Labor luminaries hail the life and career of Bill Hayden, dead at 90

Bill Hayden served as Governor-General after laying the groundwork as Labor leader for the Hawke and Keating governments.

Bill Hayden served as Governor-General after laying the groundwork as Labor leader for the Hawke and Keating governments. Photo: AAP

Former Governor-General Bill Hayden, the onetime Labor leader who introduced Australia to universal healthcare while serving in the Whitlam government has died at the age of 90.

Mr Hayden led Labor in opposition from 1977 to 1983 before serving as foreign minister in Bob Hawke’s government.

He had previously served as a minister and briefly as Treasurer under Gough Whitlam.

Mr Hayden went on to become Australia’s 21st Governor-General, holding the office between 1989 and 1996.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Mr Hayden, who will be farewelled with a state funeral, was a Labor legend who had laid the foundations for the reforms pursued by the Hawke-Keating governments.

“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,” Mr Albanese said in a statement on Saturday.

“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.

Medibank’s father

“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.

“Without Bill Hayden’s commitment to budget discipline, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating would have found it harder to forge ahead with economic reform.”

Former prime minister Paul Keating described Mr Hayden as “a great servant of Australia”.

“Political circumstances denied Bill Hayden the prime ministership but the Hawke government in which he served as foreign minister was set up and shaped by him as leader of the parliamentary Labor Party,” Mr Keating said.

“And the economic personnel he put in place were the building blocks the Hawke government relied upon to shift the country’s policy to the economic rationalism which has since made Australia so flexible and so wealthy.

“Very few Australians have made such a contribution over such a long period. The country is the poorer for his passing.”

Mr Hayden is survived by his wife Dallas and three children.

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