Vale Bob Hawke

Known as a larrikin and the “Silver Bodgie” Bob Hawke, Australia’s 23rd prime minister, dies aged 89.

Here are Nine ways Bob Hawke’s government changed Australia.

I’ll repeat No. 3:

    Mr Hawke announced Medicare in February 1984, bringing the scheme into line with the Medibank model originally introduced by Gough Whitlam but partially dismantled by Malcolm Fraser’s government.

On the international scene people have been citing ending apartheid in South Africa, and establishing Antarctica as a no mining territory.

Here are Seven videos that capture the former PM Bob Hawke in full flight and then there’s Bob Hawke on the America’s Cup, booze, love and infidelity

Former prime minister Paul Keating has issued a statement following the passing of his famous political rival:

    “With Bob Hawke’s passing today, the great partnership I enjoyed with him passes too. A partnership we forged with the Australian people.

    “But what remains and what will endure from that partnership are the monumental foundations of modern Australia.

    “In what was our last collaboration, Bob and I were delighted to support Bill Shorten last week in recounting the rationale we employed in opening Australia to the world.

    “Bob, of course, was hoping for a Labor victory this weekend. His friends too, were hoping he would see this.

    “Bob possessed a moral framework for his important public life, both representing the workers of Australia and more broadly, the country at large.

    “He understood that imagination was central to policy-making and never lacked the courage to do what had to be done to turn that imagination into reality.

    “And that reality was the reformation of Australia’s economy and society and its place in the world.”

Here they are in the late 1980s:

At work, they made a great team:

Famously they fell out when Hawke failed to honour an agreement to pass the torch. Keating went to the back bench after a failed challenge. Hawke floundered in countering John Hewson’s ‘Fightback’ agenda. Keating challenged again, succeeded and made mince meat of Hewson’s plans. In later years Hawke and Keating reconciled:

Of particular mention in the many tributes, Barrie Cassidy who worked as Hawke’s press secretary for a time was emotional and insightful. I don’t know why the ABC went to Niki Savva again. Craig Emerson worked as an economist in Hawke’s office, before he came to Brisbane as a senior public servant in state government, and thence into Federal politics. He was apparently very close to Hawke and Blanche at the end and provided personal support in this final transition.

The best account of the Hawke years I saw was from Susan Ryan on ABC 24, who emphasised how Hawke ran cabinet. He read every brief in detail, made sure everyone had their say, and had a gift for finding a consensus that satisfied all. She emphasises Hawke’s sharp mind, and his high emotional IQ. She said women loved him and pursued him like it was embarrassing, but he supported important initiatives towards women getting a fairer go.

I loved the way he at times turned on journalists, famously becoming very angry with Richard Carlton who accused Hawke of having blood on his hands in the way he took the leadership. Certainly Bill Hayden said he felt “flensed” and made the famous “drover’s dog” assessment of how easy it would have been to beat Malcolm Fraser in 1983.

I recalled at the time that we had a terrible drought, but when Hawke came to power it rained, indeed to the point of floods. Nature seemed to welcome him.

I haven’t mentioned Hawke crying in public, over his daughter, and famously over the Tiannamen Square massacre. Hawke issued the public edict that any Chinese students in Australia could stay. This gave the boffins in Immigration genuine conniptions, because they could not squeeze PM’s call into any of their bureaucratic rules.

My only brush with fame was that I was in the seat behind Hawke in a plane flying from Canberra to Sydney. Probably during the Whitlam government time. I was surprised at how small he was. However, for Australia he was large, very large. Keating’s comment that together they established the monumental foundations of modern Australia, albeit building on the Whitlam legacy, is probably fair.

Hawke married two amazing women who contributed to his adult life. Hazel and Bob divorced in 1993. After her death in 2003, Hawke:

    formally apologised for the toll his affair and divorce had taken on the family.

    “I remember Hazel with deep affection and gratitude,” he said in a statement following her death.

    “She was more than a wife and mother, being father as well during my frequent absences as I pursued an industrial then political career.

