Marise Payne – The Unwelcome Liberal Conscience.


This is a story which could, literally, have died a’borning.

SMH, Saturday, 15th Jan, 1916 (page 16)

SMH, Saturday, 15th Jan, 1916 (page 16)

William Elliott Payne was born prematurely in Newtown, the son of William John Edward and Louisa Payne of Daisy Bank, Burrawang in the Southern Highlands of NSW.

SMH, Friday, 22nd Sept, 1950 (page 20)

SMH, Friday, 22nd Sept, 1950 (page 20)

William JE Payne had married Louisa Develand in 1910 and does not seem to have served in WW1. He spent his life in Burrawang on his dairy farm “Daisy Bank” living to see his son return from war service in New Guinea and Noumea. He died in 1950, still “of Daisy Banks” having milked one humoungous lot of cows.

William E Payne married Maureen Dorothy Harvey of Marrickville in 1942.

I have only found a single child to this marriage.

SMH; Sat 11th May, 1946

SMH; Sat 11th May, 1946

There are many possible reasons for this including the now forgotten “Blue Baby” tragedies. That is, of course, pure speculation.

Regardless of the reasons for the single child, the marriage did not end well and in 1959, the couple divorced.

Within a year or two, William remarried, this time, in Parramatta to Ann Noreen Johns [1] [2] and in 1964, Marissa Payne was born.

William Elliot Payne died on the 12th Dec, 1994 and is buried in the Burrawang General Cemetery.

Mrs Ann Payne died in 2005 and official sympathies were given  in the NSW Parliament. “The Hon. DON HARWIN [7.03 p.m.]: It is with great sadness that tonight I pass on my deepest sympathies to Senator Marise Payne, whose mother died late last week. I know a number of members of this House and the other place will tomorrow be travelling to Burrawang, a small village in the Southern Highlands, where a service will be held to celebrate the life of Mrs Ann Payne, a great lady who died in Bowral Hospital recently after a very long struggle with cancer. It has been a tremendously difficult time for Marise and her brother, William Payne, and daughter-in-law, Fiona Payne, who are also great friends of mine. Mrs Payne is now at rest. The trauma that Marise has been through for several months as the full-time carer for her mother has come to an end but, of course, the sorrow will go on for a long time. Marise’s father, Bill, died several years ago, so she is now without both parents. Tomorrow we will remember the good times with Ann and the good times that the Payne family shared together. I am sure that many members of the House would want to pass on their condolences to Senator Marise Payne on the death of her mother.  [3]

Neither of her parents was involved in politics, although she was close to both and has paid tribute to their support and guidance during her political career. [5]


 Marise Payne claims to have become a feminist at the age of one. [17]

She grew up in and around Sydney and completed high school at one the city’s most exclusive private girl schools, MLC Burwood and went on to complete a combined arts and law degree at the University of New South Wales. [5]marise3

As a late teenager she was involved in a serious road crash. At the time of the car crash, she was in university and planned to graduate, work as a barrister for some years and then enter politics. The crash, in which she almost broke her neck, convinced her to waste no time and go straight into politics. “I think, if you want to do something, you should do it,” she told a journalist in 1994. “Don’t put it off, because you might not be around to do it.”   [5]


A member of the Liberal Party since 1982, Marise was the National Young Liberal Movement’s first female President. She also served on the NSW Liberal State Executive for 10 years and at branch and electorate levels.   [7]

Ms Payne quickly rose through the ranks of the Young Liberal movement and served as its first female president from 1989 to 1991. It took her several attempts to gain election as a senator, eventually winning in 1997. [5]

“The popular senator comes from the young leadership crop of the late 1980s which included Christopher Pyne. “Both were seasoned politicians through work as ministerial advisers when they arrived at federal Parliament — Mr Pyne in 1993 and Senator Payne in 1997,” (Malcolm) Farr recalls. “They teamed up on occasion as they worked their way through the Liberal echelons to senior posts.”  [6]

The Australian Parliamentary website records her party positions, qualifications and occupations before entering Federal Parliament

  • President, Young Liberal Movement of Australia (NSW Division) 1987-88; Federal President 1989-91.
  • Member, Liberal Party Constitution Standing Committee (NSW) 1989-96 (Chair 1990).
  • Member, Liberal Party of Australia State Executive (NSW) 1991-97.
  • Chair, Liberal Party Convention Committee (NSW) 1995.
  • BA, LLB (UNSW).
  • Political adviser 1987-95.
  • Public affairs adviser 1995-97. [16]


