Joe Cahill’s story is an extraordinary case history of life’s ups and downs and its many contradictions. His started badly. He left school at 13, seriously under-educated, and was branded an agitator and sacked from his first job as a railway worker and told he was never to be re-employed. He had a row with his union and was barred from holding office and he suffered a terrible drubbing when he first stood for Parliament. Yet he became one of Australia’s most respected political leaders, occupying a seat in Parliament for 32 years and in a Premier’s Office for seven. He was a tough, hard-nosed politician not given to compromise but upon his death, still in office, his adversaries as well as his colleagues wept unashamedly at his passing and 300,000 people lined Sydney’s streets along the course of his funeral procession. What made Joe Cahill remarkable in a world of political cynicism was that essentially he was an ordinary man who was driven by a sincere conviction that all people, rich or poor, had the right to share the good things of life. That, really, was why he risked his career to achieve what must have seemed an impossible dream – the Sydney Opera House for which he is most remembered.
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