Bill Hayden

William George Hayden AC (born 23 January 1933) is an Australian politician who served as the 21st governor-general of Australia from 1989 to 1996. He was Leader of the Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition from 1977 to 1983, and served as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade from 1983 to 1988 under Bob Hawke and as Treasurer of Australia in 1975 under Gough Whitlam.

Bill Hayden
Hayden in 1971
21st Governor-General of Australia
In office
16 February 1989  16 February 1996
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterBob Hawke
Paul Keating
Preceded bySir Ninian Stephen
Succeeded bySir William Deane
Leader of the Opposition
In office
22 December 1977  8 February 1983
Prime MinisterMalcolm Fraser
DeputyLionel Bowen
Preceded byGough Whitlam
Succeeded byBob Hawke
Leader of the Labor Party
In office
22 December 1977  8 February 1983
DeputyLionel Bowen
Preceded byGough Whitlam
Succeeded byBob Hawke
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade
In office
11 March 1983  17 August 1988
Prime MinisterBob Hawke
Preceded byTony Street
Succeeded byGareth Evans
Treasurer of Australia
In office
6 June 1975  11 November 1975
Prime MinisterGough Whitlam
Preceded byJim Cairns
Succeeded byPhillip Lynch
Minister for Social Security
In office
19 December 1972  6 June 1975
Prime MinisterGough Whitlam
Preceded byLance Barnard
Succeeded byJohn Wheeldon
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Oxley
In office
9 December 1961  8 October 1988
Preceded byDonald Cameron
Succeeded byLes Scott
Personal details
William George Hayden

(1933-01-23) 23 January 1933
Spring Hill, Queensland, Australia
Political partyLabor
Dallas Broadfoot
(m. 1960)
EducationBrisbane State High School
Alma materUniversity of Queensland
OccupationPolice officer
(Queensland Police Service)

Hayden was born in Brisbane, Queensland. He attended Brisbane State High School and then joined the Queensland Police, working as a police officer for eight years while studying economics part-time at the University of Queensland. Hayden was elected to the House of Representatives at the 1961 federal election, aged 28 – along with Manfred Cross and Doug McClelland, Hayden is the earliest elected Labor MP still alive.[1] When Gough Whitlam led the Labor Party to victory in 1972, he was made Minister for Social Security. He replaced Jim Cairns as Treasurer in 1975, but served for only five months before the government was dismissed.

In early 1977, Hayden challenged Whitlam for the party leadership and was defeated by just two votes. He defeated Lionel Bowen to succeed Whitlam as Leader of the Opposition at the end of the year, following Labor's defeat at the 1977 election. Hayden led the party to the 1980 election, recording a substantial swing but falling well short of victory. He was replaced by Bob Hawke just a few weeks before the 1983 election, after months of speculation. Hayden served as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade from 1983 to 1988, then left parliament to assume the governor-generalship. He held that position for seven years, with only Lord Gowrie having served for longer.

Early life

Hayden was born on 23 January 1933 at the Lady Bowen Lying-In Hospital in Spring Hill, Queensland. He was the first child born to Violet Quinn and George Hayden, who married a few weeks after his birth.[2] He had a younger brother and two younger sisters,[3] as well as an older half-brother from his mother's first marriage who was raised by an aunt.[4] His parents both had prior marriages which ended in widowhood.[5]

Hayden's father was an American seaman, probably born in California,[6] who jumped ship in Sydney a few years before World War I. He worked as a piano-tuner and musical instrument salesman, moving to Rockhampton, Queensland, in the early 1920s. He held radical political views and was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World.[7] Hayden's mother was born in Brandon, Queensland, to a working-class family of Irish descent.[8] After the death of her first husband, a shearer, she worked in Rockhampton as a barmaid.[4] The couple moved to Brisbane during the Great Depression.[9]

