‘Great collaborator’ awarded AC

Former Hotham MP and Labor federal leader Simon Crean has been posthumously awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia.

by Cam Lucadou-Wells

Labor luminary the late Simon Crean has been awarded Australia’s top citation in the Kings’ Birthday Honours List.

Mr Crean, now a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), died suddenly at 74 as part of a trade delegation in Berlin last June.

More than a decade out of federal politics, the former Federal party leader had not been previously awarded with an Order of Australia citation.

His wife Carole said the belatedness of the award symbolised Mr Crean’s humility.

“The first thing (on hearing of Mr Crean’s AC) I was really emotional that he was recognised for his legacy and all of his achievements.

“Obviously I feel very honoured and proud, not that I need that to feel proud about Simon.

“He never sought accolades or recognition for himself. He had better and more important things to do.

“Getting the top honour was something he thoroughly deserves. He would have been chuffed.”

Mr Crean was awarded for his “eminient service to the people and Parliament of Australia, to tertiary education, to business and to industrial relations”.

Raised in a political family, Mr Crean rose to Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president before entering Federal Parliament.

He served as a Cabinet Minister under four Prime Ministers, with diverse portfolios including arts, education, employment, workplace relations, regional development, trade, energy and science.

Post-politics, he was still working “non-stop” as Monash University deputy chancellor and on a range of boards including Linfox, European Australian Business Council and Greater South East Melbourne (GSEM).

Mr Crean was “very connected with his electorate” as Hotham MP for 23 years as well as with “the South East of Melbourne”.

Carole paid tribute to his “innovation” and “hard work” in his ministries, bilateral international agreements and promoting “the best outcomes for Australia”.

Every ministry he had, there was a significant reform in place – such as industrial relations, agriculture, trade and the Creative Australia policy.

“He always believed in culture as a foundation for what Australia is.

“He set the scene for what our society is and there is also the whole legacy of how he went about things.”

Mr Crean was “the great collaborator” who had no illusions how tough the political world was.

“He would collaborate with everyone who was involved (in an issue) and he didn’t get hung up on the small stuff. He didn’t make enemies, he loved his colleagues and his people that worked with him.

“I heard that they said they’d put in 110 per cent because Simon was putting in 120 per cent.”

In 54 years of marriage, there was also his great verve for life, travel, culture, history and knowledge.

“I had an incredible life with him. Forget travelling all over the world, Simon was the most-travelled inside Australia – he went to places no other politician had been to.

“It was pretty fast-paced. On top of that he always wanted his family with him.

“Simon lived for the moment before that phrase was coined. He had a lot of energy and looked for the positive in everything. He was quite an extraordinary person.

“He loved cooking, he loved beautiful things. We wouldn’t pass a church without going inside.

“He was almost bigger than life, which made everything (after his death) so difficult to accept.

“And he loved people. It didn’t have to be ‘important’ people – he just had that joy of living.”