Wednesday, 3 July 2019
Hawke, Hon. Robert James Lee (Bob), AC
That the House record its regret at the death, on 16 May 2019, of the Honourable Robert James Lee (Bob) Hawke AC, a former member for Wills and the 23rd Prime Minister of Australia and place on record its appreciation of his remarkable service to our nation, which he loved, and offer its deepest sympathy to his family in their bereavement and, indeed, to the nation.
The first Prime Minister to speak at this despatch 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 acknowledge; 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 apocryphal; 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.
I thank the Prime Minister for his generous comments not just today but at the memorial service at Sydney Opera House, which was a remarkable event for an extraordinary Australian. I also welcome the announcement by the Prime Minister of the government's Bob Hawke scholarship foundation. It is, indeed, appropriate to recognise a young person and to give them support in Bob Hawke's name, because Bob Hawke was always supportive of young people coming through. I first met him as the president of Young Labor, meeting with him about policy issues. At the time Young Labor didn't always agree with Bob Hawke—it must be said—but he was always encouraging. He was a mentor and, indeed, a very dear friend, and he is missed on a personal level.
Bob Hawke was the first Prime Minister in this new parliament. If you close your eyes for a moment you can picture him by the dispatch box—that famous cumulus of hair, that impish sparkle in his eyes and that voice. He towered in this place with the confidence of a man who'd always felt destined for it. Bob had long known that he wanted to be the Prime Minister of Australia. More importantly, he knew he would be. How could it be otherwise? Family legend always had it that when Bob's mother, Ellie, was pregnant with him her Bible fell open at Isaiah, chapter 9, verse 6:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder.
Between this early touch of Messiah and the clarifying effects of a near death experience on his motorbike years later, Bob had a sense of destiny. Bob was a genuine folk figure long before he became the Prime Minister. He was indeed the first politician who built a reputation on TV before he became a parliamentarian. Once asked how he could simultaneously be president of the ACTU and president of the Australian Labor Party, he replied with remarkable candour and in typical Bob style, 'If you can't ride two horses you shouldn't be in the bloody circus.'
Doubt was not a regular visitor to Bob's mind, and he wasn't keen on it from others—but that doesn't mean that no-one felt it. As a Hawke prime ministership grew ever more likely, some were worried. His talent and the sharpness of his economic mind were not questioned, but mightn't his larrikin streak embarrass us domestically and on the world stage? Never mind the future, what about the risk of damaging revelations about his past? With the cheer of someone who'd once explained that he had credibility because he didn't exude morality, Bob pointed to his biography and said there would be no shocks. 'It's all in the book,' he explained. But the strength of personality sometimes masked his dedication to his work and to detail—the payoff of habits formed in his long, hard years as an industrial advocate. All this energy was channelled into making life better for his fellow Australians. He was at once our leader and our cheerleader. He was ahead of us, calling us on, and yet somehow he was also walking alongside us and, for good measure, giving us an encouraging push from behind. Bob was hardly a stranger to ambition, but his ambition embraced the rest of us. He knew we were capable of better and he knew we could do it together. Think of some of his bywords that characterised his leadership. Reconciliation, accord, consensus—they're all about us heading in one direction as a nation, rather than about division or conflict, and even though he was Labor to the core, you didn't have to vote for Bob to feel the love.
He was no one-man band, of course. When Labor was swept to power in the first of his four election victories, Bob was blessed with a ministry of rare breadth, depth and talent, the political equivalent of a greatest hits collection. The Whitlam dismissal was the energy that had driven some of them into politics, but it was never going to steer them. This was no time for crash or crash through. Bob; Paul Keating, his Treasurer; and their team had a clear and urgent agenda to rescue Australia from what they saw as a moribund state, but they knew how to implement it and how to sell it. Their energy was coupled with pragmatism, their courage with intelligence, their impatience with clear heads. They were united in the quest for an open, competitive, free society and an intelligent, creative, benevolent nation. They foresaw the Asian century and the rise of China and they prepared Australia for it. They saw our future prosperity depended on Australia becoming a confident, outward-looking nation. They laid down the foundations of a robust, vibrant economy that has repeatedly withstood forces that have felled other economies in our region and throughout the industrialised world. Ponder some of their achievements: APEC; the floating of the dollar, putting Australia in a position to benefit from global economic engagement; the Sex Discrimination Act; the affirmative action act; the return of Uluru, the physical heart of the nation, to its traditional owners; universal superannuation; Landcare; Medicare. When they were elected to office, three in every 10 Australians finished high school. When that period of government ended, the figure was eight out of 10—a revolution in opportunity for young Australians. So many more young people also had the opportunity to attend university. There was the Antarctic, never to be militarised, never to be mined. In Tasmania, the Franklin River still flows, wild and free; and there was the Daintree, in Far North Queensland.
Among his exploits on the world stage, Bob was the driving force behind what South Africa's then finance minister described as 'the dagger that finally immobilised apartheid'. He drove that agenda on the global stage, and it was not a uniform agenda—far from it. It took courage. When Nelson Mandela arrived in Canberra, he said, 'I want you to know, Bob, that I am here today at this time because of you.' What a tribute.
Fighting apartheid was just one manifestation of Bob's loathing for racism. He knew our strength lay in unity and he was always ready to fight those who sought to divide. When the dog whistle of racism was blown loudly, Bob responded in parliament with thunder. Last year, three decades later almost to the day, parliament united right here around Bob's words to condemn another politician who tried to divide us. That day in this place matched the vision Bob had for us—the Prime Minister shaking hands with the opposition leader, Muslim embracing Jew, all united in the knowledge that racism has no place among us. I spoke to Bob about that day—he was thrilled.
What can all of us here learn from Bob? Don't fear risk. Don't let the word 'no' be your first instinct. Persuade people, bring them with you. Be among the people who chose you to represent them. Listen. Engage. Stay true to your philosophies and make them the bedrock upon which you build your policies. You won't get agreement all the time but you will get respect. Bob showed us the dividends of a political life lived that way.
During the decades after he left office, Australia's affection for him not only didn't dim; I think it actually grew. The year that he turned 80, Bob was walking out of the MCG with delegates to the annual American Australian Leadership Dialogue when a passing car slowed down. Its young driver yelled out, 'Hawkie, you're a bloody legend.' Bob's reply was both gracious and practical: 'Well, if I'm such a bloody legend, why don't you give me a lift back to the pub?' With that, the former PM hopped into a car, no security, with perfect strangers and sped off.
One of the American delegates with their security was gobsmacked: 'That could never happen in America.' And indeed it wouldn't. It is a perfect Australian story. I hope we never lose that character.
Later that year, during his birthday celebrations, Bob stepped out onto the stage of the Sydney Opera House, of course, to conduct a number from Handel's Messiah. It's quite extraordinary when that was shown at the memorial service at the Sydney Opera House. One of the songs in Messiah includes the biblical line that had leapt out at Ellie a lifetime earlier: 'and the government shall be upon his shoulder.' But, fittingly, it was the Hallelujah chorus that Bob conducted: Handel's joyous expression of a prophecy fulfilled. There was a lot of love in the room that day—a perfect snapshot of the long romance between one Australian and his compatriots. Today, in the national parliament, we remember a genuinely national figure: Australia's greatest peacetime Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, and it's right that we do so in this way.
On a personal level, I also remember a generous mentor and friend. When Karen Middleton asked me who should launch the biography that she had written of me, I said, 'My first option is Bob Hawke.' She said, 'What if we can't get him? 'Who's your second option?' I said, 'Bob Hawke.' 'Who's third?' 'Bob Hawke.' It was the great honour of my life to have left this chamber on the day that that occurred. I went down to the office and There was Bob. He had the copy of the book and it had Post-it Notes all through it. It had little notes—he had read every word and done a remarkable job, and the fact that he did that was incredibly humbling.
I must also say, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, that our party—and our movement—remembers our great fallen chief. He transformed Labor so that Labor could transform the nation. He took on internal fights and won them so that he could lead the nation. He taught us also how real reform occurs: you require successive victories. He was Australian Labor's most successful leader, with four election victories, which consolidated those reforms like Medicare and superannuation so that they couldn't just be wound back easily.
We know, of course, also that he never stopped singing Solidarity Forever. He particularly used to get to the line 'Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?' The music is done now. In the quiet that has fallen we farewell this giant, a beloved Labor leader, our most popular Prime Minister—a man who in so many ways was Australia amplified. We farewell him not with sadness but with gratitude and with love.
Our gratitude and love also go to his children Susan, Stephen and Rosslyn, who had to share their dad with the nation, and to the memory of little Robert Jr, who, tragically, never got the chance; to Blanche d'Alpuget, who was for Bob love's second great blossoming and cared for him so compassionately during his later years; to the memory of Hazel Hawke, who was Bob's first great love; to the memory of Clem and Ellie Hawke, who raised their son to turn his back on hatred and embrace the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity. And, finally, we turn to that driver outside the MCG that night and we say: 'You were right. Bob Hawke? Legend.'
I acknowledge the gracious words of both the Prime Minister and the opposition leader this morning as we rightly and appropriately honour the Labor Party's longest-serving Prime Minister.
The Hon. Robert James Lee Hawke, AC, joined the Labor Party in 1947 at the age of just 18. His early interest in working conditions can be seen in his choice of thesis, on wage fixing in Australia, an interest that in fact drew him away from his doctoral studies to take up a research job with the Australian Council of Trade Unions in 1957. Barely a decade later, Bob Hawke was elected president of the same ACTU in 1969. No-one could question his empathy for his fellow people, his fellow Australians, as we heard from both the Prime Minister and the opposition leader. Our memories range from his pursuit of wage increases to that grand image of the celebrations of Australia's breaking of the America's Cup drought.
And, speaking of breaking the drought, Bob Hawke ascended to the high office of Prime Minister in March 1983, when one of our worst droughts on record was into its fourth year. And the rain began to fall, first over his birth state of South Australia; torrential thunderstorms over country that had been drought stricken just two weeks earlier. A powerful monsoon moved into the west and south coast of New South Wales, then western Victoria, Gippsland and eastern Tasmania. March 1983 was the wettest that the Mallee and Wimmera regions had experienced since 1910. Eastern Queensland missed out, but not for long. The autumn of 1983 drenched the whole Queensland state. By May, much of the Darling Downs was flooded. Spirits were lifted. Farm industries began their long recovery. Australia's economy displayed new green shoots of growth.
Bob Hawke is rightly seen as an economic reformer, floating the Australian dollar, allowing in foreign banks, founding APEC, the Asia-Pacific cooperation forum, to promote growth in the region. Indeed, Prime Minister Hawke and Treasurer Keating produced a budget surplus. Sadly, other factors proved this period to be a precursor to a recession. But it's true that one of the great legacies given to Australia by Prime Minister Hawke was Labor's most recent budget surplus.
It's a particular measure of the man that, in the early times after he was elected, Bob Hawke was fair dinkum with the Australian people in acknowledging that the breaking of what was said to be the worst drought since 1904 had helped build a platform for the economic reforms of the 1980s. In an interview with John Laws on 5 March 1984, the Prime Minister spoke of 140,000 jobs created. He said unemployment, interest rates and inflation were all trending down. Laws asked, 'Do you think the breaking of the drought had an effect?' and, to his great credit, Bob did not try to argue the point. 'Yes, obviously the breaking of the drought has helped,' he said. 'I've made it clear all the way along the line that the breaking of the drought and the United States's recovery have been pluses.' These times were an opportunity to take big steps impacting trade returns—floating the Australian dollar, as the member for Grayndler has pointed out—and Bob Hawke was bold and strong enough to do just that.
Today we're continuing to build crucial trade openings, not least through major free trade agreements in recent years, to build on the economic reform steps taken forward by Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Treasurer Paul Keating, and I certainly acknowledge that. But there wasn't universal agreement on economic policy.
A rally of farmers outside Parliament House in 1985 was the largest and most vocal ever seen. The front page of my local newspaper, The Daily Advertiser at Wagga Wagga, on 2 July 1985—I was working at the paper back then—had a single photograph. It was an aerial shot, from a plane well up in the sky, with farmer protestors stretching as far as the eye can see. There were an estimated 45,000 in angry protest over the crippling weight of one new tax after another. A full eight pages of coverage quoted farmer after farmer and those associated with these industries from across the Riverina.
I can well remember my mother, Eileen, in her later years saying that that was the only time my late father, Lance, ever protested. Dad wasn't the sort of person to protest. He was the captain of the Brucedale fire brigade and he got involved in the community. He did not believe in protesting, but, indeed, he did that day. He came to Canberra. It was the first time he'd ever attended a rally of that kind or any kind. But do you know what Bob Hawke did? He did what a good Prime Minister should do. He left the confines of this building, the safety and security of Parliament House, and went out to face the music. He fronted up. He addressed the crowd, and good on him for doing so. He probably didn't win the day, but he earned a lot of respect. He earned those farmers' respect. I can well remember dad saying just that: 'At least he showed up; at least he fronted up.' Well done, Bob.
It was the same Prime Minister Hawke in the firing line who backed our wheat growers. He did. It was in their time of need, just a year later, as America moved to boost its taxpayer subsidies to its own wheat farmers and undercut us in the Soviet market. This was also one of Bob's greatest legacies, certainly for rural and regional Australia. There was a massive threat to our wheat growers, along with the Canadians and Argentinians. To his great credit, Bob Hawke saw the threat and acted.
Records from the time show PM Hawke protesting directly to President Reagan. In personal talks with US Secretary of State George Shultz, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Argentinian President Raul Alfonsin all backed up Australia's concerns with President Ronald Reagan. This was, I think, certainly for rural and regional Australia, Bob Hawke at his best. It was a particular measure of the man that Bob Hawke agreed to an all-party delegation from Australia to Washington. The threat was real. It was very direct. Bob Hawke had absolutely no hesitation in endorsing the idea of a cross-party lobby working the halls of Washington.
He saw it not only as a signal that his own efforts were not enough but also as a strong effort to further demonstrate Australia's concerns, and if it meant something to the farmers it meant a lot to Prime Minister Hawke. The Australian delegation won an amendment to the legislation about to enter Congress. It stipulated that any subsidised sale of wheat to the Soviets would be on the proviso that Australia maintained its traditional share of the Soviet market. The amendment was driven by Democrat congressman Stephen Solarz from New York State. There are not too many American wheat farmers there but it was readily agreed to by the bill's proponent, Thomas Daschle, who was from one of the key US wheat-growing regions. Prime Minister Hawke, along with the primary industry minister and delegation leader John Kerin, were big enough to welcome additional help to get the job done. And the job they did get done.
Bob Hawke was an advocate for the unions but it was not a blind loyalty. He took a stand on principle where he believed it right to do so. In one of the deepest controversies of the 1980s, the Builders Labourers Federation did engage in guerrilla tactics, like walking off halfway through a concrete pour, resulting in the immediate loss of millions of dollars to developers and the halting of progress. This sort of action was un-Australian. Bob Hawke knew it, and he wasn't frightened to say it. There were a lot of factors at play—not least was the future of the accord—but action had to be taken. Bob Hawke took that action. In 1986, the BLF was permanently deregistered in various Australian states by the federal Labor government. Bob Hawke led the way. It came in the wake of a royal commission into corruption by the union.
We do honour today, and we do it rightly, Robert James Lee Hawke AC, a leader of great courage and great vision. We honour the longest serving Labor Prime Minister—eight years and 284 days—for his contribution to the lives of Australians across our land mass. I well remember being at the Sydney Cricket Ground not that long ago. It seems just like yesterday. It doesn't matter what sporting event it is, they will always cheer the actors in the arena, the great sporting athletes. But as soon as they mention a politician generally, these days, they'll get hisses and jeers and boos. Not Bob Hawke—he got the beer, he sculled it, and the crowd just went off. They rose as one: 'Good on ya, Bob!' Everybody around me cheered and clapped. They thought it was just wonderful. But, even when he was Prime Minister, he still received that sort of adulation and those sorts of cheers.
He was the son of a school teacher and a congregational church minister. Bob Hawke sensed the need to contribute to the lives of others, to make others' lives better—to contribute to the broader community. He was a larrikin, we all know that, but he has also a Rhodes Scholar. He was the leader who sought to unite the people around him, even the farmers out there on that day in 1985. As a headline in a special supplement of The Australian on 18 May read, 'In his prime, and at the end, Hawke held his head high.' Indeed he did, and rightly so. Vale Bob Hawke.
I acknowledge the beautiful words that have been spoken so far by the Leader of the Opposition, by the Deputy Prime Minister and by the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, can I also say thank you to you for the comments you made at Bob Hawke's memorial two weeks ago. That was a great gathering of the Labor family, led by the Leader of the Opposition. It wouldn't necessarily have been the easiest speech to make, but it really mattered to us that the Prime Minister of Australia was there to acknowledge Bob Hawke on that day. You did it with dignity and grace, and we thank you.
Bob Hawke led an amazing life—a magnificent painting on the canvas of Australia. As a young boy in the seventies my heroes, like many people's, were in world of sport: Lillee, Thommo, Sam Newman at Geelong, the Nankervis brothers. But for me, with an unusual—perhaps an early and some might say an unhealthy—interest in politics, Bob Hawke occupied the same space in my imagination. He was a presence on our screens that sparkled with energy: a playful smile and a fierce power of speech that was a weapon in the service of the downtrodden and the most vulnerable.
