Jeannie Ferris

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Jeannie Ferris
Jeannie Ferris
Senator for South Australia
In office
1 July 1996 – 12 July 1996
In office
24 July 1996 – 2 April 2007
Succeeded by Simon Birmingham
Personal details
Born (1941-03-14)14 March 1941
Auckland, New Zealand
Died 2 April 2007(2007-04-02) (aged 66)
Canberra, ACT, Australia
Political party Liberal Party of Australia

Jeannie Margaret Ferris (14 March 1941 – 2 April 2007) was an Australian politician, lobbyist, journalist, and Liberal Senator for South Australia. She was educated at Monash University, where she graduated in agricultural economics.

Ferris was born Jeanne Margaret Whitlow in Auckland, New Zealand.[1] During the period between her endorsement as a candidate for the 1996 election and 1 July 1996, when she took her seat, Ferris was employed by Senator Nick Minchin. It was suggested that this constituted holding "of office of profit under the Crown", which under section 44 of the Constitution could have rendered her election invalid, although the writ had not been returned and she was technically not a senator-elect.[2] To avoid any possibility of this, she resigned from the Senate on 12 July 1996, and was immediately re-appointed by the Parliament of South Australia to the vacancy caused by her own resignation.

In December 2003, Ferris was involved in the resignation of Senator Andrew Bartlett as leader of the Australian Democrats, after an incident at Parliament House. Bartlett had earlier in the evening stolen five bottles of wine from a Liberal Party Christmas function, which Ferris had sent staff to retrieve. At around 10:30 pm Ferris confronted Bartlett, who was drunk. Bartlett approached Ferris on the floor of the Senate chamber, allegedly grabbing her arm and calling her a "fucking bitch". He then supposedly followed her out of the chamber while verbally abusing her. The next morning Bartlett apologised in writing to Ferris, although she considered the inclusion of a bottle of wine with Bartlett's letter of apology "quite inappropriate ... as an apology for drunken behaviour involving abuse and a physical attack."[3]

Ferris was Deputy Government Whip in the Senate from 2001 to 2002 and was Government Whip in the Senate from August 2002 until her death. A year after her diagnosis with ovarian cancer in October 2005, Ferris formed a parliamentary inquiry into gynaecological cancers with Senators Lyn Allison and Claire Moore, which led to a unanimous report across party lines calling for increased research and awareness of the cancers.[4] The Commonwealth Government later agreed to the report's recommendations.[5]

Ferris succumbed to the disease in Canberra, on 2 April 2007.[6] Her former husband, Bob Ferris, with whom she maintained a close friendship since their divorce in the 1980s, was killed in a road accident three days later on 5 April 2007.[7] Ferris is survived by two sons, Robert and Jeremy.[7]

Following Jeannie's death, a DVD produced by Kay Stammers with support from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing was dedicated in her memory.[8]

Simon Birmingham was appointed on 3 May 2007 to fill the casual vacancy created by Jeannie Ferris's death. He had already been selected to replace Ferris as a candidate at the 2007 federal election.


  1. ^ Death Notice: FERRIS, Jeannie Margaret nee Whitlow, New Zealand Herald, 3 April 2007.
  2. ^ Kalokerinos, John: Who May Sit? An Examination of the Parliamentary Disqualification Provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution, Parliament of Australia, June 2001; Holland, Ian: Section 44 of the Constitution Archived 11 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine., Parliamentary Library E-Brief, March 2004.
  3. ^ Disgraced leader steps aside, The Age, 7 December 2003. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
  4. ^ Breaking the Silence: A National Voice for Gynaecological Cancers, Canberra, October 2006. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
  5. ^ Commonwealth Government Response to the Committee's Report: Breaking the silence: a national voice for gynaecological cancers, Canberra, February 2007. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
  6. ^ Kelton, Greg. "Jeannie Ferris dies", The Advertiser, 2 April 2007. Retrieved on 2007-04-02.
  7. ^ a b Veness, Peter. "Jeannie Ferris' ex-husband dies in crash", Australian Associated Press, 5 April 2007.
  8. ^ Facing Ovarian Cancer, Media One (2008). Retrieved on 2008-06-28.

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