Updated: 04/21/2014 10:19 | By Agence France-Presse

Australian Labor great Neville Wran dies aged 87

Former Australian state premier Neville Wran has died at the age of 87, prompting tributes from both sides of politics Monday for the man who led New South Wales in the 1970s and 80s.

Australian Labor great Neville Wran dies aged 87

Former New South Wales premier Neville Wran (L) pictured in 2005 alongside Princess Mary of Denmark in Sydney - by Mick Tsikas

Wran was premier of Australia's most populous state, which is home to the city of Sydney, from 1976 to until his sudden retirement in 1986 and during that time never lost an election for his Labor Party.

Conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott noted Wran's passing, describing the barrister from Sydney's working-class Balmain as "one of the most significant figures of his generation".

Labor's former foreign minister Bob Carr, who served as a minister in Wran's cabinet, said the former premier had a strong legacy, including anti-discrimination laws and environmental protection.

"He himself said his biggest achievement was saving the rainforests of New South Wales, a bold land use achievement in the early 80s, and I think that's true because it influenced the way other Labor governments around Australia dealt with the environmental agenda," Carr said.

Government frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull, while from the opposite side of politics, was a former business colleague of Wran and mourned the passing of his friend.

"He was not one of those politicians solely and cynically focused on being re-elected, devoted to spin. He was a true believer, a doer, a reformer and a builder," Turnbull said.

Wran, who famously acknowledged his working class roots when he said "Balmain boys don't cry", had suffered from dementia for several years. He died on Sunday. 

"This is of course a very sad time for us all, but in fact a blessed release for Neville," his wife Jill Hickson said. 

"Dementia is a cruel fate and I have been grieving the loss that comes with it for some years."

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