He was a larger than life figure, heroic, and perhaps in that youthful image there is just the smallest example of the way in which the whole nation related to Bob Hawke. From the very first day that Bob entered the public eye, oozing charisma and seriously intelligent, he began a lifelong love affair with the Australian public, the likes of which we have never seen again. I absolutely remember, as a 15-year-old on that fateful day in February 1983, being glued to the TV as then Prime Minister Fraser went to Government House and at the very same time Bob Hawke became the Leader of the Labor Party. It felt like such a portentous moment, as though we were at the dawn of a new age. Just a few weeks later this was realised as Bob Hawke was elected the 23rd Prime Minister of Australia.
As I entered adulthood and a more serious political consciousness, Bob Hawke was the main actor on the stage. And what a star he was. He embraced his union roots, but he reached out to the whole of Australia, famously speaking on the night of his election to those who didn't vote for him. He grabbed the idealism of the Whitlam era but, with pragmatism and smarts, he implemented it. He understood the power of government, in truth, the power of that side of this chamber, because that's the side that changes lives. In the process, he led the most significant peacetime government that this country has ever seen. He opened up the economy. He floated the dollar. He reduced tariffs. He greatly increased our productivity. He turned us into a trading nation and, in the process, laid the foundations for 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth.
He embraced immigration. There would not have been a milk bar owner in the 1980s of Greek, Italian or Eastern European heritage who did not see Bob Hawke as an absolute hero, because he made them feel welcome. He made them feel that this was their country too—as it most certainly is. He dramatically increased school participation rates, broadened our university base and, in the process, made us a smarter country. He played his part in the reconciliation of Australia with its First Peoples. He significantly increased the status of women within our society. He left us an incredible environmental legacy: the Franklin River, Kakadu, the Daintree, Antarctica. And he had Australia take its place in international affairs as a confident nation. Playing his part in ending apartheid is an example. He played his part in seeing Australia know who we were as a nation and what we were on about in the world.
George Megalogenis, in his really wonderful book Australia's Second Chance, said about the compact of federation that it was a stunning act of self-harm, a political defence mechanism that united labour and capital by extending racial purity to industry protection. George said that Australia's political class was born thinking small.
Bob often remarked that since European settlement the most significant step in our nation's history has been that wave of immigration in the immediate aftermath of World War II. That, combined with his government in partnership with Paul Keating, tore done the moribund compact of federation, and in its place he put a superstructure for our nation today, for, more than any other person who has graced this chamber or this parliament, Bob Hawke is the architect of modern Australia.
And so, for a young person enthused with government and politics and the power that they had to change people's lives for the better, Bob was an inspiration. Everybody who sits behind me now can articulate the ideas and the philosophies which led them to become a member of the Australian Labor Party and a member of this place. It's the same for me too. But, in addition, there is for me a deep and profound sense that I agreed with Bob, that I followed Bob, because for people of my generation Bob Hawke was the inspiration which led us to a life of public service in the Australian Labor movement. But, actually, I see Bob as the Australian embodiment of an even grander tradition, because we stand here with the deep belief that the evolution of civilised society principally occurs through the operation of progressive politics implemented from the centre. That is Jefferson. It's Lincoln. It's the two Roosevelts and the story of America. But, in a contemporary Australian sense, it is Bob Hawke who is that part of the golden thread of human development, the custodians of which in this country today are the Australian Labor Party.
In the year 2000 I became an assistant secretary of the ACTU. Bob in his retirement gave a lot of time to the ACTU. He used to note that it, of all the organisations and places where he had worked, was the one where he had spent the most time. As a result, I got to know Bob just a little and I really remember the first substantive meeting that I had with Bob. We sat together at a lunch at the ACTU congress in Wollongong in that same year. I was nervous—pretty starstruck, actually—about spending some time with Bob, but I needn't have been, because Bob put us all at ease straightaway. He was charming. He was engaging and interesting. He was interested, actually, in a really generous way, in us and in the people around me, and before long we were hanging on his every word and we were in the palm of his hand. I remember ringing my dad straight after. I was really excited. I felt like I'd been given a very special gift: an hour with Bob. In the ensuing years, I got that gift a few times.
There was pain in Bob's life. As Paul Keating remarked at Bob's memorial, this is a brutal business that we're all engaged in, and mostly we all get carted out. But there was not a hint of bitterness in Bob Hawke. He was excited to be alive. And it struck me, at the end of the day, that here was a man who was just really delighted to be Bob Hawke. I've got to say that Australia without Bob feels a little less bright. It feels a little less colourful and a little less interesting. Yet modern Australia is such a vastly better place for having been touched by the existence of Bob Hawke.
So I want to give my condolence today to Blanche and all the Hawke family, and to thank them for allowing their man to become our great man. He was Labor through and through. He was from us. But, ultimately, he was actually much bigger than us. He was a part of the entire Australian polity. At the end of the day, he is owned by every Australian. In his passing, in the words of Edward Stanton, spoken about another past hero, Bob now belongs to the ages.
I thank the member for Corio for a wonderful personal address. It's a great privilege to join the other speakers and pay tribute to the Labor Party's longest-serving Prime Minister and one of Australia's great Prime Ministers, Bob Hawke.
His contribution to his country will not be forgotten. On his watch, the Australian economy became more competitive and open, as it's been said, with deregulation of the labour market, tariff reform, privatisation and, of course, the floating of the Australian dollar.
On his watch, Australia stood tall on the world stage, standing against apartheid but also strengthening our relationships with our neighbours and also with our key ally, the United States. Bob Hawke developed a personal rapport with Ronald Reagan. He inaugurated AUSMIN. He was instrumental to the establishment of APEC. I also want to pay tribute to his deep affection for the Jewish people and for the state of Israel, which was a continuous thread in his public and private life. In fact, his tireless advocacy on behalf of Soviet Jews was something that will never be forgotten, and it led to a number of them being given freedom and being taken from behind the Iron Curtain.
On the environment, the Franklin, the Daintree, the Antarctica and the Kakadu national parks all had their protections extended, benefitting from the signature of his pen and the vision of his heart.
It wasn't just what he achieved that was special; it was also the way he went about it and the impression that Bob Hawke left. Whether he was shedding tears of sadness when he spoke about his family, or shedding tears of joy when Australia won the America's Cup, his nation was behind him. The Australian people loved Bob Hawke. He knew it, and they thrived together.
Like many in this place, I have my own Bob Hawke story. When I was a young student at University College in Oxford, in the main dining room there were portraits of heads of state, prime ministers and presidents who had attended that college—Bill Clinton, Harold Wilson and Clement Attlee—but Bob Hawke, who had attended that college at Oxford, had no place on those walls. A couple of years later, when I returned to Australia and I was doing my articles of clerkship—the House may find it hard to believe I was very shy and retiring back then—Michael Duffy, who was the Attorney-General in Bob Hawke's government, was there, and I went up to him and said: 'Look, you wouldn't know me from Adam, but I'd like to contact Mr Hawke. Is there any way to do it?'
He took me into a small room and he then dialled Bob Hawke. He said to Bob Hawke, 'I've got this young man here who wants to speak to you about a proposition.' So I did. I said: 'Mr Hawke, I would like to see your portrait hang in University College at Oxford. As an Australian and as a former Prime Minister, you should hang there.' Quick as a flash, he said, 'That's great.' I asked who his favourite portrait artist was. He said, 'Robert Hannaford.' He sat for a number of sessions. The portrait was done.
The bill then came. It was quite a significant amount of money. I was thinking, 'How do we put this together?' Bob Hawke, who was famous for his love of horseracing, was in partnership with John Singleton and others. Their horse won a major race. The next morning, I rang Bob Hawke and I said, 'Look, is there any chance that your friends may want to tip in for this portrait?' He said, 'Leave it to me.' He rang back not long after. He said that it was done. The portrait was flown over to the United Kingdom. Bob Hawke himself flew over. The high commissioner went from London to Oxford. The portrait now hangs in University College at Oxford for all Australians to see their great Prime Minister.
The final word I want to leave with is to Bob Hawke's father, Clem. In 1979, before Bob Hawke had entered politics, Clem was asked about the prospects for his son. Clem said: 'Bob was as bright as a button as a boy. He is a humanitarian. Anything Bob takes on, he does well. He has a wonderful heart, sympathy for the underdog and great ideals.' Clem said of Bob, 'I think he would be a very good prime minister.' Clem, you were right. You're probably up there talking to Bob now and agreeing on one thing: your son was a great Australian Prime Minister. Rest in peace.
I would like to start this condolence motion by recognising that we gather together on Ngunnawal country, as is appropriate when we're speaking about Robert James Lee Hawke. Of course, he was our longest serving Labor Prime Minister and the member for Wills, in Melbourne's north, from 1980 to 1992. We know that Bob was born in Bordertown, South Australia, more than 89 years ago. He lived a life of public service and giving. I think that will be the overwhelming theme today.
In the words of the member for Maribyrnong, who made a statement on behalf of us all when Bob passed:
With his passing, the labour movement salutes our greatest son, 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.
A well-known quote from Bob Hawke, which I think is powerful and certainly guided his public life, was, 'The things which are most important don't always scream the loudest.' How true that is, and how important it is that all of us in this place remember it.
Bob is genuinely mourned by Australians, those who voted for him and those who didn't. That was what set Bob apart: his ability to reach across those things that divide us and to unite Australians. The last time I saw Bob and Blanche was at the Woodford Folk Festival, along with Tony Burke, Anthony and many others. Christmas had just gone. The wonderful Blanche attended many forums. For the most part, Bob sat in what was known as the Kremlin, a collection of buildings and tents from which Bill Hauritz and his trusty team ran the festival. His body was indeed frail, but his mind was totally attentive and his eyes were lighting up with conversation. He was friendly, happy to see you, charming and compassionate—just as he was when I sat with him at the Labor Party's 20th anniversary celebration of the Hawke government at the Hurlstone Park RSL club. Bob made a rousing speech that night; it moved us all. As our leader has said, at the launch of Bob's now much-thumbed, post-it-noted autobiography, I also listened to Bob; and, like everyone else, I found his capacity completely awe-inspiring.
Bob Hawke offered a vision of an inclusive, forward-thinking Australia. He was able to tap into Australians' sense of fairness to find the rightful place of First Nations people. He transformed the conversation on land rights and self-determination. He announced the 1987 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, which examined the death of Aboriginal people in custody during the 1980s. He established ATSIC, giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians elected representation and a say over our own affairs—huge steps forward. Despite the troubles of ATSIC in the latter years, and its abolition, Bob Hawke laid the groundwork for a voice to parliament and for self-determination.
Bob increased funding for services and programs that benefited First Nations Australians, and Bob was the Prime Minister when Uluru-Kata Tjuta was handed back to the traditional owners. At Bob's memorial, I related that, in my home, I have a rare screen-print of that hand-back, signed by the traditional owners: Reece and Cassidy Uluru, Nipper, Nui Minyintirri, Kanari and many others. Six of the signatures on that screen-print are marked with a cross. In 1988, Bob received the Barunga Statement, a statement that sits in this House. If there's one thing that every member should do today, it's go and have a look at that statement on level 1. It was a statement on bark. It called for self-determination, land rights and recognition, and resulted in the Prime Minister committing our country to a treaty-making process. Bob's response dispelled the false dichotomy and fear-mongering that Indigenous advancement meant a loss for non-indigenous Australians. Bob knew it meant advancement for all. Thirty-one years ago, Bob Hawke said of Barunga:
… in this bicentenary year, I've asked all Australians to understand that those 200 years which come on top of 40,000 years of Aboriginal culture, traditions and civilisation, that it is the Aboriginal people who were the prior occupiers and owners of this land.
But it's incumbent on all of us in this place to make good on that very genuine commitment to advance reconciliation and make sure a treaty with First Nations Australians is delivered.
And, on a very personal note, I had the honour to deliver the acknowledgement of country at the memorial services for both Bob and Hazel Hawke. They are both very treasured memories.
Many people have spoken about Bob's achievements, but none so far have mentioned Landcare. This month marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Landcare, one of Bob's greatest achievements. He managed to unite people across the political divide to take practical steps to protect biodiversity and natural resources, and protect the productive capacity of our country. I have a deeply personal connection here too. My late husband, Rick Farley, was part of the creation of Landcare. It's something Bob graciously acknowledged at the Landcare launch. He said:
Today I am committing $320 million to a package of measures to apply over the Year and the Decade of Landcare.
… I express here my gratitude to Rick Farley of the NFF and Phillip Toyne of the ACF. They're two organisations one would probably not immediately imagine forming an alliance—but it is an indication of the importance of this issue, and an inspiring demonstration of the way forward that they used their imagination and commitment to develop proposals and put them constructively to Government. Their work has been an invaluable contribution to the creation of this new program.
Bob Hawke knew what was really important when he said, back then:
This is our country, our future. I give my commitment to you, kids, that my generation will hand on to you a better country, a brighter future.
This, ultimately, is the single task all of us in this place share. At the launch of Landcare, Bob also spoke about climate change—truly visionary—and Australia's responsibility. He said:
I've said the environment is a global problem, and I can assure you Australia's concern for the environment doesn't end at our shores.
We will be taking the lead in developing international conventions on greenhouse gas emissions and on biological diversity.
They were words not only more relevant but more urgent today. This is but one example of Bob choosing the hard task of improving Australia over easy politics.
Bob was popular and respected because he had the conviction and the strength of character to make decisions which were not necessarily popular, but which no-one could deny he was doing it in the national interest. Landcare is but one example. I want to say that Paul Kelly's article on Bob's passing accurately described Bob. He said:
He had exceptional political qualities, enjoying high popularity for a long period, and sound judgment that saw him lead a uniquely reformist Labor government.
As a consequence, Bob's legacy is all around us. You will hear it today many times: the Medicare card; year 12 completion rates; universities that are open to all based on merit; our sense of fairness; our national understanding that growth is stronger when it is shared and when the safety net for the most vulnerable is strong and generous; our modern and outward-looking economy; and the protection our environment enjoys including, as people have said, the Daintree, the Franklin and, of course, Antarctica.
Bob was unique among prime ministers. He allowed Australians in their living rooms to see his human frailty. We all know and shared at least some of his disappointments and fears; people have already spoken about them. I don't know if it would be possible today for someone to reveal so much of themselves as Bob did but I do think it had a lot to do with why Australians could relate to him, trust him and respect him.
In conclusion, I would like to leave the House with a small anecdote about Bob's kindness and care for people. Some years ago, as member for Canterbury in the New South Wales parliament, I helped Bob's stepson, Louis—Blanche's son—who was being evicted from an artist's collective in Summer Hill. Weeks later, and completely out of the blue, I got a call from Bob to thank me for helping, to thank me for doing my job and to thank me for being caring. It is a great example of the calibre of Bob Hawke. To Blanche and family, and of course remembering Hazel, we say KO to a great Australian.
I firstly extend not only my deepest and sincerest condolences to the family, but also to you, the Labor family. You, as well as this nation, have lost a favourite son—one that will never be forgotten. When Bob Hawke became Prime Minister in 1983, I was a small boy in Western Queensland, six years old. My only appreciation of politics at that time, after my father had been elected to the Bjelke-Petersen government, was Queensland politics. But let me tell you, some years later, as I matured and understood the impact the Hawke years had in shaping our nation and shaping regional Australia, we are far richer for it. He is the father of modern Australia. Reforms that he implemented, his government, with the aid of the opposition, and the courage it took to implement those economic reforms, deregulating the financial sector, meant that there was capital that flowed for the first time into the regional communities. That meant regional communities could finally flourish and grow, by opening up to an outside world, allowing our farmers to not only trade and compete, but compete at a fair level. Bob fought for a fair go for farmers on the international stage. Opening up trade markets but making sure that we got a fair go was so important to each and every one of us.
But one of his biggest legacies that will always live on and will always be seen in regional and rural Australia is that of Landcare, and that was achieved with another great Australian in Rick Farley. That was one of the greatest achievements, I think, that regional and rural Australia will be able to look back on, because that's underpinned our sustainability and our longevity in regional and rural Australia. It took vision and it took courage to bring people from all persuasions together to look for a greater good and a good that was going to last in perpetuity. It's something that I know personally as my own family farm has benefited from the advent of Landcare. We were some of the perpetrators of some of the poorest farming practices in our district, but the advent of Landcare meant that we finally understood our country; we understood how to manage it and make it better and how to live with it.
So, in closing, let me say I think Bob Hawke personifies what's great about this country, that the ordinary can become the extraordinary. Australia has lost a truly great Australian, but we are so much richer for having him. Thank you.
I first met Bob Hawke in the mid-1970s when I was with the Northern Territory Trades and Labour Council. I was charged with the responsibility of going to an ACTU conference in Sydney to argue against the prospect of uranium mining in the Northern Territory. My remit was very clear: 'You go down there and you tell those bastards that they're not to mine uranium in our country. The workers of the Northern Territory won't tolerate it.' Of course, that was an easy measure to sell. So I went to the ACTU conference, diligently and forcefully put my case, called Bob Hawke every name in the world, and got done like a dinner. An hour or two later at the pub, Bob rocks up. 'How are you, son?' 'Fine, Bob.' He said: 'Well, no hard feelings. That's the way it is.' And for me that was the start of what became a very good and long relationship with Robert James Lee Hawke.
