been sacked. The media reporting of O'Keeffe's departure as a sacking continued, but there was no reported legal action taken by O'Keeffe.[14]

Centre for Spatial Data Infrastructures and Land Administration (CSDILA), University of Melbourne


Nairn chaired the CSDILA Advisory Committee until his death.[15]



From 2018 to 2024, Nairn was the Chairman of The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award of Australia where he oversaw major restructuring and record growth in the use of the Duke of Edinburgh in Australia.

Personal life and death


Nairn was married to Rose and had two children.[16] His first wife, Kerrie, died from cancer in 2005.[17]

Nairn died from cancer in Queensland, on 1 June 2024, at the age of 73.[17]


  1. ^ "Members of parliament and legislatures" (PDF). Sydney High School Old Boys Union. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 March 2019. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b "The Hon Gary Nairn MP". Senators and Members of the Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 4 November 2021.
  3. ^ "Eden-Monaro(Key Seat)". Australia Votes 2007. ABC. Retrieved 28 October 2007.
  4. ^ Bradford, Gillian (1 September 2007). "Govt puts up fight in Parliament". Radio National: PM. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 19 September 2007.
  5. ^ "The Hon Gary Nairn MP, Member for Eden-Monaro (NSW): Questions Without Notice" (PDF). Hansard. Parliament of Australia. 19 September 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2008.
  6. ^ "ParlInfo – Entsch welcomes spatial industry initiative". Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  7. ^ Spatial Source 27 Nov 2012,
  8. ^ Positioning for Growth: Spatial Information Industry Action Agenda September 2001
  9. ^ Media Release Senator Nick Minchin 25 September 2001 01/422 Federal Boost for Spatial Information Industry,;fileType=application%2Fpdf#search=%22media/pressrel/JZ056%22
  10. ^ Cho, George (27 September 2005). Geographic Information Science: Mastering the Legal Issues. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780470013557 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ CRC-SI Announcement,
  12. ^ CRC-SI Annual Report 2011-12,
  13. ^ "Parliament of Victoria, Hansard, Legislative Assembly, 17 April 2002 (extract from Book 4)" (PDF).
  14. ^ a b Elizabeth O’Keeffe, DNRE email-memo, "Article in the Age", 12 July 2002
  15. ^ CSDILA People,
  16. ^ Jacobs, Genevieve (2 June 2024). "Farewell to Gary Nairn AO, former parliamentarian and committed community servant". Riotact. Retrieved 2 June 2024.
  17. ^ a b "'Well respected' Gary Nairn dies in Queensland". Canberra CityNews. 3 June 2024. Retrieved 3 June 2024.


Parliament of Australia
Political offices
Preceded by Special Minister of State
Succeeded by
Australian House of Representatives
Preceded by Member for Eden-Monaro
Succeeded by