11 February 2011, Sydney, Australia
I couldn’t ask for a better Deputy and Treasurer.
Mary Young and the Young family.
Thank you for all that you still do for Australia.
I want to especially acknowledge your Patron Margaret Whitlam and I know Tony Whitlam is here too.
[Margaret, I reckon in a different Australia, Mick Young might have been remembered as the man who ran the campaign that made you Australia’s first female prime minister.]
Dr Ray Wilson, Chairman of the Mick Young Scholarship Trust, your fellow Trustees and Trust ambassadors.
The brilliant Dr Charlie Teo [TEE-oh].
Congratulations on your Order of Australia. Wonderfully deserved for your outstanding services to medicine.
Bob Hawke. [Our greatest peacetime Prime Minister ... so far!]
John Dawkins. [Was our best Education Minister ... until recently!]
I see my parliamentary colleagues Stephen Conroy, Peter Garrett, Penny Wong, Craig Emerson, Rob McClelland, Nick Sherry, Brendan O’Connor, Kate Ellis, Mark Butler, Stephen Jones.
Terry Bracks and my friends from Western Chances!
Tonight we honour the life and memory of a very great Australian.
Recorded in official documents as the Honourable Michael Jerome Young AO.
But never known as anything other than “Mick”.
To some of you, Mick Young as a colleague.
A beloved father and husband.
To all of us he is an inspiration still.
Mick Young was a leader in a great Labor generation.
A generation that healed the wounds of a fractured party.
That showed such courage after so long to fight its way into office.
That showed such discipline to rebuild after 1975 and fight back into office.
A generation that built two great Labor Governments.
And it began with Mick’s greatest campaign.
No one deserves more credit than Mick ... but he didn’t do it alone.
Those of a more mature television vintage would remember a kids’ show called Adventure Island, produced by a noted TV producer, Godfrey Phillips.
It ran from 1967 to 1972, when the ABC decided to axe it.
There was a huge public outcry and plenty of heartbroken kids but, as Gough might have said ... nothing could save Adventure Island.
- Not much has changed at the ABC.
But if nothing could save Adventure Island, Mick Young could save Godfrey Phillips.
And the ABC’s loss was the ALP’s gain.
- Not much has changed there either.
The ABC’s cut allowed Mick to secure the services of Godfrey Phillips to produce It’s Time.
[And if the Whitlam Government at times had a few Adventure Island moments ... well we’ll remember the best days.]
The rest, as they say, is history.
We all know the way some people would tell the Mick Young story and use it against Labor today.
The larrikin ex-shearer who liked a feed, a fight, a few beers.
Back breaking work, just 15 when he started, like something out of Henry Lawson.
The representative of the real old Labor Party which would rather lose for the right reasons than win for the wrong ones.
An era which if only we could recapture we’d be better today.
But Mick Young is part of our story and we know what his legacy means.
We love the larrikin legends but we aren’t misled by them.
We know Mick was a tough, gutsy political professional.
A man who knew what was wrong in our country, who knew whose side he was on, who knew change was hard.
Mick Young was about the future, not the past.
Mick Young was a doer, not a dreamer.
Mick Young believed in the new creed of education and social mobility and jobs, not in the old romance of class conflict and “the sons of toil”.
Mick Young was about the future.
In the 1960s he was thinking about the 1970s.
In the 1970s he was thinking about the 1980s.
And in the 1980s was thinking about the 1990s.
And if he were here tonight, he’d say, what about the future?
Education as the driver of equality and opportunity was a dangerous new idea for Labor in the 1960s.
“A desk with a lamp and room to study in” was a powerful word picture for Labor in its time.
Not just because it demonstrated that Labor understood that education was the new key to our dream of a fair go for all.
But because it demonstrated that the Labor understood the way Australians were living, the new life of the suburbs that Australian prosperity of the 1960s and 70s was creating.
Getting Labor to understand that new Australian life – which was so important to the victory of 1972 – didn’t just happen.
It had to be fought for.
And that understanding was so important in Mick’s work. A man who didn’t just love Australia, he loved Australians.
A man with a deep and sympathetic understanding of the way Australians lived in his time and a tremendous intuition for what that meant for politics in the future.
Mick Young was a doer.
A fighter, a winner.
A bloke who knew there’s nothing you can do for the people we represent when you sit on the left hand side of the Speaker.
Who never accepted a false choice between achieving Labor’s objectives and winning support from the people we seek to serve.
And who knew that our ideas, for social change, for a fair go, for a better life for all, they have to be fought for. Fought for in politics against determined conservative opposition.
Reg Withers, a tough Tory, used to say there’s two sides in Australian politics, there has been since the First Fleet, since the first bloke in a redcoat put his boot in the backside of the first bloke with arrows on his suit.
I don’t think Mick would have argued with that.
And Michael Jerome Young was never on the redcoats’ side.
He knew that politics is a fight between us and them, a fight where we can never accept a false choice between cunning and courage.
Because our courage gives us our great goal and our cunning gets us there.
Did then. Does now.
And Mick Young was about education and social mobility and jobs.
A man who worked in sheds from his childhood had the best education in the demands and principles of labour politics you could hope to have.
But Mick knew there was more to know.
That is why Mick’s memory is honoured through this Trust.
We could put up a statue or a plaque.
We could christen a building or name a street.
We could do all those things.
But how much more important, 15 years after Mick’s death, to send an Australian to TAFE or university...
... to give an Australian that extra chance in life that only a great education can bring.
That way, each of these scholarship holders takes something of Mick into the lecture hall and the workshop ...
... and into a more successful life beyond.
This is how we best remember Mick Young.
Not just in this Trust dinner tonight, but in every Cabinet meeting, in every Budget committee, in every Government decision.
By putting education first.
And I know we do this and I know we will keep doing this.
Not just because of Mick’s legacy of ideas lives in this Government.
But because Mick’s personal legacy lives in this Government.
Wayne Swan is not an emotional man and I don’t want to embarrass him tonight. I just want to say this.
Mick would have been so proud of you during the GFC, Wayne.
Sure, proud of the whole Government, but especially proud of his mate. When the fight was on, you fought for jobs.
Because you know Australians still think in Mick’s words
I want to work.
Ben Chifley once said that he’d have given a million pounds to have Bert Evatt’s education.
Mick Young believe in an Australia where Ben Chifley’s education should have been free.
Mick was a bright working class boy from South Australia.
He went from school to the sheds when he was fifteen.
He missed out on great opportunities in life.
And because he fought in politics with courage and cunning, and because when he fought, Labor won ...
This working class girl from South Australia went from school to university.
To every opportunity Australia has to offer.
To the law.
To the Lodge.
Thanks Mick. Thanks for what you did for me.
And thank you to the Young family, for giving me a chance to say so.
Thank you to Labor speechwriter Micahel Cooney for sharing this speech with Speakola. There is no other copy of the speech on the public record.