Senate debates

Tuesday, 28 November 2023


Hayden, Hon. William George (Bill), AC

3:34 pm

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (President) Share this | | Hansard source

It is with deep regret that I inform the Senate of the death on 21 October 2023 of the Hon. Bill Hayden AC, Governor-General from 1988 to 1996 and a former minister and member of the House of Representatives for the division of Oxley, Queensland, from 1961 to 1988.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I move:

That the Senate records its sorrow at the death, on 21 October 2023, of the Honourable Bill Hayden AC, twenty-first Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, former cabinet minister in the Whitlam and Hawke governments, former leader of the Australian Labor Party and former Member for Oxley, places on the record its gratitude of his long and distinguished service to the Parliament of Australia and the nation, and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

Senators, I rise on behalf of the government to express our condolences following the passing of a great servant of the nation, the parliament and the Australian Labor Party—the Hon. William 'Bill' George Hayden, former Governor-General, cabinet minister, Labor leader and member of the House of Representatives—at the age of 90. As I begin, I convey our sympathies to his family—his widow, Dallas Hayden AM and his children, Georgina, Ingrid, Kirk and the late Michaela—as well as to his grandchildren, former colleagues and many friends. I welcome Mrs Hayden, Ms Georgina Hayden, Ms Ingrid Hayden and Captain Kirk Hayden to the Senate today.

Few have given more in the service of our country than Bill Hayden, and even fewer have done so with his humility. In so many ways, Bill Hayden helped lay the foundation of what we have come to value about modern Australia. He introduced Australia's first universal health insurance scheme, Medibank, as social security minister under Whitlam. As foreign minister under Hawke, he was a strong advocate for our country, turning our attention to our own region, and for closer ties with the countries of the Asia-Pacific. He modernised our party, democratising and refocusing the Australian Labor Party while working to rebuild our credibility as a party of government, and he continued a life of service as the 21st Governor-General of Australia. He was central in reshaping Labor from its Whitlam identity to its modern character, not only as one of just four ministers to serve under both Prime Ministers Whitlam and Hawke, but, moreover, in how he turned Labor's focus, demonstrating competent economic management as the necessary precondition for implementing and, crucially, embedding bold social reform.

Bill Hayden was, in his own words, a product of the Great Depression. One of five children, he was born to a working-class family in Brisbane and raised in Ipswich. His father, George Hayden, an Irish American merchant seaman who settled in Australia, married Violet Quinn in 1933. Raised in poverty, Bill attended Brisbane State High School until the age of 15, before leaving school in 1953 to join the Queensland police force, where he served for eight years. During this time, he studied economics and politics part time at the University of Queensland. He became increasingly active in Labor politics and, despite some more-radical political tendencies, eventually gained preselection to contest the federal seat of Oxley for Labor at the 1961 federal election, where he defeated the incumbent, Liberal minister Dr Donald Cameron.

In his first speech to the House of Representatives, Bill Hayden spoke of the honour and privilege of serving the people of Oxley as a Labor member. He described the ALP as 'the only political party in Australia today which pursues policies designed for the greater good for the majority of the people'. For so many of us and for those who have the privilege of walking in the footsteps of giants like Bill Hayden, this articulation of who Labor is and who we are for is one that stands to this day.

It was as Minister for Social Security in the Whitlam government that Bill Hayden made his greatest contribution to the lives of millions of Australians, through the introduction of universal health insurance in the form of Medibank. In introducing legislation to establish Medibank, Bill Hayden said:

The first and main objective of Medibank is to give every Australian on identical terms automatic security against the cost of medical and hospital treatment, at reasonable cost to the community.

It's a simple premise, a just premise, but one that faced forceful and prolonged opposition both in this place and beyond. Medibank was, of course, eroded and eventually abolished by the Fraser government, which I would say proved Bill Hayden's point about Labor being the only party that governs for the good of the majority of Australians. But Medibank had laid the foundation for our current system of universal health care, enshrined by the Hawke government as Medicare. Ultimately, it was that simple premise—that Australians should not go without health care because they can't afford it—that Bill was so proud to see firmly embedded in Australian government and, indeed, now, in the Australian psyche. As the Prime Minister has said: 'If Bill Hayden had left no other legacy than as the key architect of universal healthcare in this country, he would still stand as a legend of our movement and a great contributor to our nation.'

