Tuesday, April 8, 2008

John Button - a giant of a man

John Button died today. Despite his physical size, he was a giant of a man and a great Australian.

I first came across John back in the 1990’s when I was involved with developing export markets for Australian IT products and services. The first time I met him was at the Hannover Technology Trade Fair in Germany in 1994 – seems like ages ago now.

He was then the Industry Minister in the Hawke Government and he was on a mission.

He wanted to change things and to create a better world for the benefit of Australian industry - they certainly needed it. His passion was to bring Australian industry into the 20th century and to do it in a way that had lasting benefit. He thought Australia should have a place on the world stage.

He was miles in front of recent Industry Ministers.

He was someone who intuitively knew that we couldn’t rest on our laurels and that we needed to walk the talk with regard to becoming the “clever country”. In fact I think it was John who cajoled Keating into talking about it and eventually doing something about it.

And John was passionate about football and his team – Geelong. I don’t think he missed a game at home. In his later life, this was his main interest and it gave him a lot of joy.

I last spoke with John at a party in Melbourne in late 2007. Julian Burnside was launching a book and John was there with a lot of like minded people. We spoke about old times and his health. He was optimistic about the future.

John was a good guy – he worked hard and tried to make a difference – I will remember him as an Australian politician who did make a difference - a rare breed.