    “I think there is general agreement that Hazel did an outstanding job as Australia’s first lady from 1983-1991. She was a constant support, particularly through some very difficult times.”

Then there was Blanche d’Alpuget, biographer, lover and wife, who released a statement saying:

    “Today we lost Bob Hawke, a great Australian – many would say the greatest Australian of the post-war era.”

    “Bob was dearly loved by his family, and so many friends and colleagues. We will miss him,” she added.

    “The golden bowl is broken.”

58 thoughts on “Vale Bob Hawke”

  1. Zoot thank you for that. I carry a grateful appreciation for the industrial and social peace that Hawke nurtured, but your twitter link put a magnifying glass on the humanity of the man in practice.

  2. Met Bob at a barbecue at Groote Eylandt. He spent most of the time at this barbecue telling funny stories. A spent most of my time at the barbacue talking to Gallarrwuy Yunupingu who was with bob on that visit.
    This story about Bob and Barra fishing tells you a lot about what we loved about the man and the way things worked in the NT.
    Another particular story about Bob that captures both the man and Australia said something along the lines:
    Bob was standing next to the road when some young men driving past called out something like “you are a legend Bob” Bob replied something like: “If you think I am a legend how about a lift yo my hotel.” And there he was, prime minister of Aus hopping into a car of complete strangers who took him to his hotel.

  3. GeoffH, I think it was that humanity which made Hawke so popular. What has changed? Is ‘humanity’ still as popular or has it been replaced by the Game of Thrones spectacle?

    Thanks for the link Zoot, good story and poignant portrait of Hawk. Missed that in my stream, must follow Van B. She normally pops up on some other streams I follow. Where can I find you on twitter zoot?

  4. Ootz, sorry to say I’m not on Twitter. I stumbled across the link to Van’s Hawkie tweet in her Guardian piece.

  5. One of Bob’s best moments I think, was his very raw and detailed account of the TienAnMen Square murders. He cried, but he read into the public record the horrific facts of a military slaughter of unarmed protesters.

    Essentially he was a democrat, and Australians supported his version of social democrat policies, against the strictures of “more leftwing” union leaders and ALP members.

    In those days, being a former ACTU advocate at national wage cases, then ACTU President, campaigner against Retail Price Maintenance, growler against monopolies and high profits; were none of them barriers to being elected PM.

    So, Mr Shorten, what has changed since 1983? And more importantly, why??

  6. Ambi, today Richard Fidler replayed a conversation he had with Bob Hawke at the Woodford Folk Festival in front of 2000 people in 2015. I think it was the best piece I’ve heard for insights into what made Hawke tick, from the man himself.

    On Tiannamen Square he said relations with China went into the freezer after he took the action he did. However, it was the beginning of the very talented Australian Chinese ethnic group, and after he had been deposed he was invited to China.

    There they told him that China never forgets its friends, and he was one of them. They had come to accept that he had done what he did out of a deep love for China and the Chinese.

  7. Just a further comment, Hawke was clearly one of a kind and a great Australian. As PM he had some bad personal behaviour, which fortunately the press left alone, but had great values and did great stuff domestically and internationally.

    However, I do think Keating drove the economic changes, and had a better concept of what he wanted the country to be ( a social democratic country along the lines of the Nordic model) and also a better understanding of Australia as a country in Asia, and able to create a virtuous international architecture, drawing the great powers together.

    However, PJK could not have done anything without Hawke’s relationship with the Australian people. Keating thought he had a relationship with the people, but he didn’t, and in 1996 election the Quincelanders were waiting with baseball bats.

    Keating, of course, learnt his economics from John Stone, and drank a bit too deeply from the neoliberal economics well. Labor started the wave of privatisation and competition which led to de-industrialisation. By concentrating on our strengths, we lost economic and industrial complexity.

    Howard and Costello took that further. Rudd, Gillard and Swan were not blameless, and the tories are now trying to complete the job, adopting the American model where you are meant to take full responsibility for your fate, and pull yourself up by the bootstraps.