As consequential as it was, the introduction of Medibank was not the only reform led by Bill Hayden during the Whitlam government that sought to build a fairer and more compassionate Australia. He also oversaw the introduction of the single mothers pension, provided to all single mothers to help them care for their children. It was provided at the same rate regardless of a woman's marital status, living arrangement or the time of the child's conception. Bill Hayden spoke of single mothers who would visit his electorate office in Ipswich, bereft of options to forge an independent life following a family breakdown. As a Queensland police officer, he understood all too well the way in which poverty limited women's choices, too often forcing them to remain in violent and abusive relationships. In introducing the bill to establish the payment, Bill Hayden described it as:

… a clear demonstration of this government's determination to bring an end as quickly as it can to the discrimination that existed against women and, in this case, certain classes of women …

Later expanded to include all single parents regardless of gender, the payment was a practical expression of Bill Hayden's and the Whitlam government's commitment to gender equality, to recognising women as equal citizens in Australian society, against whom no discriminatory treatment would be tolerated.

In June 1975, Bill Hayden became Australia's 21st Treasurer and served in that position until the dismissal of the Whitlam government in November of that year. But his short tenure as Treasurer belied his enduring influence over future Labor governments. It was he who laid the groundwork for the Labor economic philosophy that was to come, one that would reject crude binaries between the heart and the head or between passion and pragmatism; a philosophy that would prioritise economic management not as an end in itself but as a means to a fairer and more just society. Bill Hayden succeeded Gough Whitlam as leader of the Labor Party in 1977 and would go on to hold that position until February 1983 when he was replaced as leader by Bob Hawke. Paul Keating said of Bill Hayden:

The policy coherence that has given Australia its quarter century of uninterrupted growth, began its long coalescence the day Bill Hayden convened his first Shadow Cabinet meeting.

Much has been made of Bill's famous quip that 'a drover's dog' could have led the Labor Party to victory at the 1983 election. Like all counterfactuals, we will never know if Labor would have defeated the Fraser government under a different leader, but what we do know for sure is that Bill Hayden's legacy as a Labor Leader endures. He was the youngest leader of the Labor Party since Chris Watson in 1901, and after our second consecutive landslide defeat in 1977 he set about rebuilding a party reeling from a long period of conflict and upheaval—from the trauma of the split through the elation of Whitlam's election, the anger at the dismissal and a pair of electoral disasters. As leader, Bill Hayden sought to make Labor a more viable party of government, and he did so by facing up to the difficult economic realities of the late seventies and early eighties; by beginning the hard work of positioning Labor as a reliable steward of the dramatic changes coursing through the Australian economy and the Australian society; and by working to overcome entrenched conflicts in Australian politics. He built more positive relationships with business, laying the foundation for the extensive cooperation to come under future Labor governments. Once a sceptic of ANZUS, he adopted policies that would strengthen the alliance while, at the same time, emphasising Australia's independence and unique place in our region. Under his leadership, our party adopted a quota of 30 per cent women in parliament over 10 years, a big step in our progress to, last year, becoming the first government comprised of a majority of women.

Bill Hayden, of course, also served as foreign minister in the Hawke government from 1983 to his retirement from parliament in 1988. The great chronicler of Australian foreign affairs, Allan Gyngell, wrote of him:

… he strongly believed that the nation's interests embraced not only political, economic and strategic concerns but issues of 'moral duty' such as human rights, world poverty, arms control and the resolution of conflict.

Bill Hayden encouraged Australia to both embrace and expand our position in the region. He told parliament in 1983 that Australia should stake some of our national imagination on the development of broad perspectives regarding the future of South-East Asia.

