Listen: John Bannon explains federation reform to public servants


Prominent and influential Australians are paying tribute to South Australia’s longest serving premier John Bannon, who passed away yesterday.

Among them was Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who issued a statement noting “it was only on Thursday” that he last met Bannon in his capacity as chair of the PM’s expert advisory panel on federation reform.

“He spoke with the wisdom of experience and the clarity and enthusiasm of someone totally committed to the issues of today and the challenges of tomorrow,” said Turnbull, adding that Bannon had led SA “through some of its toughest times”.

Bannon gave a humourous and insightful talk explaining the need for federation reform to a public sector audience at the Institute for Public Administration Australia national conference in October:

He regaled the audience with tales from his time in office, when the Commonwealth’s financial support was “offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis” through notes slipped under hotel room doors just in the early hours before the Premiers’ Conferences that preceded the Council of Australian Governments.

The increasingly acrimonious relations boiled over inside the Labor Party with then federal treasurer Paul Keating attacking Bannon, who was its national president at the time.

His highly successful political career ended on an unfortunate low note following the collapse of the SA State Bank. Bannon then served as an ABC director from 1994, and completed a PhD in political history. He also held an honourary doctorate in law as well as two professorial posts. He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2007.

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