Hayden spent his first year at a boardinghouse in Fortitude Valley, before the family moved to a rented cottage in the working-class area of Highgate Hill.[2] The family became more financially stable after his father enlisted in the army in 1941.[10] He began his education at St Ita's Catholic Primary School in South Brisbane, but was withdrawn from the school when it rescinded his father's contract to tune the school pianos. He switched to Dutton Park State School and was later highly critical of the quality of education that he received.[11] Hayden went on to South Brisbane Intermediate School, where he passed the state scholarship exam in 1947. This allowed him to complete his secondary education at Brisbane State High School in 1948 and 1949.[12] After leaving school, he found work as a junior clerk in the State Government Stores, where he worked until joining the police.[13] He was conscripted to the Royal Australian Navy for six months following the passage of the National Service Act 1951, having earlier unsuccessfully applied to join the Royal Australian Air Force as an 18-year-old.[14]

Policing career

Hayden joined the Queensland Police Force in 1953 following his father's death. He completed his training in Brisbane and the following year was transferred to Mackay in North Queensland. He was briefly stationed in the small country towns of Calen and Sarina.[15] As he was supporting his mother and younger siblings, he also worked a second full-time job driving a milk truck and various seasonal jobs on rural properties.[16] In 1956, Hayden was transferred back to Brisbane and worked as a plainclothes constable at the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB). He was later moved to police headquarters on Roma Street where he was rostered on at Government House, guarding the governor of Queensland.[17] He was transferred again in 1957 to the two-man police station at Redbank, on the outskirts of Ipswich.[18]

Politics (1961–1988)

Hayden shortly after his election, in 1962

Hayden held far-left views as a young man and attempted to join the Communist Party of Australia, but was refused membership due to his police ties.[14] He first attempted to join the ALP in South Brisbane in 1953, but was also regarded with suspicion in the context of the ALP split of the mid-1950s.[19] He was ultimately recruited to the Redbank branch of the ALP in 1957.[20] Hayden became "an active and energetic party worker, closely aligned with the left-wing Trades Hall faction that now controlled the Queensland ALP".[21] He became secretary of the electoral executive committee for the state seat of Bremer and president of the divisional executive for the federal seat of Oxley.[22] In 1960 he began attending adult matriculation classes with a view towards attending university. He also attended political science lectures given by Max Poulter at the Brisbane Trades Hall.[23]

In October 1960, Hayden won ALP preselection for the federal seat of Oxley, running as the Trades Hall candidate against Australian Workers' Union (AWU) candidate Bert Warren.[24] At the 1961 federal election he unexpectedly defeated incumbent Liberal MP and cabinet minister Donald Cameron, winning 53 percent of the primary vote on an 11-point swing.[25] Hayden's win was part of a 15-seat swing to Labor that nearly brought down the Menzies government.

Overcoming initial resistance to his membership of the Labor party, Hayden was soon popularly elected as one of the then youngest members of the federal parliament (only 28 years old at the time he entered it). He proved to be a diligent, well-spoken parliamentarian.[26] In 1969, he became a member of the Opposition front bench.[27]

Whitlam Government (1972–1975)

Hayden in 1969

When Labor won the 1972 election under Gough Whitlam, Hayden was appointed Minister for Social Security, and in that capacity, among other efforts to promoting reform, introduced the single mothers pension and Medibank, Australia's first system of universal health insurance. On 6 June 1975, he succeeded Jim Cairns as Treasurer, a position he held until the Whitlam government was dismissed by the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, on 11 November 1975. Labor suffered its worst-ever defeat in the election held a month later, and Hayden was left as the only Labor MP from Queensland.[28]

Opposition leader (1977–1983)

When Labor lost the 1977 election in another landslide, Whitlam retired as leader. In the ensuing leadership ballot Hayden was elected over Lionel Bowen to succeed him; Bowen was then elected as Hayden's deputy. Aged 44, he was the youngest person to be elected leader of the Labor Party since Chris Watson in 1901. His political views had become more moderate, and he advocated economic policies which encompassed the private sector and the American alliance.

At the 1980 election. Labor finished a mere 0.8 percent behind Fraser's government on the two-party vote, having gained a nationwide swing of over four percent. Yet, due to the geographically uneven nature of the swing (strong in Victoria and, to a lesser degree, Western Australia and New South Wales, but comparatively weak everywhere else), Labor fell 12 seats short of toppling the Coalition. Hayden did, however, regain much of what Labor had lost in the previous two elections. He also slashed Fraser's majority in half, from 23 seats to 11.

