Thursday, 30 November 2023
Hayden, Hon. William George (Bill), AC
Bill Hayden was a favourite son of Queensland. He was a servant of our party. He was an eminent Australian, and he was a friend of mine. Bill Hayden's loss did not come as a surprise to those of us who knew him, but it came as a sadness nonetheless.
Bill Hayden was a very, very good man. I want to talk about his political achievements over many portfolios in a long time in this House. I want to focus particularly on his achievements as Treasurer. He spent a relatively brief period as Treasurer—only six months—but his impact as Treasurer was enormous and is still felt today. In that six-month period, he crammed in a lot. He inherited a very difficult situation. It was probably the hardest incoming brief of any Treasurer since Ted Theodore before him and Wayne Swan, who came after him. Labour treasurers from Queensland tend to have a rough road, as they inherit very tough economic situations. Bill Hayden was no exception to that rule of the three Labor treasures from Queensland.
Of all the treasures of Australia, few were better suited or better prepared for the role than Bill Hayden. He famously entered parliament as a policeman, but then studied at night in the Old Parliamentary Library and got his economics degree. He studied very hard, and he was a very, very fine Treasurer indeed. He brought discipline and toughness but also compassion. He got out-of-control spending back in control. He reduced the budget deficit substantially. In that six-month period, he also embarked on an amazing period of economic reform, reducing the number of tax thresholds from 14 to seven, which is an amazing thing to think about in today's context. He also ensured that fairness and compassion were his talisman in the budget that he brought down.
Bill Hayden's crowning achievement, which has stood—and will stand—for generations, was his work as the Minister for Social Services in engineering Medibank, which was the precursor to Medicare. Medicare is now an inbuilt part of our body politic and of our social construct. It is a standard that nobody would dare attack, but it was highly controversial when it was introduced. It's sometimes easy to gloss over and forget what a hard job it was for Bill Hayden. He was subject to scare campaigns and vicious attacks. His wife received threatening calls at home. His personal health records were released to the public as part of that campaign against him, and yet he persevered, and he delivered Medibank. The scare campaign was, of course, not borne out. It was eventually watered down by the Fraser government, but it came back strongly in Medicare.
That is his crowning achievement, for which Australians enjoying Medicare in 2023 can still be thankful.
In many ways Bill Hayden set the tone for the Hawke-Keating years of reform. He took over as Leader of the Labor Party in 1977 and served until that famous—or infamous—day in 1983 when the election was called. He set a tone of compassion, again, but also discipline and toughness. He made clear that the Labor Party would need to engage in fiscal rigour and careful, methodical reform if we were to return to the government benches. It's often said that the Hawke-Keating cabinet was the best cabinet in the history of Federation, which I think is true. Bill Hayden of course was a very important member of the cabinet, as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. More importantly, the Hawke-Keating cabinet was the Hayden shadow cabinet; he put it in place. When Bob Hawke became leader, he didn't change a thing. Apart from appointing Bill as minister for foreign affairs, he left the rest of the arrangements in place—as close as possible—and that is to Bill Hayden's great credit.
I came to know Bill in later life when I wrote The Money Men, a history of the treasurers. I included Bill Hayden as one of the 12 most notable treasurers in Australian history, despite his relatively short tenure. I got to know him. He was a little bit wary, at first, that I was writing this book and I was from the New South Wales Right. The New South Wales Right wasn't always high on his Christmas card list, it's true to say. He was a little wary, but, as soon as I assured him that it was a very genuine exercise, he was extraordinarily generous and we became good friends. I would visit him. I visited him in hospital. He had a long stint in hospital in the electorate of the member for Blair. He was in hospital for many weeks. I spent half a day with him in that hospital room at one point. He made a point of bringing all the nurses in to meet me. He introduced me to everyone, and anybody passing by in the corridor got pulled in by Bill. I got the opportunity to see Dallas on that visit and on other visits to Bill as well. It was wonderful to see Dallas in the parliament yesterday. It was a very big effort for her to make it to the parliament. We all know how deeply Dallas is feeling the loss, after decades of marriage, and a very successful marriage at that.
I do want to stay, on a personal note, that I had a deep and warm and abiding affection for Bill Hayden. He was a very genuine, deeply compassionate and considered man, and his company was always a pleasure. He always had a view about events in Canberra. He watched events very closely. It was his destiny not to be Prime Minister of Australia. He would've been a very good Prime Minister of Australia, but that wasn't his destiny. We ended up with another very good Prime Minister in Bob Hawke. Bill Hayden made his contribution as Minister for Social Security, as Treasurer, as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and as Governor-General. There are a few people who can say they've been Treasurer, minister for foreign affairs and Governor-General—Lord Casey is one—but not many; it's a rare trifecta. In his later years, Bill could certainly look back with great pride, as the many generations of his family can today. Bill Hayden, my friend, rest in peace.