In that light, with Bill Hayden as foreign minister, Australia pursued an active diplomatic role as a facilitator in the long-running Cambodian conflict, promoting dialogue between the various parties as a first step to an eventual peace settlement. His successor as foreign minister, Gareth Evans, would characterise Bill Hayden's role in Cambodia as creating acceptance by the international community of Australia as a responsible and knowledgeable voice on the issue of the Cambodian settlement. Doing so provided an important foundation upon which Evans would build, culminating in Australia becoming one of 19 cosignatories to the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, which led to the end of decades of civil war and laid the path for free and fair elections in Cambodia in 1993. And, importantly, it demonstrated to our region, to South-East Asia, that Australia was a reliable partner and a sincere partner.

Bill Hayden might have surprised many when he accepted the role of Australia's 21st Governor-General in 1988, having previously expressed support for an Australian republic. He served for an extended term of seven years until 1995. Upon leaving the role, he was described as having performed it with an egalitarian dignity and a common touch.

In concluding, I want to make note of Bill Hayden's advocacy for an issue on which he was outspoken long before almost any of his peers: gay rights. Way back in 1967, Bill Hayden advocated for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, pointing to such reforms in the United Kingdom. For context: this was seven years before my home state of South Australia would become the first state in Australia to decriminalise homosexuality. In 1988, Bill Hayden was so appalled by the alleged harassment of gay men by the Queensland police that he wrote to the state's Premier to express his disgust and to call for an end to the persecution of gays. He would go on to become an early advocate for marriage equality and for the adoption of children by same-sex couples, arguing that to deny these rights was a clear form of discrimination. On this issue, like so many others, Bill Hayden was a man well ahead of his time. He was a man led by a profound sense of compassion and of decency, and that is something we should all work to emulate.

It is perhaps a curiosity of fate that Bill Hayden was so often to lay the foundation for successes that would fully come to fruition only after his departure from the stage. For some this might have stirred bitterness. It is a mark of his character that, upon being asked to reflect on his life in public service, he simply said:

… I hope people can say he used his time in office fairly and helpfully for those who had a need for help, and he did it honestly and with integrity.

May we all be so humble in our service.

On behalf of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate and on behalf of the government as Leader of the Government in the Senate, I again express condolences following the passing of Bill Hayden AC. And to Dallas, Georgina, Ingrid and Kirk; his wider family; and those here and beyond who knew him well: our deepest sympathies.

3:49 pm

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise on behalf of the opposition to associate ourselves with the remarks of Senator Wong as Leader of the Government in the Senate, to support the motion moved by the leader and to pay tribute to the life of the Hon. William George Hayden AC—or Bill Hayden, as he was known across Australia. From tributes given following his passing, what was certainly clear amongst all of them was that, in every public role he held, Bill Hayden was devoted to serving Australia. His life was one of intellectual journey. But, throughout his life, he was always one for commitment to values and particularly to putting the interests and the human interests of Australians first and foremost.

Born in 1933 in South Brisbane to Violet Quinn and George Hayden, Bill Hayden had the upbringing that Ben Chifley spoke of as the 'lottery of life' or the 'shafts of fate' that so often lead to the shaping of a person's trajectory in their life. Facing hardship at home, Bill Hayden was awarded a scholarship, attending high school in Brisbane before joining the Queensland Police Force in 1953—a vocation, as Senator Wong touched on, that would contribute to Bill's policy ideas and inform his perspective in valuable ways. Simultaneously, he undertook an unusual path for a Queensland copper, of studying economics part time whilst working.

It's reported that Bill Hayden, with a strong interest in policy and ideology, had some difficulty, initially, in finding a political home, reportedly being rejected firstly by the Communist Party at the time, because of his police background, but then initially by the Labor Party, because he was perceived to be too left wing. However, in 1957 his Labor membership was accepted, and, following his time as a police officer, at the young age of 28, Bill Hayden was elected to the Australian parliament as the member for Oxley in 1961. Oxley, at that stage, had been a relatively safe Liberal seat, and Bill Hayden's election to this parliament was achieved with a remarkable 11 per cent swing towards him to unseat the sitting Liberal member. He would go on, though, to represent the community of Oxley for some 27 years, retaining their support through 11 consecutive re-elections.

