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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Guardian staff

Former governor general and Labor party leader Bill Hayden dies aged 90

Bill Hayden, former Labor leader and governor general, has died aged 90
Bill Hayden, former Labor leader and governor general, has died aged 90. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Former governor general and one-time Labor Party leader Bill Hayden has died at the age of 90.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, confirmed his death in a statement on Saturday, paying tribute to “a legend of our labour movement” and that a state funeral will be held to honour his life.

As minister for social security, Hayden introduced Medibank, Australia’s first plan for universal healthcare as well as the nation’s first single mother’s pension. Albanese said that as a former police officer, Hayden understood “poverty too often trapped women in violent relationships”.

Albanese said his first thoughts are with Hayden’s wife of 63 years, Dallas, their children “and all those who knew and loved him best”.

“If Bill Hayden left no other legacy than as a key architect of universal healthcare, he would still stand for all time as a legend of our labour movement and a great contributor to our nation,” Albanese said.

“Of course, in his lifetime of service, Bill gave so much more to the country he loved. Indeed in every role he held: Governor-General, Minister for Social Security, Treasurer, Foreign Minister and Labor Leader, Bill Hayden gave his utmost.

“In a time of forceful personalities, Bill Hayden was notable for his humility. Yet there was nothing modest about his ambition for Labor or Australia. This was the quiet strength of character he brought to the cause of progress.”

When Hayden became party leader after two election defeats in 1975 and 1977, Albanese said he “gave the party a new direction and empowered a new generation of talent”.

“As Paul Keating put it, Bill’s leadership made the turn to ‘Labor Mark II’, he laid the foundation for the social and economic reforms that created three decades of economic growth and delivered Australia a new era in education, foreign affairs, environmental policy and – of course – universal healthcare.”

“When the story of that generation is told, history should record that without Bill Hayden championing and building Medibank, there could have been no Medicare.”

“Fittingly for a man who left such a lasting policy legacy, Bill retained an enduring interest in the big ideas. Like so many of my colleagues, I benefited greatly from Bill’s advice, I valued his insight and I always appreciated the considered way in which he offered it.”

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said “Hayden was the selfless servant of the Australian people & our Party. He was humble & grounded, responsible & respected, a wonderful Queenslander & Australian.”

“He was our 27th Treasurer, but his impact went well beyond the 5 months he served in that role in 1975,” Chalmers said.

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