Next week, on 11 July, we will celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the election of the 35th Parliament in 1987—the parliament to which I was elected to become a member of the Hawke government, and I am the last remaining fossil of the Hawke government in the parliament. And it was a great pleasure to be involved with him and with all of those who were involved in the decision-making processes of the labour movement and the Labor Party during that wonderful period. We've heard eulogised already, in many ways, the achievements of that great government—over those great governments, I should say. And when I stand back and look at it—I was thinking about it last night, 'What the hell am I going to say that's going to be a little bit different or add something to what others have said?' I could only think that my personal experience of the government might be useful because, despite the fact that we have these great achievements writ large—and they were terrific achievements, of that there is no doubt—and we have transformed the nation for the better and forever, it was a collective process, and that needs to be contemplated.
Now, we've got a pretty good caucus—I've been a member of a number of them—but this is not a fractious caucus; this is a unified caucus. The caucuses of bygone days were not so unified; they were very fractious. If you can, contemplate the ideological divide across the Labor movement when we were deregulating the finance industry, reducing tariffs, changing the face of manufacturing in Australia and privatising assets. Can you imagine the debates that took place within the Labor family in this House—in the old house in the first instance? They were extensive, they were difficult, they happened and they were encouraged. I can well recall meetings about the privatisation of Telstra that went on for hours; Qantas, hours. We know how to have meetings in the Labor Party. We like a good yarn. Those were the days when the Left used to go out and brief the media after Left meetings. Those were the days when the Left had a position on the budget. It was an interesting period, and I was so privileged to be part of it. Bob had such charisma that, ultimately, he was able to bring it all together. He had some great lieutenants, of that there is no question, and we shouldn't doubt them, both the factional leaders and his ministerial and cabinet colleagues. They were a wonderful support, but they argued virulently amongst themselves and in cabinet.
I'll come to one particular issue which Bob believed may have eventually caused his own demise. We've heard the member for Barton refer to a number of important issues dealing with the First Australians. I want to talk for a moment about Landcare and recognise the member for Barton's since-deceased husband—a wonderful man, Rick Farley—and Phillip Toyne, who was a great friend of mine and someone I knew for many years. They had the capacity to work together within a framework set up by Bob Hawke to allow us to develop the national Landcare scheme. No-one would have contemplated the capacity of a Labor government to bring these forces together, moderate them and come up with a scheme with in excess of $350 million or so, yet it happened.
One sign of his capacity to bring the nation together was the Prices and Incomes Accord. We had come into our conversation something that, sadly, I have to say, has dropped off: the whole concept of the social wage and the ability of working people to accept less than they might otherwise get for the fact that the government was going to invest in services for them and their families—a better education, better health, better infrastructure—the sorts of things we argue for in this place on a daily basis. That conversation was had with the Australian working people. The Australian nation was involved in that conversation. What the Prices and Incomes Accord did was allow the nation, on the back of Australian workers, to go forward. We shouldn't underestimate the difficulty of that process and the importance of it and the importance of the partnership of Bob Hawke, Bill Kelty of the ACTU, and the team. It was extraordinary. Sitting as a member of the caucus, as a member of the government, watching all this happen, I was left in awe, really. I saw these great national figures, people of great personality—Peter Walsh, Kim Beazley, John Dawkins, John Button, Neal Blewett, Mick Young—replete with skill, capacity, brilliance and a willingness to achieve for the good of the whole Australian nation together. I could go on for a week, but I won't. It was such a delightful thing to do, to be a member of that government, and we should learn from it. We should learn about our capacity as a parliament to achieve great things for the nation. We should learn that we have, within us, the innate capacity to do good things; we just need to have the will to do it.
I want to talk, in a more concentrated moment or two, about First Australians. Bob had a couple of losses. Prior to entering into this parliament, I worked with the Central Land Council in Alice Springs. Pat Dodson, now Senator Pat Dodson, was the director and I was the policy officer. It was after the 1983 election and the issue of national land rights came up. The government committed itself to national land rights and the first iteration of its proposals reinforced the strength of the land rights legislation of the Northern Territory, allowing Aboriginal people a veto, control of their land and a whole range of things within it. Then, scurrilously, the Premier of Western Australia, Brian Burke, scuttled it. We didn't get national land rights, because Brian Burke was selfish and, I might say, racist, in undermining the aspirations of Aboriginal people for national land rights and in undermining the capacity of the Hawke government to achieve that objective. He did it in partnership with the mining industry, who in those days left no stone unturned to try and overturn any rights that Aboriginal people might have to control what was happening on their land. Ultimately, the National Federation of Land Councils came together and said: 'We're not going to cop something that Brian Burke says is acceptable. We won't have it.' So they campaigned, and I was involved with Pat. We were here courting the government. We were here pressuring the government not to pass the national land rights legislation, because it would've weakened and undermined the rights of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and elsewhere. Now, that's a shame. That all happened because of the recalcitrant, selfish Labor premier. It's a fact of history. People may debate me, but I'm prepared to back up what I have to say through facts.
Post that period, Bob did some extraordinary things. He had this innate belief in opposing racism and discrimination. There was the creation of ATSIC. We hear the calls for a voice—this was a voice. It was dismantled, sadly, by the Howard government, but this was a voice based on regional assemblies around the country. It was a very forceful thing. It gave Aboriginal people rights, which they previously did not have. It gave them a recognition of self-management and self-determination, which was opposed, I might say, by the conservatives at the time. That's sad, but then, on the back of the meeting at Barunga and the Barunga Statement, we had the calls for reconciliation and the reconciliation council, and we had the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. They were things that would not have happened if it had not been for Bob Hawke's leadership.
We've got a long way to go. On 23 August 1988, we had the first substantive debates in this new parliament. The first motion to be moved was one which acknowledged Aboriginal Australians and asked for recognition and an affirmation of the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage and a whole range of other things. It wasn't supported, ultimately, by John Howard. They sought to amend the legislation.
I was given the honour to be the second government speaker behind the Prime Minister. I remember that day, and the pride with which I was able to stand at this dispatch box. And, during the course of his contribution, the Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, made some seriously important observations which we need to contemplate and recognise and understand and appreciate that we can do a lot damn better. He said, in part:
… the Government is committed to a real and lasting reconciliation, achieved through full consultation and honest negotiation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal citizens of this nation.
He goes on:
It will be recognised by the compact or treaty which we are committed to negotiating with Aboriginal and Islander people, and it will be recognised by our support for this motion.
That was a commitment we have yet to meet. What is wrong with us? And, at the conclusion of his speech, he referred to some statements by a truly great Australian, someone who was a mentor of mine and for whom I worked: Dr HC, or 'Nugget', Coombs. And this is what the Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, said:
What is required by government is the political will to follow through with these goals. In a recent article about the proposed treaty Dr Nugget Coombs said:
It's a politician's job to recognise when the will is there to do something; but they also have a responsibility to create that will.
Again quoting Bob Hawke:
On the spurious claim that such a path to reconciliation would create division in the community, Nugget Coombs went on to say:
It's never divisive to correct injustice. The fact of injustice is divisive and will continue to be until we correct it and learn to live with it. People who benefit from injustice will oppose this, but you don't stop working for justice simply because people around you don't like it.
That seems to me something we should all learn from.
But I want to make some concluding remarks around something which Bob believed caused his demise and relates to the internal workings of this Labor Party. And this was the issue of Coronation Hill. Arguably the most disruptive period within the Hawke governments was this argument over mining of Coronation Hill, Guratba to the Jawoyn people, the resting place of Bula and referred to by them as the sickness country. His support for opposing mining at Coronation Hill caused a bitter feud in cabinet and caused him great conflict and argument with his closest friends. He stood up to them and he insisted—he insisted—on achieving his way, but it wasn't without great divisive debate. And I referred earlier about the attitude of the mining industry. Well, this is reflected in one Hugh Morgan, who was then managing director of Western Mining Corporation, when he likened the defeat of the proposal for mining at Coronation Hill to the fall of Singapore. He said:
The decision on Coronation Hill is not merely bizarre, it is resonant with foreboding.
… … …
Unless it is strongly resisted and overturned within a short period of time, this decision will undermine the moral basis of our legitimacy as a nation, and lead to such divisiveness as to bring about political paralysis …
Do you believe that? This was a leading Australian industry figure—remember, we're talking 30 years ago—and it was scandalous. But sadly he had the ear of some in cabinet, and they vociferously argued against the propositions being put by Bob Hawke. Bob has commented on this. In his memoirs, he said: 'This decision divided a cabinet and alienated the mining industry. It aroused all the passions which flare when Aboriginal rights, issues and beliefs are added to the already combustible environmental versus development confrontation.'
I don't have time to go through all the arguments about the environment and other matters but I was integrally involved in this decision as the member of the Northern Territory representing the interests of the Jawoyn people. Ultimately, Bob Hawke said:
My position on mining at Coronation Hill was accepted. This was comfortable for the more bitter of my opponents, who had the luxury of making it known that the decision represented the will of the Prime Minister and not the majority view of the Cabinet.
I refer to an article by Sid Maher in The Australian on 31 December 2015, where he said:
… "I was annoyed beyond measure by the attitude of many of my colleagues, of their cynical dismissal of the beliefs of the Jawoyn people."
He challenged cabinet that those who opposed the Jawoyn position essentially were saying that the traditional owners were talking—
And excuse me for using this language—
"bullshit". "I think I made probably one of the strongest and bitterest attacks I ever made on my colleagues in the cabinet," …
Bob later said that he had no doubt that this contributed to his loss of the prime ministership to Paul Keating in December 1991.
The final comment refers to that contest in 1991. There were a group of us in the caucus who were solidly of the belief that Bob should have remained Prime Minister. In the first Hawke challenge, Bob's senior colleagues all combined around him and ensured that he won. In the second Hawke challenge, they fell off like flies, and his senior cabinet colleagues went to him and said, 'Bob, we don't think you can win; you should pull out.'
There was a group of us backbenchers, or parliamentary secretaries, who went over to the Lodge and sat down with Bob—the member for Banks, Daryl Melham; Con Sciacca; the former member for Burke, Neil O'Keefe; and me—and we said, 'Bob, what do you want us to do?' And he said, 'I want to contest this.' We said, 'We will go out and try and get you the numbers.' Now, remember, this is against the desire of his senior cabinet colleagues, his mates, who had told him to move on. There was only one of them who came out publicly supporting his position, and that was Simon Crean. We had the ballot, and Bob lost 56 to 51. It was an extraordinary outcome, really, when you consider the mountain of opposition that was being put against him by his cabinet colleagues.
I have lived a very fortunate life and I've had the great honour and privilege of being in this place for a damn long time. But I cannot—cannot—leave this despatch box without saying what a great man he was. We know this because others have said it. We know it because of what was achieved and how this nation has changed as a result of what he did and what he showed us. What I say to the government now when speaking—and I see the minister at the table talking about the need for a treaty and the issues I addressed earlier: constitutional recognition and a voice—is, 'Just remove the ideological shackles and the blinkers that prevent you looking across and saying that we can do this together,' because we can, and we must. Let's not be like John Howard those many years ago. Let's make sure we reach across the table and achieve this outcome. It's a challenge for us, and we can do it.
Finally, Hazel Hawke doesn't get a lot of mention here but she was one wonderful woman and a great partner to Bob when he was Prime Minister. In the pilots' strike of 1989 she was due to open an art exhibition at Yuelamu, which is about 200 kays north of Alice Springs. We flew from here in a twin-engine plane via Broken Hill to Alice Springs so she could drive up the highway to do this event. She needn't have done that, but she did it. She was a great and wonderful woman, and a great partner to Bob.
To Blanche, Susan, Steve and Rosslyn and their extended families: please accept my condolences and that of Elizabeth, my partner, who knew Bob well. May he rest in peace.
I offer my deep condolences to the Hawke family and to all the broader members of the Labor family represented today by members opposite. In thinking about what to say at this moment my mind was drawn to a really beautiful essay on leadership by Isaiah Berlin. There have been lots of mentions of Isaiah today; this is a different Isaiah. He made a comparison of leadership styles, in a wonderful essay after World War II, of Roosevelt and Churchill. He described two alternatives—what I think he considered to be opposite strengths in leadership. The first was an individual completely at home, not merely in the present but perhaps even more so in the future; someone who was capable of knowing with clarity where they wanted to go, by what means and why. He described those types of people as policy innovators having a half-conscious, almost premonitory awareness of the coming shape of their own society. These were essentially people who could see clearly an outcome for how they thought the world should be and could see clearly paths around how to get to that outcome.
Then he described an alternative leadership style as being anchored in the strongest possible sense of the past—what he conceived as a sort of unseverable attachment to a description he gave of a brightly coloured vision of history. He saw those types of people as being able to reflect back at their own country's people a composite reality of who they really were that very much resonated with them. It seems that what can make for particularly successful and powerful leadership is people who have both that authentic and insightful sense of who their nation's people really are and who can themselves reflect their own country's contemporary mood back at the people they represent, but who at the same time are futurists. I guess that's in the sense that they're committed to changing central parts of the social and economic landscape that they find themselves in.
Bob Hawke was Prime Minister between 1983 and 1991, obviously, and so he was the Prime Minister of the youth of many of the people here in this parliament and the Prime Minister of the youth of many Australians of generation X. As Prime Minister, Bob Hawke was clearly one of those national leaders who was able to harness that genuine love he had of his country into an energy and optimism, and reflect the best strengths of Australians back to themselves. Very fortunately for Australia, those rare personal qualities weren't squandered. As we've heard this morning, they were harnessed and utilised as a force for enormous good. The eight years of the Hawke government were eight years of government that had broad enough appeal to underwrite this amazing, energetic, risk-averse and overwhelmingly successful commitment to substantial economic reform. That's not to deny all the very significant social policy changes during that era, but it was a period in Australia's government which saw this incredible rarity of the social strength of an individual in a national leader being translated into hard-nosed economic reform.
One personal piece of evidence of the breadth of the appeal of Bob Hawke and his government became apparent to me through the actions of my grandmother. Norma was a very strong-willed woman, a lifelong dyed-in-the wool Liberal, and I recall very vividly in circa 1992, she broke her television because of Paul Keating. It's fair to say that Prime Minister Keating was not Norma's particular cup of tea, so to speak, and that she was a very passionate type—in fact, she is the genealogical link that makes the member for Kennedy and I, as well as friends, blood relatives, but that is a story for another time; by personal invitation, I will tell that story. But Norma, my grandmother, in my presence, threw what I think might have been a vase, which was proximate to her mood, at her own TV, breaking it in the process.
This wasn't quite an event as spectacular as Elvis's shooting of his 25-inch RCA TV because he took offence at the singer Robert Goulet, but it was nevertheless a bit of a sight to witness your grandmother crack her own TV with a swift throw from the outfield of her living room. When I asked her why at the time—and she wasn't in the mood for longer explanations—she simply said, and it will always stick with me: 'They should bring back Bob Hawke. He was a great bloke and at least he liked cricket.' So the fact this woman, who was a dyed-in-the-wool lifelong Liberal from the other side of that voting divide, felt an obvious and genuine affection for Bob Hawke, demonstrated to me then—as have the many reflections today—and since his passing, the real power of those people who shine back through the prime ministership a genuine love of the country's people.
This is obviously a day for the Labor members of the House, and I'm very much looking forward to their recollections and insights, particularly from those who knew the man—and I only met him once at the WACA Ground in the President's Room on the first day of a Perth test match, and he was very generous. I want to quickly finish with the shortest possible story relating to cricket and the University of Western Australia. It was a story relayed by Bob Hawke himself on ABC Radio in Perth in 2013 and it seemed to capture a slice of the spirit of the individual man, something of a Belle Epoque in Western Australia and something of the place that is the University of Western Australia, which was a formative part of Bob Hawke's life. The story was relayed by Bob Hawke—and I might say that UWA, for those of us who've had the great privilege to spend time there, is a place of incredible physical beauty. CGI could not visualise a place more physically Eden-esque than UWA in such a uniquely Australian way. That sense of oasis must have been even more heightened in the late 1940s and early 1950s when Bob Hawke was there.
When you read in the John Curtin library, in the mid-1940s—and it changed a bit in the early 1950s—it was a 35-hour plane trip to Sydney. The isolation of Perth and that oasis effect at UWA must have been quite remarkable. Bob Hawke told the story of having a job as a gardener in 1952, hauling manure by horse and cart to the UWA campus rose gardens. So, a thoroughly modern Prime Minister had that as a job at UWA. On the third of these trips, the horse apparently decided it wasn't much interested in completing the remainder of the work. Bob Hawke approached this problem in a typical consensus and conciliatory way, attempting, he said, to have a word with the horse to see if he could persuade it to do what he wanted it to do. The horse wasn't convinced. It bolted. The cart tipped and ripped a pretty good gash in Bob Hawke's thigh. On that very same day, the South African cricket side was playing the Governor's Eleven at James Oval at UWA. Bob Hawke stumbled onto the field where he found the South African middle-order test batsman Roy McLean on the field. Roy promptly clasped his hands over Bob's thigh to stop the bleeding until an ambulance arrived. What a place and time that must have been, talking about brightly coloured visions of history, and what Bob Hawke lived through and what it brought to his prime ministership was remarkable. So, of course, was the way in which he was such a futurist. By his own admission, in finality, he was a pretty haphazard student during his first two terms at UWA, soaking up what campus life had to offer.
