Wednesday, 3 July 2019
Hawke, Hon. Robert James Lee (Bob), AC
Yesterday I informed the Senate of the death, on 16 May 2019, of the Hon. Robert James Lee Hawke AC, a member of the House of Representatives for the division of Wills, Victoria, from 1980 to 1992 and Prime Minister of Australia from 1983 to 1991.
by leave—I move:
That the Senate records its deep regret at the death, on 16 May 2019, of the Honourable Robert James Lee (Bob) Hawke AC, former Member for Wills and Prime Minister of Australia, places on record its appreciation of his long and highly distinguished service to the nation and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.
Australians mourn the loss of our 23rd Prime Minister, and, in so doing, we do not simply grieve the passing of a distinguished former leader; in many ways, we grieve the passing of a close and enduring friend. One of the great strengths of our democratic tradition is that, for all the rough-and-tumble of partisan politics, we are all able to identify individuals, across all sides of politics, who love our country dearly and work to make it a better place. In the life of the Hon. Robert James Lee Hawke AC, GCL, we see a love for his country that burnt brightly and that was warmly returned by his fellow Australians.
Bob Hawke's life was one of great purpose, steered by a sense of destiny from an early age. He was born on 9 December 1929, to Clem Hawke, a Congregationalist minister, and his wife, Ellie, a schoolteacher. Bob was raised in Bordertown, South Australia, before his family moved to the great state of Western Australia and settled in the suburb of West Leederville in 1939. That move followed the tragic death of his brother, Neil, at the age of 17. Bob almost died at the same age, in a motorbike accident, a near-death experience which had a profound and lasting impact on him.
His intellect and capacity for leadership were obvious from a very young age. He completed his secondary studies at Perth Modern School and graduated with degrees in law and arts from the University of Western Australia in 1952, after a year spent as the university's Student Guild president. It was during that period that he joined the Australian Labor Party, which was hardly a surprise given the great Labor pedigree of the Hawke family. His father had served as General Secretary of the South Australian Labor Party, and his uncle, Albert Hawke, was the Labor Premier of Western Australia through much of the 1950s.
Bob won a Rhodes Scholarship and moved to the United Kingdom, where he abandoned his initial study plans, to write a thesis on the history of Australia's wage-fixing system. The decision was vintage Hawke: turning his education in one of the world's most ancient and august institutions towards practical issues that would help him shape the lives of his countrymen. At Oxford he famously set the world record for sculling a yard glass of beer in just 11 seconds. The completion of such a feat surely allows us to reflect on Bob Hawke as being worthy of the title of scholar-athlete—although not perhaps in the traditional sense of the term! He graduated from Oxford with a Bachelor of Letters in 1955 and returned to Australia the following year. Bob briefly moved to Canberra to begin doctoral studies at the Australian National University but those plans were not to last. He moved to Melbourne, where he settled in the beachside suburb of Sandringham with his wife, Hazel, and their young family.
He started work at the Australian Council of Trade Unions, quickly establishing a name for himself as its most effective advocate, including early successes in the 1959 basic wages decision. From there his rise within the union movement began in full force, culminating in his election as ACTU president in 1969 following the retirement of Albert Monk. Bob's time at the helm of the ACTU raised his national profile and set him on an inevitable path to federal parliament. He unsuccessfully contested the seat of Corio in the 1963 federal election, defeated by long-serving Liberal member Sir Hubert Opperman. He continued to work for the ACTU, establishing a reputation for consensus and dispute resolution. He was also willing to give moral and social weight to the ACTU's actions, as seen in his support for demonstrations against apartheid during the visit of the South African Springboks rugby team in 1971. Bob's effectiveness at the helm of the ACTU saw him join the ALP's national executive in 1971 before his election as the party's federal president in 1973. He was a member of the Reserve Bank board and the Australian Population and Immigration Council. His electoral popularity became obvious as the Labor Party recovered from the demise of the Whitlam government in 1975. Many viewed him as an inevitable Labor leader and a prospective Prime Minister.
His parliamentary career began when he won the seat of Wills in north Melbourne in October 1980. When Bob took his place in the House of Representatives he was already a well-known figure with a formidable track record. He had been appointed as a Companion of the Order of Australia in January 1979, a year before he had even entered the parliament. His maiden speech in the House articulated his vision for the nation and his specific prescriptions for successful national leadership. He called for steps to be taken to 'eradicate the canker of poverty in the midst of affluence'. The speech also made it clear that the collegiate consensus style that had become his trademark at the ACTU would not be left at the door. He stated his belief in the importance of 'a preparedness on the part of government to plan, to coordinate and, on the basis of mutual understanding, to bring the legitimate elements of our society cohesively together'. In hindsight, few would doubt that Bob Hawke possessed that preparedness in full.
He initially served as shadow minister for industrial relations, employment and youth affairs under then Labor leader Bill Hayden, but in the eyes of many there was only ever one destination: the leadership of the Australian Labor Party and the prime ministership. In July 1982, during the ALP's federal conference at Canberra's Lakeside Hotel, Bob launched his first attempt to replace Bill Hayden and lost by just a few votes. After further rumblings—I guess that is how you best describe it—and further internal discussions, no doubt, Bill Hayden stood down to make way for his rival. Bob was elected to the Labor leadership on 3 February 1983 and went on to fight and win the 1983 election, becoming Prime Minister just two years after entering federal parliament.
In government Bob leveraged his electoral mandate, his remarkable and enduring popularity and his strong capacity for team-building and consensus to bring his party to the political centre on a range of issues. He worked with his Treasurer, friend and eventual rival, Paul Keating, on a formidable reform agenda. Those reforms helped lay the foundation stones for the modern Australian economy. I note that many of them at the time received the strong support of the then coalition opposition, reflecting a bipartisan commitment to important economic reforms in the national interest, which, decades later, the Australian people still rightly expect and deserve.
That period ushered in so many of the economic structures and settings that are taken for granted today: the floating of the dollar and the removal of controls on foreign exchange; dramatic reductions in tariffs in favour of free trade; the reduction of income tax rates, a number of times; and the removal of export controls on bulk commodities. Bob coaxed Australia's unions into supporting significant industrial relations reforms, including the introduction of a new system of enterprise bargaining that reduced the level of industrial disputes that had been a hallmark of the previous periods.
Another unique trait of Bob's leadership was the respect he earned from much of the nation's business community, from the national economic summit of April 1983, which marked the beginning of his reform effort, through to the conclusion of his prime ministership. Few could doubt that Bob's success came from bringing employer organisations and unions together. He deserves praise for his command and leadership of the cabinet. He's highly regarded as a superb cabinet chairman, well briefed across the detail and courteous to all ministers at all levels. He afforded ministers broad latitude except in the key areas of economic reform and foreign policy.
Beyond Australia's borders, Bob was also a highly regarded, well-grounded leader, prioritising the alliance with the United States and seeking to take advantage of the declining Cold War by promoting our nation as a responsible and active middle power. I also commend his firm commitment to the state of Israel—a position that at times earned him the ire of some of his colleagues but showed his commitment to our nation's democratic fellow travellers.
Bob can be attributed with a range of significant reforms across a number of portfolios, from the establishment of the Australian Electoral Commission to the listing of many precious Australian wonders as World Heritage sites, as well as important progress on the way to gender equality. His legacy stretches beyond his policy brief. He was a great celebrator of our national life, a man whose leadership showed a deep personal affection for Australia and its people. The joyous minutes in 1983 that followed Australia winning the America's Cup for the first time will be forever etched in our national consciousness. Bob, clad in that Australian flag jacket, spoke as the voice of Australian celebration when he declared, 'Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum!' And my staff were worried about whether I would be prepared to say that in the Senate chamber!
His genius was so often in his larrikin humanity and his willingness to share his full, unvarnished self with his fellow Australians—the good times and the bad, the laughter and the tears. In time, the nation's weakening economy as well as rising tensions with Paul Keating took their toll. Having won an initial leadership ballot against Paul Keating, Bob refused to bend to mounting pressure and resign. He stood firm but ultimately was defeated in the second ballot, being replaced by Paul Keating as Prime Minister on 20 December 1991. Two months later he resigned from the parliament, having spent the majority of his nearly 12 years in this place as Australia's leader. How remarkable: 12 years in parliament and such an absolutely remarkable, amazing contribution and impact on our national fortunes.
In 1994 he published The Hawke Memoirs and, following his separation from Hazel in 1995, he married Blanche D'Alpuget, with whom he shared the final decades of his life. At the same time, he delved into the business world, taking on a range of directorships. His political fire was never doused, and he would at times take to the public arena in support of causes that he believed in and supported. When on the hustings he had a remarkable ability, even in advanced age, to connect with the Australian people, to stoke that old fire, to draw a crowd and to enthral an audience. His larrikin antics continued to delight his everyday Australians, including very recently when he sculled a beer in front of ecstatic spectators at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The honours that he accrued throughout his decades in public life continued into his later years. In 1997 the University of South Australia established a Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, a Hawke Research Institute and a Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library. Yet for all the accolades received, the policy reforms landed and the books, biographies and newspapers filled with the story of his remarkable life, Bob's everyday Australian decency was the thing that shone brightest. In Bob's remarkable life and transformative leadership we see so much of the promise and greatness of Australia.
I should just pause here. I was asked in recent weeks whether I had ever met Bob Hawke myself, and indeed I did and it was a very special occasion. At the Boao Forum in 2015, through some sort of coincidence, then Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, Bob Hawke and I ended up sitting around the table having a cup of tea. There were lots of people behind the windows looking at us on the balcony, and the Governor-General took out three cigars. This was in March 2015, and I was carefully thinking about whether I should accept one of those three cigars. Bob didn't hesitate. As much as I have been on the receiving end of some derisory commentary for being partial to the occasional cigar, he had no such hesitation and he got his cigar going pretty quickly. As I was thinking about the mobile phones with cameras on the other side of the window and what I should be doing, the other two cigars disappeared in Bob's pocket, so the political dilemma was averted, for which I am eternally grateful! I think that he could see that there was an alignment of interest between he and I at that particular point in time.
During that particular trip I also experienced Bob's singing of Waltzing Matilda, among other things, and it was just amazing. There were business leaders from Australia and from other parts of the world, and Bob was leading them in song. It was certainly very, very special to have been able to see firsthand and very directly the way he connected with people at all levels. It was very special indeed.
His beloved wife, Blanche, in the weeks following his passing revealed that Bob always saw his life in terms of its contribution to society. In peaceful rest, Robert James Lee Hawke leaves behind a legacy for the ages. He has earned a unique place in the history of our nation, which he loved so deeply and whose people loved him so very much in return. In closing, it is to his wife, Blanche—whose words at his recent memorial touched so many of us—to Bob's family and friends, including his surviving children Susan, Stephen and Rosslyn and to his six grandchildren and his great-grandchildren that, on behalf of the government and in tribute to a truly great Australian, I join with my colleagues in this place in offering our sincerest condolences.
I rise on behalf of the opposition to speak on this condolence motion, and I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate for his words that preceded me.