By 1982 it was evident that Fraser was manoeuvring to call an early election. But the main threat to Hayden came less from Fraser than from elements in Hayden's own party. Bob Hawke, a former union leader who had been elected to Parliament two years earlier, began mobilising his supporters to challenge Hayden's leadership. On 16 July 1982 Hayden narrowly defeated a challenge by Hawke in a party ballot but Hawke continued to plot against Hayden.[29]

In December Labor surprised many pundits by its failure to win the vital Flinders by-election in Victoria, further raising doubts about Hayden's ability to lead the ALP to power.[30] On 3 February 1983, in a meeting in Brisbane, various leading Labor figures, including Paul Keating and Senator John Button, told Hayden that he must resign.[29] He reluctantly accepted their advice.[31] Hawke was then elected leader on 8 February, unopposed.

Fraser had been well aware of the infighting within Labor and wanted to call an election before the party could replace Hayden with Hawke. On the same morning that Hayden resigned—and unaware that Hayden had resigned—Fraser asked for, and was granted, an election for 5 March. Fraser only learned of Hayden's resignation a few hours before the election writs were issued. At a press conference that afternoon Hayden, still chagrined, said that "a drover's dog could lead the Labor Party to victory, the way the country is".[32] Hayden's quip about a "drover's dog" became part of Australian political history. Hayden himself referred to it good-humouredly many years when he said, "There are so many things I did in my political life that I am very proud of. ... But the one thing I am remembered for is damn well saying 'A drover's dog could win the next election'. It seems to have settled into political idiom. The only person who didn't like it was Bob Hawke."[33]

Foreign Minister (1983–1988)

Labor won the 1983 election handily, and Hayden became Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. In that post, he advocated closer integration between Australia and its Asian neighbours. In a 1983 interview, he stated: "Australia is changing. We're an anomaly as a European country in this part of the world. There's already a large and growing Asian population in Australia and it is inevitable in my view that Australia will become a Eurasian country over the next century or two. Australian Asians and Europeans will marry another and a new race will emerge: I happen to think that's desirable."[34][35]

Hayden in 1987, signing an agreement with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze (right).

As Foreign Minister Hayden had oversight of the Australian foreign aid program. He pursued efforts to engage Vietnam and Cambodia despite vehement opposition from allied nations and key stakeholders. In 1983 Hayden announced a review of the Australian foreign aid program (known as the "Jackson Review" after the chair, Sir Gordon Jackson) which reported in March 1984.[36] The main recommendations of the report, which were directed at improving the professional quality of the Australian aid program, were accepted by the Government. During the next few years, in various speeches Hayden set out the foreign aid priorities of the government.[37]

Governor-General (1989–1996)

After winning the 1987 election, Prime Minister Hawke announced that Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia had approved of Hayden’s appointment as Governor-General of Australia as a consolation for replacing him earlier as Labor Leader in 1983 and thus denying him the chance to become Prime Minister. The Queen's appointment of Hayden as Governor-General to succeed Sir Ninian Stephen was announced in mid-1988.[38] In the following months, Hayden resigned from Parliament and severed his political connections with the Labor Party. He took up the post of Governor-General in early 1989 and served during the period of transition from the Hawke Government to the Keating Government in December 1991. The usual term of for a Governor-General was five years but, by agreement between the government and Hayden, his term was extended for an additional two years to early 1996.[39][40]

Upon his appointment as Governor-General, he became, ex officio, Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Australia.[41]

The Governor-General is normally the Chief Scout of Australia.[42] Hayden declined the office, because he identified as an atheist, which was incompatible with the Scout Promise.[43] Instead, he served as the "National Patron" of the Scout Association during his time in office.