The Daily Telegraph of May 15th, 2010 sank to gutter levels in revealing the personal life of Senator Payne.marise1

“STUART Ayres, Liberal candidate for the state seat of Penrith, has something in common with Hollywood hunk Hugh Jackman – he’s in love with an older woman.  The 29-year-old’s partner of two years is 45-year-old federal Liberal Senator Marise Payne. But Mr Ayres is understandably wary of Hollywood’s cougar obsession. Ms Payne will be his close adviser in the lead-up to the June 19 by-election forced by the resignation of disgraced Labor MP Karyn Paluzzano, who admitted to lying to ICAC.” [4]

It seems that both partners have been given the chance to move into politics through the misbehavior of others.

Away from politics, she is a committed fan of the St George/Illawarra NRL team and the Geelong Cats, an enthusiastic supporter of the arts in Australia, spends as much time as she can in the Southern Highlands and she cooks for therapy. [7]

The life of Diana, Princess of Wales, was an inspiration to Marise Payne. “With the rest of the world, I was stunned by news of her untimely passing—a young woman, only three years older than me. Her contribution to the campaigns fighting, firstly, discrimination against people with AIDS and, secondly, for a ban on the use of anti-personnel landmines are indicative of her commitment to humanity.” [17]

Payne is passionate about women becoming involved in politics. In a speech to parliament, she quoted Myanmar (Burmese) leader and Nobel peace prize laureate: “It is not the prerogative of men alone to bring light to this world. Women—with their capacity for compassion and self sacrifice, their courage and perseverance—have done much to dissipate the darkness of intolerance and hate.” [17]

The report on the Stolen Generations horrified Payne. “As I was growing up in my safe and stable family, in my home and at my school, children my age in Aboriginal Australia were still being taken from their homes, their parents and their siblings. I can never feel their pain, but I can try to understand the devastation I would feel in their situation, and I can apologise for those misguided acts. As a nation we must answer the challenge of reconciliation now for the memory of those for whom it is already too late and for the sake of future generations.” [17]

She is particularly distressed by the incidence of family and domestic violence in Australia and strongly admires Australian of the Year Rosie Batty whose son Luke was murdered by his father. “According to the 2012 ABS personal safety survey, over 132,000 Australian women have experienced violence at the hands of a current or former partner in the past 12 months. That is staggering. That’s enough women to fill Sydney’s Allianz Stadium almost 3 times over. That’s just the number of reported instances.” [17]


1997 – Elected

Marise Payne was elected to fill a casual Senate vacancy created when Bob Wood resigned his position, citing his family life. As it turned out his private life was exposed on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers when it was revealed his resignation was more to do with an affair with a staffer named Roxanne, and the fact taxpayers had helped fund trips away for the two. [9]

She entered Parliament just as former MP Pauline Hanson was making headlines for her strident attacks on Asian immigration and multiculturalism. Ms Payne went further than many in the ruling coalition by attacking Ms Hanson directly, telling Parliament that Ms Hanson’s One Nation party was “simply offensive, unacceptable and morally repugnant”. “There is no room, in my view, for the division and destruction wrought by hate-based race politics,” she warned. [5]

 “The jingoistic simplicity of the One Nation mantra may have an hypnotic effect on some Australians, but the danger of the extremist politics practised by One Nation remains. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party has been identified as a threat to our trading relations, as having a negative impact on tourism and to the uptake of Australian services by international consumers.” [17]

As an ex-Deputy National Convener of the Australian Republican Movement she was at odds with her leader, especially during the Republican debate of 1999.

The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer on Tuesday, 27 June 2000 issued a statement. “I am pleased to announce that Senator Marise Payne will represent the Australian Government at an international conference dedicated to the promotion of democracy, to be held in Warsaw, 26 -27 June 2000.    The Conference, `Towards a Community of Democracies’, is a joint initiative of the Governments of Poland, the Czech Republic, Chile, India, the Republic of Korea, Mali and the United States of America. . . . . . . .  Senator Payne is the Secretary of the Government Members Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade. She is also a member of several Parliamentary Committees including the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee; the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (JSCFADT); the JSCFADT Human Rights Sub-Committee; and the JSCFADT United Nations Sub-Committee. Senator Payne was also a member of the Official Observer Delegation to the East Timorese Popular Consultation in August last year. [13]

