Tuesday 11 August 2020
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Australian PM - 1 month ago

Condolence - Bob Hawke

Mr Morrison: (Cook—Prime Minister and Minister for the Public Service) (09:31): I move: That the House record its deep regret at the death, on 16 May 2019, of the Honourable Robert James Lee (Bob) Hawke AC, a Member of this House for the Division of Wills from 1980 to 1992 and Prime Minister from 1983 to 1991, place on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tender its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement. The first Prime Minister to speak at this dispatch box in this chamber in this magnificent parliament building was Robert James Lee Hawke. But that meant he was also the last Prime Minister to do so at the despatch box in the House of Representatives chamber in the old Parliament House down the hill. In so many ways, not just in that physical way, he took our country from the old to the new. He was personal enough that every Australian felt connected to him, regardless of their politics, and big enough that we actually entitled an era after him—the Hawke era. As I said at his memorial, which I was very grateful to the Hawke family and to Blanche for being invited to participate in, Australians loved him just as he loved them. There was a great romance that played itself out in every part of this land with Bob Hawke. They knew each other, he and the Australian people. They forgave each other. They understood each other s virtues and they identified with each other s weaknesses. In Bob Hawke s own words, it was a love affair —and, indeed, it was. In 1983, Bob Hawke campaigned on the slogan Bringing Australia Together , and so he did. From 1983 to 1991, Bob Hawke led a government that redefined our nation for a modern age—floating the dollar, regulating the financial system, admitting foreign banks, dismantling tariffs and starting the privatisation of government owned businesses, microeconomic reform in partnership with the states and territories and retirement incomes for all workers. With sights firmly fixed on the long term with his team, Bob Hawke opened up the Australian economy to the world, increasing competition and laying the foundation for a quarter of a century and more of economic growth that continues to this day. Now, of course it might not have seemed that way during the dislocation of the 1980s and the recession of the early 1990s, but our country had certainly, at that point, turned outward under his leadership. And I also wish to acknowledge that this work was done in a partnership, most significantly with his Treasurer Paul Keating. But it was also a work that was largely, almost completely, supported by those who sat in opposition. Now this was achieved by Bob Hawke s leadership, and that s what I ackno his leadership to embrace common sense, common good, economic reforms, to make Australia stronger and to bring Australians together for that purpose. He had many fights whether in this place, within his own ranks of his own party, or outside this place, but such was his passion, such was his commitment, such was his determination to see the future of Australia going down a common path that it will be forever to his credit and we will be forever in his debt. And as a result of his vision and commitment, the tempo and direction of this economic reform agenda that indeed started under the Hawke government has continued long after that, to this day under my government and beyond. The achievements of government under Bob Hawke were not just economic, they were social as well. After all, economies are meant to serve people. He understood that. They make those great social reforms possible. They were landmark social reforms made possible by that economic success, social reforms that became embedded in our national life, and now, in so many cases, enjoy bipartisan support that was not present when they were initiated. The Medicare card we all carry in our pockets is a reminder of his great contribution, and its promise of universal access is an achievement that has stood, and will always stand, the test of time, as does the outlawing of gender discrimination in the workplace. There was the listing of the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves—what we know as the Gondwana Rainforests—the Wet Tropics of Queensland and the Uluru national park on the World Heritage List, and the handback of Uluru to the traditional owners, the Pitjantjatjara people. His work, along with health minister Neal Blewett, ensured Australia s response to the AIDS epidemic was the best in the world. Tens of thousands of people are alive today because of those efforts. And abroad he stood against apartheid, committed Australian forces to the liberation of Kuwait and was pivotal to the establishment of APEC, which endures to this day. Bob Hawke was the most electorally successful federal Labor leader in our history, the winner of four successive elections, and is our third-longest-serving Prime Minister. But like John Howard, I agree that he was Labor s greatest Prime Minister. Now Bob Hawke would never accept that. He would say that that honour belongs to his hero, and the hero of so many in this place, John Curtin. And there is no doubt that war takes a great toll on prime ministers—and with that sacrifice with John Curtin there will always be great, great honour—but what Bob Hawke did with peace and in peacetime I think was the greatest tribute you could pay to those who fought for it, including John Curtin. Some say that the path of Bob Hawke was a destiny prewritten. That was certainly what his mother believed, and his father too. When pregnant with