Topics: Steele Hall 

08:05AM ACST

11 June 2024


David Penberthy:  Well, as we said at the start of the program, it was a sad day, and somewhat strange day for the South Australian Liberal Party, where in the space of just a few hours two of the party’s greats, former Premier and Senator and also federal MP Steele Hall losing his life at the age of 95 and at pretty much roundabout the exact same time, former Liberal MLC (sic)  Jennifer Cashmore, the woman who more than anyone was wise to the impending financial dramas and ultimate collapse of the State Bank also passing way. We began the program by expressing our condolences to the Hall family, the Chashmore-Adamson family as well. But we wanted to stop here to remember their lives and particularly to start talking off – from the top – about the former Premier Steele Hall, who was a mentor and a confidant of our next guest, Senator Simon Birmingham who is now a long standing Liberal Senator for South Australia and is also the Federal Opposition Leader in the Senate. Birmo, good morning, condolences and I say that because I know that Stele and Joan were, Joan continues to be a good friend of yours. But Steele Hall, he’s one of those people, it’s a bit like, I think John Howard and Tim Fisher with the gun laws where it was all downside for them but they knew that they had to do the right thing, Steele Hall did that with the so called Playmander didn’t he?


Simon Birmingham:  He did, Penbo, and good morning guys. Steele Hall had a truly remarkable career. Remarkable for its length and diversity of service, but also as you rightly identify for what he achieved including achievements that were quite self-sacrificing. The Playford Government ruled over South Australia for the longest stint of any in our history, and it did so achieving much. But it also did so with an electoral system that favoured the then Liberal and Country League as it was then known. Steele came to government and accepted the reality that we needed to have a one vote, one value system of government; that there needed to be electoral reform and he put in place those reforms which ultimately cost him government. He came really, really close to hanging on in that 1970 election and certainly if he’d had the previous electoral boundaries he would have hung on and been premier for a longer period of time. But he did what was principled, he did what was right and he paid a bit of a price for it.


David Penberthy:  When you look at the Adelaide that we all are lucky enough to inhabit today, Senator Birmingham, one thing that springs to mind sort of straight off the bat is the Adelaide Festival Centre. He played a pivotal role in the creation of the Festival Centre, even though a lot of people probably associate it with the Dunstan era, but they should remember it was Steele Hall who got it up and running in the first place.


Simon Birmingham: That’s right. It’s one of those things about politics and changes in government. Of course Steele was only Premier for a short two years but he did much in those two years and one of those things was to decide upon the fact that Adelaide shouldn’t just have another Arts Centre –  and the proposal at the time was to use the Carclew building up in North Adelaide. He wanted something that would be iconic, a landmark and really connected to the CBD and also open the CBD up to the River Torrens. And in putting the Festival Centre where it is, which was his decision, it has of course given us a whole different landscape, if you think about that vibrant area today between Adelaide Oval and the Festival Centre and how Elder Park comes alive for festivals and events, it really comes down to Steele Hall’s vision for selecting that site and getting that ball moving, which was then finalised and built under the Dunstan government. But it was Steele who made it happen and had the foresight and the vision to see that there was a real way to enliven South Australia.


David Penberthy:  We note that the, the current Premier, Peter Malinauskas, has offered the family a state funeral. I don’t know if there’s been an announcement from the family yet as to whether they’ll accept that or not, but it would be definitely fitting. Steele Hall and Jennifer Cashmore both gone on the same day and we thank you Birmo for joining us with some of those reflections on the legacy of the former Premier.


Simon Birmingham: Thank you guys, my pleasure.