Senate debates

Tuesday, 28 November 2023


Hayden, Hon. William George (Bill), AC

4:02 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development) Share this | Hansard source

On behalf of the National Party, I also rise to associate us with the commentary within the chamber today on the passing of the Hon. Bill Hayden AC, a distinguished figure whose contributions to our nation and public service have left an indelible mark on the Australian political landscape. I extend my and my colleagues' deepest condolences to his wife, Dallas; daughters, Ingrid and Georgie; son, Kirk, and their family. It's wonderful that they can join us today in the chamber to hear that, years after, their father and husband is celebrated by all sides of the chamber for the contributions he made. It's been wonderful to listen to Senator Waters's and other senators' contributions and to learn more about Mr Hayden and his time of service.

He did serve the Australian people with unwavering dedication and commitment throughout what was a remarkable career. From the earliest opportunity he choose careers that were dedicated to serving his community. He served in the Navy, after unsuccessfully applying for the Air Force, aged just 18. He then went on to join the Queensland Police Force as a police officer. It's that life of service and commitment to community and to making everything he did make his state, his community and eventually his nation better for others that I think is a unique calling, shall I say, vocational approach, to politics.

During his years of service, he spent most of his years in regional Queensland and eventually was stationed near Ipswich. Once, he was posted as the protection detail for the Queensland governor. At that time, I'm sure he'd never have believed that one day that young copper would end up being Australia's Governor-General with his own protection detail. He may later have regretted saying it, but I for one am very, very glad that Mr Hayden put into political folklore the term 'drover's dog', which has been such a partner of those of us who live out in the regions and our success in rural life.

After a failed attempt to join the Communist Party, ironically due to his connection to law enforcement, he became a staunch member of the Labor Party, in 1953. After eight years in the force, at age 28 he was elected to represent the people of Oxley in the House of Representatives in 1961 and went on to serve for more than 27 years, retiring in 1988. As a parliamentarian he championed causes that aimed to improve the lives of ordinary citizens, particularly those facing economic hardship and social inequality. Mr Hayden's most notable accomplishments were in his role as leader of the Australian Labor Party from 1977 to 1983. During this period he advocated for policies that prioritised social justice and inclusivity. As a single mother of four, many decades later, I am very grateful that the single-parent payment was brought into life because it made the life of my children and me much easier, given the circumstances we found ourselves in.

He recognised the importance of creating a fair and equitable society where every individual, regardless of their background and circumstances, had the opportunity to succeed. This commitment to inclusivity—I would argue this inclusivity was a result of his regional Queensland background—became a hallmark of his political career, earning him the respect and admiration of colleagues and constituents alike. He has been described as the best man never to have become Prime Minister. I reflect on an obituary written by Christopher Zinn in the Guardian:

His party's decision to deny him a chance to become PM has been called a moral turning point in its history, a victory for a "whatever it takes to win" philosophy that cursed it with leadership turmoil in subsequent years.

In his 1996 autobiography, Bill wrote of the leadership: 'It hurt like hell revisited several times.' All of us in this place, some more than others, know that despite our commitment to serve our nation we sometimes experience the very real sting of politics.

However, he picked himself up, dusted himself off and went on to become Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. In the realm of foreign policy, his diplomatic efforts contributed significantly to Australia's standing on the global stage. His advocacy for international humanitarian causes, coupled with a commitment to fostering peaceful relations between nations, reflected a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of our world at a time when we were experiencing significant change here at home. His dedication to social justice, equality and human rights resonated not only with his own party but across the entire political spectrum. In 1989 Bill was appointed to the position of Australia's Governor-General, a role he executed with grace and dignity. As the Queen's representative in Australia, he carried out his duty with a sense of responsibility that earnt him the respect and admiration of his fellow citizens. Some quotes from 1977 from this man, regarding his views about the position of Governor-General were that he didn't believe we needed such a position: 'The Americans get along very nicely without a Governor-General. They don't have a Governor-General overriding representatives of the people elected by the people and answerable to the people.' He went on to say, 'Of course we need people skilled and experienced in the duties of Governor-General—cutting ribbons, opening fetes and attending baby shows.'

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and it was with this humility that he took on the role. It has been remarked since his passing that he was a popular and distinctive Governor-General with a genuine common touch, which I think speaks to the role's necessity. His ceremonial role was carried out with a sense of duty that transcended political affiliations. During his term he brought a unique blend of statesmanship and approachability to the position of Governor-General, earning him the admiration of those he encountered.

As we reflect on Mr Hayden's legacy, let us remember his enduring commitment to public service, his passion for social justice and his unwavering dedication to the wellbeing of the Australian people. His impact on our nation will be felt for generations to come, and his memory will be forever etched in the annals of Australian history.

In these moments of grief, may the family and friends of Bill Hayden find solace in the knowledge that his contributions have left a legacy and that his spirit will continue to inspire those who follow in his footsteps. We in the Australian Senate join the nation in mourning the loss of a statesman, leader and advocate for the people, and our prayers are with his family during this difficult time.


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