I join with my fellow senators in honouring the life of the Hon. Simon Findlay Crean. I convey my deep condolences to his wife, Carole; daughters, Emma and Sarah; brother, David; and his extended family; Simon’s many friends; and his incredible Labor family, including many in the chamber. I acknowledge the many fine contributions made in this condolence motion, including from Senator Wong. I don’t intend to repeat a lot of the detail of Simon’s life and his incredible contribution to this nation, other than to make a few a remarks.
Simon Crean’s legacy is one of service to the union movement, to parliament, to the people of Hotham for 23 years, to a range of business and industry organisations post politics and, of course, to our nation. Much has been said about the many ways in which Simon Crean enriched this great country. As I say, his contribution was incredibly significant.
Ten days ago I was honoured to join hundreds, perhaps more than a thousand, at the state funeral of Simon Crean at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne. It was a celebration of a true giant of the Labor movement and particularly a true giant in Victoria. In the weeks since Simon’s shocked passing, he was remembered as many things—brave, a peacemaker, a widely respected Labor statesman, someone of great integrity and decency. However, as his great friend Bill Kelty reiterated in that wonderful eulogy—and it was an incredible eulogy—Simon was also very tough, and Bill Kelty particularly wanted people to know that Simon was tough, because, of course, on the surface Simon was a true gentleman. He made many friends across politics and he had a wonderful way with people. He was very kind, but, as Bill Kelty said, he was also very, very tough.
Simon’s life was cut tragically short. Of course, he was doing what he loved to do, and that was to represent this nation in one of the many loves of his life: international trade.
Simon was born in Melbourne in 1949 to parents Frank and Mary Crean, and it was inevitable with a father such as Frank Crean that Simon would follow in his father’s very large footsteps. After studying law and economics at Monash University, it wasn’t long before Simon moved into the union movement. During his time in parliament, Simon held several very key portfolios, including one close to my heart, the education portfolio, before he was elected as the deputy and eventually the leader of the federal Australian Labor Party. He served with great distinction in a variety of portfolios, as cabinet minister and, of course, as the opposition leader.
I had a bit to do with Simon when he chaired Deakin University’s Carbon Nexus. He made a really significant contribution after leaving politics. Our paths never crossed in the parliament as he resigned prior to the 2013 election. He became deeply embedded in a number of different organisations—Carbon Nexus, the Australia-Korea Business Council and the European Australian Business Council, where he continued to advocate for Australia’s trade interests on the global stage. I know Simon worked very, very hard on behalf of many Australian Korean organisations, including Hanwha Defense Australia, and he would have been overjoyed with the news that Hanwha won the tender for Land 400 phase 3. He worked very, very hard with so many companies here in Australia to advance the interests of our two countries.
We didn’t always see eye to eye. I was an ardent Geelong Cats fan, and I think I might have encouraged him to swap teams at one point, because he spent quite a bit of time in Geelong in his role as chair of Carbon Nexus, but he was very much a dedicated, one-eyed supporter of the North Melbourne Football Club.
I saw Simon just before last Christmas, in a restaurant in Melbourne. He was at an adjoining table with a group of colleagues and friends, and we just sort of waved and had a quick hello. He was absolutely full of life. He was cheery. He was energetic. He was dynamic. He was commanding the presence of all around him. I don’t think it mattered where he was in his life; he commanded a great presence from all around him.
It was wonderful at his funeral to learn about his love of travel, his love of learning about every part of this world, but of course his love of travel with his beloved wife, Carole. Again, I convey my deep condolences to Carole and his children and his family. Vale, Simon Crean. Thank you for your service. May you rest in peace.