    Bowen and Shorten had a three-term plan to make the place half decent again but lacked a salesman.

    When Hawke died it reminded us that Shorten was a bit of each of Hawke and Keating, but neither really, and reminded us of how the standard had slipped.

    Shorten was a man with a plan but couldn’t sell it. That’s partly what happened on Saturday.

  8. Thanks Brian.
    Hawke and Keating shared a social democratic attitude and translated it, as best they could, into practical policy. They went out and explained their reasons.

    Jumping topics a little: the Murdoch Press was even more vociferously ranged against the Whitlam Govt in 1975, than the minor slapping Mr Shorten has received in recent years. Too easy to blame these newspapers. Your other comment is apt: there are dozens of factors in an electoral victory/defeat.

  9. Hawke said the Murdoch press didn’t bother him much. They tried, but he said he could always bypass them and talk to the public directly on TV.

    Shorten didn’t get the same access to TV (because he wasn’t entertaining), didn’t explain things all that well and people didn’t listen when he did.

  10. May I offer an anecdote?

    When Bob was a mere MHR in the early 80s hus speechwriter saud one day, “Bob, you’re not trying very hard.”

    Bob replied, “When the time comes, I eill.”

    Self confidence and purpose !!

  11. Brian:

    By concentrating on our strengths, we lost economic and industrial complexity.

    As a result we lost the skills we needed to face an uncertain future. The thinking of the financial sector and speculators became too influential.
    BHP’s aim before Hawke was to be a world leading steelmaker. As part of that it had along term vision. The board didn’t take much notice of shareholders. Now it is a company that aims to improve shareholder value.

  12. John, all the successful Asian economies did what economists say they should not do – grew their industries behind tariff barriers, picked winners, used government subsidies to get thing going.

    On BHP, when I first studied management mining companies were used as an example of what not to do. Mining engineers ran the show, focussed on digging stuff up, rather than making money for stakeholders.

  13. On the Asian Tiger Economies. ..
    at what point then, did they open up?

    Here it was mainly under Keating and Hawke, applauded by the Liberal “dries”.

    And how to explain the Very Long Slump that Japan has endured for decades now?

    (I know for a fact that I don’t understand that stuff.)

  14. JD about making money for shareholders…
    Some point to their fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the shareholders and perhaps lose sight of the externalities that might attach to their policies.
    But there has been another change – the remuneration package of the top executives. Aside from sometimes very high salary levels there are bonuses linked to various parameters. Bonuses can be paid out as shares or cash. As I understand it, the bonus is assessed each year so it can be very much in the interests of a recipient to show good results for the assessment period, i.e. what might be a short-term result but pretty good for the bonus this year. Short term gains are possibly not appropriate for long term corporate futures.
    I know there is a lot more to consider too – the age and wisdom of senior execs, the uncertainty of continuing tenure, greed and avarice and the dreaded KPI’s.

  15. Ambi could I comment on the Murdoch press treatment of the Whitlam government.
    I grew up with Ming, aka Bob Menzies and I recall an ageing slow moving but steady old guy that had seen us out of the post-war doldrums and into more prosperous years. But, fair to say he had stagnated policy and some bright young person announced that it was “Time for a Change”. It was true and in came Whitlam’s team. After some 25 years in the wilderness they were ready to go – and they surely did. We saw Jim Cairns moving around with Juni Morosi, John Button with well thought out car policies, Lionel Murphy with transformational divorce law, and Connor with his Khemlani loans debacle.
    Whitlam gave Murdoch a lot to write about, but not all was bad. I think the rate of change was such a contrast to the Menzies period it lost perspective to Australians.

  16. And how to explain the Very Long Slump that Japan has endured for decades now?

    Maybe debt to GDP ( that stupid metric ) over 200%.

    Japan will never be debt free like we once were under Howard/Costello.

    Hard to see Australia ever being unburdened by debt either.

  17. On CEO remuneration, I think Alan Joyce of QANTAS deserves every cent for bringing it back from imminent bankruptcy.
    But a solid kick in the gonads for what he forced the weak arse ARU to do to Israel Falou.

