Janine Haines dies aged 59
November 21, 2004 - 9:07PM/ the AGE
Janine Haines, the first Australian Democrats senator and first woman to lead an Australian political party, has died aged 59.
She had been suffering from a long-term neurological condition.
Ms Haines became the first Democrats senator to sit in federal parliament in December 1977 when she was chosen by the South Australian parliament to fill a casual vacancy caused by the resignation of Liberal Movement Senator Steele Hall.
She beat the founder of the Democrats, Don Chipp, into the Senate by 12 months.
In 1986, Ms Haines became the first woman to lead an Australian political party when she took over the Democrats leadership from the retiring Senator Chipp.
She was a highly popular leader, whose personal ratings generally outstripped the polling for her party.
In 1990, Senator Haines sacrificed her seat and her job in an unsuccessful attempt to win the South Australian seat of Kingston in the House of Representatives.
The move was prompted by the need to run a high-profile campaign to ensure the party could retain the balance of power in the Senate.
Ms Haines believed the bid for the lower house was necessary to try to head off a collapse in the party's vote nationally.
She won a creditable 26.4 per cent of the vote but failed to win enough preferences to take the seat.
Yet the campaign helped the Democrats win record support of more than 1.25 million votes and 12.6 per cent of the vote.
The party easily held the important balance of power in the Senate by winning second seats in South Australia, NSW and Victoria.
By comparison, the Democrats managed just 144,832 first preference votes in last month's federal election, or 1.24 per cent of the vote.
After the 1990 election, Janet Powell succeeded Ms Haines as party leader while former Democrats leader and now independent senator Meg Lees filled the vacancy caused by her resignation.
It was Senator Lees who announced Ms Haines' death tonight, describing her as a truly great Australian, a friend and an inspiration.
In 2001, Ms Haines received an AM in the Queen's Birthday honours for her contribution to politics and the community.
"I'm thrilled and proud,'' she said on receiving the award.
Since leaving politics, Ms Haines has served on a range of boards and was president of the Australian Privacy Charter Council for three years.
She was also Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Adelaide University.
Ms Haines was survived by her husband of 37 years, Ian, daughters Melanie and Bronwyn and three grandchildren.