ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
SUNDAY, 27 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: The passing of the Hon Susan Ryan AO.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: I want to pay tribute today to the late Susan Ryan. A great Australian, a great feminist and a great Labor True Believer. Labor True Believers throughout the nation will be mourning today. But more than that, so will women who she had contact with, who saw her quite rightly, as a pioneer. So too will those who’ve had contact with her. Susan was a generous, warm hearted, committed progressive, who made Australia a better country. Susan Ryan was Labor’s first female cabinet minister, as Minister for Education and Youth Affairs. That was the first occasions that I had contact with her due to positions that I held in Young Labor. Susan was always generous with her time, she was passionate about giving young people opportunity and understood that education was the key to that, to breaking the old chains of class, the predetermined outcomes.
The fact is that when the Hawke Government was elected, three out of ten Australians finished high school. When the Hawke and Keating Governments finished in 1996, just thirteen years later, that figure was some eight out of ten. Susan Ryan was indeed a champion of opportunity. Susan Ryan was particularly a champion for women. She was, of course, also the first female Minister for the Status of Women and here through measures, such as the Sex Discrimination Act, and the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Act that changed Australia for the better. Before then, women could be sacked simply for falling pregnant. Women suffered enormous discrimination. And the Sex Discrimination Act changed Australia in a way that was very radical at the time. Many of the things today that we take for granted were issues which were championed by Susan Ryan, and ones indeed in which she was vilified for her championing of those issues.
She went on, of course, to become the Age Discrimination Commissioner, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, and a champion of superannuation, as well as the Republic, throughout it all she mentored young people in our movement, including myself, but particularly young women, encouraging them that a woman’s place was indeed as her first slogan said, in the Senate, and in the House of Representatives. While she was the first on so many things her great legacy is that she wasn’t the last, that she encouraged women to follow her in her pioneering work.
Susan Ryan I spoke to about a month ago. She was very concerned about what was happening in the aged care crisis. She was concerned about superannuation and how many women and young people were losing their superannuation and concerned about the ongoing attacks against the 12 per cent legislated increase in superannuation. We had a great discussion, as we always did. She was positive, as she always was.
Australia is a better country, due to Susan Ryan’s contribution. And I pay tribute to her today. And I give my condolences to her family, and all her many, many friends and comrades in the labour movement in the women’s movement, and all those who she came into contact with who like her were committed to a more equal and fair, Australia.
Thanks very much.
SUNDAY, 27 SEPTEMBER 2020