  18. Brian:

    On BHP, when I first studied management mining companies were used as an example of what not to do. Mining engineers ran the show, focussed on digging stuff up, rather than making money for stakeholders.

    I remember when Coles Myers followed the advice of your management teachers and appointed a successful trucking company CEO as their new CEO. This was a man who boasted that he had never been in, from memory, a supermarket.
    The new CEO came across as a good cultural fit for a trucking company but retail? You would have to be joking.
    Didn’t work. Your teachers may have been surprised but I wasn’t. By all means take mining industry people and give them management training but vice versa.

  19. First heard the term increasing shareholder value when I worked for an American company.
    Countries need business’s that are citizens, not just a tool for adding shareholder value.
    The unspoken contract between business and the countries that they do their business in is to be good citizens in return for being able to make profits in that country. Business stakeholders include their employees, the community they work in customers and suppliers. Back in the days when we were young Brian business’s like BHP were under the threat of communism, nationalization, strikes and reduced protection. It helped them concentrate their minds.

  20. Countries need business’s that are citizens, not just a tool for adding shareholder value.

    Hear, hear!

  21. A bit hazy on it now, Geoff H, but I recall The Australian around 1968, 1969 being fair to Labor policies.

    Could be mistaken, but I thought around then and later, the strongly anti-Labor publications were, in Victoria at least, The Bulletin weekly magazine, and two newspapers in Melbourne: The Sun News Pictorial (a morning tabloid), and The Herald (an afternoon broadsheet).

    Also, The Age had quite conservative commentators and some foreign correspondents.

    During the Whitlam Dictatorship Government, a tiny, niche weekly called Nation Review was one of the few “lefty” or “small l liberal” publications. Apart from the Uni student press of course.

    TV news tended to the tabloid, with plenty of fodder: Miss Morosi, Mr Khemlani, ASIO raid, the rise of Joh, Double Dissolution, an attempted diplomatic posting for a DLP Senator, Viet Nam war, Watergate, tanker crashes into Tassie bridge, Ministers sacked, cyclone crashes into Darwin, oil price shock, Yom Kippur War, Munich Olympics murders, some obscure intervention by Sir John Kerr, and so forth.

    Easy to see why RJL Hawke wanted his govt to usher in calmer, steadier times….

  22. Countries need business’s that are citizens, not just a tool for adding shareholder value.

    Well that’s a turn up for the books, I thought the left didn’t think corporations shouldn’t be treated as people.

    Leaning every day….

  23. Which way are you leaning Mr J?

    I had you pegged more as a lifter than a leaner.
    Still, if you’re leaning every day, it sounds like you’re getting into a habit there.


  24. Yours crossed with mine.

    Which raises the old question: if one of yours was crossed with one of mine, would it be

    Golly, it might be illegal in some States, Mr Jumpy.

  25. Mr J

    Is spellchook a misprint, where you meant to write

    Institute of Pure and Applied Pedantry
    C/- Ivory Tower Academy
    – we do literal –

  26. Well that’s a turn up for the books, I thought the left didn’t think corporations shouldn’t be treated as people.

    No Jumpy, they aren’t to be treated as people (at least until we find a way to imprison them) but they should behave like citizens.
    There is a difference.

  27. Zoot: Maybe Jumpy Corp aspires to be granted citizenship?
    Your wording was better than mine.

  28. Government can kill businesses overnight or make them very lucrative with the stroke of a bureaucrats pen.

    Own and run a business with everything you and your family own on the line first, then have a valid, informed, experienced based opinion on the subject.

  29. Correct Zoot, they are not people but are an entity, and share some human like “rights”. Those rights can be abused by an owner trading with the intention of not satisfying creditors or not observing Statutory requirements. In more recent years directors have become more liable personally for their naughtiness but the law is full of holes.

    Jumpy in my view the biggest govt fail is the generation of uncertainty in the economy followed by the failure to grow real wages.

