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John Fahey, Former NSW Premier and Howard Finance Minister, Dies, 75

Last updated on March 16, 2024

John Fahey, the former Liberal Premier of NSW, and Finance Minister in the Howard government, has died, aged 75.

FaheyFahey was first elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly in 1984 as the member for Camden. He transferred to Southern Highlands in 1988 and was a minister in the Greiner government following the 1988 election.

He became Premier on June 24, 1992, following the forced resignation of Nick Greiner, in the aftermath of an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Coruption.

As premier, Fahey is best remembered for the role he played in securing the 2000 Sydney Olympics for NSW.

Fahey’s Liberal-Nationals coalition was defeated in the 1995 election and Bob Carr became Labor premier. Fahey transferred to the federal division of Macarthur at the 1996 federal election and became Minister for Finance in the Howard government, a position he held until he retired at the 2001 election.

His career after politics is notable for his role as president of the World Anti-Doping Agency. He also served as Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University.

Fahey was born in New Zealand on January 10, 1945.

ABC News report on the death of John Fahey (3m):

Watch AOC Chairman John Coates comment on Fahey (10m):

Listen to Coates (10m):

Statement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Australia today is mourning the passing of the Hon John Fahey AC.

John was an Australian and Liberal original.

Twenty years ago today, Sydney was about to host the Olympics – an event that defined both our city and our nation.

As John leapt to his feet on hearing the news his Government had secured the Sydney Olympics for Australia, he seemed to be embodying the shared joy of every Australian.

The securing of the Sydney Olympics by the Fahey Government, by John Fahey, working together with Bruce Baird and Rod McGeogh, in many ways led Australia out of the 1990s recession. It gave Australians hope and belief.

But it was also the image of John as Premier on his knees at St Mary’s in Sydney as fires ravaged NSW that spoke to his quiet faith and humility.

John Fahey was an optimist, who believed in Australia, because he knew how much it had enabled him in his own life.

John’s was truly an Australian story of his generation. He gave more than he received. His cheery and cheeky smile was what always left his impression on you, long after the topic or issue had passed.

In his day, John was not your typical Liberal. A Catholic, rugby league player and smoker from South West Sydney. As a Liberal he broadened our outlook and connected us with an ever widening aspirational population.

He was notoriously slow at working a room, but that reflected the deep connections John formed with so many he met. John Fahey gave everyone his undivided attention.

John described his liberalism as: “hard head, soft heart”. It was an approach he would take as Premier and as Federal Minister for Finance.

As Federal Minister for Finance, John Fahey, along with John Howard and Peter Costello drove the historic turnaround in Australia’s finances in the late 1990s. As well, they set in train a service revolution in telecommunications.

After 17 years in State and Federal politics and a distinguished career of public service, John left politics in 2001 due to ill health. John said at the time: “I want to do some more things. I want to continue to give to the community. I intend to continue to work.”

He got that wish.

John went on to be a director of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, chairman of the Rugby League Development Board and fittingly given his history, chairman of the Sydney Olympic Park Authority. In 2007, John became chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, one of the most significant sporting administrator roles in the world.

John was a tremendous Liberal. He was a mentor to many, including Joe Hockey and Marise Payne.

He was one of a kind who had an earthy and tested faith and who was sustained by his loved family.

To John’s wife Colleen, and his surviving children Melanie and Matthew, and his grandchildren Amber and Campbell, Jenny and I extend our deepest condolences.

Statement by former Prime Minister John Howard.

John Fahey gave so much to public life: Premier of NSW for three years, five years as Minister for Finance in the Howard Government and, in his final years, as Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University. As Minister for Finance between 1996 and 2001 he was a close and valued colleague of mine. He brought much experience from his time in state politics and with Peter Costello as Treasurer played a major role in bringing the federal budget back into balance.

After underoing major surgerg for lung cancer almost 20 years ago, he fought a long battle to maintain his health. During this time he and his wife, Colleen, suffered the tragic loss of their younger daughter Tiffany, and then devoted their lives to raising her two children. Sustained by their strong Catholic faith John and Colleen’s devotion to those children cemented the affection and admiration of their many friends.

John Fahey loved sport. None more so than Rugby League. He played at a senior level, and was a loyal supporter of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. After leaving federal politics he served for two terms as president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Australians will long remember his leap for joy when it was announced that Sydney had won the right to host the 2000 Olympics. John Fahey’s NSW Government had played a major role in winning that bid.

To Colleen and her children, Janette and I extend our deep sympathy. We honour and thank John for his service.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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