The end to the story that he told on Perth radio was the one alluded to by the opposition leader—that one evening he was on his way home from university on a motorcycle and he had a quite bad accident. He ruptured his spleen, found himself on the critically ill list for a week and came very close to death. He cited that accident on his way home from UWA as a turning point where he felt that his life had been spared for a purpose and that he should make the most of it. Of course, that he very much did, as today's proceedings are testament to. So, again, my sincerest condolences to Bob Hawke's family and to all of my colleagues opposite.
I loved Bob. I loved him as an Australian, I loved him as a Labor leader and I loved him because, over the last 10 years, we became friends. We became quite close. We've already heard from people the way Bob Hawke, as an Australian, knew us and was of us and loved us. But there was also—what no speech can do to bring it together—the way Bob Hawke would fill a room.
Bob Hawke was not a tall man and every time the political barb was thrown at John Howard with the term 'little Johnny Howard', John Howard would protest that he was actually taller than Bob Hawke. But there was something in a small person's body that created this human giant the moment he walked into a room or the moment he spoke. I remember as a member of Young Labor, as a delegate at the New South Wales conference at Town Hall, when Bob Hawke would come in to address us. The beginning of the speech was always dreadful. Bob was not good at reading a fully written out speech. At some point about 10 minutes in, he'd get bored with what had been written and he would just take off. There are a number of people who can walk into a small meeting room and fill it, but not many people can fill the Town Hall. But that was the measure of Bob.
But he also loved the things that we loved. One of the only moments of tension between me and Bob was one time when he offered me one of his Bob Hawke beers. Now, of course, as is common for people of Irish heritage, I'm coeliac, so there's only a couple of brands of beer that I can have that don't wreck me. And when I said no, there was a movement in Bob Hawke's eyebrows. They sharpened. I started to try to explain, and as the eyebrows got sharper and sharper I had that moment when, for the first time, I saw Bob as he looked when Andrew Peacock and John Howard looked at him—that complete 'I do not understand what you are saying to me'. And from that moment on, every time I caught up with Bob, I made sure I had some gluten-free beer that I had brought with me so that the challenge wouldn't be quite the same.
We've talked a lot about Bob's prime ministership, but it's important that we as Australians realise the way he represented us on the world stage and, even after he stopped being in this room, kept representing us on the world stage. The Boao Forum for Asia is what China has always wanted to be the Davos of Asia—a large international conference. Bob himself was asked to be the chair of that. He had the view that, no, you needed to have an Asian leader as well, and the job was shared with Fidel Ramos. But Bob would go every year to Boao, as have senior ministers on each side of this House over the years.
When he was there, there would be one night when all the Australians were called to the stage. Australians from all different businesses—everyone from a foreign minister from Liberal or Labor through to Twiggy Forrest or whoever was there—would be called up onto the stage, and they would be obliged to sing 'Waltzing Matilda' with Bob. But there was a rule: he would hand the microphone to everyone when it came to the choruses but the moment it got to the verses he would seize it back, because only Bob was allowed to sing the verses. If anyone, even though they didn't have the microphone, tried to join in, they'd get a sharp look and they'd be told that was for him. That 'Waltzing Matilda' would be heard at events throughout Australia and the world.
I think one of the testaments to Bob's legacy is the fact that today we want to pretend so much of it was bipartisan. And that's a good thing. That's good that we want to remember the world as it is now. But Bob was always amused about the number of fights he had to have for things now considered bipartisan. He was okay with it. If people want to own the legacy, go for it. The truth is, he always had the view that if you were going to deregulate the economy you had to increase the security in people's lives.
That is why Medicare was fought for, and that wasn't bipartisan. That is why superannuation was fought for, which still isn't bipartisan. That is why one of the great achievements and great honours for all members of this House, and one that will always rest with Bill Shorten, is the fact that a resolution on race—that Bill Shorten had the privilege to move last year—was carried without dissent in this parliament. It was, with only one word change, exactly what had been moved by Bob Hawke years earlier, with John Howard as Leader of the Opposition insisting that it be opposed and divided on, and people like Philip Ruddock crossing the floor. I don't say that to draw back the pain of the past but to simply say let's not pretend this was easy for Bob at the time and there was sudden bipartisanship. Where Australia has got to now is so much of what Bob was fighting for then.
As an Australian, Bob understood so well the concept of mateship. In conversations with him late last year, when he was tired and he was frail, there was one moment where he particularly lit up. He said, 'You know, Paul and I are mates again. We've sorted it out. We've fixed it.' And he beamed. It meant so much to him, that the years of tension and difference with Paul Keating had gone full circle and the friendship was there again.
I love Bob because I'm Labor. For me, I joined the Labor Party because of the saving of the Daintree rainforest. It was the campaign for the Daintree that caused me to become a member of the Labor Party in the first place. We can rattle off, very quickly, the Franklin, the Daintree, Kakadu and Antarctica. Bob and I started to become friends in the years when I held the environment portfolio. We need to remember, with Antarctica, it wasn't just a simple decision. It had got to the cabinet papers. As Bob was reading his cabinet papers, on the weekend, it was already there as a recommendation that Australia would agree to mining in Antarctica.
Bob read it and responded with a term that is certainly not parliamentary and took it to cabinet. The advice from everyone around cabinet and all the smart people was, 'It's too late; it's done. Every other country has signed on.' Bob said, 'No, we're not doing this.' He got onto his friend Jacques Cousteau, and both Paul and Bob were involved in conversations with Michel Rocard, then the Prime Minister of France. They turned it all around.
It was a great privilege for the 20th anniversary of that treaty to be in Hobart with Bob Hawke and Michel Rocard, celebrating the 20th anniversary of what was and always will be the largest conservation decision in the history of our planet. There never has been before, and there won't be again, an occasion when a conservation decision of that size is made on this planet. That belongs to two men, who have both now passed away: Bob Hawke and Michel Rocard.
Bob had never been to any of our bases in Antarctica, even though he was responsible for them. So as environment minister I managed to get him onto one of the planes. I was so happy and surprised, because I had never seen the photos, that at his Opera House memorial service one of the photos that came up was of Bob in Antarctica. I was worried at the time of him going to Antarctica as to whether or not we might get in trouble for having sent him there and whether it might become a partisan thing. It never did but, just to make sure, I made sure that the shadow minister for the environment, the member for Flinders, was also invited on the trip to Antarctica, which he didn't take up, and I've not let him know why until now. That was back when we got Bob there.
Warren Snowdon referred to the Kakadu decision. One of the arguments that Bob used—and this was public at the time—against his own cabinet's decisions, when the traditional beliefs of the Jawoyn people were being mocked, was saying: 'How can you expect respect for your Christian faith and not respect the faith of the people who have always been on this land on this particular issue? How can you do that?' Bob would often talk about his cabinet. He loved his cabinet. There were many times he would say to me, 'You have a good cabinet.' That was when we were in government. He was very complimentary of the frontbench that we took to the last election. But he would always pause after that and say, 'But it's not as good as my cabinet.' But notwithstanding how much he loved his cabinet, even though a majority said to go the other way, he put his authority on the line. His view was that that was the final straw in losing the prime ministership.
When stage 3 of Kakadu was added to the World Heritage area, there was a gap within the boundary. It was an area called Koongarra. The reason there was that gap, Koongarra, was that the traditional owners, the Djok clan, at that point were divided as to whether they wanted it permanently protected or whether they might want it mined at some point in time. Twenty years later, the Djok clan was down to one member. There is today only one surviving member of the Djok clan, Jeffrey Lee. For all the different moments I have had in this chamber, the most special one for me, I suspect, will always be when we put through the legislation to add Koongarra to the World Heritage area and add it to the national park. Harry Jenkins was in the chair. I was the minister moving the motion. The shadow minister was in here for it. Sitting side by side, on those public gallery chairs just over there, were Bob Hawke and Jeffrey Lee. They were there to watch the next stage of the Kakadu legacy take place. When we had a media conference later that day—which never made it to evening news, but that's life—Bob took no credit for himself. His entire speech to the press gallery was about Jeffrey Lee. He is a man who could have become a multimillionaire, yet had decided to preserve his land forever by adding it to World Heritage area.
Finally, as I referred to at the start, Bob and I became friends and quite close. I've never known anybody so ready to die. He was not wishing it on, but he believed that, yes, it was imminent. At the Woodford Folk Festival over summer, he said this to me many times: 'You know, mate, I won't be back. This is my last one.' He was relaxed about it. For a lot of us who were friends of his, we found this really challenging. We weren't quite as relaxed about it as he was. But he was convinced, and right, that he wouldn't be coming back.
He would sit and do his cryptic crosswords each day, because he was determined to always keep his mind sharp. He would do his cryptic crossword each time. As Linda Burney mentioned, the room where it was done at the Woodford Folk Festival is their head office and, as only the Woodford Folk Festival can do, is called the Kremlin. Sitting at the Kremlin each day, Bob would be there doing his cryptic crossword. There was a view that he was probably too frail to go out to the festival this time. Instead of leading the festival in Waltzing Matilda, they recorded some and played it on the big screen. The crowd went wild. While he would sing Waltzing Matildafor the crowd outside, within the Kremlin it was always Solidarity Forever. The rule was the same: don't try to join in in the verses. Our role was to help with the chorus, with fists raised, and he would take the verses for himself.
Towards the end of the festival, Bob turned to his great friend Bill Hauritz who, together with Amanda Jackes, runs the festival. They went out on the buggy for Bob to have a look at the festival. They went from the private area to the public area, and no-one looked. They drove the full length of the first street, and no-one had noticed. Bob was quite crestfallen and he turned to Bill and he said, 'They've forgotten.' And Bill thought, 'Well, we'll turn the corner and we'll go back.' And as they turned the corner, one person at quite a distance pointed and at the top of his voice said, 'There's Hawky.' And from that moment he was mobbed. Nothing had changed. The love that you would have seen 20 or 30 years earlier was there at the festival, with people taking selfies, people wanting to talk to him and people just wanting to say, 'Thank you, Bob.' After about 40 minutes, he said to Bill, 'Please take me back.' He'd had enough. But that moment, where he thought maybe the relationship with Australia had changed, showed that it hadn't and, even with his passing, it never will.
I'm grateful for his friendship and grateful, through those festivals, that I got to know Blanche, Louis and Bri. I didn't get to know Hazel at any point in her life nor do I know very well Sue, Stephen and Rosslyn, but, obviously, to everybody, my condolences. I'll miss a great Australian, I'll miss a Labor leader and I'll miss my friend.
I want to start by acknowledging all of those on the other side for whom this is a very powerful and emotional day. A great figure in the life of the Labor Party and a great figure in the life of Australia has passed. He was a friend and a mentor to so many. The member for Watson gave what I would frankly describe as a beautiful speech. It was a recollection of somebody he knew well and who was one of the great icons and mentors. I might just inform the House that it looks like there's a tear in the eye—I won't give it away completely, but it does look like there is—and rightly so. The Leader of the Opposition's acknowledgement was for somebody who was a friend, a mentor, an iconic figure, but, above all else, a human figure. And that was the story for all of Australia. I'm one of so many who had the pleasure of meeting him but I wouldn't say I knew him. Those opposite did. He was their shining light—their lodestar. He was their leader and an inspiration.
I do remember, in September of 1983 whilst I was in my final year of secondary school, watching the America's Cup. We were all enthralled with the whole back and forth of the races and the way Bob Hawke, as the Prime Minister but also as the cheerleader of the nation, captured that spirit. For so long afterwards, it wasn't the jacket—of course, the jacket is hard to forget—it was the ethos, the passion, the joy and the fact that he was able to articulate the mood of the nation to capture it and add to it. It was such a powerful moment in Australia—a unifying moment. I don't think I remember a more unifying moment for Australia. I've said to friends and to family on occasions other than today that that was the singularity of the essence of Australia all brought together. To have somebody who could speak for the country, of and by the country, was just a wonderful sense of who he was.
Something else happened in September of 1983. That was also the month that the Medicare legislation, the Health Legislation Amendment Bill, passed Old Parliament House—same month, same time—one a moment of great joy; one a moment of great import. The interesting thing about that is it was only six months after the government was sworn in. As a legislative achievement, it was a landmark. As a legislative example of rapid, high-quality work, it's almost unparalleled. I was thinking through this today: that that was done within six months was extraordinary. I thought, 'I have some responsibilities in terms of the Public Service; I think I'll take that as an example.' But that Medicare has become a deeply engrained bipartisan commitment.
Only the day before the election was called, I had the privilege in this current role of signing off on the latest addition to the Medicare list—through the work of the Medical Services Advisory Committee, which is the body which administers the items that go on the Medicare list—of Kymriah. Kymriah is a breakthrough cellular immunotherapy. It would otherwise cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the fact that we can make this available through our hospitals for the treatment of adolescent and childhood leukaemia and lymphoma is, in many ways, the great continuum from that which was commenced in 1983. To think that back then you could have said, 'This system will, in the future, help provide not just a treatment but a potential cure for leukaemia and lymphoma'; this week I was informed that six children have already been treated for conditions that were deemed to be incurable. We await the results with hope and with prayers for their families, but with the knowledge that the system begun in 1983 continues to deliver with an absolutely passionate bipartisan commitment.
Indeed, at the moment we have the highest bulk-billing rates on record, something of which I'm immensely proud. The member for Hasluck, the now Minister for Indigenous Affairs, and I have worked together over the last two years in this space to see a nation coming together. That is the test of successful policy—does it continue beyond one administration to the next? I want to acknowledge that.
I also want to acknowledge in the health space the immensely important work that Bob Hawke and Neal Blewett did to take a proactive step at the moment that HIV-AIDS was threatening to spread dramatically not just through the gay community but through the whole of Australia. Their preventive work, which had its controversies at the time, was something of profound importance. I'm delighted to honour the memory of Bob Hawke by informing the House that today we will release figures which show that, in the last year, we have had the lowest rate of HIV infection in two decades. I acknowledge the member for Sydney, the former Minister for Health, who passionately continued the action on HIV. That continuum, that flame, across different governments at different times has meant that we've achieved that lowest rate in 20 years. The addition to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme of PrEP, a preventive medicine to ensure that HIV is not transmitted, has been credited with part of that success, building on the work which dates back to the Hawke government and all successive governments and all successive health ministers since then. I hope that the new foundation which the Prime Minister announced, the Hawke foundation, will contribute to further medical research to give young medical researchers the opportunity to further their careers and to produce breakthroughs that will help the Australian public.
I am somebody who has spent considerable time in the environment space, often opposite the member for Watson. We would disagree on some things but secretly conspire to achieve others. And then there were the things he talked about where I had no idea what his cunning plan was. But good on him on that! To acknowledge what happened with Bob Hawke and the environment is to acknowledge something quite profound. His contribution on Antarctica, I think, may be his most important environmental legacy. The fact is that we've been able to add to it and continue it, and we have a $2 billion program to honour that legacy of protecting Antarctica—something which no Australian government will ever walk away from, in my view. It is because, deeply embodied within the parliament, we have a shared goal of protecting Antarctica that we have a $2 billion refurbishment program for the Antarctic icebreaker. Many of us have worked in this space together. To see that continuum I think is extremely important. What was done on World Heritage, the work in relation to Uluru, Kakadu and Gondwana—all of these things are abiding and then added to.
Finally, Landcare: Landcare has been an immensely important part of the fabric of the Australian landscape—literally the landscape and the people who work in the land. With my great friend Ken Wyatt, we have looked at Landcare projects and other projects over the years, and I never lost the source of that, the origin of that—the work of Phillip Toyne, Bob Hawke and others in bringing that together.
So, on behalf of the government and on behalf of the people of Flinders, I want to acknowledge the work of Bob Hawke; his amazing life. When I met him, what struck me were his dancing, mischievous eyes that he still had in his later years and that immense love of all of the people. As long as he thought you were doing the right thing by the people, he thought you were okay. He was a great figure and he will continue to be a great figure. I want to pass on my best wishes to everybody on the other side—it is a difficult day in a difficult week—and to all of those Australians who will benefit from his abiding contribution to Australia.
I think many of us on this side, and of course the government benches as well, have very mixed feelings about this condolence motion today. We've lost a Labor legend, an Australian icon. We have heavy hearts for that reason, but there is so much to celebrate too about the life of Bob Hawke. There were so many stories, both at his memorial service and in the media in the days after. We heard of his sad death. And today as well we have had so many insights into a life well lived by an Australian who was loved by the Australian public and who loved them in return.
I've lost a friend, a mentor and a shoulder to lean on. The outpouring of grief that we saw in the days after Bob's death was really very real. It was sincerely felt across the Australian public, and I think that rawness was really salved by the wonderful memorial service that many of us attended. Blanche d'Alpuget, who was Bob's great love and carer at the end of his life, did such a marvellous job of inviting people to share their memories of Bob so that we heard from colleagues, family members and former staff. Every member of the Australian public was able to join in that celebration of that wonderful life.
Our condolences, of course, go to Bob's children—Sue, Ros and Stephen—who, with their much-loved mother, Hazel, had to share their father for so many years with the Australian public.
Bob didn't mind a bit of a cry every now and again. I think he was quite different to many Australian men of his generation. He didn't try to hide his feelings and, on that day in that memorial service, there were many tears shed but there was a lot of laughter too and acknowledgement of Bob's great contribution.
