He was the reformer who made Victoria a leader in social equality, the arts, and the environment. He and his government built the underground rail loop, decriminalised homosexuality, abolished capital punishment, and outlawed sexual discrimination in the workplace.
Hamer and his team ended the demolition of the inner suburbs, preserved the best of the state’s buildings and landscapes, and set aside large areas of diverse ecosystems as national parks. They gave Melbourne key infrastructure such as the West Gate Bridge and the Thomson Dam, extended the city’s tramlines for the first time in half a century, and built art galleries, libraries, and theatres all over the state.
Yet Dick Hamer was a Liberal: a Toorak boy educated at Victoria’s best schools, who served for years under the conservative Sir Henry Bolte before taking the reins himself and making the Liberal Party a spearhead of reform from 1972 to 1981.
Hamer was a different kind of politician. He was intelligent, fair-minded, courteous, and hard-working, and governed with the longterm interests of his people in mind. He never tried to manufacture issues or direct debates for short-term political gain.
Victorians recognised this, and elected him three times in a row as their premier — the last Liberal premier in Australia to have achieved this feat. He stands as the exemplar of important qualities in the Liberal tradition. Dick Hamer: the liberal Liberal is the first biography to be written of this remarkable man, who so embodied a quality now lacking in our public life: integrity.
‘Tim Colebatch has written a fascinating account of one of Australia's most remarkable post-war leaders. Dick Hamer is the forgotten reformer of the 1970s. As effective as Gough Whitlam in his pomp, and more popular than Don Dunstan in his prime, he restored Victoria's position as the nation's pre-eminent progressive state.’
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‘Dick Hamer was ahead of his time. He was implementing the so-called ‘Third Way’ well before the Hawke and Keating governments, and certainly ahead of the author of the ‘Third Way’ itself, Tony Blair… We should be grateful to Tim Colebatch for this biography. His account says as much about Victoria as it does about the Hamer government. He is right to assert that, apart from the Kennett years, all subsequent Labor and Liberal governments have governed in the same direction. May it ever be thus.’
Steve Bracks AC, premier of Victoria 1999–2007
‘This political biography stands up there with the best that come out of the United States and Britain … The research and detail are outstanding … This is no hagiography, but a critical analysis of politics and the people that brought it to life … There’s a lot in this biography that explains what is wrong with Australian politics today.’
John Cain, premier of Victoria 1982–1990
‘Dick (Sir Rupert) Hamer served his country, his state and his community. He did so with strength, with grace and with calm. His achievements as Premier and Minister in Victoria remain at the heart of what makes our State amongst the more liveable in the world … Tim Colebatch has brought together the headlines of the time and the detailed insights of someone who was there at the time — observing, writing, analysing, recording, questioning and critiquing. It's a great story — really well told. We can all be ever grateful for Dick Hamer’s remarkable legacy and grateful too for Tim Colebatch’s passionate record of how “Hamer made it happen”!’
Ted Baillieu, premier of Victoria 2010–2013
‘Colebatch’s Hamer delivers its share of criticism, but it is a magnificent biography of a man who deserves to be remembered by Australians of all political persuasions.’
‘Colebatch chronicles how Hamer decriminalised homosexuality, abolished capital punishment, championed equal opportunity, gave Melbourne an arts hub — all done with courtesy and integrity. A true liberal.‘ Best Books of 2014
Simon Hughes, Australian Financial Review
‘[O]ne of the most compelling books on Australian politics I have read. The narrative is strong and the prose is fluent. The book makes me realise how, in writing the modern history of the nation, we too often focus on federal politics, forgetting that most of the political decisions that shaped human lives were made far from Canberra.’
Geoffrey Blainey, Australian Book Review
‘[A] fine, fair, candid political biography.’
Robert Murray, Quadrant