Today we acknowledge the passing of an exceptional Australian and an exceptional member of the Labor family, the Hon. Robert James Lee Hawke AC, who passed away in May at the age of 89. Bob Hawke was loved. He was loved by our movement. He was loved by Australians. But today I start by expressing our deepest sympathy to those who loved him and those closest to him: to Blanche; to Bob's children, Stephen and Rosslyn; to his stepson Louis; and to all of his grandchildren and his many friends. And so too today we remember Hazel. I also acknowledge his former staff. I saw Craig Emerson emceeing the service and today in the chamber is Lou Cullen—she's going to be very embarrassed I mentioned her—who works with me, who was Bob Hawke's media assistant.
I was honoured to be amongst the thousands who celebrated his life at the memorial service held at the Sydney Opera House. Today our parliament, this central institution of the Australian democracy, comes together to pay tribute to a man who enriched our nation. The Hawke chapter in Australia's democratic story is remarkable. It is a quintessential Australian story, a story of achievement and a story of reform. It is a story of a vision of a country that could be a better Australia, a nation in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and a reminder of what democracy can be: progress and reform driven by values that are led, that are advocated and that are adopted.
Bob Hawke's ability to lead, his vision and his values saw him dominate the Australian political stage for two decades, but Bob Hawke's contribution to public life and his deep connection with the Australian people lasted a lifetime. His influence resonates today, as the economic reforms over which he presided continue to deliver sustained economic growth over a time span unparalleled in the nation's economic history. The years of uninterrupted economic growth that we have enjoyed are the true legacy of Bob Hawke's vision and energy.
He came to office in 1983, inheriting a moribund, closed economy mired in deep recession, and, together with Paul Keating, the greatest partnership in Australian politics, he led reform that created modern Australia and the modern Australian economy and laid the foundations for all of us who followed. He did this through consultation and cooperation, without the massive social upheaval that was a feature of similar economic transformations overseas. This was the defining feature of his style of leadership, because Bob Hawke worked to bring people together. He sought to unite, not to divide. His 1983 campaign slogan was 'Bob Hawke. Bringing Australia Together.' When Bob Hawke was confronted with the threat of race being used as a political weapon, he responded by demonstrating decency and the bipartisan commitment to an Australia that was culturally diverse, tolerant and open. As his longstanding press secretary Barrie Cassidy said: 'He wouldn't cop racism. He just wouldn't cop it at any level. At the very whiff of it, he'd be right on to it.' His is an example modern politics could learn from.
Bob Hawke lived his life beyond full, and his legacy has affected and will go on affecting all of us. We are the beneficiaries of a truly great Australian. The contours of his life are remarkable. South Australians know he was a South Australian, born in our home state, my home state, in Bordertown in 1929. I was very pleased at Labor's commitment in the lead-up to the election to purchase the home in which he was born and to preserve it as a memorial, transforming it into a museum celebrating his life and achievements, Australian democracy and civic life. It was Bob's wish, and I would invite the government to consider doing this. I hope they will adopt this proposition. Bob Hawke went on to live in Western Australia—so, to Western Australians he's a Western Australian—and be a Rhodes scholar for that state. He went on to represent an electorate in Victoria—so, he's a Victorian as well. Finally, he lived out his retirement years in New South Wales. It was a life lived across this great nation—a true Australian.
The breadth of Bob Hawke's domestic successes sometimes overshadows his remarkable contribution to the great Labor foreign policy tradition. I do wish to make a few remarks about this, because, like Curtin, Chifley and Whitlam, Hawke, too, had a profound sense of our national interests and a profound attachment to the values which underpin them. His genius was in the way he built and maintained relationships. The foundation of this was his authenticity. Be it with individuals or groups, he was the same. See, Bob was the same with trade union members and bosses, his political allies and his opponents, his punters at the races, his mates at the footy, his co-drinkers at the pub—and there were a few of them. Bob Hawke connected with everyone, and his ability to connect with world leaders was extraordinary. But, despite his charm, he wasn't a salesman and he didn't trade in slogans. Rather, he had an eye for strategic opportunity and a powerful instinct for strategic significance. Whether it was dealing with China, the United States or India, Bob Hawke could seize the moment, especially with those who shared his optimism and his courage, and that was one thing he did demonstrate consistently. It takes determination and courage to deliver the outcomes that make the world a better place. And throughout his public life he was deftly strategic in his approach—for example, in the advocacy for improved conditions and pay for workers, for the social wage; collaborating with major retailers to improve the purchasing power of working people; reforming the underpinnings of the economy; strengthening the alliance with the United States; strengthening the trade relationship with China; and cementing a better relationship with Papua New Guinea.
But of course the signature achievement of Bob Hawke's was to set the foundations for APEC. As his prime ministership matured, Bob Hawke came to see that the absence of a regional forum to broker global and regional trade and investment issues left the region as a whole vulnerable to being picked off and divided in global trade negotiations. He raised the idea with his South Korean counterpart in January 1989, and the warm response encouraged him to initiate a sustained diplomatic campaign which culminated in the first APEC meeting in November 1989, which is remarkable—remarkably quick progress in a matter of such sensitivity and complexity. Perhaps, in many respects, APEC was an organisation waiting to happen. But its establishment required leadership, which is what Hawke and this nation provided. So APEC remains a testament to Bob Hawke's insight and foresight and a testament to a Labor government's willingness for Australia, as a substantial power in the region, to promote, broker and drive regional solutions.
Bob Hawke's capacity for sustained and long-term strategic investment is also illustrated by his decade-long engagement with regional partners and the international community in resolving challenges in Cambodia, which persisted throughout the decade. Bob Hawke, Bill Hayden and Gareth Evans persevered, laying the groundwork, making the critical diplomatic investment that culminated in the 1991 Paris peace accords.
Bob Hawke brought great skill and insight, to change the nature of some of our most important bilateral relationships. His authenticity cut through language and culture because it connected us as people. He built early relationships with China, carefully laying the beginnings of our remarkable economic relationship. As Bob Hawke said to Premier Zhao in 1986:
This generation has before it the real prospect of our region emerging for the first time in history as a place of prosperity for all of our peoples.
Well, he had prescience. That was in 1986, and the region is now the engine room of the global economy. Bob Hawke saw the economic development and increasing social and political reforms in China as the most strategically significant change to the global balance, and he was right.
And Bob Hawke was deeply affected by the violence of the military crackdown on student protesters in Tiananmen Square that began on 4 June 1989 and had led to his decision to grant permanent residence status to 42,000 Chinese students then studying in Australia. Many of them are now Australian citizens—part of his enduring legacy.
Bob Hawke was also able to build an authentic relationship with key leaders in the United States. He approached our key alliance partner, acutely conscious of the concerns abroad in the wider Australian community, then, about the joint facilities; concerns about the threat of nuclear weapons; global worries about the knock-on effects of the failure of detente and the deployment of new missile systems in Europe. Recognising there was a shared sense of opportunity and vision that could shape a world that could be passed on to future generations, he worked effectively to set the direction of the relationship and strengthened our relationship with the United States, based on the alignment of national interests.
Bob Hawke knew how to connect with people emotionally. Whether it was his public show of emotion at the brutal and tragic loss of life in the Tiananmen crackdown, or a more personal interaction, or him on national television merrily demanding that everyone get the day off, everyone has their own great memories and anecdotes about Bob Hawke. Many have been recounted in the weeks since his passing.
Every time I met Bob, he was optimistic, ebullient and telling me what to do. I do recall seeing him at one point, post the 2013 loss—going to see him at his office—and he said, 'How are you, love?' and I said, 'Oh, you know, it's pretty hard being in opposition,' and he said, 'Oh, well, I wouldn't know'! Not much more to say, really!
Bob Hawke was a peerless Australian. He had a passion for the nation Australia could become, and he had the capacity to transform his vision into reality. His ability to forge consensus for change, forming broad coalitions based on appeal to shared objectives, stands before all of us as an example of what is possible in a progressive democracy. His conduct of Australia's international relations was founded on the idea that, if our nation was to sustain and build its economic power, our economic and foreign policies needed to operate hand in hand. It is precisely this insight which continues to inspire Labor to build on his remarkable foreign policy legacy of relationships in our region, strategic alliances and multilateral engagement. Just as Curtin, Chifley and Whitlam left an indelible mark on the character of Australia's domestic and foreign policy, so too did Bob Hawke. The nation remains indebted to this remarkable Labor Prime Minister. We mourn Bob's passing, but we are strengthened by the knowledge that his legacy will endure.
Bob Hawke knew how to lead. He brought both intellect and passion to the task. He led with heart and head, and he knew how to bring Australians together. He knew how to fire our imaginations and how to inspire us. Bob Hawke spoke to hope, not fear. He encouraged opportunity, not timidity. He rebuffed division and he confronted prejudice. He fostered unity and a belief in the collective, and he urged us to look beyond and to look ahead. He inspired, he argued, he cajoled, he joked and he convinced us. He changed our nation for the better. That is what Labor governments do—they change the nation for the better, and none more so than his.
Farewell, Bob Hawke. The Labor Party thanks you. The nation honours you. The opposition, again, today expresses its deepest sympathy to his family and his friends.
I rise on behalf of the Australian Greens to pay tribute to the life of Bob Hawke. Bob Hawke was a hero in our household. My grandfather idolised Bob Hawke. The names Whitlam and Hawke were etched into my consciousness as a young kid learning about this thing called politics. Here was my grandfather fresh off the boat with a young family, from postwar Italy, trying to start a life here—he came here with nothing but a suitcase—and here was this bloke, Bob Hawke, who spoke to him and so many families like him, and migrants from many different countries. They knew that this was a man who loved them, who cared for them and who respected them. He was a man who valued them and wanted them to be part of Australia's future.
In some ways, Bob Hawke was part of the reason I am here. I remember, as a young kid, that my uncle—the youngest of the children and the bloke who introduced me to bushwalking and to loving the Australian environment—decided to pack up his bags in Brunswick and head off to Tassie, because he wanted to go and save this wild river called the Franklin. He was a hero to me. I remember arriving at the house in Brunswick. The Northern Leader was open on the table and there was a picture of my uncle, who had just been arrested in the campaign to save the Franklin. There was no-one cooler than my uncle for doing what he believed in. My grandmother wore black—I reckon that was the day she started wearing black—and I have a memory of seeing her with her rosary beads, praying to God to rescue my uncle's soul for doing what he had done and bringing shame to the family.
It was Bob Hawke's leadership on so many issues, particularly on the environment, that was so inspiring to many of us. He was arguably the Prime Minister who had done more to protect our natural environment than any Prime Minister before or since. Just think about his legacy: Kakadu and the Daintree tropics in the north; the moratorium on mining in Antarctica; Shark Bay in the west; the Gondwana rainforests in the east; Uluru and Kata Tjuta in the Centre; and, of course, Tasmania's wilderness and World Heritage listings. They were all part of what Bob Hawke did to leave this country a better place.
I was looking at Bob Hawke's Our country our future: statement on the environment. I'd recommend it to anybody who cares about the future of our planet. The way he talked about the environment is interesting. This could come straight out of a Greens' policy statement: 'The environment ultimately sustains all life on earth. Plants and animals provide us with food, clothing, shelter et cetera.' He talks about the world's resources as 'finite' and 'ecosystems around us with a limited capacity to regenerate after damage'. He talks about the social and economic benefit of preserving the environment. And he goes on to say:
While plants and animals are useful we, as their custodians, have a responsibility towards their preservation. Plants and animals have intrinsic value in and of themselves and many people believe that, as such, they have a right to survive and that we have a moral obligation to preserve them.
