Canberra Remembers Coast Labor Stalwart, Barry Cohen

Tributes for Hawke-era minister

Article heading image for Canberra Remembers Coast Labor Stalwart, Barry Cohen

News Corp

The country's political leaders have farewelled long-serving Central Coast MP and Hawke Government minister Barry Cohen in Canberra this morning.

Labor stalwart, Mr Cohen served in the lower house seat of Robertson from 1969 to 1990.

Among the former Home Affairs, Arts and Environment Minister's legacy was passing legislation to protect large swathes of Tasmanian forest and the Great Barrier Reef.

Mr Cohen also set up the National Film and Sound Archive as well as science museum Questacon.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull touched on Barry Cohen's renowned humour in a newspaper article, detailing his reaction leaving cabinet to reject the Speaker position.

"He ended the column, with this typical line of self-deprecation: 'The Hawke Government has its problems, but it's not yet so desperate that it should risk the destruction of the Westminster System by appointing me Speaker.'"

"Part of Barry's appeal stemmed from his ability to blend frivolity with the most heart-felt sincerity," Mr Turnbull added, paying tribute to his ongoing fight of prejudice based on class, religion or race.

Labor figures past and present also remembered Mr Cohen during the Jewish memorial service at Old Parliament House.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten remarked his ongoing advocacy for social justice into his last years, fighting for a better life for those with dementia.

"When we find the cure, when every older Australian and their family can enjoy a life of greater dignity and security, Barry Cohen will be due a measure of great credit," Mr Shorten said.

While colleague and former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke also reiterated the great achievements of Mr Cohen’s time in the public service, cutting directly through the crowd to wife Rae O'Neill and his three sons Stuart, Adam and Martin.

"Rae and boys: your family has very much to be proud of in the marvelous contribution that Barry made to the Australian nation," Mr Hawke said.

Following his retirement from parliament, he and Rae set up the Calga Springs Sanctuary, which is now known as the Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park.

Barry Cohen died aged 82 in December, following a four year battle with Alzheimer's Disease.

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5 February 2018

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