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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Simon Crean, a former Labor opposition leader, has died suddenly while in Germany, aged 74.

Crean, who served in parliament from 1990 to 2013, was a minister in the Hawke, Keating, Rudd and Gillard governments.

He was opposition leader between 2001 and 2003, when he was replaced by Mark Latham.

Under his leadership, Labor opposed Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War, although it supported the Australian troops who served in that operation.

In the various Labor governments, Crean held a variety of portfolios. They included primary industries and energy, trade, education, employment and workplace relations, the arts, and regional development and local government.

Before entering parliament, Crean was president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions from 1985 to 1990, and worked closely with the Hawke government.

He was brought up in politics – his father, Frank Crean, was treasurer in the Whitlam government.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a statement on Sunday night: “Simon was a great servant of the Labor Party and of the broader labour movement.”

Albanese said be personally had benefited from Crean’s “advice and wisdom”.

“Simon’s many achievements in portfolios that ranged from trade to employment, from primary industries and energy to the arts, were characterised by a focus on the national interest, engagement with stakeholders, and always acting with principle and determination.

“The common threads running through his long career were his courage and his principled action, qualities that came so powerfully to the fore when he opposed the Iraq war. Yet his opposition to the war was backed by his unwavering respect for the members of the Australian Defence Force, a respect he showed when he went to address the troops ahead of their deployment.

“History has vindicated Simon’s judgement, but at the time his stance was deeply counter to the prevailing political and media climate,” Albanese said.

“After parliament, Simon continued to work for Australia’s interests, most notably as chairman of the European Australian Business Council.”

Opposition leader Peter Dutton said he was “shocked and saddened to hear of Simon Crean’s passing.

“Simon was a gentleman to deal with and a giant of the labour movement. I always admired Simon for his decency and intellect and only just saw him recently in Melbourne,” Dutton said.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. Simon Crean, former Labor and ACTU leader, dies aged 74 –