By Mehroz Siraj
Incoming NSW Premier, Mike Baird has announced that former Premier Neville Wran would get an official state funeral because of his lifetime worth of public service to the people of that state and the country.
“It is an entirely appropriate tribute for a man who left his mark on this state,” the new premier said in his remarks that he gave to the media late last week.
“He made a permanently positive mark on this state,” he said, adding that despite being a member of the Labor Party, Wran had his admirers within the opposition as well throughout his ten year premiership.
Baird said that Wran’s surviving family had accepted his request for the organizing of a state funeral for the former premier, the details of which would be publicly released later this week.
Wran, who served as a state premier for over a decade between 1976 and 1986, had been battling with health issues during his final years that he spent at an aged care facility in Lulworth, NSW.
Many renowned political personalities have paid glowing tributes to Wran, whose era was marked by ongoing political reforms at a time when the Australian Labor Party (ALP) was still recovering from the shock sacking of the Whitlam government in 1975.
Political pundits believe that Wran’s efforts of resuscitating Labor in the 1970s, would be rated with most of his other prominent achievements.
“After 1975, the Wranslides helped rebuild Labor in New South Wales and nationally,” remarked the federal opposition leader, Bill Shorten, who spoke at length about the efforts with which Wran reconciled the factionalised and fragmented segments of the ALP in the months that followed Whitlam’s sacking.
“It was Neville who kept the light on the hill burning bright,” Shorten added.
NSW had become a globally competitive economy mainly due to the efforts and reforms of Wran and his government ministers, Shorten remarked.
Wran, who campaigned alongside the then federal opposition leader, Bill Hayden, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating during the 1980s, was himself a law graduate from Sydney University.
He got elected to the NSW state legislature during the 1971 state election after winning the seat of Balmain. He became the Labor Party’s parliamentary deputy in the following year.
He led his party towards election victories in 1976 and 1978, with the latter being a landslide. These elections ended long reigns of Coalition rule in NSW and were a testament of Wran’s ability to unite different factions of the NSW Labor.
Wran championed the Reagan-Thatcher model of free market economics and was a keen supporter of Paul Keating’s fiscal and financial reforms of the 1980s, which included the floating of the dollar and the 1985 tax summit.
Wran also played a pioneering role in building national consensus about taking strict action against all forms of organized crimes, such as the operation of illegal casinos across the country and drunk driving.
However despite his exalted status in NSW, he always believed strongly in the values of compassion and integrity and he never forgot his own working-class roots.
“Neville reached his state’s highest office but never forgot his humble beginnings,” Shorten remarked on Sky News Australia last week.
“He brought his values of care, compassion and hard work to the wider NSW population. He made NSW a more caring and fairer place,” Shorten added.