Industry mourns death of John Button

Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, John Button, dies at the age of 74

Tributes are flowing in for former Federal Labor Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, John Button, who died in his sleep on Monday night at the age of 74.

He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer. In a statement, acting Prime Minister, the Hon Julia Gillard, said Button was a towering figure in Victorian Labor politics and a strong contributor to policy and industry reform. Button was industry minister under the Hawke government from 1983 to 1993.

"John Button was a policy reformer in the truest sense," Gillard said in the statement. "As minister for Industry for a decade during the Hawke and Keating Governments, John played a determined hand in modernising the Australian economy, equipping it for the 21st century.

"From his time as a student at the University of Melbourne and prominent young lawyer, John was a leader and one of the great thinkers of his generation.

"John's sharp wit, powerful mind and kind nature will be missed by all who had the privilege of knowing and working with him."

PK Business Advantage managing director and founder of Kaz, Peter Kazacos, said Button had a passion for the industry and maintained strong advisors with a depth of knowledge not present in today's political arena.

"Everybody recognised him as an agent for change. He did things differently - not everyone necessarily agreed with him, but things changed," Kazacos said. "These days we don't see so much of this. Button knew there was great technology in Australia and SMEs that needed to be supported.

"We need to have more people today with his ability to get things done."

Independent telco analyst, Paul Budde, has been working in the local telco industry since 1983. For him, Button was one of the rare few industry personalities with strategic and long-term vision.

"He supported the industry and businesses in general and was an excellent example because he showed vision," he said. "He set the aims high and broadened people's views at a time when regulation was very much the way in the market. I think he was the first one to start opening up Australia to the rest of the world.

"He was also a very nice man who was open and easy to talk to. He was always interested in what you had to say and was keen to learn himself."

Outgoing Australian Information Industry Australia (AIIA) CEO, Sheryle Moon, was not involved in the association during Button's time in parliament but had been in the IT industry and agreed he had been a terrific industry minister.

"He made significant contributions to industry development in Australia, particularly with a strong focus on SME development," she said.

Button was born in Ballarat, Victorian, and educated at Geelong College before studying arts and law at the University of Melbourne. He practised as a lawyer before becoming a minister in the Hawke Labor government.

The Australian Government will hold a state funeral in Button's honour.

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