I hope to bring another dimension to this debate on the passing of the late Bill Hayden. I'd like to talk a little bit about his time as Governor-General of Australia. I was very fortunate in January 1989 to be appointed as aide-de-camp to the Governor-General. I served there for 12 months, until January 1990. That was the last six weeks or so of Sir Ninian Stephen and the first year or so of Bill Hayden as Governor-General. I have to say I came into that position with some wariness, given Bill's outspokenness about Australia becoming a republic. Honourable members would recall the controversy when it was announced that Bill would be the Governor-General, but he took it in his stride as he took on the role.
I was fairly conservative back in those days—I wasn't the old leftie that I think I've become—but I took up the appointment and went to work for Bill.
I've got to say that I was very, very quickly won over by Bill and his wonderful wife, Dallas. I would be hard pressed to think of a more thoroughly decent man than Bill Hayden. And I don't say that lightly. I don't say that because it's a condolence motion. I don't need to stand here and say that. He was genuinely a thoroughly decent man and he influenced me deeply. He used to take the ADCs under his wing a bit. As we were either driving out to the 34 Squadron in the Rolla, driving around Sydney in the Comcar or sitting on the plane, or at a dinner with the personal staff, we'd talk about all sorts of things, and it was Bill who introduced me properly to the whole idea of social justice. I think in that one year I did a backflip from a staunch conservative army officer to a bit of a sly leftie in the ranks, and I'm really, really grateful for that influence that Bill had on me back then.
I would also add that Dallas won me over straightaway as another thoroughly decent human being, and it was a delight to speak briefly with Dallas and her son and two daughters when they were in Parliament House this week—a really lovely family. Apart from everything else, this is a sad family story that they've lost their dad and their husband. I would add to the comment earlier that it was a very long and very loving marriage, and quite a good example was set for us all. However, I must add, though, that I did feel that, as warm as the Haydens were to the military staff, they were initially, at least, a bit uncomfortable in having uniformed military personnel hovering around them. It wasn't really Bill's thing. I understand that, after that first year, he might have even removed the military staff, or at least the uniformed ADCs, although I think more recently they've come back and are on the payroll, so to speak.
Mind you, Bill did see the value of us in uniform, and I remember a lovely trip up to the Kimberley. I think we were in Kalumburu talking to the schoolchildren at the school there. Bill was trying to explain to them the role of the Governor-General and all the concepts that swirl around that. You could see, with the little kids, that their eyes were just glazing over and they were nodding off. I think that Bill, with a little bit of exasperation, eventually just gave up and called on me: 'Captain, come over here. They're all looking at you, not me. They're looking at your aiguillette, your uniform and your slouch hat. Please tell them about that.' And I did. He commented afterwards—I think it might have been as we were flying out of Kalumburu to somewhere else, and I don't know if this was a joke or if he was half-serious—that maybe he should bring back the vice-regal ceremonial uniform with the big hat and the feathers. He thought, perhaps if he did that, he might get more attention from the schoolchildren.
This is not entirely unrelated to another episode I recall. During the pilot strike of 1989, whenever he went anywhere in Australia he generously invited government ministers to grab a lift on the VIP flight. I recall that, very late one night, we were flying back from Perth—it might have been after the funeral of the late governor—and he had at least two senior cabinet ministers on the plane, and I was lucky enough to be sitting there with them. Red wine had been consumed, and one of the senior cabinet ministers—I won't name him, as a courtesy—made some comment. We started talking about the dismissal, or, well, they started talking about the dismissal—I just sat respectfully. One of the senior cabinet ministers made the observation that the dismissal wouldn't have happened if Bill Hayden had been the Governor-General. Bill Hayden stopped them in their tracks and said: 'I don't know. Maybe the Governor-General's mistake at the time was not so much what he did but that he acted too quickly'—and that he would have been well advised to have given Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam more time to resolve the issue.
He recounted an episode in British history where apparently the sovereign, whoever it was at the time, called the British Prime Minister and the British opposition leader into their office and said something like, 'You're not leaving this office until we've resolved the impasse.' So that was one aspect of Bill's take on the dismissal. Interestingly, Bill also said at the time that he believed very strongly that there should be a strong head of state to counterbalance the head of government. So that was, in a roundabout way, saying that we do need a Governor-General with some power, not just a figurehead. That bringing people together in the sovereign's office does also remind me of how Bill would try and bring people together. There was a memorable dinner at Government House in 1989, where Bill Hayden actually had both Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser around for dinner with him, and by all reports the three of them got on famously. He brought people together.
