State salutes its political 'man of steel'

The life of Steele Hall, eulogised as one of the most substantial figures South Australian politics will ever know, has been honoured at a state memorial service in Adelaide.

The former South Australian premier, senator and federal Liberal MP's incomparable contribution to Australian politics was celebrated on Monday, after his death on June 10, aged 95.

Premier Peter Malinauskas said it was right and fitting to honour him at the Adelaide Festival Centre - "a house of progress that Steele Hall built".

"More than just being the heartbeat of South Australian culture, the centre serves as a metaphor for Steele Hall's public service, for it is true that for the Adelaide Festival centre to be built on this location would require controversy to be overcome through the demonstration of two key characteristics, conviction and courage," he said.

"The two key characteristics that will define one of the most substantial figures South Australian politics will ever know."

Mr Hall was born in Balaklava in 1928 and entered parliament representing the seat of Gouger in 1959.

He became South Australia's 36th premier in 1968.

Switching from state to federal politics in 1974, Mr Hall was elected to the Senate, where he served until 1977.

He was the Member for Boothby in the House of Representatives from 1981 to 1996.

Steele Hall playing with his children (file image)
Steele Hall's family flew in from all across the globe to celebrate his remarkable life. (HANDOUT/SA STATE LIBRARY)

Sir Lynton Crosby said when his friend passed away, the Balaclava Plains Producer mourned the loss of "Our man of steel" on its front page.

"That said it all. A man from the plains, a farmer a politician, above all, a man of integrity and strength, plain speaking, plain values," he said.

"He was a principled maverick, he crossed the floor. He asked difficult questions."

Former Advertiser political editor Rex Jory said as premier, Mr Hall once went to London with the head of the Premier's department John White.

"Steele fell into bad company and somehow returned to his hotel about four o'clock in the morning. John found him unconscious and fully clothed at seven o'clock and he was due to have an audience with the queen of 10," he said.

"John dragged Steele through the shower, got him dressed and they drove to Buckingham Palace. Still badly hungover, he explained to her majesty that he was the victim of British hospitality.

"The Queen shrieked with laughter, pulled whatever the Queen pulls and ordered black coffee and the pair hit it off."

John Hannaford's portrait of SA politician Steele Hall (file image)
Steele Hall became South Australia's 36th premier in 1968. (HANDOUT/HALL FAMILY)

Friend Peter Hurley said Blackwood Rotarians gave Mr Hall the very Aussie nickname of "Tin Shed".

"He was my walking, talking truth-telling misinformation-free, absolutely accurate and uncensored, modern political history encyclopedia," he said.

Mr Hall's daughter, Mary Rose, said there was a single trait that defined him.

"He was practical, and he really liked making things," she said.

"What dad liked most was making things out of steel."

Ben Hall said his father was a farmer, an orator, a leader an artist, an outback adventurer, an avid fisherman and a humanist concerned for the welfare of his fellow man.

"He was always thinking ahead of his time,'' he said.

"Although he considered a hot button issue of today, it was actually way back in the late 60s when he wrote to the then premier of Victoria asking if he was interested in going halves in a nuclear power station in the southeast. We all know how that turned out."