Jim Chalmers pays tribute to Wayne Goss's life

26 November 2014

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (12:44):  On the day that Wayne Goss died earlier this month I was, by coincidence, attending a speech night at Woodridge high school in my electorate which was also, for a time, in Wayne's electorate of Logan. He was the Premier of Queensland but he was also proudly, from 1986 to the late 1990s, the member for Logan as well.

Wayne Goss was an inspirational figure and he was a transformational figure. I am grateful for the opportunity to put on the record my community's appreciation of his leadership, my state's appreciation of that leadership and also some personal reflections as a Logan City boy, a Queenslander and a product of the state that Wayne Goss built and the party that Wayne Goss built—in both cases unrecognisable from what they replaced.

I was only in grade 6 in 1989 but I knew that something was afoot in Queensland. You could not turn on the radio in mum's car as you were going home from the grocery shopping or anything like that without hearing about this thing called the Fitzgerald inquiry. You knew, in the mid to late eighties and before that as well, that something was seriously wrong with the way Queensland was governed. We knew when we had this guy—this fresh face—called Wayne Goss still in his 30s, remarkably, going for the premiership of our state that something big was going on. My first memories of Wayne were from my mum who used to work the night shift for many years at Sunnybank hospital. One of the first things she would often say she came through the door after a night on the night shift was, 'I saw the Premier jogging this morning', because where he would jog in the mornings coincided with the time and the way my mum drove home from Sunnybank to Springwood in the morning. So mum would often mention that she had seen the Premier out there in his singlet, running long distances as a very fit Premier of Queensland. That is my first memory of Wayne Goss.

I realise later, as I got into politics and became more aware, that 1989 was really a watershed. The election of 1989 was really a watershed the history of our state. It was arguably the key date of change in the modern history of Queensland, because of the change that was brought in—from an old regime characterised by grift and corruption to a new regime characterised by economic modernisation, social justice and all the things that make Queensland a much better place now.

When Wayne campaigned in 1989, he campaigned on the basis that Labor was the only change for the better. He gave Queenslanders a choice and they grabbed it. They turned their back on the corruption and grift and chose economic modernisation, integrity and, above all, social justice. There are so many achievements of the Wayne Goss government. Other speakers, including the member for Lilley who I am honoured to follow here today, mentioned some of the achievements of the Goss government. They are extraordinary: electoral reform, all the Fitzgerald inquiry recommendations implemented; merit-based appointments to the public service; the decriminalisation of homosexuality; gun laws, the first ever in Queensland; the first female cabinet minister in Queensland appointed; the infamous police special branch abolished; and the ban on street marches lifted so that people could express their opinions peacefully without risk of arrest. He introduced the Queensland Conservation Act; stopped rainforest logging and extended the National Park estate; put some of the wet tropics on the World Heritage List; and introduced the teaching of Asian languages in Queensland schools. That was such a remarkable thing that other states around Australia, via the COAG process, adopted the Queensland model for teaching Asian languages in schools—something that would have been unheard of in the years prior to Wayne Goss becoming Premier.

But beyond all of these tangible improvements—beyond the legacies Wayne Goss left when we lost him—were the intangible things, the things that cannot be measured. Above all he taught Queenslanders to believe in ourselves. He was a tremendous rugby league fan. Even up to the last year of his life he was a tremendous supporter of the Brisbane Broncos and the Queensland Maroons. He told us that Queensland could be big achievers beyond the sports field, as important as that is. Beyond the football field, he taught us that we could believe in ourselves; that achievements need not be limited to sport—they could be achievements based on our minds and our merit.

As I said before, he was the Premier but he was also the member for Logan and I am honoured to represent a big swathe of Logan City.

I am honoured to support my great friend Linus Power as he attempts to win Wayne Goss's old seat back for Labor at the next opportunity in the next few months.

What Wayne Goss did for Queensland, he did for Logan as well. He taught Logan people that we were good enough to have a premier from within our ranks and to believe in ourselves. I have lost count of the number of people who have streamed through the door at my electorate office or stopped me at events to say that Wayne Goss allowed Logan people to walk a bit taller. He was the Premier but he was not just any kind of Premier; he was a Premier who believed in social justice and giving opportunities to kids from areas like mine.

One of the real achievements that has not been mentioned much in the welcome praise of Wayne Goss's life was for the role he played in getting a university campus in Logan City. The first ever; the only one. The Logan campus of Griffith University—Wayne Goss fought to make that happen. The National Party did not want a university in Logan City; they did not think that was appropriate. They wanted one on the Gold Coast; they wanted one in Brisbane—they did not want one in my community. I think it says a lot about Wayne Goss that he fought to make a university campus in Logan City a reality.

At the memorial on Friday, at which the member for Lilley spoke so eloquently, I got to sit with some teachers from some of our Woodridge schools. I got to sit amongst great branch members. Wayne Goss was a branch member in my area until the day he died. There were some other branch members at that memorial service on Friday, such as Sharon and Roger East—some great branch members. Lots of people from our area in Logan were there to commemorate a tremendous life.

We heard stories of an intelligent man, but most of all a man brimming with integrity. There were so many great contributions, speeches and videos that I do not have the time to run through all of the wonderful stories that people told about Wayne Goss's life. But I want to single out his wife, Ro; his daughter, Caitlin, who gave a speech on behalf of herself and her brother Ryan; and Wayne's brother who gave a tremendous contribution. We send them our thoughts and our prayers at a difficult time.

The thing I like most about the contributions that were made at the memorial service were that we also heard that Wayne had a remarkable capacity for humility, humour and self-deprecation. But, above all, he was marked by leadership. I had a great conversation with one of his tremendous friends Dennis Atkins about the intangibility of leadership that Wayne Goss had that was evident to all who met him. He was a leader; he had tremendous developed leadership skills but he was a natural. The way that he led our state showed that to be true.

Wayne Goss also assembled remarkable people around him. The people who went to work with him, to help him, are a mark of his leadership: the member for Lilley went on to become the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer; the former member for Griffith went on to become the Prime Minister; two university vice-chancellors used to work for Wayne Goss; and a CEO of one of the best disability services groups in the country. All of these people who went on to make remarkable contributions began their professional life—in a substantial way—under the leadership of Wayne Goss.

I only got to know him after he was Premier. The first time I spoke to him was in 1999. He called me; I was a young bureaucrat in the Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet. He was giving a speech and he wanted a hand with it. I was very nervous; I worked all night for two or three nights in my own time to try and give him the perfect work. He rang me afterwards to thank me. I was terrified when the phone: it was Wayne Goss. I said, 'How did it go?' He said, 'It went brilliantly.' I said, 'That's great,' and I thought I was going to get some really good feedback. I said, 'What specifically?' He said,' The bits that I wrote went brilliantly. The bits you wrote, not so much.' I was terrified about that. I went to another friend of Wayne's and asked if he was joking. They said, 'No, probably not. He was probably serious.' That was the first time I got to know him.

I spoke to him many times after that when I was working for the member for Lilley. He was a tremendous source of advice for my own preselection. At times I would have a cup of tea with him. I would go with Anthony Chisholm, the state secretary of the Queensland branch, and sit on Wayne's balcony at Teneriffe and have a chat. I saw him at Dennis Atkins's 60th birthday; it was the last time I saw him.

To Wayne Goss and his family, we say: thank you, Wayne, for making us proud to be Queenslanders and proud to be part of the great Australian Labor Party; for allowing us and teaching us to believe in ourselves at a state level but also in the community; for your life of leadership and social justice, intelligence and integrity; and, most of all, for making Queensland a better place. Thank you.