Tribute to John Hyde, a gentle warrior

No good deed should go unpunished. The still-living one-time Liberal backbench member and “Dry” John Hyde was subjected to a mercifully short tribute speech on Monday evening at the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation in Hayek House in Perth. This was well received by a lively crowd including John’s wife and daughters

Assuming the mantle of the Modest Member that Bert Kelly wore with distinction, John came with a list of 55 people to protect himself from getting too much credit for work that was done by many hands in addition to his own.

Bert Kelly and Peter Walsh were in the frame with John for this occasion, the first as a critical link to the forgotten liberal free traders of the 1930s and the second as a farmer (like Bert and John) and a warrior in the good fight on the other side of the House. That was a reminder that good policy (like bad policy) can come from both sides of the House.

The theme of the address was the way that John, whose first loyalties no doubt lay with his family and his farm, was prepared to venture out to fix “potholes in the road” of local politics and then national issues. The image came from an episode when my father took a shovel in the car to shift loose gravel from the the side of the main road to town to fill a particularly nasty pothole on a blind corner. Aged about six at the time, I told him that the council workers were supposed to do that. He replied that any number of cars could break their springs in the hole before the council workers got around to fixing it.

After his time in Canberra he continued to work on assorted potholes in policy development, education and advocacy with a the Australian Institute of Public Policy in Perth and the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne. He wrote a long series of newspaper pieces “On the Dry Side” and wrote an an essential reference on the revival of classical liberalism, with special reference to economic policy. On this book, Dry: In Defence of Economic Freedom, John wrote.

A person in the publishing trade from whom I sought advice with the publication of Dry: In Defence of Economic Freedom observed that it was ‘A thesis not a book’ and recommended that I should cut it by half. I accepted what I have no doubt was the good advice. Nevertheless, anyone wishing to use the information conveyed by Dry should not be asked in circumstances where that is unnecessary to take my word for it, and such a person might be interested in detail or argument excluded from the shortened version. Here is the draft as it was before I began to delete almost half of it. It has not been proofread, the grammar and spelling may be awry, but it is extensively footnoted.

It runs to 400 pages with 500 footnotes and it is on line at the IPA website. I am particularly grateful for this book because if it did not exist I would feel obliged to make a start on it myself, which would preclude practically everything else that I want to do for some years.

A longer and properly researched talk would have included references to the following people on John’s list. Jim Carlton, Peter Shack, Murray Sainsbury, Ross McLean and Steve Lusher (fellow Dries), Bill Loan and Elizabeth McDowell in the Parliamentary Library, Peter Forsyth (airlines), Gordon Wade, Geoff Kheighly (the motor industry), Peter Walsh, Bob Hawke, Keating and Button, Howard, Kennett, Hayward and Stockdale, Peter Costello (Dollar Sweets), Sir Leslie Melville, Bill Carmichael, Dick Boyer and Garry Banks; in academia Kasper, Trebeck, Blandy, Hocking and Freebairne; Ray Evans, Hugh Morgan, Harold Clough, Bob Day, Neville Kennard, Ian McLachlan (Farmers Federation), Charles Copeman (Robe River), Morris Newman, John Brunner, Sir Keith Campbell (banking) John Uhrig, Greg Lindsay, David and Rod Kemp, Ross Parish, Helen Hughes and helpers, Ken Baxater, Lyndon Rowe, and forerunners Ged Chislet (AWGC), Max Newton, Paddy McGuiness, the Workers Party with Ron Manners and Ron Kitching and others. John Stone, another Western Australian could be added, especially for his 1985 paper “Deregulate or Perish“.

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6 Responses to Tribute to John Hyde, a gentle warrior

  1. Amortiser

    Rafe:
    When I read your first paragraph I thought that John Hyde had died and I hadn’t seen any reference to it in the press. Please be careful how you describe things. The passing of John Hyde would be a great loss.

    I first met him over 30 years ago when I worked in Canberra and he had a great influence on the development of my thinking. He deserves all the tributes and accolades that lovers of freedom and liberty can heap upon him.

  2. Poor Old Rafe

    Thanks! Updated to clarify John’s status.

  3. Louis Hissink

    So he wasn’t “hyding” from us after all – I too had the same feeling taht Amortiser had.

  4. H B Bear

    This post serves to remind us (if it needed to be done) how far the standards of Australia’s governance have fallen in less than a generation.

    As politicians such as John Button, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke and Peter Walsh demonstrated, placing the national interest first, as opposed to mouthing hollow rhetoric, can be done by all politicians regardless of their party allegiances.

    Few within the current political class (on both sides) provide any indication that we will return to this standard of government any time soon.

  5. ken n

    Indeed. One of fairly few politicians I admired and whose company I enjoyed on the occasions we met.

  6. ken n

    Is there anyone in politics now who could genuinely be described as dry? Can’t think of any.

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