  30. Jumpy

    An accountant may be able to help you not to have everything on the line.

    Just a suggestion.

  31. GH

    Jumpy in my view the biggest govt fail is the generation of uncertainty in the economy followed by the failure to grow real wages.

    A Government can’t do either, but they can get out of the way and let it happen under Capitalism.

    Mr A, I’d stupidly rather have my arse invested.

    The romantic side of me somehow is driven by Rudyard Kipling’s idea of a Man.

  32. It appears Jumpy is unaware of limited liability, a concept that has existed for around 500 years or so.

  33. I apply this one for the likes of zoot.

    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools

  34. And, before Ootz pops up to point it out:
    Why, on a thread ostensibly concerned with Bob Hawke’s life, are we yet again engaging on the topic of the joys of capitalism as imagined by a Mackay building contractor (Milton Friedman, eat your heart out)?

    Over and out.

  35. Vale Bob Hawke.

    Vale Les Murray.
    If I may quote Les, out of context (“Last Hullos“): I wish you God.

  36. Jumpy

    Rudyard is OK as far as he goes, but if you have a spare half hour give the late Les Murray a try.

    A vast range of Aussie experience in his poems.

    As valuable as Bob Hawke, but differently constructed.


  37. I don’t endeavour to have myself piled on.
    The blame is under your control zoot.

    Ironically you participate in activity you supposedly deride.

    How bout you ignore me, please.

  38. Mr A

    Will give Les a look. Nothing has come into my radar as profound to date from him.
    Any recommendations ?

  39. Jumpy:

    Jumpy in my view the biggest govt fail is the generation of uncertainty in the economy followed by the failure to grow real wages. A Government can’t do either, but they can get out of the way and let it happen under Capitalism.

    Too many capitalists think the growing real wages is not in their interests because, in general, too little of what their employers get is not used to buy the product their business produces. In the late seventies/early eighties stagflation was a problem because the unions believed that all real wage increases should be protected to compensate for inflation no matter what and they didn’t trust Frazer.
    It took someone like Bob Hawke to do what governments should, Keep wage increases and inflation within the window that gives optimum economic performance. And setting things up so the workers actually benefited from improvements in productivity that resulted from their actions.
    Understanding what “window” means in this context is important just as having a prime minister that both sides trust.

  40. If you don’t mind sadness try “Last Hullos” written for his father after his death.

    I reckon he’s captured the old man’s speech patterns and the pathos of losing long friendships as your mates pass away.

    Vale Les’s Dad.

  41. Yes John

    And Hawke succeeded in persuading many Australians that there were at least two wages they received:
    a cash wage in their fortnightly pay packet
    a social wage in services underwritten by government

    But then, Bob believed there was such a thing as “society”.

  42. My understanding is that Bob was a clergyman’s son who was active in the SCM (Student’s Christian Movement – the home of the more radical Christians.)
    The story I read somewhere was that he gave up Christianity when he went to a SCM conference in India and compared the SCM conference dinner with the way the poor were living outside the conference. It seems that it was the positive part of his morality that turned him away from Christianity and this morality was behind many of the good things he devoted his life to.
    I know other SCM people who have remained dedicated Christians and who, like Bob, continue to do things to help people.

  43. JD

    Too many capitalists think the growing real wages is not in their interests because, in general, too little of what their employers get is not used to buy the product their business produces.

    I don’t think that’s correct, capitalists are competing with their competitors not their employees.

    But while we’re professing to know what a hugely diverse group think, perhaps socialist have a totally incorrect caricature in their mind of what Capitalism is.

  44. Wikipedia says of Hawkes economic policies,

    Economic reform included the floating of the Australian dollar, deregulation of the financial system, dismantling of the tariff system, privatised state sector industries, ended subsidisation of loss-making industries, and the sale of the state-owned Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Optus, Qantas and CSL Limited. A fringe benefits tax and a capital gains tax were implemented.

    Other than the last 2 they look like Capitalist policies, no wonder they worked.