Bob became Prime Minister at a time when the country was bedevilled with inflation and a moribund economy. We were a divided Australia—an Australia that was uncertain of itself and in a slow decline. It felt like the place was fizzling out. Bob was exactly the right man for that epoch. As one writer said, 'He had the smell of history about him.' He was a consummate conciliator—a man who brought avowed enemies to the negotiating table, who healed the wounds of our party and our nation. But he was much more than just a consensus politician; he was prepared to take risks—it might have been the punter in him. He was big, bold and brave. The accord, Medicare, the floating of the dollar, the deregulation of the financial system, the tearing down of tariff walls: it is a remarkable list, and so much of it was done with his great collaborator, Paul Keating.
Of course, when we talk of Bob at a time like this it is very easy to forget how hard-fought those reforms were. It is wonderful that so many of them have become popular today or just common sense or just accepted as inevitable, but the reforms were hard-fought. Bob didn't mind having those fights. Many of them, of course, were with his opponents from other political parties, but plenty of them were from our side as well. I was a university student starting university at the time when HECS was being introduced, so I can tell you there was more than one vice-chancellor's office stormed by my friends and me at that time. There were more higher education conferences protested outside of than it's perhaps wise to remember on a day like this. Those reforms were bold, and because they were bold they attracted controversy, and Bob wasn't scared of that at all. Though controversial, though difficult and though hard-fought, those reforms changed everything for our country. They opened our economy. They released the shackles from our nation. They made us more competitive, more relevant globally. They laid the foundation for decades of economic growth and they held true to Labor values: the concept of the fair go, of fundamental decency, of reaching out a helping hand to those who were most marginalised and offering them the social safety net that the member for Lingiari has spoken about.
He didn't build bridges just within Australia. Allowing the 27,000 Chinese students who were living in Australia at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre to remain in Australia, again, was a difficult and controversial thing to do, but it projected our values as a nation to the globe.
Bob certainly had an antenna for talent. The depth and breadth of talent assembled in his cabinet was astonishing, with the likes of Paul Keating, Gareth Evans, Kim Beazley, Brian Howe, Susan Ryan, Neal Blewett, Barry Jones and John Button. There were so many talented people in those cabinets who really worked together to challenge, to debate, to argue and then to agree and make our country better. He harnessed their gifts and brought out the best in them. Under his leadership they changed Australia.
Like the member for Watson, I caught up with Bob quite a lot in the later years of his life. We talked a lot about the achievements of his government, but he didn't feel a need to relive his successes. He was very comfortable with his legacy. He was proud of his legacy, but he didn't feel the need to remind people of it constantly. He didn't have things to prove or scores to settle. He wasn't rewriting history in the later years of his life. He was happy to reflect on those times and the way he'd achieved the great successes of those battles, but he was also very focused on the future. We will remember those achievements for him. As Blanche—his beloved Blanche—said at his memorial service, one of the achievements that Bob was proudest of was taking our high school graduation rates from three in 10 young Australians graduating from high school to seven in 10 during the relatively few short years of his government. He knew the importance of lifelong education. He knew that it had and has the ability to transform the life of an individual—to give them opportunities that their parents and grandparents never dreamed of. He knew that education could set someone on a course, as his education did, to shaping the nation. But he also knew the importance of investment in education as a driver of economic success for this nation.
We can see the difference that that investment in education during the Hawke-Keating years has made to our economic opportunities as a nation today. As I said earlier, as a uni student, in the early years of the HECS generations, I was doing my fair share of protesting. But what the Higher Education Contribution Scheme did was allow the opening up of attendance at university to many, many more Australians. Having the contribution scheme meant that we could increase attendance at university in a way that would otherwise have been unaffordable. Thousands of additional students were given the opportunity of an education. Just as people say that when you look at the Medicare card in your wallet you should remember the legacy of Bob Hawke, I think it's fair to say, particularly if you're from a working class family and you look at your university degree on the wall—if you've gotten around to framing it; most of us probably haven't—that you have to remember that that, too, is a legacy of the Hawke government.
Bob was up-front about his flaws, and I think it was beautiful the way that many of the speakers at his memorial service didn't pretend that Bob was perfect. He wouldn't have wanted them to pretend that he was perfect. I think that's what, as he said himself, people responded to: the humanity that he was prepared to share with the Australian people—his struggles as well as his successes. He was an extrovert's extrovert. He could charm the birds from the trees. His personality, both the flaws and that real charm, helped deliver four election victories in a row.
In 2014, we asked Bob Hawke to come to Canberra and speak to our caucus and staff at a dinner as a special surprise guest. I had very, very strict instructions from his wonderful, loyal, long-serving, beautiful and dedicated PA, Jill Saunders, that I was not allowed to let a million people get their photos with Bob, because he was getting older and he was getting tired and everybody would want a photo with him, and it was after dinner and it was going to be too exhausting. So there I was on duty, trying to stop people mobbing our great hero, while Bob was behind me calling them in: 'Come on! No worries, let's get a photo together!' Jill had given me instructions that I was to have him home early and it was my job to make sure he got out of there in good time. I was exhausted, leaning on the table and thinking, 'When is this going to finish?' and he was singing happy birthday to one of the people working at the Press Club.
This was a man who got so much strength from talking to people. Of course, it was a little bit about the adoration, because who doesn't love being adored? But it was much more than that. It was actually about hearing about their lives, their struggles today, their successes, their families, their work. He got so much back from his interaction with people—with his old friends, former staff who he always stayed in contact with, and also the new people that he met wherever he went.
Sometimes Bob and I would have lunch at one of his favourite Italian restaurants in Darlinghurst, and I had lots of questions about some of the battles of the past and some of the successes. But he was very keen to talk about the politics of the day and very keen, always, to think about the future. He wasn't someone who was just dwelling on the past and reliving his great victories. He profoundly cared about the modern Labor Party. I know he was very supportive of many of my colleagues who are here today. He profoundly cared about our electoral prospects, our policies and our potential successes. He was focused, laser-like, on the future. I thought it was beautiful to hear his granddaughter Sophie talking at his memorial service about the many years of environmental activism and real achievement that the member for Watson and others have detailed. Bob was still talking about climate change. He'd talked about it decades before most people. He was still talking about climate change and global warming even very recently when I'd seen him. Sophie was talking about this, too: his commitment to seeing real action on climate change.
I know that Bob and Blanche loved Lord Howe Island, which is in my electorate. I saw them there. The Prime Minister was talking about Bob answering the door in the nude, and Gareth Evans has talked about that in his books. I'm very happy to report that he was wearing bathers on Lord Howe Island! He did love the natural environment there, the fishing and the world heritage protection that had been achieved for Lord Howe Island too.
People see Bob as very blokey and beer-drinking. They see the larrikin elements of him. But what I saw in our conversations was the phenomenally sharp intellect, his capacity to recall detail, his resolve, his indefatigability and his compassion for people. I think that face of his—the laughing eyes, as the health minister was talking about, with lines etched into his face from a lifetime of warmth and wisdom—is something that Australians will always remember.
He was always prepared to campaign for our Labor cause. In 2016, when he saw Medicare under threat, he was prepared to don the battle gear again and travel around Australia. I travelled with him to many functions—speeches, press conferences, visits—where he was speaking of Medicare and the great legacy that he was so proud of. Michael Lee told me that he was happy to campaign in the City of Sydney Council elections when Michael Lee was running for Lord Mayor many years ago. He was always prepared to turn up to back the Labor Party and Labor Party candidates. We all remember him singing at the top of his voice 'Waltzing Matilda' and 'Solidarity Forever'. But we also remember the man who was so gentle and tender, visiting Hazel in her last days and holding her hand and softly singing 'Danny Boy' to her.
He was absolutely larger than life. I remember, at the City of Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks one year, Bob and Blanche turning up all in white on a launch, landing on the steps of the Opera House and coming in to the fireworks. He loved a grand entrance. I think that in many ways he would be very touched by his exit as well—the outpouring of feeling for him from our nation. I went to see him for the last time at home just before the election campaign got into full swing. He was tired. As the member for Watson said, he was very tired. But he was still full of insight into the current campaign and the political issues that we face today. He was full of encouragement. I can't really describe how very encouraging he was of me personally, how generous he was with his time. The feeling that he always gave me—I was much younger; I'm a woman; he was a man; all that—is that I always felt like he treated me as a comrade. That meant so much to me, to be treated as a comrade by such a great man. I'm sure many of my colleagues share this feeling.
I want to finish by saying this: Kim Beazley has spoken about Clem Hawke more than once and the influence that Clem had on Bob. Clem used to say, 'If you are a believer in the fatherhood of God, you must believe in the brotherhood of man.' You absolutely saw that with Bob. He didn't have that sort of faith later in his life, but the relationships he had, including with people like Nelson Mandela, show how intensely he believed in the brotherhood of man.
I also rise to speak on the condolence motion for Robert James Lee Hawke. There are visual images you retain of individuals in circumstances throughout your life. They're tangible because they bring out the essence of the individual. My first father-in-law and I used to often debate about Bob Hawke and his role in the ACTU and being a strikebreaker. We'd have great discussions about the quality of the man, his capacity to bring together warring factions and bring them to a point where he would get agreement. I thought that was remarkable given many of the industrial challenges that prevailed in that period in Australia. Even greater is the legacy of the markers that he leaves, in the reforms that he created for this country out of his driven element of humanity, and the way in which he wanted to bring about changes that had a focus on equity for all.
I hadn't met Bob Hawke until I was attending a meeting at Old Parliament House. There were a group of us from the National Aboriginal Education Committee standing on the steps, waiting to head up and register to go and see the Hon. Susan Ryan, Minister for Education at the time. We saw a Comcar pull up with a flag on it. Somebody in the group said, 'That must be the Prime Minister.' Bob Hawke got out of the vehicle, started to walk up the steps, saw us, turned and came over. He stood and said, 'Where are you from?' The eight of us had a conversation. As we all know, when we're in these jobs our advisers try to hurry us on for the next appointment. But what struck me was he said, 'They can wait.' He stood and talked with us for 15 minutes about some of the issues that we saw as being important for the education of Indigenous kids and pathways to better opportunities and he shared with us his thoughts.
I mentioned, at the time, that health was another one. He said to me, 'You need to meet with Richo.' I asked about the good senator, and he said, 'He's a good man; you'll get an opportunity to meet with him.' But I was a public servant and there are protocols for public servants to meet with federal ministers when you're from a state jurisdiction. I got that chance with Richo much later, on a national body. I recalled the Prime Minister's words and raised an issue with Richo. I angered him immensely. I'll share that story one day. When you incur the wrath of Richo you certainly feel the heat. But he was one of the incredible team the Prime Minister had in leading this nation.
That meeting resulted in me meeting Hazel Hawke, at a later point. What I liked about Hazel was that she was a Western Australian; she was a Perth girl. From my perspective, Bob had married into the right pedigree. I got to know Hazel very briefly, but what I found with Hazel was the same as I found with Bob: the compassion that both of them had for social issues, and particularly their commitment to Indigenous Australians. And I saw that in their son Stephen, who I met later in the Kimberley, and in the work he was doing. But he left an indelible impression from that meeting. What I saw was somebody who was prepared to take time from a very busy schedule to talk with us, to listen and to look us in the eye. I never saw him once look over our shoulders to see if there was anybody else around, and that's a great marker of the integrity of people who seriously want to engage on a very challenging issue.
And then, when the Australian parliament moved into this building, I recall that, on the very first sitting day here in this chamber, he made his first item of business a resolution acknowledging the prior occupation of land by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And, when you think of that period, that was substantial. When you think of the time in which he made that statement about people and acknowledging their dispossession and the denial of their citizenship rights, that was a momentous moment that was captured in time, because we'd not had that acknowledged in that manner in a chamber at the national level. I saw that as typical Hawke: his vision, his commitment and his propensity to acknowledge the wrongs and to work to right them.
His legacy in many issues will be left for a long time. I remember sitting with my first wife, because she worked in a library, and they'd just brought in copies of the decisions around Kakadu and the books that were associated with them. I was flicking through them. I said, 'When are these going on the public shelf?' And she said, 'They've got to be processed and labelled and a session process occur.' And I said, 'Who did this?' And she said, 'The Prime Minister.' Now, that Kakadu decision was momentous because it changed the way in which a piece of significant Aboriginal land that was sacred to a nation of people was going to be protected. It was important because it is still pristine today; it remains as a significant area that Australians can celebrate. I know that he would not have had an easy journey in taking that through cabinet, because he would have had to argue with other colleagues who saw capacity for it to be used in different ways, but he nevertheless did it. He understood that the new parliament also sat on ancient land, and that also shaped his thinking. He also understood that change begins with recognition and respect, and he manifested that—and that carried through to Paul Keating. Paul Keating's Redfern speech was a landmark speech. And while at the time those two finished their careers and their successful achievements together on an acrimonious note, the legacy that Bob left with Paul was manifested in that speech. Galarrwuy Yunupingu said that Hawke's efforts to bridge the gap back between black and white Australia were always sincere, and that sincerity prevailed throughout all the time that I watched him do the work that impacted across many areas. Others have remarked on how Hawke always acted in good faith, and what we do is develop relationships based on trust, faith and integrity. I have to acknowledge that I enjoyed that privilege with your former leader. He demonstrated that time and time again on many issues.
He sat down together with First Nations people at Barunga in the Northern Territory. Images appeared on television of him sitting on the red Australian earth, surrounded by gum trees and the sky. When he received the Barunga Statement, that visually sent a very strong message around the nation: that he accepted the principles that were being explained in that statement.
He established ATSIC. ATSIC was a significant structure for Indigenous Australians. It provided the opportunity for people at the community level to influence the thinking on directions taken and on policies that needed to be established to make a difference in the lives of our children and future generations—how you engaged with them and how you were involved in trying to shape a future that would make a difference for them.
The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation—the appointment of Senator Pat Dodson there, the work they did and their engagement over a period of time—and the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody changed the way in which all tiers of government responded to policy. The benefits gained over that period of time have been the backbone and foundation for the policies that we now have in place and the reforms that have occurred. There is still much to do, but he invested in Indigenous education with AbSec, Abstudy—tertiary qualifications being a major driver of his own vision—and job opportunities. He never gave up on those or the traineeships, which prevailed as well.
After the deaths in custody, he handed back ownership of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to its traditional owners. One thinks of Uluru as being a spiritual hub and a significant area of sacredness. He went against the advice that was given by national parks to prevail with the status quo, and so it made a difference. It resulted in other handbacks over a period of time. The IBA, the ILC and some of the land issues emanated from a bold move that he took. I do get what all of you on the other side have said about his strength of leadership, because he toughed it out at times. He was prepared to be different. He was prepared to stand with people in our community, to walk with them and to effect change. At the time of the handing back, hundreds of people, both Indigenous and non-indigenous, attended the ceremony when Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen handed over the deeds to the Anangu.
Bob Hawke went on to fight for us, sometimes with full and blistering force. Sometimes he had to capitulate, because the other issue that he faced was the pragmatic reality that the forces that you have to take on in order to effect change are very different to the conservative period in our time. But, nevertheless, he was persistent at all times. On the issue of mining at Coronation Hill in Kakadu, I know that he fought bitterly against some of his cabinet colleagues, because he saw and recognised the importance of country.
He respected the Jawoyn people. The proposed mine was in sickness country, where the serpent god, Bolung, lived underground. They believed that mining would disturb Bolung, and this would have dire consequences for them. In Hawke's words, he did not pretend to comprehend or to share the Jawoyn beliefs but he did understand and respect their identification with the land, with their gods and with the earth. Again, having that belief was forward-thinking for the time in which he was leader of this nation. He told his colleagues that dismissing these beliefs as fallacious and mythological amounted to discrimination. If there was one thing that Bob Hawke couldn't stand for, it was racism, and I heard him express that view on several occasions. As was referred to by colleagues on the other side, in his mind, the Jawoyn's beliefs were no less legitimate than those held sincerely by Christians.
He formed this view after having sat down with the Jawoyn and listening to them. This simple act of listening to people, sitting around in the dust or in a boardroom, was powerful. This is something that still resonates strongly with me today: a leader of a nation, who is prepared to sit and listen not only with his ears but with his eyes. I noticed a couple of times he would react to somebody who showed a facial expression that indicated that they weren't happy. He would stop and say, 'What is it that you want to say?' Sometimes in our roles we don't listen enough, but certainly Bob Hawke did. That simple act also meant sometimes there were disappointments because he would have to say no. He would have to say: 'It's not feasible; I can't win it, but I'll have a go.'
Hawke himself said that one of the great regrets he had as Prime Minister was that he wasn't able to do more for Aboriginal people. He said, 'There is still much to be done across so many areas.' There were unrealised hopes and dreams, but Bob Hawke changed that conversation. By the time Bob left the prime minister's office, it could be said that Australians had a much better understanding of the need to sit down with First Nations people, to acknowledge past wrongs, and to get on and deal with the injustices. He opened the opportunity for a dialogue that has grown extensively, and subsequent prime ministers have continued what Bob left as a legacy. His final act as Prime Minister was to hand over the painted Barunga Statement to the custody of this parliament for permanent display. The handover took place in an emotional ceremony. Today, the statement hangs near the Members' Hall, where we can pass it on our way to the main committee room.