Under the tumultuous years of the Whitlam government, Bill Hayden was appointed to serve firstly as Minister for Social Security and later as Treasurer. Bill Hayden's ability to establish Medibank—which would go on, in later iterations, to be known by all Australians as Medicare—would become a crucial part of his legacy in implementing a universal health insurance scheme. He went through great political battle to do so, with the 1974 double dissolution election being fought particularly over those reforms, but they were successfully implemented. It was also during this time that that experience as a Queensland police officer would see him increase welfare support and the social safety net for single mothers, with his own childhood and that influence in the Queensland police service giving him a true understanding of the importance of financial independence and how that could provide support to women experiencing hardship or abuse and help create their own independence.

Bill Hayden was appointed as Treasurer to replace the somewhat ill-fated Jim Cairns. It was too little too late for the Whitlam government, even as Bill Hayden was acknowledged as valiantly trying to restore some budget integrity in his time as Treasurer. Following the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1974 and the repeat electoral thrashing of the Labor Party under Gough Whitlam again in 1977, it was perhaps the greatest kind of political challenge for Bill Hayden when he was appointed as leader of the Labor Party. He faced the test of restoring cohesion and policy credibility whilst reforming the Australian Labor Party in what is I think regarded pretty well universally across the major parties as the toughest job in Australian politics—that of Leader of the Opposition.

In his five years as Labor leader, Bill Hayden steered Labor to a 4.2 per cent swing towards them at the 1980 election, and, whilst not enough to form government, it saw another 13 members elected to the House of Representatives for the Labor Party, in a parliament much smaller than it is today. Perhaps ominously for Bill Hayden, that election also heralded the entry to the House of Reps of Bob Hawke. Nonetheless, Bill Hayden continued to work on ensuring the Labor Party became evermore electorally viable. And it was his commitment to equality, which Senator Wong spoke of, and, indeed, great prescience, in being ahead of his time, that saw him oversee the reforms that enabled the ALP to commit to and to adopt a quota for women in the parliament of 30 per cent over 10 years.

As the unpredictable and uncontrollable sliding-door moments of our lives occur, it was, of course, the day that Bill Hayden had been persuaded to stand aside as Leader of the Opposition that Malcolm Fraser would announce the 1983 general election. It was the election that would ultimately make way for Bob Hawke to become the next Prime Minister for the Labor Party and for Australia, and we can all only speculate on what that outcome would have been had Bill Hayden remained as Labor leader, with many believing, including Bill Hayden himself, that the steady guidance of his leadership is what paved the way for Bob Hawke to be able to achieve victory. Senator Wong acknowledged it was at that time that Bill Hayden famously said that a drover's dog could lead the Labor Party to victory. The phrase entered Australian political folklore—so much so, that Bill Hayden reportedly rued saying it in the first place.

Following the 1983 election, Prime Minister Hawke appointed Bill Hayden as Minister for Foreign Affairs—later with the addition of the trade portfolio, where he remained, until his resignation from the parliament, serving Australia on the international stage. During his time as foreign minister, Bill Hayden completed what was no small feat of international diplomacy in that era, undertaking close to 40 official visits to almost 90 different countries. Taking particular interest in bilateral relations with nations across the Asia-Pacific, Bill Hayden quite rightly focused on developing closer ties for Australia with the region in which we live, recognising that it would be of growing importance to Australia in the decades to come. It was also under Bill Hayden that one of his greatest achievements was had, in playing the leading role, as acknowledged, in the development of a peace process in Cambodia, leading international thinking, well ahead of its time, towards the establishment of a UN transitional authority that would eventually come into force under his successor.

It was not long after Bill Hayden resigned from parliament in 1988 that he was appointed Australia's 21st Governor-General and, in what was evidently his astuteness for every public role he held, Bill Hayden would remain in that role for a position of some seven years. His dedication to service as Governor-General was remembered by current Governor-General David Hurley, stating that he set an example of putting others before self, dedication and compassion. His interest in the lives of the Australian community is still remembered, and, three decades on, visitors to Government House recall his warmth. His was a life well lived that enriched our community.

