An illustrious career in public service

John Bannon
Former Premier John Bannon, an adjunct researcher at Flinders’ School of Social and Policy Studies.

South Australia’s longest-serving Labor Premier, the late Hon John Bannon AO, continued his public service through his post-parliamentary career – including at Flinders University.

Flinders University today joins state and national leaders in paying tribute to the achievements of the former politician who died in hospital yesterday, aged 72.

Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling says Dr Bannon made a great contribution to research and the Flinders University library, and shared the wisdom of his experience and political life with many at Flinders.

Flinders University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Andrew Parkin says: “John Bannon’s period as Premier encompassed an important transition for South Australia,”

“It was a bridge from the cultural transformation of the Dunstan period to the era of economic restructuring that confronts us today”.

Dr Bannon served as SA premier and treasurer from 1982 to 1992, winning three elections for the ALP.

Professor Parkin, who co-edited a book analysing the achievements and challenges of the Bannon Labor years, says: “John Bannon’s leadership style projected his personal attributes of public service, care, responsibility, professionalism and self-restraint.

“His later academic work at Flinders drew on meticulous historical research.  It led to a well-deserved national reputation as an expert on Australia’s federal system.

“As the Prime Minister has acknowledged in tribute, Dr Bannon was continuing his national advisory work on the reform of the federation right up until his final sad passing”.

Also a leader of the national labour movement, Dr Bannon played a major role in the industrial and social transformation of South Australia in a career in public life spanning from the 1960s.

After resigning in 1993, he completed a PhD at Flinders University and continued to focus on political history, publishing and lecturing mainly on his specialist interest of Australian Federation and Commonwealth-State relations.

Dr Bannon continued to contribute to academic life as an honorary adjunct academic staff member and researcher at Flinders University after completing doctoral studies.

In 1992, Flinders University became home to the Bannon Collection, comprising Dr Bannon’s papers and photographs from his time as SA’s second-longest serving Premier after Sir Thomas Playford.

The Bannon Collection and Dunstan Collection are both housed in Special Collections at Flinders University, giving researchers and historians up to 60 years of background to ALP politics in SA.

The Australian newspaper today reported that Mr Bannon is credited with progressing many major projects in the State, including establishment of the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine, the first submarine construction contract and the right to stage the Formula One grand prix.

Flinders University Emeritus Professor in Politics Dean Jaensch says John Bannon was “absolutely widely respected” during his time in politics and will be remembered for his personal leadership qualities of “moderation, discussion, compromise and achievement”.

“Too many people will only remember the State Bank collapse but they should also remember his efforts in terms of the economic development of the State,” Professor Jaensch says.

“He played a major role in that … and it was a relatively optimistic time, partly due to the personality of the man. He was central in the Maralinga Lands land rights, in completing the O-Bahn and starting the Adelaide Convention Centre projects and later remained active in public service and academic matters.”

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