Bill was a very astute man. He was very forgiving. I won't go into detail, but he forgave my rowdy roof party at Government House in Canberra, and he also forgave me for an unapproved rowdy party that I somehow managed to bring together at Admiralty House in Sydney one weekend when he wasn't there. He forgave me for both, so I think he was a very forgiving man and I'm grateful. Thank you, Bill. Thank you, Dallas.
Bill, you were a remarkable man, a thoroughly decent man. You were highly intelligent and inquisitive, compassionate and forgiving. There is no doubt that Bill Hayden influenced a great many people, and he left the world a better place. For that, I think we should all be grateful. I am personally very grateful for the way he has reshaped my life in a significant way, and I think it's reflected in my voting pattern in this very parliament. Thank you, Bill.
Bill Hayden was the best Labor Prime Minister Australia did not have. He was a decent, honourable, wise and compassionate man. He was my first federal MP. He served as member of Oxley for 27 years, and during that time he was a great example for me. He was my federal MP and my constituent later in life.
Bill Hayden was born in Brisbane on 23 January 1933. He was raised in a tough environment in South Brisbane. A child of the depression, he called himself. He told me that on numerous occasions. He grew up in poverty in difficult family straits. He grew up 'getting angry', as he said in his 1996 autobiography. World War II deeply affected Bill, as did the death of his beloved wartime leader, Labor Prime Minister John Curtin, in 1945.
Bill started his working life in the Queensland public service, but it didn't really excite him very much. He was conscripted into the Navy as part of the national service training, an experience of compulsion which nearly influenced him into joining the Communist Party. He joined the Queensland police as a constable and was posted at Redbank police station in Ipswich. His earlier life experiences made Bill set about attending to the 'great register of social injustices', as he would describe it. He accumulated these from childhood, through his police years and into parliament.
He married Dallas, a coalminer's daughter. 'Love at first sight', he said, and that without her he would've been a lesser person. His beloved children gave him purpose and made him a better person. That was Bill's humble way of saying how people influenced his life.
He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1961. It was a remarkable feat to get elected to the federal seat of Oxley. He was 28 years of age and up against long-sitting member Dr Donald Cameron, the health minister in the Menzies government. He needed a huge swing. Dr Cameron's grandfather was the principal at Ipswich Grammar School, Dr Cameron's wife, Rhoda, started Meals on Wheels in Ipswich, and Dr Cameron had been Dallas's family doctor and had delivered Dallas as a baby.
Oxley was 18,000 square kilometres, a combination of Blair, Oxley, Wright, Longman and Maranoa in our terms. It was a regional and rural electorate. Bill won a preselection of intensity and drama against a favoured AWU candidate, a win that would rival Paul Keating's preselection nearly a decade later. It was full of vim and vigour, but Bill would win that preselection comfortably, so it didn't become a national issue as Paul's preselection became. He won Oxley in the general election. He campaigned in country towns up and down the rural parts outside of Ipswich. I met many people, when I first started campaigning in 2004 and 2007, who said that they'd not met a Labor candidate since Bill Hayden. He was a wonderful local representative.
That young man proved how good he could be as an MP, and if I could be even a quarter as good an MP as Bill Hayden I would achieve a lot. He was devoted to country and city. He turned up at rural shows dutifully. As he told me, when he was driving behind wagons, tractors and horse carts, driving up those country roads, he was thinking about the fact that he had to go up to those areas on a Saturday for a country show. He used to say to me: 'Just keep doing it, Shayne. You've just got to keep doing it.'
He established Labor Party branches in country areas. He helped his constituents faithfully. He did mobile offices to ensure they could access him. On the day Bill passed away, someone at the dinner celebrating 100 years of the Country Women's Association in Esk—an area that he represented initially and I represent now—gave me a copy of a now-defunct newspaper, the Brisbane Valley Star. I'd never heard of it. On 12 February 1965, here was Bill Hayden advertising a mobile office at the Club Hotel in Toogoolawah and Martin's shop in Esk. I don't know Martin's shop in Esk—it's not there anymore, and I don't know what it sold. I would call that a country mobile office run.
Bill and Dallas were constituents of mine, and they lived on their rural property up on the hill at Bryden, overlooking Somerset Dam. Bill told me many times to keep doing those mobile offices in the Somerset region, but he used to say, 'Don't forget Ipswich.' If my vote was too low in Ipswich, he used to tell me to keep campaigning there. Bill said when he got preselected the idea was that the Ipswich vote would look after itself, but it was never high enough federally. He traced the difference between the state vote in Ipswich and the federal vote and said that, back into the 1920s, the state vote in Ipswich was always higher than the federal vote. He had to get that vote up in Ipswich, he said.
