William ‘Bill’ Hayden AC was an accomplished Labor leader and an admirable Governor-General.
On behalf of the Coalition, I express my sincere condolences to his family, especially his wife, Dallas, and his children, Kirk, Georgina and Ingrid; his Labor Party colleagues; and his many friends.
After Gough Whitlam’s opposition lost the 1977 election, Bill Hayden had the unenviable task of rebuilding the Labor Party. Despite being a young leader, he had political wisdom beyond his years, a pragmatic reform mindset, the respect of his colleagues and the trust of his party.
Testimony to Bill’s talent, he brought Labor out of the wilderness and almost defeated Malcolm Fraser’s Coalition in the 1980 election. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Bill’s revitalisation of Labor, the party would not have gone onto victory in 1983 under Bob Hawke. Hayden’s groundwork helped deliver the best Labor Government Australians have known.
If Bill was humble, he was also principled. Prior to his political career, he served as a police officer in Queensland. It was that experience, along with his working-class background, which shaped the values he embodied as the Member for Oxley throughout his parliamentary career.
Bill was a man who put his party and the nation before personal ambition. As Foreign Affairs Minister in Bob Hawke’s Cabinet, Bill brought tact and gravitas to a position which demanded both qualities amidst the Cold War. He was a champion of foreign aid as a critical tool of diplomacy.
For the man who described himself as ‘a product of the Great Depression’, Bill Hayden achieved great things in public life, leaving Australia that much greater thanks to his service.
May he rest in peace.
21 October 2023