That's leadership; that's tremendous leadership. He talks about the threats to the environment: 'We've got little time to spare. The cumulative effects of past mistakes in our care for the environment are still to fully emerge, and to proceed with ignorant and unthinking ways risks future irreparable damage. We can't continue to squander the earth's assets.' He was prescient on climate change as well. He talked about what needs to be done to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in his statement from 1989; the scope to enhance energy efficiency and energy conservation; the role of carbon dioxide emissions in Australia and what we can do to reduce them in the transport sector, from motor vehicles; the objective to reduce transport energy consumption per capita through public transport and land use planning—all things that we're talking about today. He was a champion for the environment.
Some people have highlighted the parallels between the campaigns on the Franklin and, of course, the campaign that we're fighting today to stop the Adani coalmine from going ahead. If you look back on the Franklin River, it's true that there were divided views within all parties, voracious and greedy corporations desperate to see that project go ahead and a lot of local conservative politicians telling those out-of-towners to bugger off, but you had a growing grassroots environment movement committed to the preservation of Australia's precious places. What separates those issues is 35 years and the courage and leadership of Bob Hawke.
The 1983 election that brought him to power saw all seats lost by Labor in Tassie, yet on the night of the election, after acknowledging his win and the hard work of his colleagues, the next people he acknowledged were Tasmanians. This is what he said to them: 'I want to give you, the people of Tasmania, the confidence that my government will be particularly concerned with the issues that were close to your mind when you cast your vote. My government will go ahead and honour the promises that we've made, but the dam will not go ahead—you are concerned, legitimately, with issues of power and employment—and I've made it clear that we'll meet your concerns. So, from this moment, I commit myself to an undertaking, a task, of national reconciliation. I ask that you give us your trust and cooperation and, if we work together, there will be no bounds as to what we can do together.' He showed leadership, he sought to unite, he didn't equivocate, he worked hard to provide people with alternatives and he succeeded. It was Barry Jones, Bob Hawke's science minister, who told Fairfax that he'd 'brooded a lot' about the likelihood of such interventions now. He said: 'If there's a comparable situation to the Tasmanian dam dispute in 2019, would we act the same way that we did? I’m not sure that we would.'
Bob Hawke was a leader. It's important to note that he was a leader but also that he was surrounded by giants. He showed leadership at a time when leadership was necessary. He worked with his colleagues, a talented group of individuals—one of the most talented cabinets in Australia's history—and he was able to bring out those talents. He was able to work with people; he was a consensus builder. He made sure that each and every one of those individuals shined.
It's important to note too that his legacy is not one that has been universally embraced. He made some very important economic reforms, and they were tough reforms. He introduced capital gains tax, he tightened up fringe benefits and he introduced the shock absorber of a floating exchange rate—all important for Australia's future economic prosperity. But I suppose some of the gloss for many people started to wear off in successive governments with the privatisation of public assets and the deregulation of the finance sector and so on. Ultimately, it was many of those reforms that led many people against some of them—my family, my friends, the people involved in the textile industry and manufacturing—when we saw the unleashing of Reaganomics and Thatcherite policies, here what we called economic rationalism. We know that they tilled the ground for some of the reforms that we've now seen—the privatisation of our health system through private health insurance, the inordinate amount of funding that goes to private schools at the expense of public schools. Having said all of those things, his legacy nonetheless is an overwhelmingly positive one.
In today's political environment, it's hard to see how someone like Bob Hawke would be able to rise to the heights that he was able to when you consider his life before politics, when you consider that right now everybody's deeds and every personal misstep is captured with digital fingerprints forever and dug up by political dirt units once candidates are nominated. You wonder whether Bob Hawke would have been Prime Minister today, and that would have been a great loss to our country.
He left an important legacy for Australia. He warned us of the threat of global warming years before coal, oil and gas companies marshalled their resources to fight the science and to create fear within our community. Let me close by putting the question he put to all Australians on World Environment Day in 1989. He said: 'Are we looking after it? We don't inherit our planet; we borrow it, not simply for ourselves but for our kids and our grandkids. The greenhouse effect has the potential to change, in a single lifetime, the way all nations and people live and work. Care for our planet as you would care for our children. Their tomorrow depends on our actions today.' He was impassioned, heartfelt, and he spoke with meaning.
Who can forget the leadership he showed when it came to fighting apartheid in South Africa or the tears that rolled down his face and the snot that poured out of his nose when he stood up with that impassioned and heartfelt speech in response to the massacre in Tiananmen Square, where he said to the country, without talking to a focus group, without seeking to consult with the bureaucracy, 'We will give you refuge in our country.' He showed leadership. He showed the country what it was to be somebody who cared, who felt deeply. He would argue his case regardless of the consequences because he believed in the power of people, he believed in uniting this nation, he believed in caring for those Australians who chose to make this place their home, and he believed that we are custodians of this precious, small, blue speck floating in space and that it is our moral duty to preserve it and to leave it in better shape for future generations.
Vale Bob Hawke. We give our sympathies to all of his family and friends. We are a better place because Bob Hawke was Prime Minister of this country.
Many thoughtful words have already been spoken about former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, his contribution and his character. On behalf of the Nationals, my contribution today will reflect on his life and work in particular as it relates to rural and regional Australia. Labor PMs are not generally remembered for their connection to rural and regional Australia, but Bob Hawke, an exception in so many ways, certainly had a lasting impact on the regions and our industries. For the X-geners here in the audience, it went far beyond his memorable cameo addressing the kids at Burrigan school in A Country Practice.
Bob Hawke's presence in the regions was felt almost immediately on him becoming Prime Minister. In 1983, within the first few weeks, there was fortuitous breaking of a long drought, one of the worst in Australia last century. Don't we wish we could summon those same powers now to bring respite to our farmers who are battling another prolonged and cruel drought across so much of regional Australia. His birthplace was Bordertown, in regional South Australia, part of a district which has a long history in agriculture and is led primarily by cereal crops and livestock farming.
The first Hawke cabinet is widely acknowledged as being the best Labor post World War II cabinet, in large part because of the diversity within its ranks, which included a shearer in Mick Young and not one but two farmers in John Kerin and Peter Walsh. Bob deserves recognition for the strength of his first ministry and for his appreciation of the importance of agriculture to our national economy. In his election speech, delivered in February 1983, he told voters:
No Australian resource is more important than our land. No sector of Australian industry is more important than our great primary industries, which still provide 50 per cent of Australia's export income in normal circumstances.
In his book John Kerin spoke of his difficulties in convincing the then Treasurer Paul Keating—and it's no surprise—that agriculture should be front and centre of the economic policy debate, but it was clear that Bob Hawke needed less convincing. That said, there was some unrest in rural and regional Australia directed at the Hawke government's economic changes during this time.
His ability to draw a crowd was once again on show when 45,000 of our farmers descended on Canberra in 1985 to protest high interest rates, the threat of higher taxes, high fuel costs and low commodity prices. But, to Bob Hawke's credit, he fronted those farmers, and the Hawke government's economic reforms ultimately deserve some credit for helping to advance Australian agriculture. The Hawke government contributed to the further liberalisation of ag trade, which has continued under subsequent governments.
Bob Hawke and John Kerin recognised the importance of rural research and development in delivering productivity growth and international competitiveness. They also recognised that the benefits from rural research extended to consumers and new production and more jobs in regional communities. This led to the creation of research and development corporations, where research is undertaken on behalf of farmers and the broader community in partnership, with the cost shared through both industry levies and taxpayer funding.
In 1985, Bob Hawke officially opened the National Farmers' Federation house in Canberra. The NFF is a lead peak body for agriculture and continues to play a pivotal role in policy development and advocacy across the country. Like all good advocacy groups, Bob Hawke and the NFF didn't always see eye to eye. The story goes that then NFF President Ian McLachlan was once on the receiving end of Hawke's sharp tongue. He had an appointment with the Prime Minister and planned to deliver a blunt message on behalf of Australian farmers. But Mr McLachlan decided to practice his lines at a media doorstop on the way into Old Parliament House. The story goes that the president of the NFF was left in the cabinet room for an hour, and when PM Hawke finally arrived the message was short, sharp and extremely colourful. The Prime Minister made it clear he was unimpressed about being lectured to through the media.
Bob Hawke left a lasting legacy in rural and regional Australia through his role in the evolution of the Landcare movement. He's considered one of the fathers of Landcare for his launch of the movement during his prime ministership. Few would have thought that when he stood at the junction of the Murray and Darling rivers in 1989 and announced the start of the decade of Landcare the movement would grow to what it is today. The decade of Landcare is now in its third decade, celebrating its 30th anniversary. There were many others involved in Landcare's initial creation, such as the late Rick Farley and the late Phillip Toyne. But Hawke's support of this emerging movement gave it legitimacy and a champion in the highest office of the country.
Bob Hawke's words resonated with farmers and the environmental movement. We should always acknowledge that farmers care deeply about the environment, too. Bob Hawke's call to action brought people together for a common cause. At that Wentworth address, he spoke about the importance of cooperation to care for the land:
… the degradation of our environment is not simply a local problem, nor a problem for one State or another, nor for the Commonwealth alone. Rather, the damage being done to our environment is a problem for all of us—and not just governments—but all of us individually and together.
Landcare was built on that spirit of cooperation that has made it what it is today. He continued to champion Landcare, and people from all sections of Australian society have continued to join the noble cause of improving our environment and creating more productive farmland. We now have nearly 5,500 Landcare groups and hundreds of thousands of volunteers across Australia working at the front line. Australian farmers have an international reputation as sustainable land managers, and Landcare has played a significant role in promoting innovative agricultural practices, and it's a tremendous legacy for Bob Hawke.
In 1989, he was also the first Prime Minister to pledge to plant one billion trees to address land degradation, salinity and erosion, and this has led to more than 700 million trees reportedly being planted. Just last year, the Australian government delivered our forestry plan and the plan to grow a billion new plantation trees, and this time it's over the next decade. We will need to meet the demand going into 2050, particularly saw logs for building and construction. We need to ensure Australia's renewable timber and wood fibre industry is better prepared for future challenges and opportunities.
Bob Hawke will be remembered for so many contributions to the Australia we know and love today. His contribution to the bush is undeniable. As someone who believes that our nation needs sustainable and prosperous regions just as much as it needs thriving cities, I want to ensure this work is sufficiently recognised in his long list of accomplishments that I'm sure other contributions today will make to the Senate.
It's true that Bob Hawke's relationship with the National Party also had its ups and downs. In one instance during a heated dispute on live exports, of all things, between meatworkers and farmers, Hawke described our former leader Doug Anthony as a 'damned nuisance'. I can only conclude that Mr Anthony was doing exactly what all good Nationals leaders do, and that's advocating strongly for the regions and ruffling a few feathers along the way.