The Ipswich Civic Centre exists because of Bill Hayden and the Prime Minister Bill would call 'the great man', Gough Whitlam. Buildings and streets are named after Bill in Ipswich: the WG Hayden Humanities Centre and WG Hayden Drive in Collingwood Park. He left his imprint everywhere. By the end of his days in parliament, his seat of Oxley looked like Oxley now plus the urban parts of Blair, after numerous redistributions—some of which he was really happy about, let me tell you. He told me so after he and I both spoke at the funeral of Herb Olm, who was one of his campaign workers in the Lockyer Valley.
Without Bill Hayden, we wouldn't have universal health care. As the member for McMahon said before, it was a tough gig. Bill and Dallas lost friends. People would walk on the other side of the street because they hated what Bill was doing, and Dallas copped so much opprobrium. But Medibank, hard fought, paved the way for Medicare. And that controversial single mothers pension—I met people who told me they would never vote for Bill Hayden again because of that, because somehow it would ruin morality. But Bill's experience as a child, and his experience as a police officer, meant that he knew that bringing in a single mothers pension was the decent and honourable thing to do. That paved the way for what we call family tax benefits today. He did that as social security minister.
He became Treasurer much too late; Whitlam should have appointed him and not Jim Cairns. But, interestingly, Malcolm Fraser's coalition passed Bill's budget unamended. In the dying days before the dismissal, Bill gave Labor economic credibility. He gave Whitlam his sage advice—his copper's instinct. He told me this, too, and it's been recorded in history: be wary of John Kerr as Governor-General.
As a teenager, I asked Bill about the dismissal at a St Paul's Anglican Church dinner dance one night. I hadn't voted in a federal election. I was there with a girl—who would later become my wife, can I tell you—and I asked him, 'Was that a conspiracy?' Now, Bill was too clever for me. He was opposition leader at the time. He was my local MP, and Bill said to me, clearly and cleverly, 'Kerr did not act alone.' Subsequent events and documents have proved Bill's copper's instincts were correct: Kerr did not act alone.
In 1975, Bill nearly lost. He was the only serving Labor MP in federal parliament after 1975. He didn't stand for the front bench and only became leader in '77. He told me that, for years after the 1975 election, he couldn't bring himself to drive a certain way into Brisbane, because those suburbs had voted against him in droves. So he didn't forgive or forget too easily.
He was shrewd. He was smart. His life experiences meant he had great insight—a certain perspicacity, I think—and was a shrewd judge of character. People have said he was humble. I've spoken to people like Rachel Nolan, a former member for Ipswich, and David Hamill, a former member for Ipswich, both ministers in the Queensland Labor government. David was a Treasurer in the Queensland Labor government. He knew Bill very well and had the benefit of Bill launching their campaigns, as he did mine at times. Dallas was always there with him. She would always come. David always called him 'William George' with great affection, because David worked for him.
Rachel has always said about Bill that he was so wise and so clever he could pick people out really well. Even in his retirement, before ill health incapacitated him, he'd ring me up and say: 'It's Bill Hayden here, Shayne. It's Bill Hayden.' I'd say: 'I know who you are, Bill. I recognise your voice. You're my federal MP.' And he would talk to me about fishing in Italy and about how climate change was affecting Spain. He'd watched some program or read some book. He was really worried that NRL players wouldn't get a proper workers compensation scheme. So he had great knowledge.
I remember in the last meeting I had with Bill, just months before he died in his home at Bryden, he asked me, 'What's Penny doing about Vietnam?' He said, 'I think Albo's doing alright. Just let him know about this.' And I mentioned to Albo—to the Prime Minister—about Bill's ill health.
I was honoured, and so was David and Rachel, to have Bill write to me about the fact that he was going to be baptised in the Catholic Church after a lifetime of spiritual scepticism. Now, Bill's letter to his friends—and I was just one of many—was reasoned, cogent and profound as ever, and it reminded me of CS Lewis's apologetic treatise Mere Christianity. It was so well thought-through. This idea that it was somehow just instinctive or intuitive—it's not true. Bill had thought about this for a long time.
I saw, as I said, Bill and Dallas, with Madonna Stott from my office—we'd left the Esk Show—some months before he died. I was doing a mobile office up there. Bill was poorly, and we talked about things. One of the things that Bill talked about that day was Vietnam. He was really keen to know what Penny Wong, as foreign minister, was doing about that. I remember a meeting at the Silkstone-Booval branch of the Labor Party in the eighties. Bill was foreign minister at the time, and he talked about his long-standing opposition to the war in Vietnam and how as foreign minister we needed to help Vietnam and bring it back. For him to talk to me just months before he died about his concerns about what we needed to do to engage with Vietnam showed to me his international perspective. For that boy from South Brisbane, that young man from Ipswich, it was still there at the end of his life.
Bill rebuilt the party and made us electable. If only Queensland had swung in 1980, as it needed to, Bill would have been Prime Minister in 1980. It swung, but not enough.
