Accountability Round Table Integrity Awards Acceptance Speech

One of the great moments in sport occurred on a track in Melbourne in 1956. In a mile race, one of the runners clipped the heel of Ron Clarke and he fell to the ground. John Landy stopped to check that Clarke was okay. By the time Clarke had replied ‘Yes, yes, go, go, run!’, Landy was 35 metres behind the pack. With a lap and a half to go, Landy made up the distance and won the race. It's been called ‘the ultimate act of sportsmanship’. It is why there is a statue to John Landy at Olympic Park. To me it symbolises what matters in sport and what matters in public life. It's not just whether you win or lose. It's how you play the game.

John Button was an extraordinarily generous and thoughtful figure in Australian politics. I first met him when I was a student writing about trade liberalisation and the Australian Labor Party. And he gave me a generous hour of his time just after retiring from Parliament to talk through what had shaped his views. I met him later and talked to him about his knowledge of Italy. In recent years, it’s been a pleasure to get to know his son, James Button. John Button was an inspirational figure, someone who is a reminder that it's not just about what you achieve, it's about how you achieve it. A 'whatever it takes' philosophy only ends up damaging public institutions.

Public institutions matter to parties of left and right, but they matter most to my party, the Australian Labor Party. The party of government of the centre left of Australia, the party that believes that government has a powerful role in Australia. In accepting the John Button Award for integrity, I express my admiration for the Accountability Round Table, and my thanks to Fiona McLeod, Spencer Zifcak, Barry Jones and other members of the board of directors. It is a great honour. Thank you.

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  • Andrew Leigh
    published this page in What's New 2022-09-06 13:36:11 +1000

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