August 3, 2009 / 11:26 PM / 10 years ago

Australia's Swan a "cool" cancer survivor

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan is a former academic, political strategist and a cancer survivor, who grew up near Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in a country town in the northern state of Queensland.

Australia's Treasurer Wayne Swan gives a speech at the Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event in central Sydney August 4, 2009. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

Born in the coastal town of Nambour in 1954, Swan, now 55, went to the same country high school as Rudd, although he was two years older and more into sports than the bookish Rudd, who would spend his spare time reading transcripts of political debates.

Swan and Rudd visited their old school in the lead up to Labor’s victory at the November 2007 election, where Rudd told of Swan being captain of the school rugby league team, while the future prime minister captained the debating team.

“Wayne was very, very cool. I was very, very not,” Rudd said at the time.

Swan studied economics and arts and worked as a university politics lecturer for 12 yeas before becoming an adviser to former Labor leader and later foreign minister, Bill Hayden.

He went on to become a senior strategist for the Queensland state Labor government and ran the Queensland branch of the Labor Party, cementing his role as a key party powerbroker, before he won a seat in the national parliament in 1993.

Swan lost his seat at the 1996 election that brought John Howard’s conservatives to power, but he fought back to win the seat at the 1998 election and has held it ever since.

But Swan’s role as a factional powerbroker for Labor’s right wing, alongside Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, has attracted plenty of criticism from his own side.

Former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating dubbed the two “the Glimmer Twins” for the way they courted the media and built their influence, while another former Labor leader, Mark Latham, described the two as a pair of roosters.

In 2001, Swan was diagnosed with prostate cancer, the same condition that killed his father 12 years earlier.

“I’ve got to tell you, after what happened to my dad, it was a blow. I was bloody scared. And worried how to tell my wife Kim and the kids,” Swan said in speech in support of prostate cancer research in late 2008.

Swan underwent immediate treatment and surgery and was back at work five weeks later, saying early detection and skill of his surgeon saved his life. He has since become a strong advocate of cancer research and the need for early detection.

Swan is married, with two daughters and a son, and says he enjoys family barbecues at his Brisbane home when he is not running the nation’s economy.

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