Matt Foley's Tribute to Wayne Goss - Terri Butler MP, Labor for Griffith

Matt Foley's Tribute to Wayne Goss

At the 2015 Labor state conference in Queensland, the Hon Matt Foley, a former minister, gave a moving tribute to former Premier and Labor leader the Hon Wayne Goss.






1. I first met Wayne Goss in July  1974 at the small, cramped Brisbane office of the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Legal Service where we both worked - he as a solicitor, I as a social worker. I was struck with his hard work and discipline, his canny legal expertise, his steely determination as the boy from Inala to combat injustice and inequality, as well as his  passion for running  and his love of the arts and music, especially the Rolling Stones. He had a quirky fascination for Phantom comics. We became good mates. Some years later I had the honour to be Wayne's best man at his wedding to his beloved Roisin, an inspiring social worker and academic. 

2. On Remembrance Day 1975 Governor-General John Kerr wrongly sacked the democratically elected Labor government of Gough Whitlam. Wayne decided then and there to join Labor and fight the Tories.

3.  Wayne was elected in 1983 at age 32 as the member for Salisbury. In his first speech to Parliament he had the temerity to quote the poet TS Eliot  (not the done thing in the snake-pit of the Queensland Legislative Assembly) in the course of his attack on the Bjelke-Petersen government:

“There is a yawning gap between what this Government says and what it does; between the flowing promises and the actuality; between the expensive public relations brochures and the truth. As T. S. Eliot said of "The Hollow Men", so I say of the National Party front bench—

Between the idea 

And the reality 

Between the motion 

And the act

Falls the shadow.’" 

2. On the second of December 1989, the anniversary of Whitlam's triumph in 1972, Wayne Goss led Labor in Queensland out of 32 years of wallowing in the political mire to the sunlit uplands of victory.  On that day I had the good fortune to be elected as the Labor Member for Yeronga. On that day many Queenslanders came home to Labor for the first time since the party had that terrible split with the DLP in 1957 under Premier Vince Gair.

3. Wayne Goss in government was a force of nature. Within the first term Wayne's government:

  • repealed the corrupt electoral gerrymander and restored democracy through a fair and open electoral system;
  • got rid of Joh's oppressive, anti-union industrial relations regime;
  • gave massive boosts to education, training and health;
  • introduced freedom of information, judicial review  and peaceful assembly laws;
  • appointed the first women Judges in the history of Queensland (to the chagrin of the old boys’ club);
  • legislated to recognise Aboriginal and Islander land rights;
  • removed from the Criminal Code the repugnant provision outlawing homosexual acts between consenting adults; and
  • moved to double the area of national parks.

4. On 19 September 1992 Wayne had the daring to lead Labor to an election not under the conventional wisdom of promising tax cuts but instead promising to increase tax on tobacco in order to fund a $150 million dollar jobs plan. Wayne trusted the Queensland people to understand the importance of jobs at a time of high unemployment. His trust was repaid and Labor secured a second term.

5. The arts flourished under Wayne's government. A Regional Arts Development Fund kickstarted co-operation between state and local governments to enhance access to cultural life throughout regional Queensland. Wayne wanted adults and kids all over Queensland to experience the wonders of arts and music. The Asia-Pacific Triennial was established at the Queensland Art Gallery to place Brisbane at the cutting edge of international contemporary art practice. A new Playhouse Theatre was commissioned on the South Bank. Land was reserved for the site of what was to become GOMA, the spectacular Gallery of Modern Art.

6. All our lives are enriched by the legacy of Wayne Goss.  He made Queensland a stronger, kinder, gentler place.  He exemplified Labor at its best, a people's movement for common humanity. He stands alongside T. J. Ryan and Gough Whitlam in the pantheon of great Labor leaders. His death last November robs us of a giant. He remains an inspiration to all,young and old, who care for Labor ideals. His spirit lives on in the work of  Annastacia Palaszczuk, Jackie Trad, their comrades and all who walk the paths that Wayne walked. In view of Wayne’s fondness for Phantom comics I conclude with an old jungle saying:

 " The ghost who walks will never die."


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