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