I remember having lunch with former Labor Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe. I was the shadow minister for ageing, and Brian was on the panel for positive ageing. For nearly two hours Brian hardly touched his food at this Melbourne university; he hardly touched it at all. For nearly two hours he talked about what a great healer and leader Bill was in the Labor Party. He lauded Bill for his policy development and his promotion of talent, and how Bill never got the credit that he thoroughly deserved.
I remember the late great Susan Ryan, who I got to know really well towards the end of her life, who told me many times—even as she said in the Hayden oration in Ipswich one night—that Bill was way ahead of society in promoting women and women's rights, and LGBTQI+ rights as well. I remember the day Bill died. I was with Rainbow Labor at the Mardi Gras-Burg at Marburg, a celebration of gay and lesbian rights. I was with those people there—and how propitious it was—and saw how much they respected and admired Bill for his foresight and for being ahead of society and everyone in that area.
Bill was sadly not given the opportunity to become prime minister in 1983, and people, locally, were really concerned about that. I remember he told me a story about a lady who told him, during the 1983 election, that, because of what Bob Hawke had done to him, she would never vote Labor again. She lived in Oxley, and he said: 'No, for heaven's sake, vote for me. I need your vote. I'll need every vote I can get.'
He served with distinction as foreign minister, and as Governor-General, of course, from 1989 to 1996. He and Dallas rejoined the Labor Party and joined the Ipswich North branch. They'd come to the front row—Bill's hearing was starting to go a bit by then—at branch meetings. This was the former Labor leader at the front row at a branch meeting of the Labor Party. Then they joined the Somerset branch and became life members of the party, and they were deeply respected figures locally in my area. I'm so pleased that Sister Angela Mary Doyle, the respected hospital administrator whose example actually led Bill to God, was there with him in the last years of his life. Bill found her to be an example and confidant.
Bill was generous and thoughtful, learned and always learning. His house was full of souvenirs and mementos of a lifetime in politics, but it was also full of books and papers. His study of economics as a mature student led his views to the political centre on economics, while he retained his independent thinking to the left on social issues. I recall—and Barry Jones talks about this, and I've spoken to Bill about this—how, after 1983, he and some of the caucus members formed the now defunct Centre Left faction. It was mainly uncommitted moderates from states other than New South Wales and Victoria. In his autobiography, Bill explained that:
The Centre Left was formed as an act of self-preservation for a gaggle of mild Fabian reformers. As Barry Jones once explained to us at a meeting when we were anxiously exploring an identify crisis: 'We are a political lonely hearts club. What draws us together is that no-one else loves us.' A few seconds for the message to sink in, a few more of grave head-nodding agreement, and with that high crisis resolved, we moved on to other lesser business.
How appropriate—typical Bill, quirky as ever.
He called Paul Keating, can I say, a big hitter. He saw in Paul the man most likely to succeed him as Labor leader and possibly become prime minister. Bill, it has been said, created the greatest cabinet in Australia's history, only for Bob Hawke to inherit it. 'Standing down on the eve of the 1983 election hurt like hell,' Bill said. But Bill was totally crucial to Keating and Hawke in helping the Centre Left support the much-needed economic reforms of the 1980s. As Keating said, about Bill Hayden's time as foreign minister, Bill supported ANZUS, the American alliance, but he was no sycophant or supplicant to Washington. He championed a peace settlement with Cambodia and he delivered that idea and the whole process to Gareth Evans, his successor, to deliver it and eventually bring it to fruition and implement it.
When Bob Hawke died, in 2019, I reached out to Bill and asked him what he'd like to say of Hawke. He had a nuanced and unusual relationship with Hawke, as you can imagine. Bill told me to say this, 'While Hawke had his human weaknesses, he had no peer.' Bill was saddened by Bob's passing and said that Bob was 'the Don Bradman of Australian politics'. That's typical, because Hawke loved cricket, and Bill knew he did. It was a typical, generous, insightful and discerning Hayden comment.
I'll save the last word in my speech for Gareth Evans, who's given me permission to say this of Bill, and I couldn't put it any better—he succeeded Bill as foreign minister. I caught up with Gareth here in parliament, and I actually caught up with him in Kuala Lumpur just last week. Gareth says this about Bill: 'Bill had a lifetime of incredible achievement, for which he deserves the utmost respect and recognition. He was the sanest voice in the Whitlam government, with heroic achievements in health and Treasury, and did a terrific job in managing the huge task of making Labor electable again. He had a really creative period as foreign minister, which certainly helped me. And his time as Governor-General was an appropriate capstone to a brilliant career as a great Australian. I owe Bill a lot, as do all of us in the movement, and his legacy will be with us a very long-lasting time.'
