AUSTRALIA’S peak farmer body has remembered former Labor leader Simon Crean as a remarkable man who commanded the respect of the agricultural industry.
Mr Crean has died suddenly in Germany on the weekend aged 74.
National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said Mr Crean had notable involvement in agriculture, Landcare and regional Australia, serving as the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy in the Australian Government from 1991 to 1996.
“On behalf of the agricultural community, I offer our condolences to the Crean family after the loss of a remarkable man who commanded the respect of our industry.
“He played a significant role in shaping agricultural policies and was a strong advocate for agriculture, for farmers and for free trade, both during and after his political career,” Ms Simson said.
“Simon actively supported the Landcare movement to encourage sustainable land management practices and championed the involvement of farmers and local communities.
“I’ve been honoured to have worked with him across a number of advisory positions and have always appreciated and respected his support for our industry and the people in it,” she said.
“Simon’s efforts have contributed to the advancement of agriculture and the promotion of sustainable development in Australia’s regional areas and for this, he leaves a legacy that will be remembered by farmers.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told the ABC that Mr Crean was someone who was respected right across the political spectrum because he was a very honourable man.
“He’s someone who always served the national interest.
“But he particularly, of course, had a career of standing up for the rights of working people, whether in the trade union movement, or that commitment that he brought into the Federal Parliament.”
Crean took ALEC job with animal welfare proviso
Although better known as Australian Labor Party and Opposition leader from 2001-2003, Mr Crean was elected chairman of Australian Livestock Exporters Council in October 2014 and was re-elected in 2016 and 2018.
In 2020, when Mr Crean stood down as ALEC chair for LiveCorp chair David Galvin, the former Labor leader and minister said his agreement to chair ALEC “was conditional on the commitment by industry to significant and ongoing improvement in animal welfare practices.”
Mr Crean’s ALEC appointment followed the temporary Indonesian cattle export ban and continued into a difficult period when more than 2,400 sheep died of heat stress on the Awassi Express voyage in August 2017, prompting industry reviews and new rules, and the cancelling of the export licences of Emanuel Exports and EMS Rural Exports Pty Ltd in 2018. Since then the live sheep trade has made significant progress in lowering sheep mortality rates with lower stocking densities, greater oversight and the introduction of a Northern Summer moratorium on Middle Eastern shipments from 2019, but recently plagued by Export Supply Chain Assurance System infractions in Oman.
Mr Crean’s support of live exports led to him clashing with then Agriculture Minister David Littleproud in 2018 and claiming draft heat stress assessment proposals for live sheep exports will end the trade, risk cattle shipments and have implications for onshore livestock production if adopted.
Mr Crean served as the Member for Hotham in the Australian Parliament from 1990, retiring at the 2013 election. He also held several ministerial portfolios, including primary industries and energy, trade, regional development and local government. Prior to joining politics, Mr Crean worked in several trade unions and was president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions from 1985 to 1990.
When Mr Crean stood down from the ALEC chairmanship, ALEC chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton said he believed the industry had made significant progress under his guidance.
“It has been an honour to work with Simon and I am confident the trade will continue to prosper under the ALEC new chair Mr David Galvin.
“We as an industry are committed to Australia’s leadership role and importance in providing a sustainable and ethical global livestock export industry,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.
Crean wanted to help the trade on its growth path – ALEC
The Australian Livestock Exporters Council extended its condolences to the friends and family of Mr Crean today.
ALEC said during his time as Trade Minister and Primary Industries Minister, Mr Crean was responsible for a range of policies that still benefit the agriculture sector today, not in the least livestock exports. He was a strident campaigner for free trade and sought to support industries to reach their potential, understanding the benefit this brought the country and the influence Australia could have on the global stage. Mr Crean was a proud Australian and he was once again representing Australia’s interests on the world stage at the time of his passing, ALEC said.
At the time of his initial election as ALEC chair, Mr Crean said he felt he had an obligation to help the industry following the Gillard Government’s 2011 live cattle ban.
“However, he not only wanted to help it get back on its feet, but to help continue on its growth path. “He also wanted to see the industry continue its continuous improvement in animal welfare, something he oversaw and delivered with great enthusiasm.”
ALEC said Mr Crean took a keen interest in the individuals involved in the industry, encouraged their success and leadership. He was a wonderful people person and genuinely cared for the individuals he associated with, the peak body said.
ALEC said Mr Crean was a well-respected advocate not only in politics, but across a range of sectors including the arts, regional development, and agriculture – all of which he was a passionate advocate for.
“It is a true mark of the man that tributes are flowing from across the political spectrum and from diverse sectors.
“This speaks to Simon’s integrity, intellect and standing as a public figure.”
ALEWC said despite all his incredible work and achievements, Mr Crean constantly spoke of the importance of family, and it was clear that this is what he cared about most and what he was proudest of.
“It is his family that are the focus of our thoughts today, as while Australia has lost an incredible leader, they have lost a loving husband and father.”