In Politics

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews

Statement On John Cain

Victor P Taffa

Earlier this year, I attended a small gathering to mark John Cain’s 70 years in the Labor Party.

The event was typically John: modest and intimate. No ceremony, and zero pomp.

After all, having achieved real reform, John needed no fanfare.

Perhaps one of his greatest achievements was leading the Victorian Labor Party into the modern era. Achieving victory after 27 years in the wilderness.

Moreover, John achieved what had never been done before: he led a re-elected Labor Government, twice.

John’s leadership transformed Labor into a party that not only represented the interests of working people but could deliver as well.

No list can properly convey his immense contribution to our state.

Chief among his many reforms are Victoria’s occupational health and safety laws ensuring the wellbeing and safety of workers.

He led other great reforms too.

Tobacco control and gun control. Women’s rights and workers’ rights. Extended shop trading hours and liquor licensing reform.

Landmark protection for children and young people. Legislated protection for our state’s environment.

His Government also succeeded in securing Australia’s lowest unemployment rate for some 84 consecutive months affording more Victorians the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families.

On this, the eve of the Australian Open, we have John to thank for one of the greatest sporting and live music venues in the world. Melbourne Park is a lasting testament to his determined leadership.

From big to small, each of these changes pointed to John’s profound belief:

The power and the purpose of a Labor Government was building a stronger and fairer society for everyone.

John’s love for the Labor Party was only bettered by his love for his family.

On behalf of the Victorian Government and the Victorian Labor Party, I offer my deepest condolences to his wife, Nancye, and their children, Joanne, John and James.

John’s legacy will continue to live on in the modern Victoria he so proudly helped to build.

In honour of that legacy, and following a private service, a State Memorial Service will be held in the new year, with further details to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

John Cain Jr.

John Cain was Premier of Victoria from 1982-90. His was the first Victorian Labor government to be elected in 27 years, since 1955, when his father John Cain Sr. had been Premier. John Cain brought a strong leadership to Labor that had hitherto been absent.

John Cain was born in Melbourne, 26th April 1931, and educated at Northcote High School, Scotch College and the University of Melbourne, where he graduated in Law. He was President of the Law Institute of Victoria (1972-1973) and served on the Law Reform Commission Australia (1975-77).

He entered State politics in 1976, when he won the seat of Bundoora, and was elected leader of the Victorian Labor Party in 1981.

John Cain led Labor to election victories in 1982, 1985 and 1988, becoming the only Labor Premier to hold office for consecutive terms.

During John Cain’s Premiership, the first woman (Pauline Toner) was appointed to the Cabinet.

In August 1990, public support for Labor having waned dramatically, Cain resigned in the interests of the party’s re-election.

John Cain Jr. became Premier of Victoria some 100 years after the birth of his father John Cain Sr.

VIC Premier John Cain Sr. 1943-43, 1945-47, 1952-55

VIC Premier Daniel Andrews 2014-













John Cain Sr.

  • Premier 17th December 1952 – 7th June 1955
  • Premier 21st November 1945 – 20th November 1947
  • Premier 14th September 1943 – 18th September 1943

 John Cain was born at Greendale, near Bacchus Marsh on the 19th of January 1882. After leaving school at age 13, he worked as a farm hand in the Goulburn Valley before moving to Melbourne around 1907.

Settling in the Northcote area, Cain worked as a green grocer and theatre spruiker and was active in the Victorian Socialist Party (VSP). During World War 1 he was a vocal anti-conscriptionist. In 1926 he married Dorothea Vera Marie Grindrod.

In 1915 John Cain was elected as the Labor Party (ALP) candidate to the Northcote City Council and in November 1917 won the seat of Jika Jika in the Legislative Assembly.

He was minister without portfolio in the George Predergast’s 1924 Labor government, and Minister of Railways and of Electrical Undertakings during Edmond Hogan’s 1929-1932 government.

John Cain’s management of the difficult railways portfolio contributed to his promotion to deputy leader in 1932 and in October 1937 he became leader of the Victorian ALP.

John Cain briefly became Premier on the 14th September 1943 when Labor supported a United Australia Party (UAP) vote of no confidence, against Premier Albert Dunstan.

UAP leader Tom Hollway had negotiated with Cain for a Labor supported UAP ministry on the promise of electoral re-distribution.

When the Governor unexpectedly commissioned Cain instead of Hollway to form a government, the UAP joined with Dunstan’s Country Party on the 18 Sep 1943 to end Cain’s Premiership.

At the November 1945 election, Labor was able to form government with the support of two independents. In difficult a post-war environment, Cain’s achievements as Premier included

  • Legislation to establish independent wage and condition tribunals for public sector employees,
  • A housing agreement with the Commonwealth,
  • Soil Conservations and Land Utilisation Bill,
  • Amendments to the Soldier Settlement Bill.

1946 was a turbulent year of continuing industrial unrest and internal Labor Party intrigue. John Cain’s Premiership survived until late 1947 when the Legislative Council blocked supply in protest over the Federal Labor government’s desire to nationalise the banking sector.

From 1950-52 Labor supported a minority Country Party government. The disproportionate power of the Country party was a bone of contention with both Labor and Liberal (the renamed UAP) parties, which Cain deployed popularly to secure an outright majority in the December 1952 election. Within a year the Electoral Districts Act was passed.

Other achievements from John Cain’s third government include further amendments to The Workers’ Compensation Act and the relocation of Tattersall’s Lotteries to Victoria.

Labor Split of 1955 ended John Cain’s government. Tension within Labor factions, grew to outright hostility when federal Labor leader Dr. H.V. Evatt denounced members of B.A. Santamaria’s Catholic Social Studies Movement faction.

Federal and state expulsions of ALP members followed and on the 19th of April 1955, a group of ALP defectors crossed the floor and brought down the Victorian Government. Cain remained leader of the Victorian Labor Party in opposition, and died of a cerebral haemorrhage while campaigning for Queensland ALP on the 4 August 1957.


ALP                Australian Labor Party


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