Simon Crean was for several years one of the most prominent politicians in Australia. He would serve as a Cabinet member under four different prime ministers. Crean himself would rise to lead the country's Labor Party.

Crean's time as Labor leader was not without tumult. The period before and during his tenure arguably commenced the launch of 20+ years of continuous inter-party drama. His personal reputation, though, would make it through solid. Something political leaders on a bipartisan basis are have been particularly reminiscing on.

Died suddenly in Germany

Simon Crean died on June 25, 2023. He was 74. The Sydney Morning Herald indicates that the cause of death was a heart attack. Crean was in Berlin at the time of his passing. He had been in Germany as part of a delegation to discuss industry and trade.

Current Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been among those paying tribute to Crean. Albanese has also announced that Crean will be given a state funeral, per Sky News. Former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called him "a kind man, a generous and compassionate soul" in a statement. Former Liberal Prime Ministers John Howard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull have also been included in expressing grief.

Before going into politics, Crean was a trade union official.

His first attempt at running for office came in 1977. He unsuccessfully sought the Labor nomination for a seat in the Australian House of Representatives. The nomination, and later general election, went to Clyde Holding. Holding later held several Cabinet posts under Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

A couple of years later, Crean was named to the board of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

In 1985, he was selected as its president. For much of his time as ACTU president, Crean also sat on the board of Qantas.

In 1990, Crean was elected to the House of Representatives from Hotham in central Victoria. Hawke quickly named him minister for science and technology. Later as minister for primary industries and energy.

Prime Minister Bob Keating would retain him in the role initially. But he eventually moved Crean to the employment, education and training portfolio.

Took on party leadership while in the Opposition

In 1996, Labor was defeated in the federal election and fell from power. Simon Crean put his name forward to become the new deputy leader of the Labor Party. But he was defeated by former Foreign Affairs Minister and Attorney-General Gareth Evans.

New Labor and Opposition Leader Kim Beazley named Crean to the Shadow Cabinet. The two had been friends since they were young children. After another electoral loss and Evans' retirement in 1998, Crean was chosen as deputy leader.

After yet another defeat for Labor in 2001, Crean became the party's new leader.

It effectively also made him the Opposition leader. He gained particular attention for his stance against Australia joining the Iraq War. Though, despite their differences on the matter, he retained a warm relationship with U.S. President George W. Bush.

Crean's policies on Iraq and other topics were not popular with the Australian public. So much so that Beazley challenged him for the leadership in 2003. Crean survived, but it became increasingly clear he likely wouldn't lead Labor to victory in the next election. Before the year was out, he resigned as party leader. Mark Latham succeeded him as Labor and Opposition leader. Latham appointed Crean as the new shadow treasurer.

After the party lost once more in 2004, Beazley was re-installed as its leader.

Beazley kept his friend-turned-adversary on as shadow treasurer. But the tensions did not evaporate and Crean was quickly moved to a less prominent place in the Shadow Cabinet. After Kevin Rudd became Labor leader, he bumped Crean back up to a bigger posting as shadow trade minister.

Under Rudd, Labor went back into power beginning in 2007. Crean would become a noted figure in the rivalry between Rudd and Julia Gillard. A rivalry that dominated the Labor Party - and Australian politics - for the next several years. Crean served under both as minister for trade. He also held several other Cabinet jobs during Gillard's time as prime minister.

But Crean's decision to support Rudd regaining Labor leadership over Gillard led to her dismissing him from the Cabinet.

He later ran for deputy leadership again in 2013, but lost to Anthony Albanese. Later that year, he chose retirement over standing for re-election to Parliament.

Was a member of a political family

Simon Crean was born in Melbourne and raised in nearby Middle Park. After graduating from high school in Melbourne, he enrolled in Monash University. There, he received degrees in economics and law.

His father, Frank, was a longtime political figure in Australia. Frank also for a brief time was deputy leader of the Labor Party. During the same time frame, he was the deputy prime minister. Frank Crean's political career also included serving as the country's treasurer and overseas trade minister.

David Crean, Simon's brother, would be elected to the Parliament of Tasmania.

Another brother, Stephen, worked in multiple jobs for the Australian government. Stephen Crean disappeared while skiing in the Snowy Mountains in 1985. His remains would be identified two years later. It's believed that he died from exposure.