After his extended term as Governor-General, Bill Hayden remained engaged with the Labor Party, the politics of the day and the many different issues that he had developed interests in. He was always resolute in his beliefs but constructive in his approach. He was a giant of the Australian Labor Party and left a transformative and lasting impact upon Australia. It was in later life that Bill Hayden, reflecting upon his time as a parliamentarian and his work in public life, said:

Well, I hope people can say he used his time in office fairly and helpfully for those who had a need for help, and he did it honestly and with integrity. You can't ask for more than that in public life.

As we in the Australian Senate today reflect upon Bill Hayden's life, it is with much certainty that I can say—and I'm sure we can all concur—he achieved exactly that.

We thank Bill Hayden for his exceptional dedication of lifelong service to Australia and pay our respects to his wife, Dallas, and their three surviving children, in Georgina, Ingrid and Kirk. Vale, Bill Hayden. Thank you for your contribution to Australia.

3:59 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise on behalf of the Australian Greens to associate myself with the remarks already made and to contribute to the condolence for the Hon. Bill Hayden AC. Political historian Paul Kelly described Bill Hayden as having a uniquely Queensland sense of style:

… the man being projected as the alternative prime minister would just stroll into his Ipswich barber; Dallas—

his wife—

would buy his shirts at the local shops; Hayden would appear on television with his uniquely Queensland sense of colour contrast: open-necked blue, white and pale blue sports outfits.

He served as social security minister from 1972 to 1975, introducing ambitious reforms, including the single parent pension, then known as the single mothers pension, and Medibank, Australia's first attempt at providing universal health care before its later abolition by the Fraser government.

After the 1975 landslide election, Bill Hayden was left as the only Labor MP in Queensland. As someone who served as the only Greens MP from my state, also Queensland, up until very recently, I know well the challenges that must have come with that moment. He served as Leader of the Opposition from 1977 to 1983, and, while the Greens have not always agreed with the direction that the Labor Party took after Whitlam, he prepared Labor for a return to government under Bob Hawke. As foreign affairs minister in the Hawke government, he was a leader in reevaluating Australia's place in the world, including the pivot to Asia, promoting a Cambodian peace plan and subjecting the ANZUS Treaty to a lengthy review, something we are well overdue for again.

According to Paul Keating, Bill Hayden believed that the country's interest should include a moral duty, embracing such things as human rights, world poverty, arms control and the resolution of conflict. He balanced competing interest in order to push us to a better world, and for that reason he is a giant of the Labor Party.

In his final role in public life, Bill Hayden, despite being a republican, served with distinction is Governor-General from 1989 to 1995. He lived a life of politics, and, whether on universal health care, supporting single parents or Australia's role in the world, his legacy lives on. That mix of courage and humility is one that we should all seek to replicate.

I acknowledge his family here in the gallery today. To his wife, Dallas, and to his surviving children, Georgina, Ingrid and Kirk, we pay our respects, and we acknowledge his remarkable life and a life of service. Vale, Bill Hayden.

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.

4:09 pm

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak with heartfelt and sincere condolences on the passing of Bill Hayden. I note that his family is in the gallery today, which is very hard. I had the privilege of attending the state funeral for this giant of Australian politics, the Hon. Bill Hayden AC.

Bill Hayden was at various times the Treasurer of Australia, the Leader of the Opposition, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and, of course, one of the country's longest serving governors-general. He was a senior figure of the Australian Labor Party at the time of one of its great triumphs, the 1972 election of the Whitlam government, and at the time of one of its worst disasters, the dismissal.

He duly won the leadership of the ALP after the 1977 election and, in 1980, recovered much of the furniture Labor had lost. He came within a whisker of leading Labor to the 1983 election. That moment in 1983 defined Bill Hayden's great character and the example he set for many future political leaders of Australia. He resigned his leadership for the good of his party, clearing the way for Bob Hawke and Paul Keating to lead Labor to the party's longest period in government.