Later life

Bill Hayden and John Howard at Padraic McGuinness's funeral in 2008

By the late 1990s Hayden joined the board of Quadrant. In the debate preceding the 1999 republic referendum, he rejected the specific proposal and sided with the monarchists,[44] stating he supported the direct election of a president.[45]

Since retirement from the position of Governor-General, Hayden has continued to contribute to public policy discussion in Australia. While on the board of Quadrant, he took time to lend personal support to the publication and wrote a tribute to its editor P.P. McGuinness on his death in 2008.[46] He has also continued to write opinion and comment pieces for other magazines and newspapers in Australia about current social, economic and political issues including foreign affairs.[47]

Personal life

In May 1960, Hayden married Dallas Broadfoot, the daughter of a miner from Ipswich.[23] They initially lived in a rented cottage in Dinmore before building a house in Ipswich's western suburbs. The couple had three daughters and a son.[48] Their oldest daughter Michaela died in 1966 at the age of five after being struck by a car.[49]

In September 2018, Hayden was baptised as a Roman Catholic at St Mary's Church, Ipswich. He told The Catholic Leader that "there’s been a gnawing pain in my heart and soul about what is the meaning of life".[50] The baptismal ceremony was attended by a gathering of family, friends, and former colleagues. Hayden's siblings, Patricia Oxenham, John Hayden, and Joan Moseman, along with other members of family, were present for the event.


By virtue of being Governor-General, Hayden was the Chancellor of the Order of Australia and its Principal Companion (AC).[39] In 1999, Latvia awarded him the Order of the Three Stars 3rd Class.[51]

He received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Queensland in 1990 for his distinguished contributions to Australian life. Other awards included admission to the Order of St John Australia and also the Gwanghwa Medal of the Korean Order of Diplomatic Merit.[52]

In 1996 he was recognised as the Australian Humanist of the Year by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies.[53] In 2007 at the 45th State Conference of the Queensland Branch of the Australian Labor Party, Hayden was made a Life Member of the party.

In September 2017, in delivering the second Hayden Oration at the University of Southern Queensland in Ipswich, former Australian prime minister Paul Keating spoke at length of Hayden's contribution to the Labor Party. Keating spoke, in particular, of the reform period during the Hawke Labor Government in the 1980s in Australia. He noted that the foundations for the reforms had been set down before the Labor Party won office in 1983 during the period when Hayden was Leader of the Opposition and was working to prepare the Party for government. "Those great reforms", Keating said, "began with the frameworks Bill Hayden brought to the front bench, the day he became Leader of the Labor Party."[54]

Hayden oration

A series of Hayden orations, sponsored by the University of Southern Queensland has been established to honour Bill Hayden. Lectures held in the series include the following:


  1. Malcolm Farnsworth (2020). "Living Former Members Of The House Of Representatives (1949–1972)".
  2. Stubbs 1989, p. 10.
  3. Stubbs 1989, p. 14.
  4. Stubbs 1989, p. 8.
  5. Stubbs 1989, p. 5.
  6. Stubbs 1989, p. 6.
  7. Stubbs 1989, pp. 6–8.
  8. Stubbs 1989, pp. 5–6.
  9. Stubbs 1989, p. 9.
  10. Stubbs 1989, p. 15.
  11. Stubbs 1989, pp. 15–17.
  12. Stubbs 1989, p. 21.
  13. Stubbs 1989, p. 23.
  14. Stubbs 1989, p. 37.
  15. Stubbs 1989, pp. 27–28.
  16. Stubbs 1989, pp. 29–30.
  17. Stubbs 1989, pp. 30–31.
  18. Stubbs 1989, p. 35.
  19. Stubbs 1989, p. 38.
  20. Stubbs 1989, p. 39.
  21. Stubbs 1989, p. 41.
  22. Stubbs 1989, pp. 41–42.
  23. Stubbs 1989, p. 42.
  24. Stubbs 1989, p. 43.
  25. Stubbs 1989, p. 45.
  26. Hayden spent a good deal of the 1960s thinking through Australian public policy issues and his own approach to politics. He discusses this in his autobiography (Hayden, 1996, op. cit, Part II). As part of this process he produced a pamphlet on democratic socialism published as W.G. Hayden, 1968, The Implications of Democratic Socialism, Victorian Fabian Society.
  27. Murphy, op. cit., p. 48.
  28. Murphy, op. cit, p. 147.
  29. Bill Hayden (1996). "Hayden: An Autobiography". Pymble N.S.W.: Angus & Robertson. Archived from the original on 18 December 2010. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  30. Editorial, "Flinders fallout", The Australian Financial Review, 6 December 1982, and Gregory Hywood, '"Kingmaker" Button ponders Hayden's future', The Australian Financial Review, 24 December 1982.
  31. Simon Balderstone, 'The 'Little General' who had to drop a friend', The Age, 5 February 1983.
  32. "Statements from Hayden Bowen, Hawke". The Canberra Times. Vol. 57, no. 17, 295. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 4 February 1983. p. 7. Retrieved 28 January 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  33. ktendolle (26 August 2013). "Drover's dog couldn't win this time: Hayden". Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  34. Asiaweek, 19 August 1983.
  35. Pacific centuries: Pacific and Pacific Rim History since the Sixteenth Century by Dennis Owen Flynn, Lionel Frost, A. J. H. Latham, 1999, Routledge, page 232
  36. Australian Government Publishing Service, Report of the Committee to Review the Australian Overseas Aid Program, Canberra, ISBN 0 644 03344 4.
  37. Bill Hayden, 'Policy and Economics of Foreign Aid', Economic Analysis and Policy, 17 (1), March 1987.
  38. There had been considerable media speculation about the appointment in the months beforehand but the decision was only confirmed when an official announcement was made. See Ramsey, Alan (12 March 1988). "When the numbers add up, or do they?". The Sydney Morning Herald.; McGuiness, Padraic P. (15 March 1988). "Drover's dog no Kerr". The Australian Financial Review.; and Grattan, Michelle (30 July 1988). "The long and winding road to Yarralumla", The Age, 30 July 1988.
  39. "Governor-General's Role". Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. 13 June 2017. Archived from the original on 11 April 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  40. "Governors-General Since 1901". Australian Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  41. "Governor-General's Role". Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. Archived from the original on 11 April 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  42. "Chief Scout". Scouts Australia. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007.
  43. "Brief Comments". Australian League of Rights. Archived from the original on 4 December 2007.
  44. Reporter: Sally Sara (7 October 1999). "Anti-republican cause recruits Bill Hayden". PM. ABC. ABC Radio National.
  45. "Republicans call for the real Bill Hayden to stand up in the No referendum case". Archived from the original on 28 November 2001. Retrieved 21 June 2008. Australian Republican Movement, 17 August 1999
  46. 'Workingman's friend', The Australian, 29 January 2008
  47. See his article on gay rights in Australia, 'We've come so far on gay rights but it's not enough', The Punch, 6 October 2009 , and his comment on US-China relations in Asia 'Caught in the US-China wash', The Australian 11 June 2011 .
  48. Stubbs 1989, p. 59.
  49. Stubbs 1989, pp. 70–71.
  50. "Former atheist and political leader Bill Hayden baptised at age 85 at St Mary's Church, Ipswich". The Catholic Leader. 18 September 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018. See also Kristian Silva, 'Bill Hayden, former Labor leader, turns to God despite atheist past', ABC News, 19 September 2018.
  51. (10 November 1999). "Par apbalvošanu ar Triju Zvaigžņu ordeni un ordeņa Goda zīmi - Latvijas Vēstnesis" [Of the awarding of the Order of the Three Stars and the Medal of Honor of the Order]. Latvijas Vēstnesis (in Latvian). Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  52. University of Queensland, Alumni and Community Archived 20 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  53. Australian Humanists of the Year
  54. Paul Keating, 'The Hayden Oration 29 September 2017', University of Southern Queensland, Ipswich Campus, Queensland. A summary of Keating's remarks was carried in several major Australian newspapers, including in Mark Kenny, 'Bill Hayden, the most visionary PM we never had, says Paul Keating', The Age, 30 September 2017.

Further reading

  • Hayden, Bill (1996). Hayden: An Autobiography. Angus & Robertson. ISBN 020718769X.
  • Murphy, Denis (1980). Hayden: A Political Biography. Angus & Robertson. ISBN 0207141010.
  • Stubbs, John (1989). Hayden. William Heinemann Australia. ISBN 0855613394.
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