Political commentator Dean Jaensch dies 85 years old, remembered as academic ‘shining star’

Prominent political expert and psephologist Dean Jaensch, who was known to the ABC audience for his election analysis in southern Australia, has died at the age of 85.

The Emeritus Professor was a regular guest and commentator on ABC in South Australia, where he analyzed federal and state election trends.

“When I first sat down and watched a count of elections, whether it was state or federal, it was this guy who showed up,” Flinders University colleague Haydon Manning recalled.

“Before we had Antony Green and all the computer graphics, he would explain preference streams and who could win.”

As an academic, Professor Jaensch was most closely associated with Flinders University, where he lectured in politics and international studies for several decades until his retirement in 2001.

The university is among many to pay tribute to Professor Jaensch, who happily reflects on his “pregnancy observations on the works of state and federal Australian governments” and praises his “engaging and dynamic” teaching.

“Professor Dean Jaensch, who is a fierce intellectual, was never afraid to speak his mind or take part in an energetic but respectful debate,” said Vice Chancellor Colin Stirling.

“He encouraged his students to observe sharply, think deeply and act without fear or favor, making him a mentor par excellence.

Professor Jaensch also secured a reputation as a writer, historian, commentator and columnist and was a popular guest on ABC Radio Adelaide.

“Known and respected by generations of South Australians in decades of columns in The Advertiser and appearances on ABC radio and television and commercial radio, Professor Jaensch will be missed for his wisdom and wisdom,” said Professor Stirling.

Former ABC host Michael Smyth said he had “fond memories” of working with Professor Jaensch on the radio.

“We have lost one of SA’s great political minds with the passing of Professor Dean Jaensch,” he tweeted.

“His experience and insight, unsurpassed. A great teacher for generations.”

An elderly gentleman leans forward to answer a man holding a microphone
Professor Jaensch had a long career as an Associate Professor of Political and International Studies at Flinders University until his retirement in 2001.(Delivered to: Flinders University)

Professor Jaensch is survived by her three children and wife Helen, who issued a statement in which she said her husband had “made an extraordinary contribution” to the standard of political education, “touched many lives through his teaching”.

“Dean had the most amazing life and has been a wonderful husband and father to our children and our grandchildren,” she said.

“He gave so much to so many and gave freely of his time to many thousands throughout society.

Before becoming a political expert, Professor Jaensch worked as a teacher in the country’s schools.

Professor Manning said he was known for his “knockabout Aussie humor”.

“He spent some time as a jackaroo up north,” he said.

“He worked in the northern part of the state before taking his teacher training

“Students … simply loved his lectures because he always held a show.”

Senator Simon Birmingham said Professor Jaensch “always sought to educate rather than comment” and brought “intellect, wisdom and impartiality” to his roles.

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