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Tributes flow after former Labor leader Simon Crean dies, aged 74

Former Labor party leader Simon Crean has died at the age of 74.

Former Labor party leader Simon Crean has died at the age of 74. Photo: AAP

Labor luminary and former leader Simon Crean has died at the age of 74.

Tributes came from both sides of the political aisle after news broke on Sunday night that Mr Crean died suddenly when in Germany for trade and business talks.

His former colleague, erstwhile defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon wrote on Twitter: “I’m shocked by the news of Simon Crean’s death. Far too young. A good and talented guy, history will treat him kindly. Thinking of Carole and the family.”

A unionist-turned-politician, Mr Crean had retired from the Labor party in 2013 after more than two decades on the frontbench.

He was the last minister to have served in the governments of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil was among many leading the tributes.

“Simon was a giant of the Labor Party and the labour movement. He was a Labor icon; integral to Australian politics and industrial relations for more than forty years. And he was my mentor, and friend,” Ms O’Neil tweeted.

“Simon’s length of service to our nation was extraordinary. He served eight terms as the Member for Hotham. He was the only person to be a part of cabinets during the Hawke, Keating, Rudd and Gillard governments.

“Simon made Australia a better, fairer country. He was a reformer, a thinker, a doer, a negotiator; a politician who brought a good mind and a good heart to every task.

“He was egalitarian to his core – equally at home in the suburbs or a country, on the factory floor or the boardroom, at the footy or at the opera.

“And his service to my community, in South East Melbourne, is the stuff of legend. Simon served the people of Hotham for 23 years. My community, where he is still worshipped as a hero, owes him a great deal.

“Simon Crean supported Labor women, and he backed me every moment of my life in the Labor Party. I will miss him terribly. He was a devoted father, grandfather and husband. This is an incredibly sad day for Simon’s family and my thoughts are with them tonight.”

Former deputy prime minister Michael McCormack tweeted about “an MP who genuinely cared”.

“Saddened to read of Simon Crean’s passing. As a first-term Opposition backbencher in 2010, the advice & assistance this Labor luminary gave me was quite extraordinary. He offered help when our daughter moved to Melbourne. A wonderful human being, he was an MP who genuinely cared.”

Legendary ABC journalist Barrie Cassidy lauded Mr Crean’s candour.

“Simon Crean told the parliament in the presence of Pres Bush that the true measure of friendship was to tell a friend when they were wrong. And they were wrong on the Iraq war. He was right. Yet he became the only Labor leader never to contest an election,” Cassidy tweeted.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek echoed these sentiments.

“Simon Crean was a giant of the union movement and the Labor party. He was never afraid of fighting for what was right – like when he bravely opposed Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War. Smart, principled, courageous and kind. He will be missed.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said he was shocked and saddened by the news.

“Simon was a gentleman to deal with and a giant of the Labor movement. I always admired Simon for his intellect and decency and only saw him recently in Melbourne.  Condolences and best wishes to his wife Carole and his family and friends. A very sad day.”

Once the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Crean then became an MP for Hotham, Victoria, serving first under prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.

He served as federal Labor leader from 2001 to 2003, across the floor from John Howard, and when Kevin Rudd secured a Labor victory in 2007, he was given the trade portfolio in cabinet.

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