But Bob Hawke left a lasting impression on the former Country Party member for Calare, now one of my constituents in Victoria, Sandy Mackenzie—for those who don't know, Calare is in New South Wales—who shared a beautiful tribute with me which sums up the measure of Bob Hawke. This is Sandy's story: 'In 1980, on the day that the new parliament was sworn in, the new member for Wills, Bob Hawke, popped his head into my office and said: "G'day. I'm a bit new around here, and I'm in the office next door to you guys."' Over the next two years, Sandy and the guy he shared the office with, Sam Calder, and Bob Hawke shared many of those larrikin humanity moments that I think Mathias was referring to as they started their parliamentary journey together. Obviously, then Mr Hawke went on to become Prime Minister. This is Sandy: 'In the 1983 election, Bob, when campaigning from a truck in Orange, saw me in the crowd and called out: "Hey, Sandy, you're looking a bit miserable down there. Come up here, and I'll give you a bit of a hug."' I think that is a practical measure of his ability to build partnerships and relationships with all people in Australian society, and it's lovely to see someone campaigning to be Prime Minister of this country actually out in a regional community talking to us.
So, on behalf of the National Party, my sympathies to his family, his friends and his many colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
It's appropriate the parliament pauses today to reflect on the life of Robert James Lee Hawke—Bob, Hawkie—Australia's 23rd Prime Minister. Few people have so fundamentally changed the course of our nation as he did. Even fewer have managed it with such wit and warmth.
Bob Hawke possessed an extraordinary characteristic: simultaneously he was both everyman and leader without peer. Australians responded to Bob Hawke because they saw themselves, their mates and their neighbours in him. But Australians trusted Bob Hawke because they recognised his capacity to diagnose and comprehend the challenges the country faced and his resolve and clarity in meeting those challenges and making Australia a stronger, fairer place.
Long before I moved to Australia, I knew about Bob Hawke. In 1989, as a political science undergraduate at the University of Dayton, I wrote two essays on Bob Hawke. One was on his commitment that Australia take a leadership role in tackling global pollution—what we would today call emissions reduction—and the other was on the manner in which the Labor leadership transitioned from Bill Hayden to Bob Hawke. I wish I could say that I wrote these essays because I possessed the foresight to know how important it would be to have a thorough understanding of both of these topics later in my career. But, truth be told, at that stage in my life, living in Ohio, I couldn't have imagined a set of circumstances in which I would ever meet Bob Hawke.
However, that opportunity did arise in 1999, three years after I married my Australian husband, Ben Keneally. As a young at-home mother, I supported the Australian Republican Movement campaign in the referendum that year. On referendum day, my son Daniel, then 18 months old and sitting in his pram in his 'Yes' T-shirt, had his first experience of handing out 'how to votes' at a polling booth. That night, Ben and I took Daniel to the yes campaign event and I spotted the hero of my university essays, Bob Hawke, across the room. Even though the night was not one of celebration for the yes campaign, Bob received me, an enthusiastic fan, with grace, good humour and an open smile, as he always did with the countless Australians that he met. Bob posed for a photo that is one of my most cherished possessions: me clutching Daniel, Daniel clutching a yes campaign balloon, and Bob Hawke clutching a beer. All of us were happy in that moment.
Bob came to office at a crucial time in our collective history. When Donald Horne wrote The Lucky Country, he didn't intend it to become a beloved moniker of our great country. His 1964 book described 'an insular and protectionist society, one that suffered from lethargy and a lack of ingenuity, a relic of British colonialism adrift in the region when it couldn't comprehend its role or its future'. His writing was an indictment of a country in stasis, and a call for reform and a reformer. Some of the criticisms were warranted and some remnants of Horne's Australia followed us into the 1980s.
But that changed in 1983 with Bob Hawke. Today we call ourselves 'the lucky country' with great endearment because we have been a lot luckier since Bob Hawke was our Prime Minister. The Hawke government pursued a wideranging progressive agenda of social and economic reform, the likes of which had never been seen in our country before. He floated the dollar, abandoned the old regime of trade tariffs and opened our economy to the world. He knew the tension this economic shift would cause, but he sought to balance that against the competing demands of the union movement and industry with the price and income accords. It was an especially bold line for a former trade union official to pursue. It required a deft hand and an enthusiasm for consensus—things that came naturally to a man who had already been plying his trade in the union movement for decades.
Since 1969, Bob had served as the President of the ACTU and earned a reputation as a persuasive and passionate advocate for the rights of ordinary Australians. He didn't win every battle, but he possessed an immense intellect and a knack for leading people to work collaboratively and find where they were willing to compromise to achieve better outcomes for all. Through his role in the labour movement his popularity grew to outstanding heights.
There is one gift that Bob Hawke, as Prime Minister, gave to Australia that no-one and no political party will ever be able to take away. Bob ensured that we would have Medicare, a system of universal health care that remains the envy of many First World countries today. There are few things more universal to all Australians than the green and gold card that sits in each of our wallets or purses. Every Australian will always have Bob Hawke to thank for their health and wellbeing, an extraordinary legacy that is testament to the things that Bob valued most. Bob acknowledged our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific and the role that we as a proud, developed and sovereign nation played on the world stage.
When Bob came to office, Australia had one of the lowest school retention rates in the developed world; by the time he left parliament, he had more than doubled it. We were fortunate to get a Prime Minister who possessed a great vision for our nation and the necessary ability to bring the country with him through difficult reforms. His was a paradigm shift for the Australian people, and one that has brought us immense prosperity. It's not a stretch to say that much of the country's unmatched economic success over the past 30 years flows directly from the decisions made in Bob's cabinet in the 1980s, or perhaps at The Lodge after a couple of games of tennis on a Sunday afternoon.
It wasn't just his enormous policy success that defined Bob's time in the parliament. He did enjoy a genuine and enduring affinity with the Australian people. He was and always will be an exemplar of our country's inherent larrikinism and wit. The Prime Minister famously donned the now-iconic white jacket emblazoned with Australian flags and gave the nation an ironclad excuse for a sickie. On some days he was known to be more focused on the horses he was backing than on the TV cameras surrounding him. At the same time, he was a Prime Minister who wasn't afraid to shed a tear when sharing his shortcomings as a parent or as he watched his fellow men and women face egregious regimes abroad.
The persona of Bob Hawke, larger than life, unpretentious and frank, has sometimes overwhelmed our understanding of his accomplishments. Behind the cheeky smile was a sensitivity, complemented by his towering intellect and a courageous commitment to fighting injustice wherever he saw it. On the domestic front, Bob was an unwavering warrior for equality and social justice. Bob prioritised the advancement of women in the workplace, passing two key pieces of legislation, the Sex Discrimination Act and the affirmative action act, which still underpin our current system today. Bob was a proud environmentalist, and his efforts to preserve our beautiful sunburnt country can be witnessed in the natural wonders of the Daintree Rainforest, Shark Bay and the Gondwana Rainforests. Bob co-signed the historic Barunga Statement in 1988, returned Uluru to its traditional owners and fought for a treaty with our First Nations people.
Internationally, Bob understood the role that passionate but disciplined diplomacy could play in promoting the values of a liberal democracy in a world undergoing significant upheaval. During his time with the ACTU he campaigned for the rights of Jewish families attempting to leave the Soviet Union and led boycotts against the apartheid-era South African Springboks rugby union team when they toured Australia in 1971. He loathed racism and was an unrelenting advocate for Nelson Mandela at a time when the great South African leader was decried by many loud voices as a terrorist. But it was his response to the Tiananmen Square massacre that perhaps best characterised Bob's inherent sense of justice: a Prime Minister on television struggling to hold back tears and promising refuge to persecuted Chinese students who watched as their world was turned upside down from thousands of kilometres away. It was a genuine reflection of the value Bob so readily placed on his fellow human beings.
Bob took bold stances at a time when our society was still struggling with accepting our diversity. It would have been easier to stand quietly by, but it is true to form for a man with such conviction to never take the low road or the easy path. Bob knew there were no small gestures, and he did nothing by half. His was a voice that was listened to by leaders around the world, and it allowed him to advocate on behalf of the fair go that is now shorthand for the very best of what it means to be an Australian. Bob didn't preach to us; he just showed us, through actions rather than words, that there is a better way. It meant he was able to help redefine who we were and what we stood for as a country. He proposed a modern Australia that puts a premium on fairness, and he recognised that we have an intrinsic responsibility to do better for each other—and, more importantly, he delivered it.
In his later years, Bob continued to grow as a stalwart of the labour movement. He tirelessly and enthusiastically campaigned for Labor candidates at state and federal levels across the country. Bob took seriously his role as an elder statesman of our party, as the supporter and nurturer of the next generation of MPs. If you needed Bob Hawke for an endorsement, an appearance or a fundraiser, he more often than not—and perhaps more often than anyone else—obliged.
As a premier and later as a candidate for the federal seat of Bennelong, I was a fortunate beneficiary of Bob's enthusiasm for a Labor campaign—although I have to say, at times his enthusiasm overflowed. For example, in 2011, in that tough New South Wales election campaign, Bob joined me on the campaign bus for a swing through Western Sydney, culminating in a street walk through, and a media conference in, Parramatta. Bob had been so well received on Church Street in Parramatta that he was in a particularly good mood. At our media conference, he gave me such a glowing endorsement that he decided he needed to seal it with a kiss, literally. As the photographic evidence will show—just check Google Images—it was plainly evident from my expression that I only realised at the last moment that this kiss was not intended for my cheek. What a moment! What a Bob Hawke moment—no ill intent, just genuine affection, genuine praise and a genuine moment of enthusiasm. Anyone who saw the footage could see that's what it was. Nearly 18 years in politics has provided me with lots of significant moments, but getting kissed on the lips by Bob Hawke during a media conference is certainly amongst the most memorable.
Of course, Bob loved to sing, especially union anthems like 'Solidarity Forever', and he had a lovely deep voice that resonated around a room. He knew, during the Bennelong by-election, that my birthday was just three days later, and, though his health was not at its best, he still came to Labor headquarters, filmed an endorsement video, gave a rousing speech to the phone bank troops and then sang me a special Bennelong rendition of 'Happy Birthday'. His generosity, his friendship and his love for all of us in the labour movement shined through in such moments.
There was no more appropriate celebration of Bob's life than the memorial that was held at the Sydney Opera House last month. It was loud, colourful and jovial, a celebration of the life of an extraordinary gentleman who recognised the impact his work had on the country that he loved, and we accepted the loss of him with profound humility and joy that day. It was quintessentially Bob. He even managed to conduct the orchestra at his own memorial. Only Bob could do that.
It's difficult to articulate what we've lost with Bob Hawke's passing—a brilliant mind, an irrepressible wit, an enthusiastic singer, a compassionate and strong leader, our warm friend, our Bob Hawke, a great Australian who steered us from the fog into the present day and, in turn, delivered so much for so many. Bob once said:
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 and so I think the essence of power is to be conscious of what it can mean for others.
We owe Bob Hawke a great deal of gratitude for how he used his power for others.
My condolences today to Blanche; Sue; Stephen; Rosslyn; his stepson, Louis; and his grandchildren. They were better for having Bob, and we were better for having Bob with us. I'll miss you, Bob. The Australian Labor Party will miss you. Australia misses you.
