Bill Hayden, famous for almost being Prime Minister of Australia, has found God. The Labor leader and Governor-General was a well known atheist. Until now.
The Brisbane Catholic Leader reports that the 85 year old has been baptised. “There’s been a gnawing pain in my heart and soul about what is the meaning of life,” he told the paper. “From this day forward I’m going to vouch for God,” Mr Hayden told The Catholic Leader as he prepared to be welcomed into the Church at St Mary’s Church, Ipswich, west of Brisbane, on September 9.
Troy Bramston in The Australian adds further detail: “The former Labor leader and governor-general said it was witnessing so many selfless acts of compassion by Christians over his lifetime, and deep contemplation while recovering from a stroke, that prompted his decision.
“[Bill Hayden said] ‘I always regarded myself as a fellow traveller with Catholicism and declared I was a Catholic on official forms, but it wasn’t official. I would go to mass every Sunday and then go to benediction when I was a teenager.
“I didn’t know that I wasn’t officially a Catholic, and found that out only later when my sister did the family history.'”
Bill Hayden succeeded Gough Whitlam as leader of the ALP following a Labor defeat in the 1977 election. In 1983 he resigned as leader, making way for Bob Hawke who went on to win the election. Hayden is remembered for saying that he could have won, as a “drover’s dog” could lead the ALP to victory.
After serving in Hawke’s cabinet, Hayden became Governor-General and was in that office from 1989 to 1996.
The Leader reports that Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge also congratulated Mr Hayden.
“I’m delighted for Bill and think it is a gift for not only him and his family but for the entire Church in some sense,” he said.
“This is just another extraordinary moment late in life for a man who has already had an extraordinary journey.
“He wasn’t a flawless politician, but he made a remarkable contribution.
“As one of his colleagues said to me, we owe Bill Hayden a lot including Medicare.”