CONDOLENCE MOTION – THE HON. WILLIAM ALBERT LANDERYOU

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Ms GARRETT (Eastern Victoria) (14:20:19): As I look around this place—this very ornate chamber that we are all privileged to sit in—I know that it has seen its fair share of history and towering figures who have made their mark here and in the much bigger arena of the state of Victoria. One of those people was Bill Landeryou, a powerhouse of ideas, energy and never-ending commitment to making a difference to the lives of so many.

Today I am incredibly proud to speak on this condolence motion. As his son, Andrew, said in a beautiful eulogy for his father: He was a big man. He had big ideas. He talked a big game. He told big, epic jokes. He had big thunderous laughter. He was a big personality that could dominate a room and he had a big booming voice that could fill a stadium. He was a one-man barbecue-stopper and scene-stealer with a natural dramatic flair. That sounds like someone else I know, because I did not personally know Bill Landeryou, but like so many Victorians I benefit from his legacy every day, and me more than most, because his son, Andrew, and Andrew’s wife, Kimberley, I count among my best friends. They are here in the chamber today, and I acknowledge them.

Andrew has clearly inherited his father’s fierce intellect and his sharp wit. He also has a capacity to barbecue-stop himself and a deep passion for this party and its values. I know your dad was infinitely proud of you, Andrew, and I know how keenly you feel his loss, because Bill Landeryou had the right stuff to make a big impact on others. He was at the epicentre of change in a new style of government that came to power when Labor swept aside years of conservative rule by winning the 1982 election. These were heady days as John Cain led the party out of the political wilderness after 27 years to finally take the reins to steer the state. Bill, as we know, had been there during the tough times. He had slogged away in opposition after being elected to this place in 1976 as a member for Doutta Galla Province. Three years later he rose to become Leader of the Opposition in this place, which is no mean feat. He had spent years learning the art and craft of politics; he knew how to get things done.

As Andrew told me, his father loved Parliament, even the long hours and the dark days. He loved the cut and thrust of argument, and most importantly, he loved the opportunity to help people. As Andrew told the funeral, ‘They pay me to do my hobby’. Parliament was the clearing house of big ideas and big dreams on a big stage for this big man. Bill Landeryou’s life was one of service both in this place and beyond. After leaving school at 15, he eventually turned to the union movement and the storemen and packers union, which of course is now the National Union of Workers. That was just the start of a steady climb through the ranks, as research officer, organiser, state secretary and federal secretary, before becoming federal president of the storemen and packers union. Bill was at the forefront of growing the membership and stepping up the union’s industrial power, and he was in on the ground floor in the setting up of those transformative entities, the industry super funds, upon which millions of Australians rely for a decent and respectful retirement. These are the types of big ideas that change Australia for the better and are just part of his massive legacy.

But there was something else that Bill Landeryou led that changed society at a fundamental level. Decades ago he was one of the first industrial leaders to push for equal pay for women. Even though the storemen and packers union was a male-dominated outfit, under Bill’s leadership it fought for and won equal pay for women in awards. That was such a monumental achievement that resonates today, because as we know, pay rates between the sexes is an ongoing battle in workplaces across the country. It is on the shoulders of giants such as Bill Landeryou that we stand today to continue the fight for equity and wage justice for women.

Bill Landeryou did not stand still; there was always something else to do. So when Victoria needed a shake-up from a tired inertia, Bill was the right man in the right place at the right time. His talents were vital to the success of the new Cain government in the 1980s. He collected ministries pretty much the same way other people collect stamps or, in modern parlance, Instagram followers. He was at various times the Minister for Economic Development, Minister for Tourism, Minister for Industrial Affairs and Minister of Labour and Industry. They were key portfolios as the government got Victoria going.

Cranes in the sky were the index of and the gauge for progress in much the same way as they are today. With Bill’s involvement, within a few years the skyline was dotted with them. One journalist who covered Spring Street at the time said recently that Bill Landeryou was a smart operator who was tough, a good performer who could see your questions coming. You needed to be on your game when you were interviewing him. He said Bill was good to deal with. You knew where you stood with him. As we have heard from others, Bill was a mentor and friend and many benefited from his wisdom, insights and experience. He was generous with his time. He saw talent and nurtured it, promoted and championed it. There are many people who shone with Bill in their corner—Bill Kelty, Simon Crean and Greg Sword to name just a few. He was also incredibly important in the career of a certain politician called Robert Hawke. Bill Landeryou was not called ‘the kingmaker’ for nothing. He helped reform and reinvent the labor movement both as an industrial and political force. When he resigned from this place he made way for an outstanding newcomer, John Brumby. The rest is history.

Post politics, Bill Landeryou might have been off the stage, but his ever-busy mind was focused on the community. One project I would like to touch on before I finish I think truly shows the measure of the man and demonstrates he was well ahead of his time. One of his great passions was to help people in the disabled community. He founded an organisation called TEAM, which started out in Brunswick—a place close to my heart—as a disability employment service in the late 1980s, but under Bill’s leadership it became so much more to so many more. It grew from a single-site employment agency to a 5-star-rated disability employment service with offices in Sunshine, Coburg and Brunswick. Thousands of people with disabilities have been able to get jobs and hold them because of his vision. It was not just about creating work; there was the social side, with weekly gatherings, dinners, movies, trips to the AFL or the races. That is a man who cared about making sure people felt part of a community; a man of action and not just words. I am sure that Bill is extremely proud of the outstanding work done by his daughter and her husband as they lead TEAM to continue making a daily difference. We are fortunate Bill chose a life that added to the lives of others. In 1960 he was a campaign volunteer for another politician, who posed this question and challenge to the voters who elected him at his inauguration: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country’. As good as Bill was as a kingmaker, I am not sure he got JFK into the Oval Office. But we do not know.

All of us here are aware today that politics is a busy business, driven faster than ever by expectations and the immediacy of modern times. That is why it is so important to stop and reflect on the lives of those who have gone before us and on whose legacies we are proudly trying to build upon. Thank you, Bill Landeryou.