Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 01:18 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 01:18 | SYDNEY

A tribute to Duncan Kerr


Jenny Hayward-Jones


30 October 2009 09:03

Today marks the last day in office of Australia's Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, the Hon Duncan Kerr SC MP. Kerr has announced his retirement from his position and intention to retire from politics at the next federal election.

Managing Australia's enhanced relations with the Pacific has become a crowded field, with Prime Minister Rudd, Foreign Minister Smith, Trade Minister Crean and Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance Bob McMullan all creating significant profiles in the region. Mr Kerr has put his mark on the relationship by making regular visits to Pacific Island countries and proving Australia's commitment to the region is based on mutual respect.

Kerr has been an important advocate of better people-to-people relations between Australia and the Pacific Islands. He has also encouraged quality evidence-based contestation of Australian policy. His interest in seeking out alternative views and his participation in intellectual debates is rare among office holders and made Mr Kerr quite popular with Australians committed to the Pacific.

Incredibly, Mr Kerr is the only serving member of the Australian parliament to have lived and worked in the Pacific. 

He was the Dean of the Faculty of Law and lectured in constitutional and administrative law at the University of Papua New Guinea from 1983 to 1985. He also served as Legal Counsel for the Ombudsman Commission in PNG. During his time at UPNG he published two books on PNG's constitution. 

Replacing him will not be easy. As Australia is the current chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, having an experienced and committed MP charged with managing our relations with the Pacific is vital. Australia's relations with the countries of the region will only remain strong if our commitment to them continues to be genuinely important to Canberra. 

I would like to add a personal note of thanks to Duncan Kerr for his consistent support for the Lowy Institute's work on the Pacific region.

Photo courtesy of Duncan Kerr's parliamentary website.