  45. Hawke was governing a nation which in a bipartisan way, has harboured and tinkered with a mixed economy, Mr J.

    Our economy has capitalist and agrarian and resource extraction aspects, with some social security and centrally subsidised medical, educational, and other services.

    You must surely have noticed this?

    So any Govt of Coalition or Labor stripe, will pass measures that have “capitalist” pro-business aspects and other measures that have “social welfare” aspects; and usually some with a hybrid nature, in my opinion.

    That’s how Australia has been since WW2, or since ‘The Harvester Judgement’. Take your pick.

    And it seems to meet with your disapproval, Mr J.
    And I think we’ve been over this ground before, Si?

  46. I’m just thinking about the regular individuals financial interactions, choices available, value, motivations etc.

    Macroeconomics is just the sum of all microeconomics essentially.

    I believe most people naturally behave in a predominantly capitalist way with a good measure of altruism and philanthropy thrown in.
    We don’t need a Tzar, Pontiff or Dear Leader to force us to.

    I think Bob would agree with that.

  47. Mr A
    The Harvester Judgement has never affected me directly, I’ve always been payed and do pay more that any arbitrary number some bureaucrat came up with.

    That said, the minimum wage is a huge impediment for unskilled young people that would happily work and learn skills for less.
    Every rise in the minimum wage pushes the first rung of their career ladder higher.
    A second year apprentice can cost more than a Tradesman if he/she has a hungry work ethic but can’t yet produce the results.

  48. Jumpy:

    and the sale of the state-owned Commonwealth Bank of Australia,

    I imagine that Hawke sold of businesses like the commonwealth bank for the pragmatic reason that his government had more important things to do than run the businesses you listed.
    Problem is that the Commonwealth bank free of government control morphed into a parody of the socialist view of capitalism. An organization that had a hard time at the banking commission because it had morphed into a capitalist company that was all about ripping off its customers in order to add to shareholder value and to pay generous bonuses as a reward for ripping off the customers.
    Some of the other decisions Hawke made may not look good with hindsight.

  49. A Royal Commission into any sector, corporation or department will find roughly 5% of them to be arseholes.

    Ergo, Union Royal Commission.

    Let’s compare criminal charges with the two shall we ?

    You go first….

  50. Mr J,
    fellow Hawke admirer,

    There are four large banks and many small ones. Where does your 5% estimate come from? Does it relate to the hearings and findings of the Australian Banking Royal Commission?

    Or do you mean that roughly 5% of human beings in general are horrible people?

    One of the tasks of a government, in my view, is to take steps to help the non-a***holes not get messed around by the a***holes. The latter, as you know, typically display qualities such as belligerence, mendacity, greed, and low cunning.

    And as the a***holes redouble their efforts and adapt their knavery to new conditions and opportunities, police and government have to keep alert and active.

    None of us wants Rampaging A***holes, do we?

  51. Please folks, If we’re going to slide off into the umpteenth iteration of “Capitalism According to Jumpy” (**yawn**) can we please take it to a general thread? There’s a couple of Weekly Salons available, don’t let him fill up this thread with the usual dreck.

  52. Mr A, history shows Bob Hawke was the most economically classic liberal PM from Labor.

    And a Patriot to boot.

    There were other thing like dividend imputation than he introduced.

    Pity about the National debt though. ( that Howard payed off )

  53. Or do you mean that roughly 5% of human beings in general are horrible people?

    Well all of us have the potential to do horrible things, and do but, conservatively, 5% make a habit of it imho.

  54. …. and so every large corporation, such as a big bank, would have about 5% of horribles.

    The Royal Commission examined practices and policies that had messed up individuals and small businesses.

    The horrible acts weren’t generally due to 1/20 of the staff taking individual initiatives to be nasty.

    Why, it seemed in some cases that incentive schemes linked to pay packets had encouraged nasty acts of commission or omission.

    [“Acts of commission ” – I do enjoy an accidental pun.]

    Mr J: do you support “consumer law” and “company law” that is designed to reduce horrible behaviour? Or is The Market Going To Sort That Out…. ?

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