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- Start of Business
- OPENING OF PARLIAMENT
- AUTHORITY TO ADMINISTER OATH OR AFFIRMATION OF ALLEGIANCE
- RETURNS TO WRITS
- MEMBER FOR BLAXLAND
- MEMBERS SWORN
- PRESENTATION TO GOVERNOR-GENERAL
- AUTHORITY TO ADMINISTER OATH OR AFFIRMATION
- MESSAGE FROM THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL
- MINISTERIAL ARRANGEMENTS
- AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: LEADERSHIP
- NATIONAL PARTY OF AUSTRALIA: LEADERSHIP
- PARLIAMENTARY PROCEEDINGS BROADCASTING AMENDMENT BILL 1996
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH
- DEPUTY SPEAKER
- TASMANIA: TRAGEDY AT PORT ARTHUR
- Opperman, Hon. Sir Hubert Ferdinand, OBE
- Young, Hon. Michael Jerome, AO
Tuesday, 30 April 1996
Mr McMULLAN(7.53 p.m.) —Mr Deputy Speaker, many others have spoken about the range of the skills, attributes, experiences and contributions of Mick Young. I hope that if I do not duplicate all those, people will not think that it is a failure to appreciate his contribution as a minister, as a parliamentarian, and in many other walks of life. I want to try to add some of the things that, in my experience, were unique about Mick Young, and some perspectives which we shared and which might add something to the assessments of Mick Young in the course of this motion.
There was a certain awkward symmetry about Mick's career and mine. The last national executive meeting that Mick attended as national secretary in 1973 was the first meeting that I attended. He resigned from the parliament early in 1988 just as I was about to enter it. I began to wonder whether perhaps he did not want to share either of these forums with me, but I am reasonably confident that that is not the case. But I had the opportunity in each of those areas to take up some of the work which Mick had done.
Mick was described by Clyde Cameron as the best national secretary the Labor Party has ever had. I think that is unquestionably true. All of us who followed merely had the opportunity to build some bricks on the foundation which he laid. Many, including the present national president of the Labor Party, have said that Mick was the key architect of the transition to the modern Labor Party, and that is right. As Gough Whitlam was the architect of the policy engine that became the modern parliamentary Labor Party, so Mick Young was the architect of the organisational engine that became the modern organisational wing of the party today.
Many people have spoken of his great contribution to the campaign in 1972, and that is well documented. What is not so well understood is his great contribution to the victory we won in 1983 when I was campaign director and Mick had the nebulous title, which we invented, of chairman of the campaign committee. For the whole duration of the campaign there actually was no campaign committee. There was the campaign director and Mick. We had to give him a title so he became chairman of the campaign committee. He was an invaluable adviser and source of inspiration and a person who saw more quickly than anyone else I have ever known the way in which issues might most effectively be communicated to the Australian people.
During the course of the campaign he was, of course, a source of great disappointment to some of the media who remembered the rather more raucous role that had been played during the campaign in 1972. A journalist who had written some colour pieces about the 1972 election came across from Adelaide to write a colour piece about the 1983 campaign and invited Mick and me for lunch. He was absolutely crestfallen to find that we went to a sandwich bar and Mick ordered a milkshake. The article that he had clearly constructed before the event collapsed before his eyes. He wrote a very different article—a very positive article; but clearly not the one he had in mind at the time.
We must remember Mick's contributions to the organisation of the party in Victoria, South Australia and elsewhere. It is now forgotten that in many ways the state branch that he and many others helped create in South Australia in the 1960s was the model on which many—perhaps all—of the subsequent reforms of Labor Party branches throughout Australia were based. The role that he and the then leader of the Labor Party, Don Dunstan, played became the model for the modern Labor governments throughout all the states in the subsequent 30 years.
Beyond his campaign ability, his organisational ability, and his capacity to bring people together and make them work in a broader, more participatory way than had been the tradition in at least some of the Australian states, he was a key figure in the political life of our generation. This is true of the Labor Party, of course, but, given the role he played in the achievement of government at both the state and federal level over those 30 years, he became a key figure in the whole political life of Australia for that generation. He had an influence extending far beyond his life.
Others have spoken about his role in the reform of the electoral laws and of his commitment to parliament and the democracy. I do not want to duplicate those remarks; merely to endorse them. I think one would say of Mick that he left the Labor Party and the parliament inestimably better than he found them.
It is true that we will not find another Mick Young because the forces that created exactly that character were a product of the era in which he grew up. The job he did in the 1960s and beyond—particularly in South Australia, and then nationally, going right back to 1964—needs to be done in each new generation in a different way. The best tribute that those of us who knew him and who wish to build on his work can pay is not to seek to recreate 1968 or 1972, but to develop a contemporary 21st century Labor Party to give the sort of leadership to the next generation of Australians that Mick helped us give his generation. I am delighted to support the motion and to convey my personal regards to his family and to all his friends.