Bob Hawke was a man who held the needs of Indigenous Australians dear to his heart, and he wanted Australians to hold them dear to theirs as well. When I reflect on Bob Hawke the person, I respect his regard for all Australians but in particular Indigenous Australians. His zest for a full life and his leadership of a nation is a legacy that I know he was proud of but that, equally, those of his family can cherish. He was never afraid of a challenge and always stood by a sense of a just and equal society. Anna and I would like to provide our condolences to Bob's children, Susan, Stephen, Robert and Rosslyn. His late ex-wife Hazel had raised his family with all the demands of Bob being ACTU leader, and later Prime Minister, and served ably as the first woman of Australia. I also offer my heartfelt sympathies to Blanche d'Alpuget. I hope the kind words this place offers today provide her comfort in what I'm sure is still a difficult time. Bob Hawke, thank you for what you did for our nation, but in particular for First Nations people.
It's a great privilege to follow the Minister for Indigenous Australians. I want to thank him for his contribution to this condolence motion. I want to thank the government for agreeing to set aside today's proceedings to honour Bob Hawke, and for the energy and the effort that so many government members have taken to prepare speeches and for the generous content of those speeches in tribute to a man who was not of their political party but who I think all recognise made a great contribution to this nation.
I grew up, as so many in this chamber did, in a deeply political household that, in my case, was fiercely Labor. Although I had an 'It's time' badge pinned to my clothes when I was a toddler, the 1983 election is the first election at a federal level that I remember clearly. My mum had taken leave from her job to work in Labor Party headquarters, as she did for all of Hawke's elections through that period. I assume my mother was at an election party far more enjoyable than mine six weeks ago, but my brother and I spent the evening of election night in 1983 at my great-uncle's house—my great-uncle on my father's side. My father's side has a proud but very misdirected Tory legacy in their family, and my great-uncle, who was a dear, dear man, unfortunately was a terrible Tory. I can still remember to this day the scowl on his face as he looked at me clapping when Bob Hawke walked into the tally room on that evening. I'm not sure I really understood why I was clapping, except that I knew that's what my mum wanted.
Right through my adolescence, Bob Hawke was Australia's Prime Minister. The first federal election I was entitled to vote at, I got to vote for Bob Hawke. So it's perhaps hard to be entirely objective about a man who was such a giant in those formative years of my life. But on any objective measure, at a far more mature age than I was when I first voted, I'm very clear in my mind that Bob Hawke was Australia's greatest Prime Minister. There is room for reasonable people to disagree about these things. As the Prime Minister quite reasonably said, the test that John Curtin was subject to during World War II was something that, thankfully, none of us have ever known and hopefully will never know. But Hawke, I think, on any objective test, deserves the title of Australia's greatest Prime Minister.
His time as Prime Minister was located in the middle of a period of relatively strong and stable leadership for almost four decades from Whitlam to Howard, a period that we've not known in this place for more than a decade. But the remarkable thing among those five prime ministers, Whitlam to Howard, is how quickly Hawke got the job, because all four of those other prime ministers—Whitlam, Fraser, Keating and Howard—had served at least 20 years as parliamentarians before they became Prime Minister. Bob Hawke had just served three and, as the Prime Minister said earlier today—I didn't know this statistic myself—only 36 days as Leader of the Opposition. Truly blessed. The speed with which he came up to the toughest job in the nation was just extraordinary.
He excelled immediately and right through the course of his prime ministership in all the major areas of public policy as we understand them. On the international stage, as many on my side of the chamber and the other side have said, he was confident, he was hardworking, he was progressive and he always projected an independent Australian national interest on that international stage. On economic policy, he's universally and justifiably recognised as the Prime Minister who oversaw the modernisation of the Australian economy, with a brilliant Treasurer in Paul Keating and a wonderful cabinet as well, setting us up for the 20 years of uninterrupted economic growth that has lifted Australia's prosperity to such a degree over the last almost three decades.
But he was not presiding over the only economy in the Western world that was undergoing the pressures of the 1980s that Australia was confronting, and his response—or his government's response—to that was something that I think deserves some attention, because this was the era of Reaganomics. It was the era of Thatcher's radicalism, and there was an alternative path to the path that Hawke and Keating steered Australia through. It was that path of Reaganomics and Thatcher's radicalism. Instead, Hawke's modernisation of the Australian economy was uniquely and quintessentially Labor. He worked with those workers and those communities in Australia that were being impacted by the pain of unavoidable economic restructuring, because the truth is that, over the sweep of our history, Australia has generally been particularly poor at structural adjustment. We've generally expected communities just to suck it up. I've seen that in my own community over the last five years as Australia's car manufacturing industry has shut down. Structural adjustment programs have really just extended to helping workers dust off their CVs and perhaps do some job interview training.
Hawke, Keating and John Button's approach was quintessentially different. It worked with workers and their unions. It worked with local communities and came up with deep, meaningful structural adjustment programs that we've seen only too rarely here in Australia—the car plan, the steel plan, the really deliberative approach to waterfront industry reform that was extraordinarily hard but worked with unions and industry and local government authorities to make sure that, as far as possible, it spread the pain of that unavoidable economic restructuring.
As we know, and as has been said so many times already over the last few hours, his social reforms, as well as his economic reforms, still sit right at the heart of Australian society today. They are enduring. They are now an unstitchable part of the fabric of Australian society—Medicare, lifting the high school retention rate from 30 to 70 per cent, making meaningful those higher education reforms that Whitlam had started a decade and a half earlier, universal superannuation. Expanding childcare, I think, was one of the jewels in the crown of Australia's social reforms during that period because it made practically meaningful the ability, particularly of working mothers, to combine work with family responsibilities.
But the final area of policy I want to address is the environment. There's already been a number of speakers who have addressed this, particularly the member for Watson, who has had a lifelong devotion to environmental policy. Hawke's granddaughter Sophie told the story at Hawke's memorial service—and the member for Watson has relayed it as well—about protecting Antarctica. That alone, if it were his only environmental protection achievement, in itself, would be a giant legacy. But there is so much else besides that—the Tasmanian wilderness, the Daintree and visionary programs like Landcare that have already been talked about. Without question, Hawke is the greatest Prime Minister that Australia's natural environment has ever had.
But I want to address the question of climate change as well, because at Hawke's memorial Sophie also said that, in the past several months, Hawke had expressed great sadness that Australia had failed to act on climate change and that he saw it as a collective failure of our nation that we'd traded short-term interests over intergenerational equity. In the 1980s, barely a decade after the term 'global warming' first appeared in Science magazine, Hawke created the Commission for the Future. Some of its earliest work was the greenhouse project to examine climate change—its causes and effects and the methods to manage the problem. Before 1987 or 1988, there had barely been a public mention of climate change beyond scientific journals, particularly until the testimony of NASA scientist James Hansen to Congress in the US in the late 1980s. This was part of what I think was a golden area of global climate change cooperation, when no politician suggested that the scientific community was engaged in conspiracy or suggested that the current generation's economic interests should take priority over longer-term considerations, including the economic interests of future generations.
In 1988, the Toronto conference bought together politicians, scientists and economists from several dozen countries and called upon the developed nations of the world to stabilise carbon emissions at 1988 levels by 2000 and to cut them by 20 per cent by 2005. Hawke was a key supporter of this effort. He spoke passionately on the television in 1989 alongside his then 4-year-old granddaughter, Sophie, imploring Australia to think of the long term. He was very clear on the potential of climate change to disrupt Australian life. As he put it: 'The greenhouse effect'—as we called it back then, and now call global warming—'cannot be dismissed as just another environmental problem. It has the potential to change fundamentally, within a single lifetime, the way all nations and people live and work.'
Hawke fought the 1990 election campaign largely on environmental issues, including the Coronation Hill goldminers, as we've heard already a number of times this morning, as well as a commitment that a re-elected government would adopt the Toronto position as an interim target—Australia's first emissions reduction target. It is worth noting that this was a bipartisan position adopted by Andrew Peacock, the then Liberal leader.
As the Hawke years ended, and the recession of the early1990s took hold, the golden era of climate consensus, very short as it was, drew to an end. Powerful lobby groups and companies targeted the science in a manner not seen against any other scientific consensus in the modern era. The powerful tools of self-interest, economic doomsaying and fear took hold in the political sphere, and the landscape was slowly infected with toxic sludge, tearing at the groundwork that Hawke had worked so hard to lay for climate action. To honour Bob, we should continue the work that he began, because Bob knew that we only borrow the planet; we borrow it from our kids, from their kids and so on.
I first met Bob almost 20 years ago on an evening as part of the election review after the 2001 Tampa election loss, as it was called then, that he and Neville Wran conducted along with Tim Gartrell. We had a party members' forum in South Australia. As I recall it, I was blamed for pretty much all of the party's ills at the time! It was a meeting that was obviously stacked with my factional enemies! After that, the four of us enjoyed a dinner over several hours and several bottles of wine. Tim and I, pretty young at the time and straitlaced individuals, were exposed to all of the colour of Labor's history over recent decades—the terrible conferences and so on and so forth—through Bob and Neville, two giants of the Labor movement. We bonded over a common knowledge of Ray Gietzelt, who was the legendary general secretary of the union that I was the secretary of at the time, the Federated Miscellaneous Workers' Union of Australia. Ray had been general secretary of the union for decades, and was really the driving force that got the numbers for Bob to become the ACTU president in the late sixties. There was also their love of Lionel Murphy, who was Ray's best friend and a great friend also of Bob and Neville. That set the tone, I think, for a relationship that all of us enjoyed on this side of the House, no matter how young, junior and relatively insignificant we were in the Labor movement. Bob always treated us as equals, and was always incredibly generous with his time to encourage, to advise and to press us to be more ambitious, more progressive and more brave. He really was the most generous Labor figure of his time in terms of devotion to continual campaigning for Labor and the mentoring of younger Labor people.
I last saw him at his home over summer, enjoying a couple of hours with him, Blanche and Sue Pieters-Hawke, his daughter and a great friend of mine who I've worked closely with, particularly around dementia, as well as his dear friend and former advisor Craig Emerson. As the member for Watson remarked, at some point during that afternoon we were sharing a cigar with his daughter Sue and Bob put his hand on my forearm and just said, apropos of nothing at the time, 'Paul and I have made up.' It was clearly a wonderful thing for him personally, and, as I remarked to him at the time, such an important thing for our party. It was so important that he and Paul had broken bread and the most important partnership of modern Labor had found a way back together before Bob had passed.
I want to send my condolence to Blanche and his family, Sue, Stephen and Rosslyn and his granddaughters, but also to his friends. I particularly want to mention Craig Emerson, who I know was such a dear friend to Bob for so many years and who gave so much of his time in Bob's later months to ensure that Bob's family was supported—that Bob and Blanche, personally, were supported—and also so that Bob was able to connect with so many members of the Labor Party in his final months. Today we farewell a genuinely exceptional Australian.
It is a pleasure to rise to contribute to this condolence motion in relation to the late Bob Hawke. The memorial service at the Sydney Opera House was a remarkable event, and it was a great privilege to be able to attend it. The array of people who were assembled there from so many walks of life was powerful evidence of Hawke's extraordinary impact on our nation. Listening to Paul Keating, Ross Garnaut, Bill Kelty, Kim Beazley and Craig Emerson, amongst others, was in some ways like attending a seminar on the 1980s economic reform process. To touch on why I found that significant, I want to refer to something that I said in my first speech in this place.
Unusually for a student politician, I also went to lectures. Studying economics in the mid-eighties, my political views were further developed. I saw that Australia had an outdated economic model, with rigid labour markets, high tariff walls and heavy government ownership and control of many areas of the economy. But I also learned about the changes being made—floating the dollar, opening up the banking sector to foreign competitors and reducing tariffs.
Of course, in my first speech in this place I chose not to emphasise that those reforms were led by Bob Hawke. But today, as I rise to join other parliamentarians to pay tribute to Bob Hawke, it is absolutely the central point that must be emphasised. While reflecting on being thrust back in memory to the 1980s, I should add a personal reflection, which I think is somewhat appropriate, that at the time I lived in a student share house in Glebe. We had in that house a very useful household item, which was then quite widely available in the shops. It was a hollow plastic bust of Bob Hawke with a screw top, a wine tap at the bottom and a large printed label, 'take the piss out of Bob'. In our student household we did that frequently, pouring in the contents of the those four-litre wine casks which were a common feature of student consumption in the 1980s and may well still be so today. I think, by the way, that that is an indicator of Bob Hawke's place in Australian popular culture.
I do want to make three points in my brief contribution today. Over his term as Prime Minister Bob Hawke led an economic reform process that was vitally important to Australia. A critical way that he did that was by working with other Australians. The impact of that was felt right across our economy, as many other speakers have observed. I want to touch briefly on the impact he had on the telecommunications sector. The reform process that Bob Hawke led was quite remarkable, and the list of reforms is an extraordinarily long one: floating the dollar; opening up the banking sector to allow the entry of foreign banks; deregulating interest rates; a range of tax reforms, including the introduction of the capital gains tax; opening up a whole series of markets to competition in transport, banking, telecommunications and other markets; privatising, in whole or in part, government business enterprises like Qantas, the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Many of these have gone on to become highly successful, wealth-generating companies, expanding their operations around the world. There was the introduction of HECS and, of course, the tariff reform and reduction process.
In retrospect, when we touch on it and when it's described, it all seems and looks so smooth and easy. But of course it was a highly challenging process and required great political skill. Hawke was prepared to take on some very tough fights as part of the reform process. Not every one of them was successful, like the attempted introduction of a national identity card, the Australia Card, in the late 1980s, or the attempt to introduce a consumption tax as part of the 1985 tax reform process—the famous 'option C', which was abandoned when Hawke got off the cart. I say this not to be critical at all but to make the observation that, to achieve the extraordinary range of reforms that he did, he had to be prepared to take on a great many issues. While he had success on many if not most of them, he didn't have success on all of them. But he would not have achieved the success that he did on those where reform was achieved had he not been prepared to take on those, including the few, where success was not achieved.
One of Hawke's great strengths, which I would argue that he deployed to its greatest effect in his time as Prime Minister and which was a feature of his career, was his ability to work with others. Of course, he had extraordinary intellectual capacities and he had the benefit of a tertiary education of great breadth both in Australia and internationally. His knowledge about industrial and economic policy was very deep at a time when tertiary education was not as common and widely available as it is today. But as well as his deep subject matter expertise, what he also had was enormous interpersonal skills and a great capacity to persuade others to follow the course that he advocated.
He came into this place with an incredibly rich set of personal connections. He had worked for decades at the very apex of the industrial relations establishment. He had very strong networks, not just amongst union leaders but amongst business leaders. His use of national summits as a way to build support for reforms was masterful. I do want to acknowledge his readiness to work with political opponents to achieve policy ends. As many speakers from this side of the House have observed, a number of his achievements as Prime Minister depended upon, or were facilitated by, his readiness to work with this side of the chamber to achieve his policy ends.
One of his other very significant achievements was working with Nick Greiner, the then Premier of New South Wales, in relation to National Competition Policy. One of the realities of Australian politics and policy is that if you want to achieve outcomes as a federal government then you need to be ready to work constructively with state governments. Certainly, when it comes to National Competition Policy, that partnership between Hawke and Greiner was enormously important in achieving a series of reforms that were given effect to at both federal and state government levels.
Let me finally touch briefly on the impact that Hawke had on the telecommunications sector. Others have spoken about his impact on a whole range of sectors. Certainly, his impact on the telecommunications sector was profound and long lasting. I think Australians today take it for granted that we have a telecommunications industry which is vigorously competitive and where there is relentless technological innovation. We now see the mobile operators introducing 5G networks, and we see the NBN rollout of fixed broadband approaching competition. When Hawke came to power in 1983, it was very different. There were two government-owned monopolies, Telecom Australia and OTC, and they had firm control of all aspects of telecommunications services.
There was a series of significant reforms under the Hawke government. The first geostationary communication satellite was launched by AUSSAT in 1985, although I would make the point that AUSSAT was established in 1981 under the Fraser government. The reform progress continued. There was a considerable reform of the market structure. There was a new Telecommunications Act passed in 1989. This was followed by an even more significant reform, which was unveiled in 1990. Kim Beazley, as the then minister, brought forward a proposal to combine Telecom Australia and OTC; to issue a second fixed telecommunications licence; to issue—almost as an afterthought at the time—three mobile licences to use this newfangled technology called GSM; and to lay the groundwork for the full deregulation of telecommunications in a few years subsequently. After 1996, when the Howard government came to power, that deregulation process was continued with the Telecommunications Act 1997. The features of the telecommunications sector that we take for granted today are, in many ways, a reflection of policy decisions taken under Bob Hawke's leadership. That really is one of many sectors where his leadership has had profound and lasting impacts.
Others can speak of their personal experience of Bob Hawke. From a different side of politics and from a different generation, I never met him, although, like all Australians, I feel that I know him. Also, like all Australians, I have benefited from the remarkable program of economic reform that he led. I express my condolences to Bob Hawke's family. I say thank you, Bob Hawke, for your service to Australia.
The sad irony of condolence motions is that you wish the clocks could somehow be turned back so that the subject about whom you speak can hear the words that are actually said. That's certainly the case today for the fine tributes we've already heard, and it was certainly the case at that generous, affectionate, pitch-perfect celebration of Bob Hawke's life at the Opera House.
Like many members in this place, when I brave the crisp Canberra morning for a jog through the parliamentary triangle I pass the statues of three great Australian prime ministers. My running pace, I'm pleased to say, allows me the time to study the detail of the sculptor. On the path between those old boarding houses at Barton and the chamber down the hill, Ben Chifley and John Curtin walk side by side. It's a beautiful pair of statues. It captures the quiet moment ahead of another busy day—two old friends sharing a laugh; two giants who shared the burden of winning a war, securing a peace and building a home fit for the heroes who returned. Further down the road on the shores of the lake he saw come to life, Robert Menzies walks alone. There's a winning smile on his face—the expression of a man accustomed to success, confident that it will last.