We politicians are an ambitious lot, but Bill Hayden sacrificed his ambition for what he believed was for the good of his country. I remember being disappointed at the change in Labor's leadership. I was very young at the time, but I saw snippets of it on TV. I thought, 'I like that man,' and I was looking forward to him being the Prime Minister of Australia. We'll never know what sort of Prime Minister he might have been, but I think Bill could have been a very good one.

Both Bob Hawke and Paul Keating owe their prime ministerships to Bill Hayden—Hawke because he stepped aside and Keating because Hayden made him shadow Treasurer, a position he continued under Hawke. Keating returned that favour when he advocated a second term for Bill Hayden as Governor-General. My connection with Bill Hayden is that he was also the member for Oxley, serving in the electorate for almost 27 years, the very same seat that I won as an Independent in 1996, approximately eight years after Bill Hayden vacated the seat in 1988. Twenty-seven years was quite a bit longer than my time in the position, which began only a month or so after he resigned as Australia's Governor-General.

I will always be proudly grateful that, early in my term, Bill took the time to come and meet with me in the electorate office. It was a great honour. He loved Ipswich, where he served as a police officer and where he established his first family home with his lovely wife, Dallas. He knew it so well. Bill spoke to me about the issues which brought me into the national spotlight. Just reflect on that, when my staff told me that Bill Hayden was coming to meet me in my office, I was shocked, surprised and grateful. I always saw him as a man I looked up to and respected. He was also a man who loved Ipswich. When I heard that he won the seat because he doorknocked every house, I knew he had been determined to win and had something to offer the parliament. He wasn't a career politician; he was a man who had a mission to represent the people of Australia. As I said, he stepped aside for Bob Hawke. He could have been the Prime Minister of this country. We'll never know. But that tells you the calibre of the man. We spoke on issues. I especially remember when I raised multiculturalism and immigration and, actually, he agreed with me. He said, 'We are all Australians.' He didn't believe in the division it was causing. When I reflect on that time, it was an honour and a privilege to be at his funeral. On either side of me were two of his former ministers and another behind me who all worked with him when he was leader of the Labor Party, so I was surrounded, in some ways, by the Indians, I suppose, but it was good to have a good conversation with them about the respect that they had for this man. I have to say, being there, I was very impressed with Paul Keating and the comments he made on that day at the funeral. He showed humility, gratitude, appreciation for Bill Hayden. I learnt a lot. I appreciate the man a lot more for what he has done and achieved for the people of Australia and this parliament, so I'm very pleased to be able to say these few words today and remember this man that we all should look up to for what he achieved and contributed to this parliament and to Australia.

4:16 pm

Photo of Anthony ChisholmAnthony Chisholm (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I too associate myself with the remarks of the Senator Wong, Senator Birmingham and others who have made contributions about Bill Hayden as well. I wasn't going to list Bill Hayden's achievements as others have done but I do believe that no federal Labor figure out of Queensland has a more significant record of achievement in the federal parliament than Mr Hayden, so it is a phenomenal record of success.

I want to focus on two aspects of Mr Hayden's contribution to public life that are more specific to Queensland and Queensland Labor. The first goes back to 1975 after the defeat of the Whitlam government, when Bill Hayden was the only federal Labor MP left standing in Queensland. He had an enormous burden placed on his shoulders following that election loss from Whitlam. Inside the party, we often romanticise the Whitlam government but it was an emphatic rejection, unfortunately, by the Australian people.

At the Queensland state election the year before, Queensland Labor had been reduced to what was infamously called the 'cricket team' of 11 seats. If you think about the status of Queensland Labor in the mid-seventies, we were in a terrible state of decay and it really was Bill Hayden, as leader and most significant Labor person in Queensland, who was responsible for rebuilding the party in that state. What it eventually led to, particularly post Bill Hayden becoming opposition leader in 1977, was federal intervention in the Queensland branch and the modernisation of the Queensland Labor Party. Ironically, the first beneficiary of that was Bob Hawke and, as many people have mentioned, Mr Hayden stood aside just before that election was called in 1983. But the reality is, at that election in 1983 in Queensland, we went from five seats to 10 and we won 10 of 19 seats. So federal Labor won more than 50 per cent of the seats in Queensland. We haven't been able to replicate that since and, I have no doubt, it wouldn't have been achieved if it wasn't for the hard work of Bill Hayden reforming the Queensland branch and making it electable. He obviously did this across the country federally but it was a particularly relevant in Queensland because we had been out of power at the state level for so long.