This is not my first speech but, as a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I want to speak on behalf of the people of Queensland and give our condolences to the family of Bob Hawke. I want to celebrate a life. I don't see this as loss or something that we park in our memory. Funerals, memorial services and condolences are a wonderful time to celebrate a life well lived. That is an important thing to which we bring truth, because it is truth that really shines through. Bob Hawke was one of Australia's best-remembered prime ministers. I can even recall in 1983 being in Singleton's main street, John Street, when I heard on the news that he had replaced Bill Hayden as the Leader of the Opposition. There are very few things that I tend to remember like that—I know where I was when the moon landing occurred, when John F Kennedy was assassinated—and yet I remember Bob Hawke becoming opposition leader.
I actually didn't vote for Bob Hawke in 1983. I voted for Malcolm Fraser, much to my regret. But I did vote for Bob Hawke when the alternative was Andrew Peacock. My dad has teased me forever for that, because my father was born into an underground-coalmining family in Wales and he understood the blight that the British labour movement had put on the coalminers by nationalising their industry. So my father was no friend of the Labor Party, and he teased me about voting for Bob Hawke. But later on my father would also call him 'the silver bodgie'. That was a term that some people used. But even as a term of derision it was quite often used with affection, which is quite remarkable. We know that Bob Hawke is one of very few people in this country who are known by their first name. People would say 'Bob', and everyone knew who they were talking about. People say the same about Joh and the same about Pauline. I can't think of too many other politicians who everyone across the country knows from their first name only—Bob Hawke.
My understanding of politics in my 20s, back in the 1980s, was limited because I'd spent three years overseas in America. But, as I understand it, John Howard lacked the support from Malcolm Fraser to implement many of the reforms that John Howard sought to implement. But that didn't stop Bob Hawke; he stole them and implemented them, and so did Paul Keating. They made a wonderful pair. As I understand it, they picked up this whole country. It was like a sheepdog running into the middle of a group of people, shaking all the water and mud off it, infecting everyone with its enthusiasm and then wanting to play and take off. In doing that, Bob Hawke picked up this whole country. He did what his predecessors in the Labor Party failed to do and what his contemporaries in the Liberal Party failed to do. He vastly improved this country.
He had his failures, like the ACTU business ventures that failed. From memory, there was Bourke's in Melbourne, and Solo petrol stations. His first attempt to run for parliament failed, and then he went on later to win four federal elections on the trot. Of course, he said something that many people see as cynical—I know I certainly did at the time—and that was his pledge that there would be no child living in poverty by 1990. He was clever and bold and he got away with it. He was shorter than John Howard, but he referred to John Howard as 'shortie'. That cheekiness and that boldness left that tag with John Howard.
Having discussed some of his past indiscretions, I'll go on to what I celebrate about Bob Hawke, which is the majority of what I want to talk about. No. 1: his passion flowed. I can remember the tears rolling down Bob's cheeks when we heard about Tiananmen Square, and they were genuine. They were the sorrow, the sadness and the deep hurt at the senselessness of it all. That man was really in pain when he felt that. Then there was his daughter's battle with drug addiction and the pain there—not only his pain as a father but also his pain for his daughter and her pain. And we know that Bob Hawke attended the Woodford Folk Festival in Queensland every year for many years in a row, and he performed as Bob Hawke, in the crowd and sometimes even on the stage.
Another thing that I loved about Bob Hawke was that he was not politically correct. He was blunt and direct and he thrived on it; he loved it. In fact, today's Labor would not allow Bob Hawke to be Prime Minister. Yes, he wouldn't cop racism, which is wonderful, and nor would he fling around the term 'racist' idly. That was significant, because he was a man of character in that sense. He had a wonderful sense of humour, a brutal sense of humour. I can remember him dressing down some journalists. He was especially down-to-earth. After all, One Nation now has a former federal Labor leader in our party today who is also down-to-earth and has a wicked sense of humour. But I think what really matters—what gave Bob Hawke his connection with the Australian people, with politics and with the country as a whole—is that he was natural. He was who he was. He didn't pretend to be someone else. Sure, he was a larrikin in his behaviour, his approach and his sense of humour, as many people have talked about, and that's what led him to be so beloved by people across Australia. Even his political enemies respected him enormously. And he had courage. He had the courage to do what the Liberals at the time lacked the courage to do. He had the courage to deregister the BLF in 1986. Recently, he spoke out against the CFMEU.
Another trait that I loved about Bob Hawke was his leadership ability. Certainly, he had a talented cabinet—I can remember some of them: Button; he had Richo to help him—but he shepherded them, and he did a wonderful job of that. He resurrected politics in this country, gave it some energy, because he had energy, boundless energy. Not just quantity of energy; he had a quality of energy, and that's what I like about him, because that shone through and carried him and it also carried our nation. He initiated and instituted many, many reforms not only in this country but overseas.
When I was working in the underground coalmines in Kentucky, I came across a wonderful old-timer who'd had a stroke, and I had to help him out considerably because he couldn't go underground. We tackled many challenges and brought in quite a few innovations in America. My friend Guy actually said to me, 'Malcolm, there is only one thing we leave behind, and that is our name,' and Bob Hawke's name is a worthy legacy of a life well lived.
I rise to add my condolences about a great Australian. His passing was a great loss to Australia. Bob Hawke has become an embodiment of a uniquely Australian form of leadership. Bob's type of leadership can be summed up as a 'both/and' style; both determined and irreverent, both successful and humble, and both resolute and kind.
I'm not going to repeat the many achievements of Bob's long public career that others have catalogued here today. I just want to recognise and reflect on one aspect of that. Bob was rightly a hero of the Australian Labor Party, but he was also an Australian hero for what he achieved and how he shaped a better nation. He played a key role in removing one of the three stools of what has been called the Australian settlement. That settlement had effectively guided Australian public policy since Federation. It was first coined by Paul Kelly, and it represented, basically, a troika of three different policies that went together from our founding moments. The first was immigration restrictions and the White Australia policy, the second was high protective tariffs to develop a manufacturing industry in Australia, and the third was centralised wage bargaining. The White Australia policy was, of course, dismantled by the Holt government in the 1960s. Centralised wage bargaining wasn't completely removed until the reforms of the Howard government in the late 1990s. But it was Bob Hawke and his government that can be credited with the removal of high tariffs, the opening up of the Australian economy to the world and the foundation of the strong economic growth we've experienced since.
I want to point out, as a member of the Nationals party, that Bob Hawke did succeed where the Country and National parties had long ago failed. It was the Country Party in the 1930s which first tried to bring down Australia's tariffs. The first coalition agreement between the Country Party and the United Australia Party actually achieved—the Country Party successfully argued for the removal of tariffs on a number of items. Of course, the Country Party's campaign to save farmers money on having to pay tariffs for imported goods was lost. Later, the Liberal Party and the Labor Party were lock step in support of high protection, and so the Country Party took a different path. It took a 'if you can't beat them, join them' path, and under John McEwen established a protection all-around approach, where, if we were going to protect our manufacturing industries, we had better protect agriculture too. By the 1970s, however, the bankruptcy of that approach had become evident. Even as a child growing up in the 1980s, I remember the distinct concern that something was not quite right with our country. I remember Japanese exchange students coming here in droves and having all the latest gadgets and seeming much wealthier than us, and terms like 'banana republic', 'poor white trash of Asia' et cetera were thrown around about our nation.
Obviously, that was not our future. In the last 30 years, we carved out a different path than many thought we were headed down in the 1980s. A lot of the thanks for avoiding that predicted decline does go to the leadership shown by the Hawke government. Reducing tariffs and protection themselves was not an easy decision. It meant hardship for many Australians that had previously relied on those policies. But it was the right decision to open Australia up to the world, to make ourselves a stronger nation and to lay the foundations for the 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth that we have now all enjoyed.
The Hawke government's hard decisions were made easier through the general support that was given by the Liberal and National parties through those times, and we have tough decisions today, of course. We have tough decisions around our budget, the development of our regions and our resources, and the sustainable management of our environment. A greater degree of bipartisanship would make it a lot easier to make these hard decisions today for our future.
Of course, being on this side of the chamber, I did not agree with everything that the Hawke government did. It was under the Hawke government that the Labor Party seemingly first discovered the political opium of doing deals with the green movement to win elections. That first occurred, as has been mentioned, with the Franklin dam but moved on to other issues like the Coronation Hill mine and others. Whatever the short-term benefits of that approach, the longer term impacts have been disastrous for the Labor Party, culminating in this year's election, where many workers left the once proudly self-described workers party. This approach is simply wrong. It is not right to ignore the local knowledge and local interests of people in Australia at an altar of national political calculation.
Hopefully, the result of this year's election will help the Labor Party rediscover the central success of the Hawke government's time, which was a focus on economic improvement to make the lives of average Australians better. That is Bob Hawke's shining achievement as leader. He will be rightly remembered as one of the founding parents of modern Australia. For that reason, he has not passed from Australia's memory. He will long be remembered, which I am sure will be of some comfort and condolence to his surviving wife, Blanche, and other loved ones.
I rise to associate myself with most of the remarks that have preceded me—perhaps not the end of Senator Canavan's contribution—on the sense of the great life of an amazing Australian, a man who lived life large, who was a proud man who led this great Labor Party for the benefit of this nation. This week, as we commence the 46th Parliament, it's important, I think, that we do this today—that we take time to reflect on this great leader of our country, Robert James Lee Hawke.
I want to, at the outset, offer my sincere personal condolences to Bob's family—those who survive him and, of course, his wife Hazel and the amazing contribution that she made to enable him to live the life that he lived—particularly to Blanche d'Alpuget and Bob's surviving children and grandchildren, who were so prominent and such a joy to witness at the memorial event that we had in Sydney to honour Bob's life. Their delight in his life was palpable. Their joy in the celebration of Bob's life conveyed a sense of positivity to the entire occasion.
Bob's impact on this great country has been vast, and his legacy will continue for decades to come. His was a period of major and challenging reform in a time when it was desperately needed. In past days and weeks, we've seen Australians far and wide mourn and pay tribute to Labor's longest-serving Prime Minister and one of the absolute giants of this Australian labour movement. We've been reminded of the breadth of his reform agenda, based in sincere love for his fellow Australians. In his partnership with his old friend Paul Keating, he modernised the Australian economy and ensured the unprecedented economic growth that followed in Australia was shared, because he knew that the foundation of a good society is laid where its fruits are shared and that those most vulnerable should benefit and be looked after in this great nation. He truly entrenched the importance of a social wage through reforms in access to education and universal health insurance in the form of a little green Medicare card, and he was the man who gave Australians superannuation, which was a word that was not spoken in households like mine. It was a concept not understood by many Australians, and it has transformed life in this country for all of us and for the better.
The impact of Bob's leadership is truly immeasurable. At Sydney Opera House, our country paid a formal tribute to Hawke and his unifying effect on our country. Another great former leader of the Australian Labor Party, Kim Beazley, was actually able to capture in his speech the essence of Bob's contribution. I thought it was a remarkable oration. He said:
… at the heart of his ability to persuade was trust. Most people believed … that whether you agreed or not, your happiness was his motive.
That capacity to convey a genuine care for people, as the leader of a nation, is something we have never seen in my lifetime in any Prime Minister other than Bob Hawke—that ebullience and joy.