My deepest condolence to Dallas, his 'constant companion', as he says in his foreword to his autobiography, and beloved and adoring wife of more than 60 years; his children Georgina, Ingrid and Kirk; his extended family; and his many, many friends.
It was also with much sadness that I learned of the passing of William George Hayden AC, 21st Governor-General of Australia, at the age of 90 on 21 October. As the member for Clark put it, Bill Hayden was a thoroughly decent man. It was interesting to hear about the member for Clark's somewhat of a road to Damascus experience with Bill as Governor-General when he was working with him as an ADC. It was also a privilege to listen to the member for Blair and to hear about that letter, which I would love to read, where Bill Hayden talked about his thinking when he decided to get baptised into Catholicism. My family's thoughts are with Dallas, Bill's beloved wife of 63 years, their children and all those who knew him and loved him best. We mourn the passing of a thoroughly decent man, as has been said, a great servant of the Australian Labor Party and a great servant of our nation.
Bill was born in 1933 and grew up in working-class Brisbane. After leaving school he joined the Public Service and then the Queensland Police Force. In the police, he saw poverty, violence and injustice firsthand, which was a really formative influence on his political career. In 1961, he was elected as the Labor member for Oxley in the election that Labor almost won under Arthur Calwell. After years in opposition, Bill Hayden was appointed as a minister and Treasurer in the Whitlam government. As a reforming Minister for Social Security, he introduced Australia's first single-mothers pension, having seen, as a Queensland police officer, how women often became trapped in violent relationships. This wasn't a popular thing to do—the reaction to it was an indicator of the conservatism of his time—but it was a reflection of Bill's character. Bill Hayden also introduced Medibank, the forerunner of today's Medicare universal health system, again in the face of fierce opposition from doctors, conservative state governments, private hospitals, the inefficient private health funds and some Senate obstruction. As Treasurer in the last months of the Whitlam government, Bill Hayden succeeded in introducing some discipline to economic policy and the budgeting process.
Following the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975 and the further defeat of 1977, Bill became the leader of the parliamentary Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition. He wrote in his autobiography that being opposition leader is the toughest job in the country. As Leader of the Opposition, Bill Hayden got very close to winning the 1980 election, where Labor achieved 49.6 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, the largest swing to Labor in the preceding quarter of a century. The electorate result was more clear cut, with 74 seats to the LNP coalition and 51 to Labor in the then House of Representatives of 125 seats. In the face of growing support within the party for Bob Hawke, as the 1983 election approached, Bill Hayden decided to resign in the interest of party unity, and we've heard from the member for Blair, who knew him well, how difficult that was. There is no doubt that Labor would have won the 1983 election under Bill Hayden's leadership. He memorably said that a drover's dog could have led the party to victory at that time.
Bill Hayden's great contribution to the Labor Party and to the nation during those hard years of opposition and his ministerial career was, as Paul Keating has said, to lay the foundation for the social and economic reforms that created three decades of economic growth and delivered Australia a new era in education, foreign affairs, environmental policy and universal health care. Bill Hayden served the nation with distinction and dignity as Minister for Foreign Affairs and then as Governor-General, as we heard earlier from the member for Clark.
Bill Hayden was also very notable for his humility and service—that service which started as a young man. I note his connection to this service in that he wanted donations to the St Vincent de Paul Society in preference to flowers at his funeral. This was also noted by some fellow Vinnies friends of mine in Darwin this weekend past.
We mourn the passing of an influential giant of the Labor Party. As the Prime Minister has said:
Like so many of my colleagues, I benefited greatly from Bill's advice, I valued his insight and I always appreciated the considered way in which he offered it.
My family's condolences to Bill's family and to all those who grieve for Bill Hayden. God bless you all and, of course, God bless Bill. May he rest in peace.
I'd like to start by acknowledging all the contributions by the previous speakers in this place, but I would like to draw light on the contribution by the member for Blair. It's very clear that he and Bill Hayden had a very exceptional friendship, and I think this place is much the richer for the member for Blair's contribution and delivers a very hard act to follow.
The 47th Parliament has seen many new faces join it, myself included amongst them. It's an honour and duty, bestowed upon me by the people of Spence to sit here in this place, that will never wear off. I know that this is not a feeling that is unique to myself—not even close. Since our federation, just under 1,900 individuals have been given this privilege, the privilege of sitting in the House of Representatives or in the other place. During this 47th Parliament, there have 49 people who have joined that number, with that number soon to become 50 once a vacancy in the other place has been filled. I open with this to reflect upon the gravity of the offices we hold but also to highlight the individuals that stand taller amongst our ranks, those of us who led a truly exemplary career both inside and the parliament. On 21 October, we lost one of those exemplars. We lost Bill Hayden—not a figure that put himself out to stand above his peers, but a man who his peers saw as a giant amongst their number.