Liberal Senator Marise Payne was active in her committee work to protect the Sex Discrimination act. But it is also revealing that, after this ‘independent’ stand, Senator Payne was relegated to the vulnerable third place on the NSW Coalition Senate ticket in the 2001 election. In the end, the total vote for the Liberal Party ticket was sufficient to ensure that she was re-elected in 2001 and again in 2008. [11]

The Australian Parliamentary Website records he Committee service to the Parliament. It is a consolidated list as she has served on some of  committees across parliamentary terms

  • Senate Standing: Privileges from 30.9.97 to 11.11.13; Regulations and Ordinances from 7.5.97 to 8.6.00.
  • Senate Legislative and General Purpose Standing: Legal and Constitutional: Legislation Committee from 24.11.98 (Chair from 25.11.98) to 11.9.06 and References Committee from 24.11.98 (Deputy Chair from 25.11.98) to 6.9.05; Legal and Constitutional Affairs from 11.9.06 to 11.2.08; Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade: Legislation Committee from 3.9.97 to 11.9.06; Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade from 11.9.06 to 11.2.08; Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts: Legislation Committee from 24.11.98 to 5.4.00 and References Committee from 26.11.98 to 30.6.99; Environment, Recreation, Communications and the Arts: References Committee from 1.9.97 to 9.11.98; Economics: References Committee from 7.5.97 to 4.9.97; Community Affairs: References Committee from 4.9.97 to 3.12.98.
  • Senate Select: Housing Affordability in Australia from 14.2.08 to 16.6.08.
  • Joint Standing: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade from 30.6.99 to 17.10.07 and from 19.3.08 to 5.8.13.
  • Joint Select: Republic Referendum from 21.6.99 to 9.8.99. [16]

2001 – re-elected

“I maintain that detention centres are no places for women and children…”
Asylum Seeker Policy – Response to Sen Hutchins, 13 Feb 2002 [14]

The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade reports on human rights in Australia Tabled by Senator Marise Payne, Senator for New South Wales (Chair) on Monday 13 October 2003 provides some interesting reading considering out current harsh and punitive treatment of asylum seekers. I do wonder just how the Senator’s compassion has handled the past thirteen years. [14]

From its inception in 2003, Marise was co-convenor of the Parliamentary Friends of Dementia (PFOD) group until February 2011 and is currently co-Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Rugby League group. [7]

In the latter years of the Howard government Marise Payne’s political career was almost over when it had barely begun. After being sworn in as a senator in 1997, the NSW moderate’s “small-l liberal” leanings and progressive social views were beginning to grate on the party’s right. But rather than one of her more progressive, closer colleagues, it was a conservative, and a powerful one, who swooped in and saved her career. The fact that then prime minister John Howard, regarded throughout the party and beyond as “a pretty good judge of character” was willing to stand up for his senator, one friend says, goes to the potential she showed in her early years and just how much she was valued. [6]

In 2006, under Howard, Payne was the chair of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee. That committee recommended, despite its Government majority, on 13th June, 2006 that the Government abandon the provisions of the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals Bill) 2006 that would require offshore processing of all asylum seekers . When two coalition senators threatened to cross the floor to vote against the bill, demanding changes to ensure that genuine refugees could come to Australia, The Prime Minister withdrew the legislation. [10]

2007 – re-elected

She criticised the party after its “sobering” loss in 2007 saying it was in great need of rejuvenation, and vowed to be part of that process. [6]

In April of 2008, Senator Bill Heffernan went back to the 1950’s and exposed Justice Kirby as gay, calling for his resignation. Apart from Alexander Downer and Tony Abbott, the upper echelons of the Liberal Party closed ranks in support of Senator Heffernan. Prime Minister John Howard stood by his mate, who he said still enjoyed his affection and friendship. Howard also added to the allegations against Justice Michael Kirby by reading to parliament the letter he had received from Senator Heffernan. Senator Marise Payne (NSW) made perhaps the strongest statement on the Heffernan affair of any Liberal MP -“ and did so without words at all. Senator Payne absented herself from the chamber during a vote calling for Senator Heffernan to apologise for his allegations against Justice Kirby. The vote was passed by 32 votes to 30.  [12]

Former senior Labor adviser Bill Bowtell told the Star that the small L liberals within the Liberal Party faced a test of mettle. [Senator Payne] has basically thrown away her political career by indicating she would not go along with Heffernan’s allegations, Bowtell said. Being vindicated by events will only make her more unpopular.  [12]

The Australian Parliamentary website records her Parliamentary party positions during her time in Opposition.

  • Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs from 6.12.07 to 22.9.08;
  • Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance
  • Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Indigenous Affairs from 22.9.08 to 8.12.09.
  • Member, Opposition Shadow Ministry from 8.12.09 to 18.9.13.
  • Shadow Minister for COAG from 8.12.09 to 18.9.13;
  • Shadow Minister for Modernising the Federation from 8.12.09 to 14.9.10;
  • Shadow Minister for Indigenous Development and Employment from 14.9.10 to 18.9.13;
  • Shadow Minister for Housing from 14.9.10 to 18.9.13. [16]

2013 – Re-elected

Payne was Minister for Human Services in the Abbott Government from 18 September 2013 until 20 September 2015.  [8]

On 21 September, 2015, she was promoted to Cabinet as Minister for Defence.marise2

ABC Radio’s “PM” programme reporter  Naomi Woodley interviewed her: In her first media appearance in the new job, Senator Payne wouldn’t be drawn on policy detail or potential changes in strategic priorities. But she did outline in her words her ‘absolute passion’ for defence.
Marise Payne: I am the daughter of a World War II veteran, an enlisted soldier from Burrawang in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. I could not be prouder to stand here today in that capacity if no other.
My father was my inspiration, he fought for this nation in New Guinea, in Noumea and he came back to Australia after World War II, so proud of what this nation could achieve on the international stage. [15]


Doug Aiton commented in “The New Daily” that; “Her progressive views have been underlined by her: denouncing One Nation, lamenting the Stolen Generations, bemoaning “right-wing media commentators”, criticising discrimination against HIV-AIDS sufferers, and calling for greater engagement with Asia.” [17]

It is hard to reconcile Marise Payne’s moderate positions with the Coalition Government we have come to know over the past six years.

The key comment I wonder about is her response to Senator Hutchins on 13 Feb 2002,  “I maintain that detention centres are no places for women and children…”

UPDATE 16-03-2021 – Having been Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Morrison Government since 2018, and was also appointed Minister for Women in 2019, and with a looming leadership crisis within the Federal Liberal Party, there is a possibility that Payne may be elected leader. Although Payne is a Senator there is a precedent. Senator Gorton was elected leader, became Prime Minister and was then successfully elected to the Lower House in a by-election. Good Grief! Was that in 1968? Nearly 50 years ago!

Payne has a number of advantages over Peter Dutton, the obvious Morrison replacement now that Porter has lost his place at the head of the queue.

First and foremost, she is not universally disliked and mistrusted. Peter Dutton carries a lot of very negative baggage and would be a severe electoral disadvantage for the Liberal Party. This would probably still be true even with a major Murdoch campaign to turn him into the guy next door.

Secondly, there is a spreading panic within Liberal Parties across Australia following the McGowan Landslide in Western Australia. The first signs have begun to appear with a snap spill in the Victorian party room.

Thirdly, she is a woman in the midst of a Women-led protest at the age old gender status quo.The potential for her to reclaim the Liberal female vote is great. After all, it worked with Julia Gillard. And Payne is also a redhead!

Fourthly, as the ‘yes-woman’ she has become, the men who will promote her know that she will do as she is told. She may not iron shirts for the party leadership but she would be trusted to keep the seat warm while a more electable male is groomed.


[1] NSW Archives

[2] Trove Newspaper Archives

[3] NSW Hansard

[4] Daily Telegraph; Age No Barrier For Liberal Cougar Marise Payne And Her Cub

[5] Straits Times -Asiaone – New Aussie defence minister’s quiet rise.

[6] Sept 21, 2015 Marise Payne is Australia’s first female Defence Minister but is she up to the job?

[7] Official Website

[8] Wikipedia (21st Oct, 2015)

[9] SMH, July 5 2002, Analysis: Politics and private lives

[10]  Howard’s Fourth Government: Australian Commonwealth Administration, 2004-2007  edited by Chris Aulich, Roger Llewellyn Wettenhall

[11] Government Politics in Australia; By Alan Fenna, Jane Robbins, John Summers

[12] The Star Observer

[13]  Media release, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer


[15] ABC PM

[16] Australian Parliamentary Website

[17] The New Daily, Sep 22, 2015, Doug Aiton; Fifteen facts about your new Defence Minister