Keating praises Hayden for not kowtowing to US at state funeral

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Former Labor prime minister Paul Keating has praised fellow party stalwart and former governor-general Bill Hayden for not kowtowing to the United States in a eulogy at his state funeral in Queensland.

Keating was among a group including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Hayden’s eldest surviving daughter, and the Sister of Mercy whose friendship led the avowed atheist to church later in life, who addressed the crowd who farewelled him on Friday.

Former Australian prime minister Paul Keating speaks at the state funeral for former governor-general and Labor leader Bill Hayden in Ipswich, west of Brisbane.Credit: Dan Peled

Touching the vast and lasting impact Hayden had on his family, community, party and country, Keating recounted the roles held by him in Australian governments under Bob Hawke and Gough Whitlam, from treasurer to social security and foreign minister.

In that latter role throughout the 1980s Cold War era, Keating said Hayden “sought to bury the erroneous notion” that the country was totally dependent on the Australia, New Zealand and United States Security Treaty.

Keating quoted from a cabinet decision in which Hayden outlined reservations about blanket support for US strategic perceptions and activities, and the invocation of ANZUS treaty to justify such a position.

“And that diversity of opinion and attitude would not, in his view, effect the fundamental solidarity between underlying the treaty between the United States and Australia itself,” Keating said.

“It wasn’t just a big position by Bill, but a very brave one.”

“Bill suggesting that Australia presenting as a sycophant or supplicant would carry unacceptable risks where our interests would simply be subsumed by Washington.”

Mourners were also walked through a brief history of the “human zoo” that was the Labor Party after the Second World War, and Hayden’s journey through and to the top of it as a formative leader in opposition.

“Bill’s re-establishment of federal Labor as a real and genuine force is without doubt the crowning achievement of his long public life,” Keating said. “We may see the likes of Bill Hayden again, but I doubt it.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Hayden on his return from overseas travel, including to China, in 1984.Credit: Antony Matheus Linsen/Fairfax Media

Albanese said that while some giants cast a shadow, Hayden had lit the road ahead and lay its foundations – including universal healthcare and the country’s first single mothers pension.

“We can be grateful that this child of the Depression, turned-police officer, joined the Australian Labor Party to advance his values,” Albanese said.

“On behalf of the Labor family, I express my deepest sympathies to his family who so generously shared him.”

Hayden’s eldest surviving daughter, Georgina, told the crowd including Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and federal LNP MP Luke Howarth – representing Opposition Leader Peter Dutton – her siblings and mother, Dallas, had done so with “everyone, all our lives”.

Hayden’s wife of 63 years, Dallas (centre), and one of their four children, Georgina (left), at his funeral on Friday.Credit: Dan Peled

“We’ve been told by many that sharing personal details, sharing our memories, is the expected thing. That people want to know what a wonderful father he was – he is,” she said.

“Like our father, we don’t feel constrained to do the expected thing. Like our father, we question why. Like our father, we wish we could do better, be better … Like our father loved us – loves us – we love him.”

Those gathered at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Hayden’s eventual hometown of Ipswich, about 30 kilometres south-west of Brisbane and near the area he served for 27 years as the federal member for Oxley, also heard from Sister of Mercy Angela Mary Doyle.

Where it all started … Bill Hayden’s tin-roofed house in Mabel Street, Highgate Hill, from his working-class upbringing in Brisbane.Credit: Fairfax Media

While Hayden spent much of his life as an avowed atheist, he described his 2018 Catholic baptism in the same church at the age of 85 – with Doyle present – part of filling the “gnawing pain” in his heart and soul about the meaning of life.

Hayden had told of an earlier family visit to Doyle in hospital, whose lifelong friendship and Christian example he felt “embraced and loved by”, which marked a pivotal moment in his late embrace of the church.

Doyle told the mourners that had Hayden remained an atheist to his death in late October, “I’m certain that, to Bill’s astonishment, Jesus would have welcomed him”.

“Bill Hayden never looked away from a fight for a cause in which he believed. We are all the better for his humanity.”

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