Life & Arts

Tragic passing of tireless campaigner for workers John Passant

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Canberra correspondent John Passant shows off his Press Gallery pass outside Parliament House, August 2018

Independent Australia is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of John Passant, who was a contributor, columnist, Canberra political correspondent and Press Gallery representative for our organisation.

Not only a socialist, John was also a prodigious contributor to social media. We became aware of his contributions on Facebook in the early part of the last decade, particularly through his blog, En Passant. On 17 January 2012, looking for material for our then relatively new publication, we contacted and gained permission from John to republish a story on the car industry. There, a valuable contact and friendship was born.

But it was sealed in stone the following week, when John published a brilliant account on En Passant debunking the mainstream media slander that Julia Gillard was “threatened” at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on Australia Day. We published a slightly abridged version of his blog on IA and it became one of the most popular stories of the year.

In time, John became critical to Independent Australia’s particular flavour of subversion, providing a socialist perspective simply not permitted by this nation’s bland and unimaginative mainstream media publications. When our finances allowed us to pay a team of columnists, in 2015, he was one of the first engaged. Later, he was to go on to become our Canberra political correspondent and our second representative in the Press Gallery.

John Passant with Michelle Pini, interviewing Wayne Swan in his office at Parliament House, December 2018

He was particularly proud of the latter achievement, perhaps thinking his politics would disqualify him from entry into this rather stuffy, exclusive club. But being John, he was well-liked by all, including the Gallery, and respected for his views, which were always expressed in an urbane and well-considered fashion.

When we were producing our first annual magazine, in 2017, IA editor Dave Donovan changed in the copy John’s role description in his bio from “IA columnist” to “IA communist” as a gag. It almost went to print. John found this highly amusing and said he wouldn’t have minded a bit. That was John all over, quick to laugh and slow to anger.

John studied economics and law at ANU and then obtained a Masters of Law at Monash University. A qualified barrister, he worked as an academic and a senior officer in the ATO (where he also met his life partner Patricia), but he said that the day he got into the Press Gallery representing IA as our political correspondent, was the day he finally had his “dream job”.

Sadly, his illness struck too soon into his tenure in the Gallery and he was never able to pursue this later career with the energy he would have liked. We know this saddened him.

John was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly after his admission to the Press Gallery. He passed away peacefully with his partner Patricia at his side. His much-loved children, Michael and Louise, had visited him shortly before.

A caring and passionate advocate against injustice, a prolific writer and commentator, John was above all a gentleman.

He argued heatedly and often on all the subjects he held dear and as Patricia wrote:

He railed against injustices and took action against them — organising and marching against apartheid, arguing for and participating in an occupation against library cuts at Monash University, speaking against the Gulf War with his two-year-old son in his arms and saying, 'What about the fathers with children in Iraq?', to mention just a few.

We extend our deepest sympathies to Patricia, Michael and Louise.

Vale John Passant. You will be greatly missed.

With current limits on funerals, the service will be private.

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