I have no doubt if it wasn't for the work of Mr Hayden that we wouldn't have had the Wayne Goss premiership six years later in 1989 as well, which led to what has effectively been 30 of the last 34 years in Queensland of a state Labor government thanks to those reforms. The legacy of Bill Hayden towards Queensland Labor's modern success is significant. I wanted to make sure it was put on the record, and it should not be forgotten.

The second aspect I wanted to talk about was when Bill Hayden re-joined the Labor party in 2005 after having a period out of when serving as Governor-General. He regularly attended branch meetings—and as a current senator I can't say I'm a regular attendee at branch meetings these days—in the North Ipswich and Somerset branches, and I think it's admirable to continue to make a contribution after all he had achieved in his long period in public life, that he was someone who was so committed to the party that he wanted to continue to make a contribution.

It wasn't long after he re-joined that I became state secretary and got to know Bill Hayden. One aspect of his that became very clear to me was how astute he was. In Bill Hayden's funeral booklet, there are some words of remembrance from Barry Jones: that he had a copper's instinct. I hadn't thought of that, but it made sense to me with some of my interactions with Bill Hayden, how astute he was at summing up people and identifying problems. I was able to benefit from that copper's instinct. A couple of instances come to mind where I was able to use that instinct. In 2014 we were facing a by-election in the seat of Griffith following the election loss in 2013. Kevin Rudd retired, and we had a really tough by-election on our hands at the time. At the same time, there was a by-election in the seat of Redcliffe. We had gone down to seven seats, and if we won Redcliffe it would have got us to eight seats, and we were really determined to win Griffith at the same time. I was state secretary, really busy with two by-elections, when a call came through to my office saying, 'Mr Hayden wants to talk to me.' I was really busy with the by-election, but of course I took the call from someone who is a custodian of the party. I had a chat with Bill Hayden where he provided an insight to me, through a relative of his who was in a nursing home in Griffith, about what elderly residents were thinking, particularly ones who had lived in Griffith for a long time and had a real affinity to the previous member, Kevin Rudd. He persuaded me that we needed to do something about that, so we sent a letter to everyone over a certain age who had lived in Griffith and was a long-term resident in that area. I'm confident that this had a significant impact on the result, because we won that by-election by only a couple of hundred votes. Being able to see how his mind operated and how astute he was, I could get a sense of why he was so successful in his political career.

Another instance occurred in the lead-up to the 2015 state election in Queensland, where we had been reduced to the seven seats, as I said before. I got a phone call from Bill Hayden and I took the call. We were trying to reclaim a lot of seats we had lost in Ipswich, which was traditional Labor Party heartland. Bill's insight and his passion for Ipswich and knowledge stayed with him throughout his whole life. He was able to provide some insights into what was happening on the ground and some character traits of our candidates that were probably less than desired. But he was so well plugged in and so astute that he was able to provide things to me that proved true at the time and only proved truer, as history has borne out. I get a sense of what he would have been like throughout his whole career and why he was able to make such a significant contribution. I certainly know that I have benefited from his astuteness, his wisdom and his experience, and there would be so many others not only within the party but also within broader communities across Australia who would have benefited as well.

As I said at the start, Bill Hayden has made as significant a contribution as anyone from Queensland Labor has made to federal parliament. It is a remarkable record: a phenomenal list of achievements as minister, a proud record as opposition leader, and a lasting record of reform for Queensland Labor. I feel fortunate to have benefited from Mr Hayden's wisdom and experience. I was also able to gain an insight from that into his love and pride for his family. My thoughts and prayers are with Dallas, Georgina, Ingrid and Kirk, and I wish them all the best. Vale, Bill Hayden.

Question agreed to, honourable senators joining in a moment of silence.