Bill Hayden's story is not just a chronicle of political triumphs; it is a testament to resilience, a relentless pursuit of social justice and an unwavering commitment to the values of the Australian Labor Party. Born into the crucible of the Great Depression, his early life was steeped in adversity—a crucible that forged a man of unbreakable spirit and deep empathy for the struggles of ordinary Australians. From humble beginnings in Queensland, where he walked shoeless to school, to the highest offices of this land, stands as a testament to his unyielding determination and dedication. As we reflect on his legacy, we remember a man who, despite his towering achievements, remained grounded and true to his roots.
His journey from Highgate Hill to high office, and ultimately to role of Governor-General, epitomises the Australian spirit of striving for greatness while maintaining humility and connection to one's origins. His time as a police officer deepened his understanding of the struggles faced by everyday Australians, instilling in him a resolve to effect change through public service. These experiences laid the foundation for a career defined by a passion for social reform and a profound understanding of the responsibilities of leadership.
Bill Hayden's political career, spanning over three decades, was characterised by significant reform and visionary leadership. As a member of this parliament, a minister and later as Leader of the Opposition, he was a driving force for progressive change. Throughout his career, Bill Hayden's contributions were as diverse as they were significant. As Minister for Social Security, he championed reforms that provided a lifeline to the most vulnerable. His tenure as Treasurer saw the implementation of economic policies that were both progressive and pragmatic, safeguarding Australia's financial stability in times of global uncertainty.
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
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Yet it was his role in the development of Medicare, Australia's public healthcare system, that stands as a towering achievement. His vision for a healthcare system accessible to every Australian was revolutionary. It was a policy born of a belief that health care is not a privilege but a fundamental right. I believe that has ensured the health and wellbeing of millions of Australians to this day and millions more in the years to come. His role in establishing Medibank, the precursor to Medicare, transformed Australian health care, ensuring access for all citizens and laying the foundation for a system that remains a cornerstone for the Australian way of life. The years that followed remain something that every member of the federal parliamentary Labor Party has worn as a badge of honour.
Bill Hayden was elected as the member for Oxley at the 1961 election. He continued to serve the people of Oxley for over 26 years. His first speech to the House on 1 March 1962 took place at a time when Gough Whitlam was Deputy Leader of the federal parliamentary Labor Party, a time when Harold was serving as Treasurer. His time as Treasurer, though brief, was impactful, demonstrating a commitment to responsible economic management. It was under his stewardship that the Australian Labor Party began its transformation, preparing the ground for a period of reform and prosperity. His leadership saw the emergence of a party ready to govern.
The Treasurer, when delivering his condolence speech in the House on Wednesday, put it best when he took stock of Bill's ability to bring together competing and sometimes conflicting traits to make each add value greater than the sum of its parts. The Treasurer spoke of warm hearts and hardheads, responsibility and reform, pragmatism and principle, ends and means. For Bill, no trait was mutually exclusive. It would explain why many credit Bill to this day as being one of Labor's great economic rationalists. It is indeed true that Bill Hayden always had an interest in economics as a means of societal transformation. It was apparent at a very early juncture in Bill's parliamentary career.
Arthur Calwell, the opposition leader at the time, once remarked while wondering aloud why Hayden gravitated towards economics rather than being a normal politician and worrying about his electorate instead. Thankfully, though, Gough was able to see the traits and qualities in Bill that would see him join the Whitlam cabinet's economic committee after Labor came into power after the 1972 election. It was a role that would lead him to be known as Frank Crean's understudy, another Labor heavyweight in his own right. It wasn't all that long ago that this House paid its respects in condolence to his son Simon for his immense contribution to the Labor Party, to this parliament and to Australian public life.
Bill Hayden's tenure as Treasurer, though brief, was impactful, demonstrating a commitment to responsible economic management, paving the ground for further reforms for Labor governments to implement in the years that followed. In fact, Paul Keating himself was reported to have said that, if it were not for Bill Hayden, it would have been unlikely that he would have become Treasurer. What a different country we would have been. It was under his stewardship that the Australian Labor Party began its transformation, preparing the ground for a period of reform and prosperity. His leadership saw the emergence of a party ready to govern, a testament to his strategic vision and his ability to inspire and unify. Bill Hayden was more than just a transformational figure in our political history—he was transformational. His leadership prepared the Australian Labor Party for a new era of social and economic reform, sowing the seeds for what would become a period of unparalleled growth and progress in our nation.