It was back on his 87th birthday that I asked Bob, and his beloved Blanche and his children and a crowd of wellwishers, how we could capture Bob's likeness in a statue. Maybe it could be with a microphone or a megaphone in one hand and the other moving in time with the words, rallying, inspiring and delighting his audience. Maybe it could be with his head cocked, one hand grasping his earlobe, listening respectfully to an Aboriginal elder, a captain of industry, an American president or a local parent out doing the shopping. Maybe it could be in the stands of our racecourses, with creased and folded form guide in hand, ticking off another winner. Or maybe it could be in 'that' jacket, mouth open, roaring with laughter, wearing the champagne, giving his prime ministerial blessing to a national sickie!
Very quickly, on Bob's 87th, we came to the conclusion that, whatever the pose the sculptor opted for, the statue could never be tucked away in some quiet corner of our bush capital. It would have to be out amongst the Australian people, the people who loved Bob because they could tell Bob loved them, the people whose innate wisdom Bob trusted and whose support secured, more often than any other Labor member, that of the people. In reality, no matter the final location, no matter how lifelike the bronze or how skilled the hands that shape it, no artist will ever be able to surpass the monuments that Bob and his government already built larger than lifetimes.
So many of those achievements, the product of fierce debate and hard decisions, have earned the ultimate compliment from Bob's political opponents. They now gently reweave and rewrite history to pretend that they supported them all along. This brings me to that magic Hawke word that's frequently invoked and less well understood. The word is 'consensus'. Consensus is what attracted me to join the Labor Party. Consensus is what Hawke and Keating and Kelty, and those marvellous Labor leaders of that generation, delivered. Whether it's protecting our environment, standing up to racism or progressing economic reform, looking outwards to the world, consensus was never the low-rent, low-risk pursuit of the lowest common denominator. It wasn't about agreement above all else—a communique without content. It wasn't about compromise at any cost. Bringing our nation together did not mean presenting people with a set of soft options or leading our people down the lazy path of least resistance. Bob and the brilliant cabinet that he chaired so assuredly, so generously to his colleagues to include their talents, didn't demand consensus or capitulate to it. They built it through leadership, through persuasion, through what Paul Keating in his wonderful tribute described as their shared obsession with a more clever and creative Australia.
It's true that Bob had a genuine and unique connection with the Australian people. He nurtured that and treasured it. But he also deployed this connection of his in the service of something bigger, in the service of our country. Bob understood that political capital was destined to depreciate, no matter what. He understood that the true test of a leader's qualities and a political party's worth are whether they choose to invest that capital in national progress. Bob has left us unfinished business, too: treaty, climate change, a more independent foreign policy, better Medicare.
When we were young we were warned not to meet our heroes because we were told that they are destined to disappoint. Like so many in the opposition ranks, it's amongst the great privileges of my life that not only did I get to meet my hero but I had the honour of knowing him as a friend and learning from him as a mentor. I never lost that sense of wonder that comes from turning to your hero for advice though, just as I could tell that Bob never tired of his deep interest in national political debate, his deep affection for the trade union movement, his profound belief in the Labor Party and its values and his boundless love for the Australian people.
I last saw Bob just days before he passed away. He was sitting out on his beloved balcony. He had a crossword in front of him. There was a dictionary, a strawberry milkshake and a cigar, which was removed for the photo. The sun was on his face. He was at ease with himself. I understood that this visit was most likely goodbye, although he had a sturdy constitution, because I had visited him twice before in previous months thinking that that too, perhaps, would be when I last saw him. I tried to tell him what he meant to me and what he meant to all of us. I'm not sure that I found the right words for the weight of the moment. Yet still I think Bob knew. He wanted to talk about everything else, not himself. But he knew what he meant to Australia. He knew what he had achieved for our country. He knew that he was loved by his family, by his friends, by his former colleagues, by the people, right to the end.
To Bob's family: the families of those who have served as leader will know what you've been through, but many others can't. I mean no malice by that. What you have endured and given very few will understand, but please be assured that many can appreciate that sacrifice for public service. Chloe has asked me to place on record her and her family's gratitude to Hazel, Blanche, to Sue, to Ros, to Stephen, to Sophie, to Rupert, Ben, David, Paul and Gabi and to their beautiful children Evie and Bronte, Kel and Sam, and Louis.
We will miss you, Bob. We will carry up your unfinished business. We will recall your lessons but we understand that there will never, ever again be another Bob Hawke. You were one and you were unique. From all of us in the future who receive the benefits of you and your government and your passions: we are grateful. May you rest in peace. I thank the House.
As Minister for the Environment, I express my deep respect and my gratitude for the legacy of the late Robert James Lee Hawke. He cared for Australians, he cared for the environment we all share and his passion for both would be felt across continents.
In protecting environmental landmarks, Bob Hawke made his own political and social landmarks: the Franklin Dam, the protection of World Heritage areas from our northern tropics to Central Australia and his outstanding international role in the protection of Antarctica for future generations. This was remarkable leadership that has stood the test of time, and these are decisions that members of this House continue to recognise and respect. Bob Hawke wasn't the first politician to care for the environment, but he was the first to bring it to the very centre of our national discussion. For the many divergent views that we may at times have now on how best to protect our environment and our place within it, there is no dispute about its priority within the political and social debate, and that is in many ways Bob Hawke's legacy.
Under his leadership, Australia added to or extended the boundaries of six properties on the World Heritage List, including the Daintree wet tropics in Queensland, Uluru national park, the rainforests of Gondwana and Western Australia's Shark Bay. Of course, nobody could fail to mention the protection of the Franklin River and the Tasmanian Wilderness Heritage area. This was a defining moment in Australia, one that would engage the whole community in a national debate and one that would lead to a fundamental change in our national approach to protecting the environment.
The debate about the Franklin was about more than the traditional Left versus Right political ground game. It captured something bigger, something outside ourselves. It raised our consciousness of the natural world and demanded that we listen. As a young person whose family could see the good from both sides of politics, I certainly was part of the crowd singing 'Let the Franklin Flow' as loudly as anyone when Goanna belted out their 1983 signature anthem at Canberra's live music venues. I was far from alone, and so many other Australians can today trace their first active support for the environment back to this moment and this cause. It would lead to the passing of the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act 1983 under the Hawke government and to a High Court ruling which would confirm the Commonwealth's right to protect our World Heritage areas and make laws to protect the environment. Environmental debates continue today as we strive to balance our modern way of living with the protection of our natural surroundings, but the parameters of those debates have changed forever. The concept of damming the Franklin today would be unthinkable for all sides of politics, and that, again, is a measure of Bob Hawke's legacy.
Later this week the World Heritage Committee will meet in Azerbaijan to consider a historic listing of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape of south-western Victoria. It will, we hope, be the first time an Australian site is awarded World Heritage listing for its Indigenous cultural value, recognising 6,000 years of management by the Gunditjamara people. Six traditional owners will be in Azerbaijan for the UNESCO meeting, and Bob Hawke would have been the first to give them a cheer.
Bob Hawke was a larrikin Australian whose laugh would stand out in any public bar and whose voice would echo powerfully on the world stage. It was Mr Hawke's capacity to influence world leaders that would see a permanent ban on mining in Antarctica. This was no easy fight, but his work with French Prime Minister Michel Rocard in the late 1980s to lobby the Antarctic Treaty nations would lead to the signing of the Madrid protocol on environmental protection, the protocol which safeguards Antarctica to this day. His contribution continues to be recognised by the Australian Antarctic Division with the prestigious RJL Hawke postdoctoral fellowship for Antarctic environmental science, awarded every two years.
Having been a farmer and a member of my local Landcare organisation, I would pay tribute to another of his environmental legacies, the national Landcare movement. This involves everyday Australians and landholders working with government to protect our biodiversity and natural resources. It is a vibrant and important part of so many rural communities, one that encourages sustainable agriculture, and it remains a cornerstone of our environmental policy. When Bob Hawke was just shy of his 88th birthday, he lent his face and name to a brand of beer. His royalties were donated to Landcare Australia to protect our natural resources, so members and senators may bear that in mind later today—in moderation, of course!
I am honoured to stand before this House and recognise the important environmental legacy of Australia's 23rd Prime Minister, the Hon. Robert James Lee Hawke AC, and I extend my sincere condolences to his wife, Blanche, his children and his grandchildren. I add my thoughts and prayers to all who mourn him today.
I rise to extend my condolences to Bob Hawke's wife, Blanche, and his children, extended family and friends. I'd also like to make reference to Craig Emerson, a long-time friend of Bob's and someone who really was very supportive of Bob and Blanche through a very difficult period in recent years.
You could spend so much time talking about Bob Hawke. We've only got limited time, of course, and everyone wants to contribute in this place, but I can't recall a time in my life when I don't remember Bob Hawke. As a child, I could remember him on television as the larrikin union leader—well before he was Prime Minister. I can vividly remember him on television: often on the news, often being involved in national disputes and, most usually, looking to reconcile those great disputes. He was a person and a public figure already, well before he had entered this place. It was a very unusual thing to think that someone could have such a fully formed public presence before entering this place, but Bob Hawke had that.
What has been touched upon but not enough so far in this important motion is the importance of his role as a union leader before he became a member of parliament and, of course, the Prime Minister of this great nation. He was at first a researcher, a forensic researcher, at the age of 29, in 1958, at the ACTU. And he of course was someone of a different nature, of a different calibre perhaps but certainly of a different time to many of the people he was surrounded by at the ACTU. He was a Rhodes scholar, university educated and surrounded by men—and, indeed, it was men then, in 1958—that were self-educated. They'd been deprived of the opportunities of education, they had come from the wrong side of the tracks and working-class families, and of course did not have the same opportunities as others back then. But he was always of the view that these self-educated union officials helped inform his world view well before he came to this place.
You think about it in these terms: he spent just over 11 years in parliament; he spent 22 years in the union movement as a researcher and then as a brilliant, compelling and persuasive advocate on behalf of the union movement, and then finally, for 11 years, as the leader of the ACTU. And I think that was very much an important part of his experience that provided him the ability to be such a great Prime Minister, to be such a great chair of a Westminster cabinet and, indeed, to fulfil a remarkable legacy. And you could spend all of your contribution to this motion discussing one reform of the Hawke government, because there were so many.
The fact is I believe the Hawke government still stands as the best government we've seen in this nation's history. We can argue whether indeed wartime prime ministers were under more pressure, endured more challenge, suffered through the pressures and therefore deserve to be seen as the greatest prime ministers, particularly in the case of John Curtin. But I don't think anyone can argue that the breadth and depth of reform of the Hawke government does not stand as the exemplar of government in this nation since Federation. And that's why we see contributions in this place that are generous and that acknowledge the extent of the reforms of the Hawke government from this side of the chamber and indeed from the other side.
There are so many things you could touch upon. I just want to repeat some and others I may want to touch upon that haven't been emphasised: opening up our economy to the world, floating the dollar and establishing the accord, which was absolutely instrumental to the reforms of the Hawke government. Without the accord, the social wage could not have happened. Without the consensus with the union movement and the business community, we could not have seen these fundamental reforms happen in this nation. It was Bob Hawke, of course relying upon his friends in the union movement, reaching across to the business community and saying: 'You have a national obligation to help restructure our economy so we can modernise this nation in the nation's interest.' And it was that leadership that was so outstanding that allowed many of these reforms.
I go on: the creation of Medicare—remember, that's the return of universal health care after the abolition of Medibank by the previous conservative government and we should not forget that; recognising Uluru; saving the Daintree; ensuring the Franklin flows; protecting the Antarctic; and improving the retention rates of year 12 students from 30 to 80 per cent. That transformed the opportunities for young people in tertiary education, opening up universities so that people could become better skilled, better educated—indeed for themselves an important thing, but of course important for this nation to have a knowledgeable and skilled workforce. These things happened under the Hawke government, and they were not things that necessarily would have happened if there'd been another government of another hue.
I respect and acknowledge the sincere condolences that have been expressed by the Prime Minister and other government members today. I believe they're sincere, and I appreciate the contributions being made today. But I think it's important to note that we should not allow history to be revised to the point where we would assume that what happened under the Hawke era would have happened if there had been a conservative government in its stead. That is not the case. As the member for Hindmarsh mentioned, we were in the world of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. We had trickle-down economics. We had the radicalism of the right. We had Milton Friedman, the economist, who became the orthodox view of those governments. Bob Hawke and Paul Keating did not ascribe to that view, and nor of course did the Labor Party. We took a different path. We included people in the process. We wanted to make sure that everybody gained. That was not indeed the approach taken by conservative governments around the world at that time.
And of course there were differences. They may have changed over time, but the floating of the dollar was not supported by Bob Hawke's predecessor, Malcolm Fraser. And the floating of the dollar was not supported by the first opposition leader of the then conservative opposition, Mr Peacock, at the time. The floating of the dollar happened under the Hawke government with the Treasurer, Paul Keating, at a time which was not agreed to by the then opposition. Nor was the creation of Medicare supported by the opposition of the time. In fact it was vehemently opposed, as were of course many of the Indigenous reforms that the government sought to or indeed managed to achieve.
So, whilst we very much appreciate the genuine, sincere comments by the Prime Minister and other members of the government, I think it's fair to say this country would be of a different nature and have taken a different path if we had not seen the election of the Hawke government in 1983 and the ability to stay in government for four elections with Bob Hawke as Prime Minister and then subsequently Paul Keating in the fifth election win of that era. That was critical.
And there's no doubt that Hawke had learnt from the Whitlam era. He learnt two things. He learnt you could do so much in so little time, because the remarkable efforts of the Whitlam government led to major, much-needed reform of this nation, but of course the breakneck speed of that reform was in part a reason for the downfall of that Whitlam government. That's the first thing that Bob Hawke learnt. He learnt that you could bring about reform but that you needed to be fiscally responsible, you needed to have a collegiate, disciplined Westminster cabinet and, even if you were bringing about that reform, you needed to do so in a way that was economically responsible. That was the difference. But it certainly was something that was undertaken by a remarkable set of people.
We have mentioned many of the cabinet ministers that comprised the Hawke cabinet over those four terms—remarkable individuals who worked as a team, led by a remarkable leader, Bob Hawke. But it's important to note that there were very significant differences and, indeed, Bob Hawke learnt from the last Labor government, which had its failings and had its flaws but certainly, at its heart, had the focus to make sure that we saw Labor values inform policy.
As I said at the outset, I don't remember a time when Bob Hawke was not in my consciousness—as a union leader, then as a Prime Minister and then, after that, as the nation's elder, always present and always part of our lives. That's why it was such a personal shock, I think, to each of us when he passed. Even though it was inevitable, it was still a shock and it was a loss that we feel deeply. I think that's true.
It's fair to say that I could mention many other policy achievements of that government, but one of the things I'd like to turn to is that, for someone who was so much against being a moraliser, Bob Hawke had such a remarkable moral compass. The moral compass needle of Bob Hawke always pointed to the right thing, often by reflex. Think about his decision to give 30,000 Chinese students a home in Australia because of what we saw in Tiananmen Square and the massacre of Chinese citizens in China. In responding against the advice of his own department and others about the particular diplomatic challenges he would confront in doing so, he chose to support those students by reflex, as a matter of conviction, informed by his view that it was the right thing to do.
He took the same sorts of values to his position with respect to Nelson Mandela. Before he was Prime Minister, as ACTU president he was very much a supporter of imposing bans on the apartheid state. Then, as Prime Minister, knowing that the bans themselves were not achieving results, he led the Commonwealth and other Commonwealth countries to put investment bans on that country until we saw the end of apartheid. My colleagues have already mentioned the great appreciation that Nelson Mandela expressed to Bob Hawke, after his release. We were the first non-African country that Nelson Mandela visited after his release. Indeed, the ACTU was one of the first places he went, because the unions and Bob Hawke were very much instrumental in putting pressure on that regime in order to see the release of that remarkable historical figure and humanitarian, Nelson Mandela. These are the achievements of a great, great leader, and Bob Hawke should be remembered in that manner.
I want to finish on one final thing. We've heard about the way he touched everybody's hearts. He always gave you the impression that you were a close friend. Even though I'm not going to for a moment pretend that he was a close friend of mine—although I knew him for a long time—he always gave the impression when we met that there was some sort of intimate relationship. I think that was his remarkable skill: the way he dealt with people.
There was one occasion, if I may finish on this note, that just really sums up the man himself. I was in Darwin with my wife, Jodi Dack, and daughter, Una Rose. We were in Darwin; we had had a holiday. I noticed Bob Hawke coming into the Qantas lounge. It was packed. That longue was absolutely packed that day. There were no seats anywhere. As soon as I saw him coming, I grabbed the Qantas staff and said: 'We have to find some chairs. Bob Hawke has turned up.' He wasn't as young as he once was, and I wanted to make sure he was comfortable as we waited for our respective planes. We sorted that out. I ushered Bob over. He was accompanied by his great support. I said, 'I have some seats for you, Bob.' He said, 'Thank you.'
