From left, Gough Whitlam, Sir John Kerr, Tom Uren, Kep Enderby and Jim Cairns at Government House. Photo: Fairfax LibraryFormer federal Labor politician Kep Enderby was described as a champion of the ACT by his admirers after his death on Wednesday at age 88.
The former QC, NSW Supreme Court judge and attorney-general in Gough Whitlam’s government was a major player in the governance of the ACT.
He was minister for the ACT under Whitlam, the MP for the seat of Canberra and as attorney-general brought forward a bill decriminalising homosexuality and abortion in the territory.
His death coincided with a move by the ACT Government to expunge historical convictions of gay men having consensual sex.
Fraser MP Andrew Leigh said it was appropriate “we should be looking at this with the passing of Kep Enderby this week”.
“He was a great champion for the ACT,” Dr Leigh said.
“He was somebody who drove important legislative reforms on racial discrimination, on no-fault divorce, and indeed on legalising sexual relationships between consenting adults in the ACT.
“He was somebody who never fluctuated in his principles, somebody who held fast to his view as a social democrat.”
Canberra MP Gai Brodtmann said Mr Enderby had been described by the ACT Labor family as having a gifted mind.
“As the current member for Canberra, I pay tribute to Kep for his vision for our city and nation (and) commitment to social justice,” she said.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr he was deeply saddened by the news of the death.
“He was a passionate Labor man who fought strongly for Labor values,” Mr Barr said.
ACT Labor MLA Chris Bourke said Mr Enderby championed the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during the Aboriginal Tent Embassy protest which Mr Bourke called “one of the most effective political actions in Australian history”.
“In 1972, as ALP spokesperson for the Interior, Enderby stood up against the McMahon government’s attempts to tear down the Tent Embassy,” he said.
Mr Enderby, a skilled golfer, studied law at Sydney University and lectured at the Australian National University.
He moved to Sydney at the end of his political career.