Offended politicians argued the parliament was “the most sober working place anywhere in this country” but Oakes later recalled that Spender helped to blunt the attacks.
“Fortunately I had the backing of a few principled MPs, including John Spender, who had been a prominent lawyer before entering parliament,” Oakes said in 2017.
Spender lost the seat of North Sydney in 1990 when challenged by Ted Mack, one of the fore-runners of today’s independents. He was named ambassador to France in 1996, after Howard led the Liberals to victory at the election that year, and held the post for four years.
Spender was married to Zampatti for 30 years until their divorce in 2010.
He is survived by his wife, Catherine, his daughters Bianca and Allegra and their partners Sam and Mark, his stepson Alex Schuman and five grandchildren.
Spender’s family thanked the staff of St Vincent’s Private Hospital for caring for him and quoted one of his remarks when he knew he only had a few days left: “The coffee better be good today.”
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