Moss Cass

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The Honourable
Moss Cass
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Maribyrnong
In office
25 October 1969 – 4 February 1983
Preceded by Philip Stokes
Succeeded by Alan Griffiths
Personal details
Born (1927-02-18) 18 February 1927 (age 90)
Narrogin, Western Australia
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Alma mater University of Sydney
Occupation Medical Doctor, paediatrician

Moses Henry "Moss" Cass (born 18 February 1927) is a former member of the Australian House of Representatives. Born in Narrogin, Western Australia, Cass was educated in state schools before graduating in Medicine from the University of Sydney and was employed as a Fellow at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne and as Director of the Melbourne-based Trade Union Clinic and Research Centre. His union activities led to his pre-selection as the Labor candidate for the federal seat of Maribyrnong, which he won from the Liberals in 1969. Cass became part of the first national Labor government in 23 years when Gough Whitlam led the ALP to power in the 1972 election.

Appointed Minister for the Environment and Conservation, in 1975 Cass led parliamentarians and ALP branch members in expressing concerns about the effects of uranium mining. A key concern was the adverse effect that uranium mining would have on the northern Aboriginal people. Cass said: "nuclear energy creates the most dangerous, insidious and persistent waste products, ever experienced on the planet".[1]

Cass was unsuccessful in seeking to prevent the flooding of Lake Pedder in Tasmania. Nonetheless he did lay the groundwork for the end of sandmining on Fraser Island and government protection of the Great Barrier Reef.

Retiring from politics in 1983, Cass is now a Patron of the Sustainable Living Foundation and chair of the Australian National Biocentre [1]. He is an Honorary Fellow at the School of Social and Environmental Enquiry, University of Melbourne.

Cass is incorrectly believed by some to be the originator of the saying, "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children" (although a similar paraphrase was used earlier by the environmental activist Wendell Berry).[2] On 13 November 1974, when Cass was Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, he gave a speech in Paris to the meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Borrowing heavily from Native American proverbs and traditions, he said:

"We rich nations, for that is what we are, have an obligation not only to the poor nations, but to all the grandchildren of the world, rich and poor. We have not inherited this earth from our parents to do with it what we will. We have borrowed it from our children and we must be careful to use it in their interests as well as our own. Anyone who fails to recognise the basic validity of the proposition put in different ways by increasing numbers of writers, from Malthus to The Club of Rome, is either ignorant, a fool, or evil."

Cass' version was a longer explanation than the original, traditional proverb.


  1. ^ Jim Falk (1982). Global Fission: The Battle Over Nuclear Power, Oxford University Press, p. 258.
  2. ^ Quote Investigator, Accessed 30 March 2013.
Political offices
Preceded by
Gough Whitlam
Minister for the Environment and Conservation
Succeeded by
Jim Cairns
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Philip Stokes
Member for Maribyrnong
Succeeded by
Alan Griffiths