Andrew Herington was a good friend of Open Labor. We grieve for his loss and send our thoughts and respect to his family. Steve Bracks AC delivered the eulogy to Andrew at St Kilda Town Hall, 30 April 2021.
Andrew would want me to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this place – the Boon Wurrung people, and their ancestors, past, present, and emerging.
I also want to acknowledge the many past and present, Federal and State, ministers and members of Parliament, here this afternoon. There are too many of you to acknowledge individually.
I also want to acknowledge Andrew’s many colleagues and friends.And the Labor tribe, that has gathered to honour a legend of our movement.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the most important people here today – Andrew’s family – his daughters Caitlin and Matilda, his devoted partner Clarice and her children Nicola, Andrea and James, and Andrew and Clarice’s 12 grandchildren, Aidan, Myles, Lola, Laura, Allegra, Simon, Melissa, Natalie, Robbie, Jess, Zoe and Pia.
I want to thank them for giving me this opportunity to honour Andrew. I want to share some stories about your Grandad that might help explain why he spent so much time in front of his computer, in his messy office.
Andrew was working to make the world a better place, for you, and your children, and all the children to come after that.
Andrew was a brilliant student. He was dux of Caulfield Grammar. He went to Melbourne university and studied physics. But he decided university wasn’t for him. He left to campaign fulltime against the Vietnam War and the draft. He moved to Queensland and lived in a commune in a teepee on stilts. He kept goats underneath the teepee, had long wild hair, and worked in a co-op.
Luckily for the Labor Party, Andrew started volunteering for Tom Burns – the leader of the Queensland’s Labor Opposition. Then he moved back to Melbourne and volunteered for Frank Wilkes – the leader of Victoria’s Labor Opposition.
He organised a couple of barnstorming trips to Australia by Ralph Nader – then spent six months community campaigning with Nader in the United States. Back in Australia, he ran extensive community campaigns against freeways, uranium, leaded petrol – and for equitable electricity pricing, clean energy and public transport.
He was a driving force of the Friends of the Earth – working out of a ramshackle office in Smith Street, Collingwood. That’s when I first met Andrew. I was running the Ballarat chapter of the Friends of the Earth – and Andrew was the big wig in the city.
Andrew was an autodidact – a self-taught policy genius. He went on to work as an executive at Parks Victoria, Melbourne Water and VicHealth – where he led the campaign to ban tobacco advertising. David White will have more to say about Andrew’s remarkable achievements during the Cain government shortly.
When I met Andrew again – in 1995 – he was wearing a suit, and he’d been to the barber. He was by then the Senior Assistant Commonwealth Ombudsman. I was an Opposition MP, chairing the platform committee for the policies John Brumby took to the 1996 election and I subsequently took to the 1999 election.
I was struck by Andrew’s creative energy. He didn’t have one policy idea. He had dozens. And he could back up those ideas with serious policy muscle.
For instance, Andrew was one of the main drivers behind the development of Melbourne Access 2000 – our argument for a more balanced approach to transport instead of the Kennett Government’s all-in gamble on CityLink. Among other things, Andrew argued that CityLink’s design should be changed – so that motorists could exit at Batman Avenue. Andrew’s Batman Avenue exit was added – ironically by the Kennett Government! Andrew also argued that Southern Cross Station should be redeveloped and turned into a major transport hub. That Herington idea also became a reality.
When we won government in 1999, Andrew was working for Jenny Macklin in Canberra. In late 2001 we coaxed him home to Melbourne and he joined my office, despite factional opposition from both left and right! I gave Andrew responsibility for coordinating our policy platform for the 2002 election. It was the best recruitment decision I ever made.
Andrew understood Labor principles and purpose. He had a formidable work ethic. Unlike many bright people who join the Labor Party and become advisers, Andrew didn’t harbour personal political ambitions. All he cared about was achieving good policy outcomes.
He was always brimming with new ideas. Andrew wasn’t the kind of policy nut who just read about an issue. He’d vivisect it. To understand the redevelopment of Fishermans Bend he’d walk all over Fishermans Bend. To understand Melbourne’s public transport system he’d catch trains to every corner of the network. His encyclopaedic recall of obscure policy detail was astonishing to behold.
On more than one occasion I remember talking with Andrew in my office at the end of a long day. During those conversations a policy idea would come up – and be briefly discussed. I’d go home. Next morning, a fleshed-out policy proposal – based on that brief conversation – would be waiting for me in my in-tray.
Andrew was one of my secret weapons. And, yes, he did put noses out of joint. Within the political offices – and the public sector – there were criticisms of Andrew. Some people thought he used his remit as my policy director to range too far and wide. He particularly infuriated some senior public servants.
There is a rule – that apart from at election time – advisers in political offices don’t write the detailed reports or public discussions papers put out by governments – that’s the job of the public servants. Andrew didn’t follow that rule. He knew that – ‘the hand that holds the pen, holds the power’
If there was for example, a 300-page report that had been drafted over months by dozens of public servants and Andrew didn’t think it was up to scratch, he would redraft it over a weekend. In response, the Secretary of Premier and Cabinet put a ban on his staff giving my staff electronic copies of documents. That didn’t stop Andrew.
There was a collective sigh of relief across the public sector every July when Andrew would take two weeks annual leave to attend the Melbourne International Film Festival. He was, of course, an expert on cinema, and published reviews of his favourite and least favourite MIFF films. In the winter of 2011, he sat through an incredible 40 films and documentaries.
He also loved good food, a good red and robust over dinner conversation. And jigsaw puzzles, and photography and books and travel …
Andrew loved life. He loved his family. And they loved him.
It was thanks to Clarice, that I got to personally tell Andrew how much my government and the broader Labor movement appreciated his extraordinary talent and commitment. She organised an event in February 2011 to celebrate what was then Andrew’s ‘29-year career of policy pursuit’.
It was a wonderful night, and some small comfort now, that Andrew knew he was valued and loved. Of course, Andrew was never going to retire. Between 2011 and 2014, he returned to his roots as a community campaigner – going toe-to-toe with the Government’s QCs to fight another conservative attempt to plough a tollway through Fitzroy.
And when Labor was returned to office, Andrew returned, too – working for Tim Pallas in treasury and Richard Wynne in planning. He never stopped. In the end, he was working with the Red Tape Commissioner, Anna Cronin – driving the biggest reform of our planning system since the 1980s. It was Andrew’s dream job. Finally, he was officially holding the pen. He died doing something he loved.
Andrew Herington’s contribution to the Australian Labor Party – and, through the ALP, the people of Victoria – is profound. Consider just a few of the works he had a hand in:
Every time you go to Southern Cross station …very time you put unleaded petrol in your car …Every time you see a public health warning about tobacco …Every time you take the Batman Exit from CityLink …Every time you do or see those things – and so much more – you can think of, and thank, Andrew Herington.
So all that time your Grandad Andrew was typing away at his computer, in his messy office, he was making the world a better place, for you – for all of us.
To read more about Andrew and see some photos, read Ratbag and policy giant: Andrew Herington left his mark on Victoria by Joel Deane, principal speechwriter for premiers Steve Bracks and John Brumby. Andrew ‘never burned out, never cashed in and never stopped – a policy giant.’ Reprinted from The Age 15 May 2021.