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Bill Hayden’s remarkable contribution to public life

Paul Strangio writes in The Conversation (21.10.23) about the death of former Labor opposition leader and Governor-General Bill Hayden, remembered for his role in establishing Medibank (later Medicare) and for leading federal Labor’s recovery after 1977.

‘Who have been Australia’s most accomplished federal opposition leaders? The conventional answer to this question is Robert Menzies and Gough Whitlam, both renowned for rejuvenating their respective sides of politics and galvanising new constituencies of support.

‘But what of the opposition leaders who never made it to prime minister: which among them boasts the most outstanding record? In modern times, Bill Hayden, who died this week aged 90, has powerful claim to that title.

‘Hayden’s public career began in December 1961, with his election to the House of Representatives as the Labor member for the Queensland electorate of Oxley. It came to a close in February 1996, at the end of a seven-year tenure as governor-general.

‘During this time, Hayden established a significant legacy. In the Whitlam government, he was the minister responsible for enacting the pioneering universal health insurance scheme, Medibank, which was revived and rebadged as Medicare in the 1980s and now enjoys sacred status among Australia’s public policy institutions.

‘He was Labor leader from December 1977 to February 1983, restoring the party as a credible electoral force following the trauma of the 1975 dismissal.’

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