Barry Cohen

Barry Cohen AM (3 April 1935 – 18 December 2017) was an Australian politician. He was a member of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and served in federal parliament from 1969 to 1990, representing the Division of Robertson in New South Wales. He held ministerial office in the Hawke Government from 1983 to 1987.

Barry Cohen

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Environment
In office
13 December 1984  24 July 1987
Prime MinisterBob Hawke
Preceded byNew title
Succeeded byJohn Brown (Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories)
Minister for Home Affairs and the Environment
In office
11 March 1983  13 December 1984
Prime MinisterBob Hawke
Preceded byTom McVeigh
Succeeded byTitle abolished
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Robertson
In office
25 October 1969  19 February 1990
Preceded byWilliam Bridges-Maxwell
Succeeded byFrank Walker
Personal details
Born(1935-04-03)3 April 1935
Griffith, New South Wales, Australia
Died18 December 2017(2017-12-18) (aged 82)
Political partyAustralian Labor Party
Spouse(s)Rae O'Neill


Cohen was born in Griffith, New South Wales and educated at Griffith High School, Sydney Grammar School and North Sydney Technical High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the Australian National University. He was a businessman before entering politics.

He was the federal member for the seat of Robertson from 1969 until his retirement before the 1990 election. Following the Australian Labor Party's win under Bob Hawke at the 1983 election, he was Minister for Home Affairs and the Environment from 1983 to 1984 and then Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Environment until 1987.[1]

At the 1999 New South Wales state election he was a candidate for Gosford, losing to the incumbent Liberal member, Chris Hartcher.

After politics

Cohen wrote a number of books on political anecdotes, and an autobiography:[2]

  • Life with Gough (1996)
  • From Whitlam to Winston (1997)
  • The Almost Complete Gough (2001)
  • The Life Of The Party – Political Anecdotes (1987)

In 2015, Cohen and three other former MPs brought a case before the High Court of Australia, purporting that reductions to their retirement allowances and limitations on the number of "domestic return trips per year" under the Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) Act 2002 were unconstitutional under S51(xxxi) of the Constitution of Australia. They lost the case in 2016, with the court finding that Parliament was entitled to vary the terms of allowances.[3]


Cohen married Rae McNeill in October 1959 and they had three sons.[4]

Although Cohen voted for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1970s, he spoke out against gay marriage, arguing that "gay marriage and conventional marriage is [not] the same thing".[5]

Cohen died on 18 December 2017, having been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease several years earlier.[6]


Cohen was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 2007, for service to the Australian Parliament and to the community through a range of cultural and environmental roles and contributions to public discussion and debate.[7]


  1. "Biography for Cohen, the Hon. Barry". ParlInfo Web. Parliament of Australia. Archived from the original on 15 September 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  2. "Barry Cohen". Celebrity Speakers. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  3. "Former MPs lose High Court challenge over entitlements". ABC News. 12 October 2016.
  4. Who's Who in Australia. North Melbourne: Crown Contents. 2008. p. 2303. ISBN 1-74095-160-3.
  5. Cohen, Barry (14 April 2011). "Opposing gay marriage doesn't mean I'm barking". The Australian.
  6. "Barry Cohen, Hawke government minister and Alzheimer's campaigner, dies". ABC News. 18 December 2017. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  7. COHEN, Barry, It's an Honour.
Political offices
Preceded by
Tom McVeigh (home affairs and the environment)
Neil Brown (consumer affairs)
Minister for Home Affairs and the Environment
Succeeded by
John Brown
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Environment
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
William Bridges-Maxwell
Member for Robertson
Succeeded by
Frank Walker
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.