A nation mourns the ev­ery­day man who rose to be the peo­ple’s PM


Bob Hawke is dead.

The for­mer Aus­tralian La­bor prime min­is­ter, union or­gan­iser, Rhodes Scholar; the bold re­former; the great de­bater; the fa­ther, the lover, our sil­ver­haired lar­rikin son, died at home in Syd­ney yes­ter­day. He was 89.

Hawke — full name Robert James Lee Hawke, born De­cem­ber 9, 1929 — was sur­rounded by those who loved him: his wife, his chil­dren, his grand­chil­dren. His death was an­nounced by his wi­dow, Blanche d’Alpuget, who said: “To­day we lost Bob Hawke, a great Aus­tralian. He fore­saw the Asian cen­tury. He ab­horred racism. Bob was dearly loved … the golden bowl is bro­ken.”

His suc­ces­sor in of­fice, his ri­val, his fierce com­bat­ant, his com­rade Paul Keating, said: “With Bob Hawke’s pass­ing to­day, the great part­ner­ship I en­joyed with him passes too — a part­ner­ship we forged with the Aus­tralian peo­ple.”

The serv­ing prime min­is­ter, Scott Morrison, also paid trib­ute: “Bob Hawke was a great Aus­tralian who led and served our coun­try with pas­sion, courage, and in­tel­lec­tual horse­power that made our coun­try stronger.”

Bill Shorten, who this week­end aims to be­come the next La­bor leader in the Lodge, spoke ten­derly of his men­tor: “The Aus­tralian peo­ple loved Bob Hawke be­cause they knew Bob loved them. The La­bor Party gives thanks for the life of our long­est-serv­ing prime min­is­ter and Aus­tralians ev­ery­where re­mem­ber and honour a man who gave so much to the coun­try and peo­ple he cared for so deeply.”

Be­yond the walls of Hawke’s Syd­ney home, mil­lions be­yond the po­lit­i­cal class to­day mourn a man who be­lieved in this coun­try’s great­ness; whose self­con­fi­dence be­came Aus­tralia’s con­fi­dence, es­pe­cially on the world stage.

Hawke led La­bor to a land­slide vic­tory at the 1983 elec­tion, and he led them into bat­tle again, in 1984, 1987 and 1990. He was vic­to­ri­ous ev­ery time.

No other La­bor leader has won so many, or served so long.

The first Hawke min­istry stands as one of the great­est ever as­sem­bled. His part­ner­ship with Mr Keating laid the foun­da­tion for a mod­ern Aus­tralia, open­ing this nation to the world. Their friend­ship would ul­ti­mately dis­solve into bit­ter ri­valry, the wound only re­cently healed.

Hawke pushed Aus­tralia onto the world stage, es­tab­lished this nation as the voice of fair­ness and de­cency, in mat­ters of great importance.

He was mag­nif­i­cent on Is­rael. On apartheid. On Antarc­tica. On French nu­clear test­ing, in the Pa­cific.

He was prag­matic, and charis­matic. He liked the finer things — cigars — but then again, also beer by the yard glass.

He had a rare in­ti­macy with the Aus­tralian peo­ple, which made sense: he loved this coun­try, and shared its pur­suits: he was hap­pi­est with binoc­u­lars up, and form guide un­der his armpit. His finest ever line “any boss that sacks a worker for not turn­ing up is a bum!” — was de­liv­ered af­ter Aus­tralia’s vic­tory in the Amer­ica’s Cup.

We saw him laugh­ing; at times, we saw him in tears.

Hawke was bold, au­then­tic, stub­born. To­ward the end of his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, he was also bit­ter, but not for long: he made a for­tune in busi­ness, built a man­sion, mar­ried his long-time lover, and so be­came a states­man of this great coun­try, to which he was de­voted, and of which he was a favourite son.

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