Image credit: Wikicommons
I can’t say I know everything about you.
I wasn’t alive when you were Prime Minister, nor do I know how you came to be one of Australia’s greatest politicians. All I know is the legacy you left, and what I have been told by people who were old enough to experience your leadership.
I know how you helped the Labor party greatly, and revolutionised how Australia’s economy worked on a global scale. I learnt in Legal Studies how you stopped the Tasmanian Franklin Dam project despite its famous law case. Your work in pressuring South Africa against their racist apartheid regime, and further developing global ties with current superpowers in the USA, Russia and China.
I remember being told you helped establish Medicare, a system still in place today for people in need. You improved social security for children of low-income families, and then outlawed sex discrimination at workplaces.
Lastly, and most importantly for my studies, you changed how the education and university systems worked. These are the tangible impacts that I never knew, but of which I was ultimately informed.
And now I can see how it has benefitted my everyday life, as a young student 30 years on from your Prime Ministership.
What I attribute you with most is your larrikinism and relatability. Your line, “any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum”, is one I have remembered for a long time through replayed footage and famed stories. Adults who were alive for that 1983 America’s Cup victory and your reaction still fondly recall it, perhaps now with glassy eyes.
I remember seeing your face on random news reports around election time, smiling cheekily and talking to a bubbling crowd who all just wanted to catch a glimpse of you. Most recently, I recall your presence at many a day of test match cricket at the SCG, happily interacting with any crowd member and willingly sculling a cup of beer at their request. You weren’t hard to convince, and everyone would have a great laugh afterwards.
When I saw you had passed away, I felt like the fun-loving line of Prime Minister’s had finally gone. Nowadays, it’s all too doom and gloom, all accusations and no laughs. No relatable chats or days with regular people. It’s not what I’ve seen of you, and the way people looked up to you. Social media erupted at the news, and for the first time in my life Labor and Liberal voters all agreed. No matter their political views, Australians praise you and begrudgingly respect you deeply.
I don’t know enough about you to form a complete political opinion on you, so I must base my view on what I have been told. And everything I have ever known and seen is that you were a wonderful Australian. A proud man who was dearly treasured by our nation. I thank you deeply for that. You’ve done your job perfectly. Now you deserve to rest in peace with as many beers ready to drink by your side.