I do want to reflect on the first time that I met Bob Hawke. Unlike Bob, I don't come from a long line of political activists in this country; I'm the daughter of Irish immigrants. Bob made me feel welcome in a party that I'd joined only a few years before I ended up running as a candidate. The very first time I met him was in the lead-up to the 2010 election, where he supported me in fundraising, as he has done for so many people in our movement who've stood for parliament, and I spoke to him as a character from television, really—I hadn't seen him up close and personal at Labor Party events; I'd seen him at a distance—but he was so warm and friendly immediately. I said to him, 'You've met my father.' He looked at me and I said, 'Yes, he's argued with you many times through the television.' That is how Australians knew Bob. They could talk to him through a screen, because he talked Australian. He talked in a language that was generous, a language of care, and it changed the way a conversation was able to happen in this country.
Bob was supposed to be at this dinner, with several people who were giving me support in my campaign, for a short time. About three hours later we were still there having a fantastic conversation. Bob loved people and people loved Bob. In the course of that evening Bob pulled out two important things from a small black dossier file that he was carrying. The first was a single-page document where he had summarised some of the key arguments of Joseph Stiglitz, that amazing international economist. He spoke with intellectual passion and rich understanding, knowledge and reflection about the economic reality facing Australia. He had us all spellbound.
A little later in the evening I spoke to him about the journey of his life to come to be the Prime Minister and to believe that that was a role he would be able to undertake. We heard from Senator Wong about the strategic decisions Bob made. To actually determine at some point of time that you are called to the prime ministership is a remarkable thing. I asked Bob: 'What was it? At what moment in your life did you figure out that you could and should be the Prime Minister of Australia?' At that moment something truly remarkable happened, which I and those in that room will always remember. Bob reached into his little black bag for the second time in the evening and pulled out a picture of his mother. I don't know about you but I don't know too many people who carry around a little black bag with a summary of key points from Joseph Stiglitz and a picture of their mother beside it. It was quite a remarkable thing.
I say that because I think there is such power in what Bob's mother did in enabling him to believe that that was part of his destiny. I wonder how many mothers and fathers across this country can transcend the cynicism, so powerful in our time, that dissuades people from participating in public life. How many mothers and fathers should look at the life of Bob Hawke, which we're celebrating today, and see that a great Australian, born into a family anywhere around the country, can think about becoming Prime Minister as making a contribution to the national public good, as a benefit, as a great way to live your life? Certainly that belief in himself, which his mother engendered, that he could do that job, is part of the journey of all of those people who formed the man who became our Prime Minister, Bob Hawke.
Bob cared not just about the economy but the economy as part of society, an economy concerned with the opportunities available to all Australians. As a former teacher myself, I've spent much of my professional life in classrooms and lecture theatres across this great country. I have seen firsthand the transformative power of education and its capacity to be a great equaliser. Bob had an acute awareness of the impact of a good education on one's ability to fulfil their potential, and he knew that this was something that was vital to help shape our clever country. We know that the three in 10 kids finishing school—that was the reality—before Bob became Prime Minister had turned into eight in 10 children finishing year 12 by the time he left his prime ministership. This is a truly remarkable social change to bring about in a period of government.
His understanding of the power of education is captured best, I think, in his own words: 'I think that one of the monstrosities of the Australian society is this fact—and it's an indisputable fact—that the child of a low-income parent, simply because of that fact that he is a child of a low-income parent, has in this country a significantly lesser chance of having the opportunity of an education and going to the institutions which will enable him to give full expression to the native talents of which he is possessed. I think it's absolutely unbelievable that, at this stage of our emergence as a so-called civilised society, we should still be asked to tolerate that situation.' Bob's insight, Bob's articulation and Bob's determination to do something about that reality that he so aptly described made him an amazing Prime Minister, just on that one policy area of education.
I had an opportunity, with other Labor attendees, at a national conference to hear Bob speak about his time as Prime Minister. There were many wonderful things to take from it. One of the stories that he conveyed was of his practice, on a Sunday afternoon, of reading his papers for cabinet very carefully. He conveyed the story about, on one Sunday afternoon, reading through reams and reams of documentation about Antarctica. He got to a line that indicated there would be mining approved in Antarctica. Bob's reaction, he said as he was recounting this story, was: 'I read that line. I read it once. I couldn't believe it. I read it twice. I thought, "That's not going to happen while I'm the Prime Minister. While I'm the Prime Minister, that will never happen."' That dedication to actually doing the work and to reading the brief carefully—and then, in addition to that, determining he would take a course of action that would transform forever what was going on in Antarctica to preserve it—was the will and good hard work of one man, who then went about deliberately making sure that mining in Antarctica did not happen. The power of one good man or one good woman—that is what Bob can teach us with his life.
In this time of difficulty for our great party, it's important to remember that things weren't always easy for Bob either. All of us here in the 46th Parliament today have been blessed with the gift and the responsibility of representing people across this great land. As a party we know that we will continue doing what is right, in Bob's memory. Bob and his capable team didn't always choose what was easy; in fact, the course that they charted was often difficult. We can go forward in solidarity with Bob as our guiding light. I worry, though, that perhaps on some days like this we turn men with feet of clay into saints. I think the last thing that Bob Hawke would want to be recalled as is a saint. We should remember that he was an ordinary Australian who went to school like us and lived in this community, in this great country, like us. There is no political Messiah out there waiting for any party. People who are going to come to politics are people like us—flawed, but perhaps with a great vision and certainly with a great capacity to tell a story that will lift us. That is exactly who Bob was.
I want to close with these final words from Bill Kelty's contribution at the memorial for Bob Hawke at the amazing Sydney Opera House building. I want to acknowledge what a fine celebration of a great life it was, and to thank the musicians for the way they lifted our spirits. For those who didn't see it and didn't hear it, it was that wonderful Men at Work song 'Down Under', which finished in a rousing way—a popular song, a complex song, transformed by the way it was played by the orchestra on that day. Bill Kelty said these words:
Bob was no saint. Bob had his faults. But he did a power of good for this country, a power of good for all of us. He made the country and helped make the country what it is. And he made a part for making this country play a better part in the rest of the world.
Vale Bob Hawke. May he rest in peace. I acknowledge his amazing contribution to this great nation. I feel so privileged as an Australian to have met him and to be part of the tradition that he served.
Today we farewell one of the nation's greatest leaders, Bob Hawke. Many of the contributions that have been made today in this place I obviously want to associate myself with. I think it's an amazing testament to this man's life that, whatever side of the political spectrum you come from, you can recognise and see the true leadership that Bob Hawke gave our nation, not just when he was Prime Minister but also well beyond.
Bob was a man who was as relatable as he was visionary. I remember being a six- or seven-year-old living in country Victoria and deciding that I was going to write to our Prime Minister, that I was going to write to Bob Hawke. The reason why as a young girl I felt empowered to do that was that the Prime Minister I knew was somebody who listened, who engaged with the community, who sought to be part of everybody's everyday Australia. I didn't think it was weird that as a six- or seven-year-old I should take pen to paper and write to my Prime Minister. I wrote to him about wanting to save the Victorian forests. I lived in country Victoria and it was a raging debate and I wanted him to know how important the forests were to me and my family. To be honest, I don't know if I ever got a response—I don't recall that—but I do distinctly remember sitting down, writing that letter and then proudly telling my dad that I was going to go and post it.
Prime Minister Hawke is remembered for many things. Among them was his thoughtfulness on the great human rights challenges of his time. He successfully lobbied the Commonwealth to change tactics to pressure the apartheid in South Africa. Trade sanctions weren't working, so he called for a boycott of foreign investments—a big call, a big decision to make, but it was critical in dismantling the apartheid regime. And, of course, we cannot forget the actions that Prime Minister Hawke took in the wake of the massacre that occurred at Tiananmen Square. Prime Minister Hawke defied advice and convention to speak from the heart about what had just happened in the wake of the massacre. And it wasn't just rhetoric. His actions resulted in 40,000 Chinese being able to stay here in Australia and make this their home. Reflecting on those decisions years later, Bob said:
It's called leadership … I had no consultation with anyone and when I walked off the dais I was told 'You cannot do that, prime minister'. I said to them, 'I just did. It is done'.
That's leadership. He knew what was right and he acted. This is a lesson for all of us. His moral and human leadership defined him. His ability to show strength yet empathy and compassion is what made Bob Hawke a unique leader in this country. In a time of unrest in our region, the lessons that he showed us are lessons we must heed now more than ever before. I was thinking about the Tiananmen Square decision and his ability to act with conviction, with strength, and yet compassion and empathy. It has, of course, been 30 years since the Tiananmen Square massacre—only in the last month we've acknowledged the 30th anniversary. For those watching the television news last night, the images of what's coming out of Hong Kong right now—not one word seems to be uttered by our current government. Very little is being said by politicians here in Australia. I was thinking, when I was sitting here listening to the other contributions earlier this morning, what would Bob Hawke do? Would he simply sit back and stay silent, seeing the rise and cry for democracy in Hong Kong? I don't think he would. I think he would stand up. He'd acknowledge that struggle. He'd be diplomatic of course, but he would not shy away from the right of Hong Kong citizens to call for and fight for their democratic rights. The leadership from Bob Hawke on these moral and ethical challenges is something I think we all need to reflect on in the wake of his death.
I attended the memorial in Sydney, along with many of my colleagues in this place, only a few weeks ago. It was an amazing celebration of Bob Hawke's life. But it was more than that: it was an amazing celebration of our nation, what makes our country great. Bob loved Australia. He loved Australians. He showed that you could lead with strength and heart, both at the same time. As I sat in the memorial, I was struck by the words of his granddaughter Sophie Taylor-Price. In 1989, 30 years ago, she sat on his knee while he gave a national television address. It was to commemorate World Environment Day. He said in that nationally televised address:
We don't inherit the planet, we borrow it. Not simply for ourselves but for our kids and their kids like Sophie here—
referring to his granddaughter—
How successful is she and other Australian children can fulfil their goals depends increasingly on how we look after our environment and how we best use this planet's natural resources.
This was 30 years ago, and Bob Hawke, as Prime Minister, was asking us to think much more cleverly and clearly about our natural world and the resources it offers. Bob Hawke didn't just talk the talk; he walked it. We know that there is a long list of special, precious places here in Australia that have been saved and protected because of the leadership of Prime Minister Hawke. In the days after his death, former Greens leader Bob Brown penned a heartfelt and genuinely sad, but celebratory, opinion piece, a reflection of how he had experienced working with Bob Hawke during the time of Bob Hawke's leadership—sometimes his ally, sometimes his adversary. Bob Brown wrote:
A Hawke masterstroke was to accept the proposal of the Australian Conservation Society's Phillip Toyne and the Farmers Federation's Rick Farley to set up Landcare. This became a beacon of global interest in government-funded repair of rural lands and rivers. That Landcare and general environment spending has been gutted in recent years highlights the loss of vision in Canberra since the great environmental innovation era Hawke ushered in.
Key to Hawke’s environmental success was his listening ear. He knew the Australian public was keen on protecting nature and he made himself open to direct liaison with environmental leaders. He was a tough negotiator but he and his staff opened an ear to the environment ...
