House debates

Monday, 8 February 2016


Bannon, Hon. John Charles, AO

5:04 pm

Photo of Kate EllisKate Ellis (Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Education) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak in condolence for John Bannon and in doing so would like to place on the record my gratitude to John for the hard work that he put in for both the state that I love, South Australia, and Australia. But also, of course, I would like to put on the record my sympathy for his family in this time of grief.

In reflecting on the life and death of John Bannon, it struck me that he was the first politician I was ever aware existed. John Bannon was elected to the South Australian parliament in the year of my birth and, from as early as I can remember knowing anything about politics, I knew that he was our Premier. I was four or five when he became our Premier, and he stayed there almost until the time I could vote myself.

I am not sure if it is still the case, but I think the young can have a very innocent view of politics. I did not know if John Bannon was Liberal or Labor back when I was a child and he was our Premier, and I certainly did not know if I was Liberal or Labor. But what I did know was that he was my leader. He was the leader of our state. He was the person who would be there reassuring us when there were times of trouble and, equally, he would be the one who would be leading the celebrations when there were exciting events in South Australia throughout all of those years.

I remember in very early primary school taking tests about our knowledge of Australia, with questions like: who is the Premier? I would always write: 'John Bannon'. And I was incredibly sad, personally, when his premiership came to an end. What I probably did not recognise at the time was that he was not just our leader when fronting up at public events; he was our leader in driving real reform and bringing about lasting change for South Australia. He made an incredible impact.

Many speakers in this debate have talked about the role he played in helping to establish the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine in South Australia—something that was very hard going internally within the party, and which he played a hard but a critical role in. And the role John Bannon played in establishing the submarine building industry in South Australia and the Defence industry are both things which have been hugely significant and drivers of long-term economic growth and jobs.

The Hyatt and the Adelaide Casino complex was driven, in part, by John Bannon, and there was the conversion of part of the Adelaide railway station into the Adelaide Convention Centre. The electorate, and particularly the heart of the electorate, that I am so lucky to represent in this place was transformed by the contributions of John Bannon when he was Premier, and by the Bannon government. There was also the luring the Formula One Grand Prix to Adelaide and the really important work he undertook to put in place urban renewal programs to invigorate some of the declining inner suburbs of Adelaide. All of this was incredibly important, and there was much, much more achieved during the time that he served our state as Premier until, of course, the state bank collapse and the events that followed from that.

I later came across John Bannon when I was a student at Flinders University. I was a major in history, and I did not know what I wanted to do for a job at that point. People said to me, 'Why are you studying history? Where is that going to get you?' I was always of the view that, if you studied something you were passionate about and that you were interested in, it could only lead to good things. And I was always reassured when I walked through the history department at Flinders University and I saw John Bannon's picture up on the wall, because after politics he followed through with his great passion for history and completed a PhD at my old university, Flinders University, and could often be seen there.

When I met John Bannon for the first time, though, it was not through politics and it was not through Flinders University; it was through sport. When I was elected as the member for Adelaide, I was lucky enough to take responsibility for an electorate which has at its heart the beautiful Adelaide Oval, and it is a very important part of serving my local community that I turn out for important community events—namely, the Adelaide test, when it was on. Following my election, I was privileged to receive an invitation from the South Australian Cricket Association's committee room to watch the Test from there. When I walked in there—I was a fairly young politician at the time—I thought that people were looking at me as if I were an alien. It was not until someone took me aside and was joking about how, 'We don't get many Labor folk in this room up here', that I did look around at lunch. There was John Bannon with his lovely wife Angela, and whether he knew it or not—I do not know whether he went out of his way, whether he perceived that I had been feeling like I was a little bit out of my comfort zone—but he automatically make me both feel welcome and feel like I belonged there. I know that from the very first meeting I went away reflecting on what a nice and decent man John Bannon is, and that is the thing I think I reflected upon after any time that I met him.

The evening I heard of John's death, I said to my husband, 'I don't think that there is a single time that I came across John Bannon and I didn't leave walking away reflecting that he was a truly decent human being, a truly good man'. Of course, he is someone who is respected by friends across the political spectrum, and from all different walks of life, and we saw that in many of the quotes and many of the people who have spoken publicly following John's death.

He is also someone who left a remarkable legacy, not just in politics, not just through his studies, but also through sport, and particularly his great love of cricket. I know, both through the South Australian Cricket Association and through Cricket Australia, that John worked tirelessly and was incredibly important in making sure that Cricket Australia sets up a pathway for Indigenous cricketers and ensures that this great summer sport that we love so much in Adelaide is inclusive of all Australians. And that is something that I know John was working very hard for right up until his death.

I also know that when you have a look at some of the things that were said about John Bannon, I note that of course there were many Labor people who have reflected on the critically important role that he played within our party. There were remarks from Bob Hawke, from Bill Shorten, from Mike Rann, from Jay Weatherill, from Julia Gillard and from many others within this parliament. But I would also like it noted he was also incredibly respected and many people on the other side of politics were very fond of him. I know former Liberal Premier John Olsen remarked:

John … was a sincere and genuine person with a commitment and belief in South Australia, [I think] his legacy should be seen in its totality - not just [in the context of] the State Bank

He changed and modernised Labor, he faced up to challenges within his party.

All of that he did. I also know, and I do not think I would be putting words into the mouth of former Prime Minister John Howard, that John Howard and John Bannon could often be seen at the cricket together having a chat, enjoying their day out.

I would like to close by offering my sympathies to his family. I note that John's daughter, Victoria, stated:

For all of his love of tradition, he rejected the prejudices of the age …

… my Dad, the feminist, turned out to be one of the staunchest supporters in [my] life …

I know that Victoria, I know that particularly Angela and Dylan and Robyn, will all miss John very much. To them I offer my condolences, and to the parliament I offer the warmest memories of John Bannon.

Debate adjourned.


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