His personal qualities were as notable as his political achievements. Known for his humility, Bill Hayden was a man who never lost sight of his roots. He remained grounded and connected to the real issues affecting Australians, a quality that earned him respect across the political spectrum. His selfless act of stepping down as Leader of the Opposition, with the prime ministership in reach, was a defining moment in our political history, demonstrating his commitment to the greater good over personal ambition, leading to him being played by Paul Gleeson in the straight-to-TV movie Hawke, which portrayed those events with a certain degree of political licence.
Earlier this week, we had condolence statements made for Bill Hayden by the current and one former member for Oxley, which in itself is quite an uncommon occurrence. It was a testament to his character and life of public service and to the sheer level of respect across all walks of life and across all political divides. As we honour the legacy and achievements of the honourable Bill Hayden AC, we are reminded of the impact a single individual can have in shaping the course of a nation.
Bill Hayden's life was a journey of service and a journey dedicated to the pursuit of a better Australia. His contributions to our party and our country are immeasurable and his vision for a more inclusive and compassionate society remains as relevant today as it ever was. In remembering Bill Hayden, we are reminded of the qualities that make not just a great politician but a great Australian: a dedication to the public good, a profound sense of justice and an unyielding commitment to the principles of fairness and equality. His life serves as a beacon, guiding us through the complexities of governance and reminding us of the fundamental purpose of our roles as representatives of the people.
As we bid farewell to this great Australian, we carry forward the lessons of his life: the importance of humility, the pursuit of social justice and the belief in the power of collective effort to create a better society. Bill Hayden's memory will continue to inspire us, guiding our actions and reminding us of the ideals he championed. If there is anything we as members of this place could do to honour his legacy, it would be to learn from it and build upon it—something we should all be striving to do and striving to never lose sight of as we go about our own journeys in public life. Vale, Bill Hayden.
Australia has many people who, when looking back, have inspired, changed lives and empowered Australians. In fact, every day I am reminded about the greats of our party, given the honour and privilege it is to represent the seat of Werriwa after other great luminaries like Gough Whitlam and John Kerin. In the pantheon of Labor greats, though, few stand taller than Bill Hayden. In reality, he stands tall not just as a great Labor man but as a great Australian. Few have achieved so much over such a long period of time.
Bill Hayden's list of achievements runs to pages: police officer, member of parliament, minister, Treasurer, Leader of the Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition and Governor-General, to name a few. From our side of politics, though, I think his time as opposition leader is the most seminal. After the disaster of the 1975 election and the equally devastating loss in 1977, Bill took over the leadership at an extremely difficult time, but he quickly found his stride. The fact that he did so is not really surprising. He had immense talent and a natural instinct for politics and government. His time as Whitlam's Treasurer, albeit for a short period, showed his potential. I'm left to ponder how things may have been different for Gough and his team had he taken on the role earlier.
With Bill as ALP leader in the period of 1977 to 1983, the Labor Party again became competitive. In the 1980 election, he gained a healthy swing to Labor and slashed the Liberal majority in half. He very much laid the foundation for the eventual triumph in 1983 by Bob Hawke. During his time as Leader of the Labor Party, Hayden reformed the party, not least by introducing a quota of 30 per cent women MPs and opening up the party to an emerging professional class.
He understood people, he understood the aspirations of everyday Australians and he understood the parliament processes to bring about change.
Perhaps this natural instinct and empathy came from his upbringing. As one of five children, he grew up in a poor family, and, after attending Brisbane State High School, he left school at the age of 15 to become a clerk and then later join the Queensland police. He studied at the University of Queensland. His story in some respects is typical of its day, but the gift of his upbringing to the Labor Party and then to the Australian public is that it made him grounded. He knew firsthand of the needs of the people he grew up with—the struggles of everyday Australians. Who better, then, as minister to introduce Medibank, Australia's first universal health scheme? Medibank changed the lives of families across Australia, particularly mine. He took the pressure and worry away from my father, because my mother had an illness that made her very unwell. My father was equally devastated when the election of the Fraser government meant that Medibank was discontinued. Hayden also introduced the pension for single mothers so that they then had a choice not to stay in situations that were not good for them.
Our nation owns a debt to Hayden. Brisbane and Ipswich gifted this man, a man who made a difference, made an impact and changed things for the better. No more can be asked of any representative of this place. Bill Hayden's portrait graces the Labor Party caucus room as a reminder of all that is good about our party and its cause. But, more than that, it reminds us that one life from humble beginnings can make an enormous difference and that all of us, regardless of any political difference—
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But, more than that, it reminds us that one life from humble beginnings can make an enormous difference and that all of us, regardless of any political differences, can take enormous encouragement from this.
May Bill Hayden rest in peace and may his family take comfort in the fact that he was greatly loved and enormously respected by so many around Australia.
I understand that it is the wish of honourable members to signify at this stage their respect and sympathy by rising in their places and I ask all present to do so.
Honourable members having stood in their places—
I thank the Federation Chamber.