Bob Brown reflects on not only Bob Hawke's leadership as Prime Minister but the decisions he made about whom he involved in his cabinet. One of the most impressive, hardened and deliberate environment ministers—one with conviction—this country ever saw was Graham Richardson, under the leadership of Bob Hawke. Graham and Bob knew that, if they were to save special parts of the Australian landscape and send the message that protecting the environment was important, they had to listen to the community. But the advice that Bob Hawke and Graham Richardson gave the environment movement at that time was that they must roar: 'The crowd must roar for us to be able to act.' I think that, in the wake of the past election and at this time of reflection, those words are now more important than ever. To those across this country who care deeply about our natural environment, about what our planet looks like in years to come and about the future of our children, being despondent is not the answer. Stand up; speak out. We need to hear you roar—your voice, your compassion, your love for your country. Bob Hawke called our community to do that when he was Prime Minister, and we need people to do it now. If you care about saving our country's greatest river network, the Murray-Darling Basin, if you care about protecting the Great Australian Bight and if you want the Great Barrier Reef to be there for your grandchildren, we need to hear you roar. Don't be despondent, don't be depressed; stand up and demand the type of leadership that Bob Hawke had. You can be both strong and compassionate, and you can believe in the beauty and the strength of this nation all at once.
No-one would doubt Bob Hawke's love for Australia, for its people and its environment, and he wore that love with pride. I think, upon reflection of the great leadership of Bob Hawke, wearing that love of our country with pride is what we could all take on to honour his legacy—the moral leadership; the conviction; doing what is right because it's right, not because it's easy; making the decision to speak up for fellow human beings; taking the decision to protect this world for the next generation. That's the legacy. That's the legacy that I know I, my generation and many others in this place will continue as we reflect on the life of Bob Hawke. Vale Bob Hawke.
Madam Deputy President, I also rise this morning to make a contribution on the condolence motion on the death of former Prime Minister Robert James Lee Hawke, AC, and before beginning may I extend my congratulations to you on your election as Deputy President and Chair of Committees.
Bob Hawke was born in Bordertown, South Australia, yet no-one really thinks of Bob Hawke as a South Australian. He went to school and university in Western Australia, yet no-one really thinks about Bob Hawke as a Western Australian. He lived, worked and represented an electorate in Victoria, yet no-one talks about Bob Hawke as a Victorian. And he spent his post-political life living in Sydney, yet no-one really thinks of Bob Hawke as a New South Welshman. Bob Hawke was an Australian—that's what mattered; that's how people saw him; that's how he'll be remembered. And that was the characteristic he most wanted for himself.
On the evening of 19 December 1991, at a press conference in this very building, just after he lost the Labor leadership and thus saw his almost nine years as Prime Minister come to an end, Hawke was asked how he wanted to be remembered. He said:
I guess as a bloke who loved his country, and still does, and loves Australians, and who was not essentially changed by high office.
I hope they still will think of me as the Bob Hawke that they got to know – the larrikin trade union leader who perhaps had sufficient common sense and intelligence to tone down his larrikinism to some extent and behave in a way that a prime minister should if he’s going to be a proper representative of his people, but who, in the end, is essentially a dinky-di Australian.
If the contributions in this place thus far and the extensive coverage of Bob Hawke's passing are anything to go by, it's fair to say that the former Prime Minister achieved his wish.
There is no one correct answer to the question of what Bob Hawke's most significant achievement was, in policy terms. But one of the most important lessons he taught us is one that, especially in our present political era, we need to sincerely pause and reflect upon. Bob Hawke was authentic: he didn't pretend to be faultless; he was candid about his vulnerabilities and his imperfections. If there's any lesson to be drawn from his time on the political stage, surely it is that perfection is not a precondition for greatness. In a political age where an entire week can be consumed by something someone put on Twitter years ago, and we in parliament and those in the media tie themselves up in knots wondering whether someone meets some arbitrary character test, it's worth asking ourselves whether the quality of our politics is being enhanced by such an approach.
Suppose Bob Hawke had been a candidate for the first time in 2019, rather than in 1963, when he first ran for Corio, or when he initially won his seat of Wills in 1980. Would his past transgressions have ruled him out of contention? Almost certainly. Would Australia have been poorer as a result? Most definitely. I say that as someone who has been a lifelong Liberal and campaigned actively, as a young person on the ground in Perth, to defeat the Hawke government in the late 1980s.
Like others in this place, I also owe my journey, my interest in politics, to Bob Hawke. Surprisingly, like Senator Hanson-Young, I also wrote to the Prime Minister, as a young teenager, requesting the most simplest of things—a campaign sticker. You can imagine my delight, when I got home from school, to receive an envelope marked with the Office of the Prime Minister. There was a simple letter saying, 'Dear Dean, please find enclosed a campaign sticker.' And it was the campaign sticker from the 1983 federal election campaign: 'Bringing Australians together'.
Indeed, in my first speech, I reflected on the general political approach taken by the Hawke Labor government and the WA Labor government of Brian Burke at the time, and how it made me feel deeply uncomfortable, and how this sparked a political interest and fervour in me, forcing me to consider deeply my own political values and approach. In that first speech, I said that I had been appalled by Labor's cosy menage a trois of big business, big government and big unions wilfully taking for granted ordinary families like mine and those around me. Seven years later, that continues to inform my own approach to political issues. When I hear phrases like 'there is a consensus' or 'there is overwhelming agreement' about something, I am instinctively drawn to look deeper into the issue and start from a position of suspicion.
But moments like this morning give us an opportunity to stop and reflect. One of the more unfortunate developments in Australian politics over the past decade has been an unwillingness on both sides to acknowledge when our opponents have been right about things—as the saying goes, even a broken clock is correct twice a day. To oppose for the sake of opposing, for every single battle to be fought along tribal lines, leaves no room for nuance. As the 46th Parliament commences this week, perhaps one of the ways we can all honour Bob Hawke's memory is to call time on this tired approach. That doesn't mean we should agree on everything. If we have honest disagreements, we should prosecute them fully and energetically. Australians are entitled to expect that. But they are equally entitled to policy consistency. That also means being prepared to acknowledge when our political opponents have got something right in policy terms.
In the wake of Bob Hawke's passing, there was much coverage of the economic reforms he achieved, in partnership with Paul Keating, during the 1980s and into the early part of the 1990s—floating the dollar, reforming tax, opening up the banking sector to competition, privatising some government owned businesses and reducing tariffs, to name but a few. All of these reforms were noted as being essential to the establishment of what we now call 'modern Australia'. What they mean, of course, by the term 'modern Australia' is an economy that is more outward looking, more economically integrated with the Asian region, less reliant on protectionist trade barriers, less enamoured of centralised wage fixing and more open to competition.
At the time when many of these things were undertaken, 35 years ago, it was possible to find serious opposition to these propositions. Some of the fiercest opposition was in Bob Hawke's own caucus room. But, to their credit, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating pushed through and did not in any way resile—because they had a powerful belief, a powerful conviction, in what they were doing and their view that it was the right thing to do.
I think it is also worth pointing out that they also had another significant ally in many of these undertakings—namely, their partisan opponents and, in particular, John Howard, who was shadow Treasurer and, later, Leader of the Opposition when Bob Hawke undertook the most audacious aspects of his economic reform agenda. It is one thing to claim, three decades after the fact, that certain economic reforms were obvious or inevitable; it is an easy analysis, but it is also a shallow one. It is my observation that what matters most—and I think what history will judge—is the attitude that political parties take not at a point of time but over time. John Howard, for the most part, supported the signature reforms the Hawke Labor government undertook. Why? Because he could see they were consistent with what was in Australia's long-term interests. It is worth recalling that that bipartisanship was not returned when John Howard was Prime Minister a decade later and pursuing further economic reforms, particularly in relation to his first round of industrial relations changes and tax reform and the introduction of the GST.
There is a reason why Bob Hawke and John Howard held each other in such high regard and why history will ultimately be kind to both gentlemen. They were both able to resist the temptation to do the easy thing politically and instead remained steadfast in pursuing the economic reforms they believed to be right—a belief that both history and Australia's economic performance over the last three decades have clearly vindicated. Both also recognised that political capital is a precious commodity that does not last forever—something that some of their successors in high office over the past decade have perhaps not been as skilled at recognising.
I don't make these observation as a means of litigating past battles but, rather, because we are at the beginning of a new parliament and I think there is an opportunity to recapture some of the more rational approach to politics that characterised the Hawke era—a rational approach that I don't believe is necessarily beyond our reach. The common lesson of Hawke and Howard, reflected in the outcome of the most recent ballot just a few months ago, is that Australians want to and will reward their leaders when they are focused on the issues that matter to them.
We should also acknowledge that this great Australian larrikin possessed, I think, one of the greatest of political gifts, and that is grace, because, as we all know, Mr Hawke ultimately ceased to be Prime Minister not because he was defeated at an election but because he was removed from the leadership by his own colleagues. Politics is a very brutal business. Most of us in this place do not get to be here without having some experience of setbacks and defeat, and most of us here will not ultimately get to choose the precise timing or manner of our own departure. That good fortune will fall to just a few.
I cannot imagine how personally hurtful it would have been for Bob Hawke to lose the job he loved at the hands of a party that he'd taken to four successive election victories, a feat equalled only by Menzies and by John Howard. However, the measure of an individual is how they deal with such a setback. No-one is ever really immune from the very real and serious temptations to lash out or to settle scores. But, to his enormous credit, that was something that Bob Hawke was not characterised by. Of course, he published a memoir and participated in a television documentary where he made some blunt observations regarding his successor, and I think that is totally defensible; a former leader is always entitled to offer their perspective on their period in office. But that is a very different thing from waging a protracted campaign of vengeance. It's certainly very different from engaging in behaviour designed to damage your own political party in the context of a federal election campaign. Of course, Bob Hawke was on the public stage in a pre-Twitter era, but even so it's difficult to envisage him weaponising social media as a means of damaging a political party to which he owed his entire public career.
In fact, there is footage of Bob Hawke on the election night in 1993 sharing his joy at Labor's victory. When the Labor Party gathered in the Great Hall of this building for a dinner to celebrate that famous victory for the true believers a few weeks later, Bob Hawke was present to hear the man who replaced him say: 'Just let me say this: you can't have a fifth election victory without a fourth, and the bloke that gave it to us is here tonight. Thanks for coming, Bob.' And that generosity of spirit was returned just a couple of weeks ago during Bob Hawke's memorial at the Sydney Opera House, when, at Hawke's own request, one of the eulogies was delivered by Paul Keating, the man who had torn him down.
Indeed, one of the most remarkable things that I found in the course of reading about some of the events during the Hawke-Keating leadership tussle is that, on the very day Keating had declared his first unsuccessful challenge in June of 1991, he and Hawke had spent the whole day in the same room presiding over a premiers conference as Prime Minister and Treasurer. There's a degree to which time heals all wounds, there's no doubt. But I think, more than that, these moments show an ability to put personal ambition aside and work in the national interest that now seems unimaginable. But, if it is unimaginable, that is because we, the politicians, have made it so. The experience of the past decade in Australian politics notwithstanding, I like to think it possible we will see such cooperation again in the not-too-distant future.