I remembered that I had never had a photo with him and my daughter. I asked him if he wouldn't mind me just taking a photo. Of course, he immediately said that was a great idea. This is why I remember the date well—it was 4 August—because it was the birthday of Jodi's mother, Kay. Jodi's mother, Kay, loved Bob Hawke. She was living in Adelaide at the time. Jodi said: 'Is it all right, Bob, if I ring my mum? You could just say happy birthday to my mother.' Bob said: 'Say happy birthday to her? I'm going to sing her "Happy Birthday".' We had to find him some space in the Qantas longue. We rang up the number. He didn't even introduce himself; he just started a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' on the phone to a bewildered Kay, who was listening to this person, who seems like they're impersonating Bob Hawke, singing 'Happy Birthday'. He just sings the song, as he always did, completely loud and bold. He really did believe he had a magnificent voice. It wasn't just 'Solidarity Forever'. He sang 'Happy Birthday' as if he had known Kay forever. After he finished, Jodi took the phone and Kay said, 'Who's that impersonating Bob Hawke?' Jodi said, 'No, that was Bob Hawke.' Instead of just saying, 'I'm happy to say happy birthday,' he had to do the whole bells and whistles.
That was what he was like. It didn't matter who it was. It didn't matter how significant the person may have been in the public eye. He treated everybody with great warmth and great passion. He always seemed to be interested in other people. For someone who certainly wasn't shy in thinking of how good he was himself, it was remarkable how much he thought about other people as well. He listened to them and listened to their ideas. Perhaps one of the reasons why he was seen as such a great Prime Minister was that he listened to his colleagues and allowed his colleagues to run their portfolios and run debates in a way that really brought the best out of people. He was a remarkable leader. We will miss him. This nation owes a great debt of gratitude to him and to his family. We have broken the mould. There will be no other Bob Hawke, but what a remarkable thing for this country to have such a great Prime Minister for such for an important period in our history.
Facing a Dennis Lillee bouncer, spending an hour at the track with Bart Cummings and having a beer with Bob Hawke are all things that I would have loved to have done as a young man growing up. From everything we've heard from these speeches today and everything else that has been said, Bob Hawke had a unique ability. He could be equally at home at Oxford, getting his Rhodes Scholarship, and equally at home at a pub anywhere across the nation. He could be at home in a boardroom, he could be at home in a classroom, he could be at home around a cabinet table and he could be equally at home around a kitchen table. This is a uniquely Australian quality, and one that he obviously had in enormous quantities. I would like to think that a lot of it has to do with the first 10 years of his life, growing up in country Australia. That's where you do have to ensure that you can walk and talk with all types of people. That was a capability that Bob had in spades. I've loved the stories about his passion for horseracing, for always wanting to make sure that he had the guide with him and that he was able to get his bets on. If I ever had that chance to have that beer I would have loved to have been able to talk about the great Australian horses, because it's a passion which many people still hold across this nation and the racetrack is one of the great levellers of Australian society. In my view, that's why Bob was probably so at home on the racetrack.
In terms of what the Hawke government did in setting this nation up for the future, many have also spoken about the reforms and important microeconomic reforms that were undertaken. I think the title of Paul Kelly's book, The End of Certainty, captures a lot of it. Up until that stage, we were a protected nation. We were a certain nation in the way that restrictions were put, especially on our economy. But Hawke and Keating had the ability and the will to change that—to create an uncertain economy. That brought with it uncertainty, pressures and challenges, but also—and there is no question about this—it set our nation up for the prosperity that it enjoys today.
I think there's an important message in how it was done: the consensus in which it was undertaken and also the way that cabinet government worked in the Hawke era. He knew that he wasn't the font of all wisdom, although, as many of the anecdotes have shown, he had a very high opinion of himself. But he still understood the importance of cabinet government and ensuring that there were proper processes in place. That meant that all the people that sat around that table were able to use their intellects, their experiences and their know-how to contribute to the important reforms that took place.
When it came to education, there were also significant achievements by the Hawke government. It's perhaps no surprise that this is the case because, as has been detailed, Bob Hawke's mother was a schoolteacher. The late Hazel Hawke noted that his mother had been frustrated at not being able to pursue further education because of the demands of marriage and family, so perhaps this was also one of the things that drove him when it came to education.
Increasing participation in the length and the breadth of our education system was something that the Hawke government achieved. There were big increases in the retention rates for school students to year 12—an important development, because that then meant they were able to access our higher education system. There were important reforms to the structure of the higher education system that led to a significant increase in participation. There was also the introduction of an income-contingent student loan scheme—HECS—which once again became transformational for our higher education system. Many will also be familiar with another memorable achievement that he had in higher education: sculling a yard of ale—two and a half pints, or 1.4 litres—in 11 seconds, a then world record at Oxford.
While at Oxford, Hawke wrote his thesis on the history of wage fixing in Australia for his Bachelor of Letters degree. It was entitled 'An appraisal of the role of the Australian Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration with special reference to the development of the concept of a basic wage'. In her memoirs, Hazel Hawke recounts Bob returning from this final oral exam on his research for his thesis. When asked how it had gone, he replied, 'Those Pommy blokes'—and I'm sure he used another phrase—'told me I knew more about it than they did.'
Hawke's widow, Blanche d'Alpuget, listed the large increase in the proportion of children finishing high school as one of Hawke's proudest achievements. Between 1985 and 1992, the retention of school students to year 12 increased from 46 per cent to 77 per cent. In 1988, the year before the Dawkins reforms were implemented, almost 169,000 students commenced higher education in Australia. By the end of 1996, this had increased to over 261,000—growth of almost 55 per cent. By contrast, Australia's population had grown by about 10 per cent in the same period. It was another remarkable achievement. Prior to those reforms, Australia had a binary system of higher education, with universities and with colleges of advanced education that were often quite small and that focused primarily on teaching.
The Dawkins reforms saw the end of this two-tier system, with the amalgamation of the colleges of advanced education, either with each other or with existing universities, to form one unified national system. Between 1983 and 1996, 18 universities were established. That's a near-doubling in the number of 19 universities that existed when Hawke came to power in 1983, and, as we in this space all know, being able to access higher education can have life-changing impacts. There is no question that the broadening of our university sector brought education closer to home for many Australians. Many of those universities have gone on to great things and contribute not only to the education of Australians but to one of our nation's largest exports, our $35 billion international education sector.
With such growth, of course, came the need to ensure that higher education in Australia was sustainable, and the introduction by the Hawke government of the HECS system, with which many of us are familiar, in 1989 laid the groundwork for long-term sustainability. It's incredibly important to note that countries in Latin America and, to our north, in South-East Asia are now looking to introduce schemes of exactly this type so they can broaden participation in higher education. That is the true mark of long-lasting reform.
Many of us who were alive and studying in 1989 will remember the tragic loss of life at Tiananmen Square at the time and Hawke's decision to allow Chinese nationals who were studying in Australia to remain here. At that time, there were more than 10,000 Chinese nationals studying in Australia. Another important legacy as a result of that compassionate decision is that currently there are 150,000 Chinese nationals studying in Australia today. I have no doubt that the decision taken after Tiananmen Square in 1989 has led to the continued use by Chinese nationals of our higher education system. It is wonderful that the government has been able to announce today the scholarship program that will bear Bob Hawke's name. There is no question that education was one of the things that he was incredibly proud of, not only of his own but of what he was able to do to increase Australians' participation in our education system. It is a legacy that is not only still being felt in Australia today but across the world.
Can I take this moment to pass on my sympathies to Bob Hawke's family. He obviously had a life and a family that had its trials, tribulations and joys like all Australian families. But there is no question that we have lost a great Australian. I wish to pass on my sympathies and my condolences to the Hawke family.
It is a privilege to participate in this motion of condolence. In starting, I thank the government for allowing the extent of this debate to occur in this chamber—the chamber in which the first Prime Minister to speak was Robert James Lee Hawke. I also thank the Prime Minister for establishing the award in Mr Hawke's name to be given to students of excellence, and I think that is certainly fitting of the memory of Bob Hawke.
Much has been said of Bob Hawke so far and much more is yet to be said, but he certainly was a man who believed in Australia, and I think it's fair to say that Australia believed in him. He was a true son of the labour movement, but I believe, beyond that, he was probably Australia's greatest agent of change. There is no doubt that our nation will be forever in his debt, I think, for the magnitude of change that occurred under his leadership as such, not only the structural reform of our economy but also our outlook as a nation.
As a young union official at the time, I was in awe of Bob Hawke's passion and determination that championed the lives of working men and women. I remember how he inspired us in his capacity as President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Even then, as President of the ACTU, he was a household name—he was as well known as any public official in the land at that stage.
I remember him being at the forefront of major industrial disputes. He was a skilled negotiator, a fantastic advocate in the Industrial Relations Commission. But, above all, what I remember about him in those days is the way he sought consensus. He was universally respected—whether it was employers, employee representatives, government or elsewhere, this man commanded their respect.
My earliest recollection of him was his ability to persuade strong and powerful unions to moderate their industrial positions to ensure that workers in some of the weaker sectors of our economy were not left behind. No doubt that had some bearing on his thinking after he came to government in 1983 about the prices and income accord—the idea of a social wage. That was certainly born out of that, but I saw that in evidence when he was leading the ACTU. He genuinely cared for all workers.
Most of us know him as Australia's longest serving Labor Prime Minister. He will be forever remembered for his work in transforming the framework, particularly the economic framework, of this country. He and Paul Keating were such a formidable duo. It wasn't that they did this by strength; they did it by encouraging people with the argument that we can be better. He deregulated the financial sector. He floated the Australian dollar. He opened up our economy to the world. He caused us to be a more confident nation and certainly a more outward looking country.
However, it's not just these great achievements in the economy that he will be remembered for. He was also an avid believer in the environment and he knew wholeheartedly the importance of increasing the government's focus on environment protection. To this end, he pushed for the protection of Antarctica. He led a UN task force at a time when international interests were keen to have mining of some description in Antarctica, and sympathetic states such as the UK and the US, whilst they didn't actually have notions of banning mining, certainly thought there was scope to have regulated mining in Antarctica. Hawke sought international cooperation. It wasn't that he opposed mining there—he went one step beyond. He wanted to get a blanket prohibition on mining in the Antarctic, and, after securing, first, the support of the French, he then systematically found allies in other international arenas and he established exactly that. His effort in Antarctica not only prevented mining; it brought the focus of scientific research, which is now so critical to our understanding of climate change itself.
He also fought on many other fronts: protection of our natural environment here at home, the prevention of the damming of the Franklin river, the expansion of protection for the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests in Tasmania, and the Daintree rainforest in Queensland; and—the one that Warren Snowdon spoke about a little earlier—the banning of uranium mining in Jabiluka and Kakadu's Coronation Hill. He pursued these on the basis that he saw their World Heritage value and these parts of our environment deserved to be protected. He didn't do it for political expediency. He didn't do this to get a vote. He did this in the genuine belief that, for future generations, the natural beauty of our country needed to be preserved. In his own words, he said this:
The essence of power is the knowledge that what you do is going to have an effect, not just an immediate but perhaps a lifelong effect, on the happiness and wellbeing of millions of people …
We just heard the Minister for Education speak, and I thank him for the words he said. Bob Hawke's investment in education and his investment in universal healthcare are a stark reminder that he worked not only for Australia; he worked for every Australian. By the way, at the start of Bob Hawke's prime ministership in 1983, only three out of every 10 kids completed high school—three out of 10. By the time he left the prime ministership, it was eight out of 10. He set us on the path of becoming a smarter nation. The benefits that flowed from that were improvements in tertiary education, the HECS scheme that followed et cetera. Really, getting more young Australians to finish high school did materially affect where we are now. He really set out to create a smarter nation.
Through his more persuasive efforts, he certainly convinced significant elements of the trade union movement in this country that looking after workers wasn't just about awards and rates of pay but also included looking after the dignity of people in their retirement. In 1983, when he became Prime Minister, very few blue-collar workers enjoyed retirement benefits. Through his efforts we saw the birth of universal superannuation, one of the greatest advances for workers in generations.
He had an unshakable belief in our nation's potential. He thought that we could be a better nation, and in his government he set about achieving that. He had a very down-to-earth manner about him. He was a genuine personality, and Australians followed him over the eight years of his prime ministership.
One of the other things that I do remember vividly is how moved he was and how affected he was following the massacre at Tiananmen Square. He felt that so personally, and it was right that, following Tiananmen Square, he let thousands of Chinese students who were studying remain in this country. It also showed his great depth of humanitarian spirit. But for me—and the member for McMahon at the table, the member for Werriwa and those of us who have the honour of representing some of the most multicultural communities in this country—the efforts of Bob Hawke also led to our nation becoming a more inclusive and open country. We are now certainly the net beneficiaries of the extent of immigration that has occurred in our land. But we have also seen the great depth of humanitarian spirit that did flow from those efforts, particularly as a result of the massacre in Tiananmen Square.
Before I leave his humanitarian aspects, what I think has also got to be seen as an enduring legacy of Bob Hawke is his work to end apartheid in South Africa and his efforts to free Nelson Mandela. It was his selfless and forward thinking that really reinvigorated the Australian spirit—namely, we can make a difference for the better in our world.
Following our defeat in 2013 and as we moved into 2014, as the Chief Opposition Whip, I thought that it would be beneficial if we had a function where we got caucus members—and also, importantly, their staff—together. It wasn't to put bandaids on things, but I think we did need to reinvigorate our party at that stage. And we thought: who would we get who would inspire the notion of Labor and get us back fighting for reform, fighting for change—those things that Labor's best known for? We actually got Bob Hawke to come, and it wasn't difficult. He asked me, 'What do you want me to do?' and I said: 'If you could, just speak to the dinner for maybe 10 to 15 minutes. Just give people a bit of a rev-up. I know we've had an election loss, so you could actually put a bit of spirit back into our side.' He said, 'Ten to 15 minutes?' 'Yes, Bob, that'd be marvellous if you could do that for us.'
Fifty-five minutes later—meanwhile, the entrees and everything else were getting cold—everyone was still spellbound by this bloke who had just captivated us. He had taken us through every major Labor initiative—social reforms whose making you could be thrilled that we had had our fingerprints on. He said, 'This is where we need to go for the future.' And then he actually broke into the song 'Solidarity Forever'. Most of us could at least hum along with the chorus line, but Bob knew every verse of it. As a matter of fact, he sang every verse with the microphone—I don't think he had it at the time, but someone gave it to him, so he walked around the room doing this. He had such a great night. Jill Saunders, who was Bob's PA and who worked with him in Parliament House and who was working with him as a former Prime Minister—this was getting late in the night—said to me: 'Look, I've got to go. I'm going back to my motel. He's now your responsibility.' I didn't quite realise the extent of that.
We were sitting the next day, so everyone was peeling off and going. It got down to where there were only about three or four of us left. One of them was me, of course, because I had the responsibility to get him back to where we had to go. There was Bob and my wife, Bernadette, who was trying to encourage him out because they were turning the lights off in the Press Club at that stage, until one of the young waitresses who was serving the tables actually came out. One of her friends—I forget what her name was—actually said, 'Mr Hawke, it's her birthday today; she's turning 23.' That changed everything. He had this young woman come over. He put his arm around her. Then he sang to her, and this went on and on. By the way, we had to have another drink while all of this was occurring, of course. When we left, the lights were going out. There were only about three of us left walking out of the Press Club. Fortunately, I had a car waiting that only had to go 100 metres up the road to Hotel Realm. I got him up there and got him to his room. I thought Jill Saunders did well by actually handing him over that night, but he had such a great night. He said, 'This is what it is to be Labor: to go out and be able to enthuse the Labor spirit—having enthused people who are committed to go on to make change.'
A couple of weeks before his death, I got a call from Craig Emerson. He said that Bob's been having a few discussions with Blanche of what might happen after. I said, 'Oh, okay.' As long as I've known Bob, despite the fact that his father was a religious minister, I don't think Bob really thought there was another God head other than Bob—that's probably putting it inappropriately. Anyway, I thought he was a lifelong committed atheist. Craig suggested to me that he'd just like to have a talk to someone and asked if I knew anyone who could go and sit with him and have a talk. I said, 'I'm sure we can find somebody.' But he said: 'There are a few things. It's got to be someone who has some Labor leaning.' I said, 'Okay, we can do that.' And then he said, 'But someone who is sympathetic to trade unions.' So that narrowed the field a little. Anyway, I had a talk to Bishop Terry Brady in Sydney. I had known that Bishop Brady's father was an official in the Building Workers' Industrial Union. I was told by Craig that Blanche had agreed that it sounds like I had the right bloke, so Terry went over to see Bob on a very warm Autumn afternoon. Terry sat in the sun while Bob spoke to him. I think Bob probably did most of the speaking in between his large cigar. Bishop Terry told me, 'I sort of sat downwind of this cigar, soaking in the aroma.' He said, 'I'm not sure who got the most out of all of that.' Bishop Terry told me, 'This is a person who I've met today who has so fundamentally changed this nation for the better.' I'm not sure where their spiritual discussion went, but I certainly know that Bishop Terry got a heck of a lot out of his meeting that afternoon with Bob.
It is a privilege to have been a part of the labour movement. I worked with Bob Hawke through his time at the ACTU and I've seen what he achieved in this place when he was able to continue to care for Australian working families in such a material way by making the changes that have enabled what we currently have. He has put us on the path for advancement. He has changed the way we think about ourselves. This man has made a difference for the better in our country. To Blanche and to his children I offer my sincere condolences. To Bob Hawke: may you rest in peace.
The House transcript was published up to 13:50 . The remainder of the transcript will be published progressively as it is completed.