"Bill Hayden: A Statesman's Legacy and the End of an Era"billhayden,statesman,legacy,endofanera
"Bill Hayden: A Statesman's Legacy and the End of an Era"

“Bill Hayden: A Statesman’s Legacy and the End of an Era”

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Bill Hayden: The Man Who Almost Became Prime Minister

A Controversial Career

Bill Hayden, the former governor general and Labor party leader, has passed away at the age of 90. Hayden was a working-class lad from Queensland who rose to prominence in Australian politics and seemed destined to become the country’s prime minister. However, his leadership was cut short just before the 1983 election, marking a turning point in the Labor party’s history.

A Missed Opportunity

Known as the “best man never to have become prime minister,” Bill Hayden was a successful leader of the opposition. His party’s decision to deny him the chance to become PM is seen as a moral turning point in the history of Australian politics. It was a victory for a “whatever it takes to win” philosophy that resulted in leadership turmoil in the years that followed.

A Resilient Leader

Despite losing the opportunity to become prime minister, Hayden continued to serve the Australian people. He served as foreign minister from 1983 to 1988 under Bob Hawke, his antagonist within the party. In a surprising move, Hayden agreed to become the Queen’s representative as governor general from 1989. This decision showcased his dedication to public service and his commitment to unity.

A Life of Service

Born and raised in Brisbane, Hayden grew up in the proud working-class town of Ipswich. Representing his local area throughout his political career, he described himself as a democratic socialist turned social democrat. His contributions to Australian politics included serving as treasurer in the government of Gough Whitlam.

A Drive for Reform

During his tenure as treasurer, Hayden brought in Australia’s first universal health insurance scheme, known as Medibank. He also introduced pensions for single mothers, highlighting his commitment to social welfare. Despite the government’s challenges and eventual dismissal, Hayden made lasting contributions to the Australian social welfare system.

A Disappointment and a New Path

After stepping down from the role of treasurer, Hayden became the leader of the opposition. He led the Labor party to a near-victory in the 1980 elections, but his leadership was progressively destabilized by Bob Hawke, a charismatic and ambitious union leader turned MP. Faced with pressure from his colleagues, Hayden resigned in favor of Hawke, just before the election. This decision changed the course of Australian politics, as Hawke went on to win the election by a landslide.

A Complex Leader

Reflecting on his leadership loss, Hayden wrote in his autobiography that it “hurt like hell revisited several times.” He admitted that he did not possess the natural charisma and self-assuredness of a party leader. He lacked the personal vanity that had become prevalent in the television age. However, Hayden was effective and well-liked by the Australian public, demonstrating his ability to connect with the everyday citizen.

A Man of Simple Tastes

Hayden’s down-to-earth nature was evident in his personal life. He frequented his local barber and his wife bought his shirts from local shops. His uniquely Queensland sense of style, often seen in his open-necked blue, white, and pale blue sports outfits, was a reflection of his practical and unpretentious personality.

A Legacy of Change

Hayden’s legacy extends beyond his political career. During his time as leader of the opposition, he reformed the Labor party and expanded its membership to include more middle-class professionals. He also championed the adoption of a quota of 30% of women as MPs, making Labor a more inclusive and diverse political force.

A Patriotic Vision

As a prominent minister for foreign affairs and trade, Hayden advocated for greater integration and understanding with Australia’s Asian neighbors. He envisioned Australia’s future as a Eurasian nation over the next century or two, highlighting his forward-thinking and optimistic perspective.

A Stint as Governor General

After his tenure as foreign minister, Hayden accepted the role of governor general offered by Bob Hawke. Despite being a republican, he took on the ceremonial position, serving for seven years. Hayden was a popular and distinctive governor general, known for his genuine common touch. His refusal to become the chief scout of Australia due to his atheism showcases his principles and integrity.

A Family Man

Hayden was married to Dallas Hayden for 63 years and together they raised four children. Sadly, their eldest child, Michaela, passed away at a young age. Despite personal tragedy, Hayden remained committed to public service and dedicated to his family.

The End of an Era

Bill Hayden’s passing marks the end of a political era in Australian history. His leadership, resilience, and dedication to social welfare have left an indelible mark on the nation. As Australia mourns the loss of a great statesman, his legacy will continue to inspire future generations of Australian politicians and citizens.


"Bill Hayden: A Statesman
<< photo by Khashayar Kouchpeydeh >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.

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G'day, mates! I'm Greg Buckley, and I've been reporting here in the land Down Under for the last 15 years. I'm all about sports and culture, so if there's a footy match or an art exhibit, you'll likely see me there. Let's give it a burl together, Australia!

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