Mr M O’BRIEN (Malvern—Leader of the Opposition): I am pleased to rise on the condolence motion for William Albert Landeryou. By any measure Bill Landeryou led a life of great adventure and accomplishment in the union movement and the Labor Party. His is a story of improbable achievement. The son of a timber worker and from a family of 11 children, he left school at the age of just 15 and started work for a transport company before ultimately joining the then Federated Storemen and Packers Union despite not having had a noticeable history as either a storeman or a packer. That was the start of a decades-long commitment to his cause, which saw him at the centre of some of the most significant political and policy debates of the 1970s and 1980s.
His journey through Labor and union ranks saw him serve in a variety of roles, including as president of Young Labor, on the Victorian administrative committee of the Labor Party and as federal president of the storemen and packers union. It was during this period that he forged a partnership with Bill Kelty which culminated in a push behind Bob Hawke’s move into federal politics and then the federal leadership of the parliamentary Labor Party weeks before becoming the 23rd Prime Minister of Australia. Bill Landeryou’s role in Bob Hawke’s ascension to the prime ministership was recently described in the Australian as the 'man at the centre of the moves’.
In her biography of Bob Hawke, Blanche d’Alpuget details Bill Landeryou’s key role in backing this ambitious young ACTU president and his unwavering confidence that Labor’s electoral future lay with Bob Hawke. Described by others as Bob Hawke’s numbers man in Victoria, Bill Landeryou’s influence on federal political debate in the 1980s is among his most significant legacies. In that regard he can be said to have played a major role in shaping Australia’s political history. Key among his policy achievements was his involvement in the 1980s push to introduce compulsory superannuation contributions.
Bill’s own political career in the Victorian Parliament as a member for Doutta Galla spanned 16 years in both opposition and government. Elected to state Parliament in 1976 as a member of the other place, Bill’s inaugural speech set out that, while a proud Labor man, he could not be regarded as being a leftist on matters of the economy. Some select quotes from Bill’s first speech include:
This Bill eliminates freedom and it eliminates enterprise.
We do not need Draconian legislation imposing an across-the-board minimum price.
At least Ned Kelly had the decency to wear a mask!
As the Premier has flagged, what could have inspired such a stout defence of market economics and consumer freedom? A government proposal to prescribe a minimum price for packaged beer. Clearly this was not something Bill Landeryou saw as being in the interests of either his constituents or, no doubt, the members of his former employer, the storemen and packers union.
Bill served in a variety of frontbench roles in opposition before actively supporting the change from Frank Wilkes to John Cain as Labor leader in the lead-up to the 1982 state election. In the Cain government Bill served as Minister for Economic Development and Minister for Tourism and later as Minister for Industrial Affairs and Minister of Labour and Industry. He had a falling-out with John Cain in 1983 and left the ministry. Notwithstanding that brief ministerial tenure, Bill continued to serve in the Parliament for many years, ultimately resigning in December 1992 at the start of the Kennett era.
His behind-the-scenes role in so many of the big political and policy debates of the 1970s and 1980s made him known as a quiet achiever in the labour movement. Bill Landeryou’s steadfast avoidance of seeking credit speak of a time and an approach to public life that seems almost quaint when contrasted with some of the behaviours we have become accustomed to in Australian political life more recently.
His public and private lives were lived very much in accordance with the credo claimed by many but popularised by former US presidents Harry S Truman and Ronald Reagan—that there is no limit to what one can achieve should they not mind who claims the credit.
At his state funeral even many close to him or close to his family and devotees of the broader labour movement learned of his many achievements for the first time. Had a man of Bill Landeryou’s modesty but organisational talent remained in the Cain government, it is eminently likely that its decision-making would have been the better for it. Our polity and his nearest and dearest are the poorer for his passing.
For anyone with an interest in politics and political stories the life and adventures of Bill Landeryou are a rollicking yarn and a reminder that sometimes real power is covert. Bill Landeryou’s achievements for the union movement, his party and his state are very significant, and I join the Premier in recording the sincere condolences of this house to his children, Andrew and Anne-Marie, as well as his grandchildren and broader family. Vale, Bill Landeryou.