Wayne Goss, the Queensland Labor politician who ended 32 years of conservative rule when he became premier in 1989, has died. He was 63.
Goss had been fighting brain tumours for 17 years and in early 2014 went into hospital for his fourth bout of surgery. He died at home, surrounded by family.
The former solicitor who worked for the Aboriginal Legal Service, Goss joined the ALP in the wake of Gough Whitlam’s dismissal in 1975. When Goss defeated the National Party’s Russell Cooper at the 1989 state election, in the wake of the Fitzgerald Inquiry into political corruption, he ended three decades of Nationals rule in which Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen loomed large.
As premier, Goss appointed a young former diplomat by the name of Kevin Rudd as his chief of staff. His rule dragged the state out of the torpor of the Bjelke-Petersen years, but at times had the same authoritarian approach as the old Kingaroy peanut farmer. After winning a second term in 1992, Goss’1995 plans for a toll road between the Gold Coast and Brisbane through an environmentally sensitive area nearly cost him government when the Greens refused to preference Labor. While he ended Queensland’s notorious gerrymander, it was only Labor’s strength in city seats which saved it from defeat after the Nationals won a majority of the vote. A subsequent byelection led to a hung parliament and the conservatives returned to power briefly under Rob Borbidge, with the support of Independent Liz Cunningham.
Goss resigned as Labor leader in February 1996.
There were plans to try his hand at federal politics, but his first tumour and subsequent, successful brain surgery in 1997 led to him step away from politics and he left the Queensland parliament at the 1998 election.
He most famously described voters at the 1996 federal election as “sitting on their verandas with baseball bats” waiting for Paul Keating.
After retiring from politics, Goss worked with accountancy group Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and was Australian chairman from 2005 to 2013. He served on a number of boards, including Ingeus, Therese Rein’s business.
The rainforest myrtle tree genus “Gossia” was named after Goss in honour of his rainforest conservation work.
Wayne Goss is survived by his wife, Roisin and two adult children, Ryan and Caitlin.
His family released the following statement:
As a family we mourn the man we love; as Queenslanders we join with so many others in gratitude for everything Wayne did for our community and our state.
In Wayne’s own words from 1996, “Thank you Queensland. You’ve been good to me. I hope I’ve left you a better place.”
We and the extended family are immensely thankful to Dr Bruce Hall and all of Wayne’s medical team for their excellent care, and to all those who have sent their well wishes during Wayne’s illness.
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