Bob, his mother repeatedly found herself drawn to the words of Isaiah: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. It was a legend he felt entirely comfortable with. But destiny was not an easy partner for Bob Hawke. We know that through the well-told story of his life. Of course, Bob Hawke always revelled in his belief about the purpose of his life. It s a good thing. When he was asked to conduct Handel s Messiah for his 80th birthday, which those of us who were there were able to relive, Bob felt he had to remind people that the music was actually not about him—not terribly convincing, though! When we look at the extraordinary events of 3 February 1983, one might just have to wonder. A day like none other in Australian politics in many respects: a Prime Minister seeks an early election, a Governor-General makes him wait and wait, and a Leader of the Opposition resigns. He was Leader of the Opposition for just 36 days—no doubt a great mercy! In a coincidence, the current Leader of the Opposition equals that record tomorrow. It was to our country s fortune that Bob Hawke seemed to have more than his share of luck. When he took office, the drought broke and, of course, Australia emerged from recession—welcome developments. We only pray that that will happen now in terms of the drought. On 26 September 1983, little more than six months into the Hawke government, the nation was galvanised by an unlikely triumph in sport that we all remember. I was a young teenager at the time and I can still remember that morning. It seems like yesterday. In my mind s eye, I can still see him at the Royal Perth Yacht Club—the joy, the exhilaration, the chaos—a reformed teetotaller drenched in champagne. That gaudy red, white and blue jacket emblazoned with the word Australia —how good was that! Sadly, they don t make prime ministerial jackets like that anymore. We can hear his laughter, see the way his body wrenched around, and hear a bold declaration that reminded us that this Prime Minister was very much one of all of us. Whoever we were, whatever background we had, wherever we sat within the great spectrum of Australia, he was always one of us. He was pitch perfect for the times, fearless, brash and Australian. As Australia beat the world, he was so comfortable about who we were—signature notes for the advancing tide of 1980s optimism. If destiny was Bob Hawke s friend, he understood, as I said, it was not a passive relationship. The call to do great deeds is itself a burden, a silent contract involving an obligatory call to discipline, sacrifice and restraint, which he exercised. Bob Hawke, for all of his powers of reasoning, could also be pretty acutely visceral. A few journalists understood that from time to time, as I m sure people on both sides of this chamber did. He had a capacity to feel, to not disguise or hide his emotions. He shed tears at times. He rose to anger. He expressed joy. He was emphatic as well, but maybe that s because he had his own share of pain. As a boy, he watched his only brother die of meningitis. As a young father, he carried an infant son, his namesake, to his grave—a pain so dreadful he could not visit his own son s grave for almost 20 years. Of course, he was fiery too. There were tears he shed over his daughter s struggle with substance abuse and the tears he shed for the victims of Tiananmen Square as well. Through it all, we saw the totality of the man, his authenticity and imperfection. He never hid it. I m told of a story—it may be apoc I m not sure, but I m pretty convinced it s true—that on one occasion at Kirribilli House the AFP officer on duty on the day, who was tasked to bring forward the papers and put them in the vestibule at the entry to Kirribilli House, one morning got to see all of Bob Hawke as he opened the door in all his glory. The AFP adopted a different protocol for launching the submission of those documents each morning with greater care so as not to be exposed to the full glory of the great Robert James Lee Hawke. He did never hide himself, physically or otherwise, and Australians loved him for it. In honour of the life and service of Bob Hawke I am pleased to announce today that the government will provide $5 million to the existing endowment fund of the General Sir John Monash Foundation to create an annual scholarship known as the Bob Hawke John Monash Scholar. The scholars chosen by the foundation will study in any field deemed in the interest of the nation. The aim will be to support, for up to three years, talented young Australians with ability and leadership potential to develop their skills at leading overseas universities. We believe that this is an appropriate way to recognise the memory of such a great Australian—to see it lived in the lives of many great Australians who will follow in his footsteps in this regard in the future. On behalf of the government and indeed this parliament and the nation I sincerely want to extend to Mr Hawke s widow, Blanche, and to his family the deepest sympathies of our country. We share and thank you for caring for Bob through the long sunset of his life. Again today, as I did on the day that he passed, Jenny and I particularly want to acknowledge the support and contribution of the late and wonderful Hazel Hawke, who was a tremendous support and inspiration to Bob and his family, and who is also deeply and sorely missed by a nation who loved her. Australia is grateful for the leadership and service of Robert James Lee Hawke. Australians can all rejoice for his life. Having served his country tirelessly, diligently, selflessly and passionately, may he now rest in peace.


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