There's no doubt that Menzies, Hawke and Howard are the three giants of postwar politics in our country. They were from very different backgrounds and are very different people. Of course, each of them was possessed by an enormous ambition, energy and drive, a prerequisite in politics. But perhaps what sets these three apart is that their ambition went beyond merely securing their own personal advancement, and that was something that fellow Australians could sense and see. Far more than other prime ministers, something within these three has managed to capture the public mood, permitting them to sustain public support through successive elections in a way others have not been able to match. The ability to appeal to so many of your fellow Australians over such a long period of time is a remarkable thing. No one factor can explain it. But perhaps the one element common to all three was that they were authentic and true to themselves and to their beliefs and had a clear set of values. That consistency is what enabled them to develop a bond with the public capable of withstanding the day-to-day vicissitudes that accompany political life.
Bob Hawke was said to have had a love affair with the Australian people, but his political legacy goes far beyond anything that can be measured by opinion polls and election results. He forced his own party to fundamentally rethink its approach to economic management and pursued essential economic reforms that previous Liberal governments had been too timid to touch, and even though he left the stage reluctantly he nonetheless did it in a manner that was graceful, was dignified and protected the interests of the political party to which he had devoted his whole life.
Bob Hawke will always remain a Labor Party icon, but even those of us who have never voted for him should be proud of the manner in which he conducted his prime ministership and the fundamental decency he displayed towards political friend and political foe alike. The best tribute those of us serving as parliamentarians today can pay to Bob Hawke is to work harder to emulate the positive, principled and generous spirit he brought to his many years in public life. Robert James Lee Hawke, AC, may you rest in peace.
Growing up, I watched Bob Hawke with wonder. He was a star of the screen and felt like part of every Australian family in the 1980s. I distinctly remember watching the seven o'clock news and seeing him and Paul Keating at the economic summit in 1983, which led to me following that summit's progress and its effects obsessively. Later in life, at countless Labor gatherings, he always made such an effort to attend, and even as he got less physically mobile I met with him many times. He was Labor's rock star, who'd pull the biggest crowds and, even in advancing years, would give passionate, persuasive, powerful speeches that left those in attendance walking on air.
He roared with laughter when I told him that I'd been counted off in a ballot for an ALP Victorian branch party president's position, despite receiving the votes to be elected, because none of the male candidates received enough votes, and that the party's affirmative action rule meant we had to choose at least one man. 'A token man,' Bob laughed. Bob had, of course, championed the cause of women in our party and movement long before it was fashionable. But he was a charmer. He would often notice shoes and express his approval for daring choices. He told me that he firmly believed that women who wore daring shoes led interesting lives. He had been a close friend and ally of my father-in-law, Bill Landeryou, of blessed memory, who passed away a couple of months ago. Bill told me many war stories about his adventures with Bob, and it was clear that his role in Bob's ascension gave him a sense of great satisfaction and achievement. That was so much a part of Bob's magic: his love affair with the Australian people, that we all felt like we were part of him, part of his great journey and his amazing life.
He was the greatest postwar Prime Minister we've had. He and Paul Keating opened up the economy in a bold way in an unprecedented partnership with unions, created Medicare, drove record numbers of Australians to finish secondary school and go to university, gave all Australians compulsory superannuation, fought the good fight to protect our beautiful environment and had zero tolerance for racism and extremism. We look back on most of these things and they seem obvious or even easy. The truth is that all of those big changes required great political skill and the very best of leadership, and, fortunately for Australia, Bob Hawke was the very best.
I want to mention a few incidents in Bob Hawke's career that highlight what I think was one of his defining characteristics, and that is his political courage. I think this is important because it contradicts the common view that Hawke was merely a likeable, easygoing bloke who cultivated his popularity while Paul Keating and John Button did all the hard work. That is far from the truth. The first episode was Hawke's determination to reform the Victorian branch of the Labor Party, which, after the 1955 split, was left in the hands of a narrowly based factional junta. It was Victorian Labor's organisational and political weakness that allowed the Liberals, under Bolte and Hamer, 27 years in office. And it was the failure to win any federal seats in Victoria that cost Labor the 1961 election. So, in 1971, Hawke, as ACTU president, was the key figure in backing Gough Whitlam's intervention in the Victorian branch. Whitlam provided the leadership, but Hawke delivered the numbers and the support of the key unions. He did this in the face of fierce opposition from supporters of the factional regime in Victoria. The result was a rapid improvement in Victorian Labor's fortunes, both state and federally.
In 1985 Hawke used his influence as Prime Minister to complete this work by bringing the so-called grouper unions, notably the Shop Assistants and the Federated Clerks, back into the Labor Party, 30 years after the split. Again, he did this in the face of intense hostility, including the notorious incident when tomatoes were thrown at a state conference. My father-in-law, indeed, remembered coming home with his suit jacket on but the sleeves had been torn off. Hawke's efforts brought a large section of Catholic voters in Victoria back to Labor. It is no coincidence that our two recent successful premiers, Steve Bracks and Daniel Andrews, come from Catholic families.
The second episode I want to mention is the 1988 airline pilots strike. Under the Accord between the Hawke government and the ACTU, the unions accepted restraint in the pursuit of higher wages, which only fuelled inflation, in exchange for greatly increased spending on the social wage—improvement in schools, the Medicare scheme and national superannuation. The airline pilots union, a small, non-ACTU union, representing some of the highest-paid employees in Australia, tried to break this agreement with a rogue strike. Hawke ruthlessly crushed them by bringing in the RAAF to carry passengers. Breaking a strike violated one of the most sacred taboos in the labour movement and horrified even some of Hawke's union supporters, but he was willing to do it for the greater good of Australian workers as a whole.
The third episode I want to mention is Hawke's response to the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing in 1989. Hawke had worked hard to build a good relationship with the Chinese leaders and reacted angrily to their murderous assault on peaceful demonstrators. His decision to allow over 40,000 Chinese students and others to stay in Australia was his alone, unilateral and spontaneous. He later recalled: 'I was told: "You cannot do that, Prime Minister." I said to them: "I just did. It is done."' His decision was a courageous one, a year before the 1990 election, at a time when Australian immigration was still a politically dangerous subject.
Fourthly, I want to mention Hawke's resolute commitment to the Australia-US alliance. I do so because I think this is particularly relevant to us today. President Reagan's arms build-up was, to put it mildly, not popular on the progressive side of Australian politics. Remember, many wanted to follow New Zealand's lead and withdraw from the ANZUS alliance and evict the US from joint facilities such as Pine Gap. Hawke refused to consider this and instead built a very good relationship with Ronald Reagan. In 1991, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, Hawke was the first allied leader to commit support to President Bush's determination to use force against Iraq. Again, he faced down fierce hostility on this position. The lesson for us is that our security alliance with the US is more important than what we think of any one President. Prime ministers and presidents come and go, but our security interests do not change.
I also want to mention Bob Hawke's close relationship with Australia's Jewish community and his emotional support for the state of Israel. This has already been mentioned by Senator Cormann. Among Hawke's closest friends were Lionel Revelman, his partner in the ACTU Bourke's store venture; Sir Peter Abeles; and Saul Same. In fact, I have spent many a pleasant summer evening on the Sames' tennis court with Bob Hawke, at a function they typically have in late January. Bob Hawke also counted Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin as friends. After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he warned:
If the bell tolls for Israel, it won't just toll for Israel, it will toll for all mankind.
He was also a strong supporter of the Jewish refuseniks in the Soviet Union. He even went to Moscow to try to persuade the Soviet leaders to relent on Jewish emigration. These positions earned him death threats at the time. After his retirement, Hawke continued his support and he did call for a two-state solution as the only way to end the conflict.
To more recent times, it was a sad coincidence that Bob Hawke's death came just two days before our defeat in the 18 May election. Despite the passionate desire of everyone in the Labor Party to 'Do it for Bob', we were unable to deliver the victory he would have loved to see. After every election loss, there must come a time of questioning and reassessment, and that's what we're going through at present. We owe it to Bob Hawke to do that, and we also owe it to the millions of Australians who look to Labor governments to improve the quality of their lives, just as Bob Hawke's governments did.
We also need to recognise, as Bob Hawke did, that Labor's electoral success has never rested on unionised working class alone. One of the reasons Bob Hawke supported the reform of the Victorian ALP in the 1970s was so that the great Melbourne middle class would again be willing to vote Labor, which they increasingly did from 1972 onwards. The great victories of Cain, Bracks and Andrews could not have come from working class votes alone. Winning a federal election also requires support from a broad spectrum of Australians, not just working class voters. Further to this, a 2015 ANU study found that 52 per cent of Australians identified as middle class, and this figure is even higher among young voters. Bridging the gap between working class and middle class Australians, between inner-city, suburban and regional Australians, and between different ethnic and religious communities, and assembling a winning coalition of voters across classes, regions and identities requires three things. It requires soundly based policy, it requires inspirational leadership and it requires consistent and effective messaging. Clearly Bob Hawke was a master of all three of these. His leadership inspired confidence and trust. He knew how to communicate with the Australian people and he was able to persuade a majority of voters to support his policies.
Every time I am in the Labor caucus room in Canberra and gaze upon his smiling face, I will remind myself of the example he set—to work as hard and as passionately as he did, to try to think and communicate as clearly he did and to act as bravely and inclusively as he did in the service of the nation he loved so dearly. My condolences go to Blanche and to his children and grandchildren. They can be very proud of him; we all are. Vale, Bob Hawke.
I also want to contribute to this condolence motion and to remember Bob Hawke. I want to pass my sympathies on to his family to begin with—to Blanche; to his children, Sue, Rosslyn and Stephen; and to their children, Bob Hawke's grandchildren.
Hawke has been a public figure throughout my life. I grew up with Bob Hawke basically there on the television from pretty much as early as I can remember, from when he was ACTU president. I remember this craggy-faced black-and-white figure, so powerful and outspoken, speaking up for workers. From there, of course, he became an MP, in 1980, then opposition leader and finally Prime Minister, in 1983. A lot of words have already been spoken today about his broad range of achievements and the things that we remember Bob Hawke for. I want to focus on one in particular, and that's his contribution towards our environment, particularly his contribution towards protecting the Franklin River in south-west Tasmania.
We need to remember how huge that campaign to protect the Franklin was and how significant and important Hawke's position—to be protecting the river—was, both for the protection of the river as it was but also as an iconic, symbolic and movement-shaping moment in terms of the protection of natural heritage here in Australia and indeed around the world. We also need to think about the importance of that Franklin campaign to Labor winning the 1983 election.
The campaign began when the announcement was made in 1978 by the Tasmanian government that it was going to dam the Gordon River above the Franklin River. It was when I was just leaving school—I began uni in 1979—and it shaped me like it shaped so many other people. The campaign grew and grew and grew, and for a long time there was no political support. We had already seen many hydroelectricity schemes in Tasmania. Many bits of the south-west Tasmanian wilderness had been lost to large dams. Then there was the damming of Lake Pedder, which was such a massive loss in terms of natural heritage.
The campaign to protect the Franklin began. It began to grow and it began to swell. Fairly early on there was the support of the Australian Democrats, right from their formation. But, in terms of the Labor and Liberal parties, at the beginning of the campaign they were resolutely pro the damming of the river.
Then the campaign grew. It drew people from around the world. It certainly drew people from across Australia. It drew people from all backgrounds and all walks of life, from ordinary people through to celebrities. It drew people who knew the importance of protecting our natural world, our inspirational wild landscapes and our precious animals and birds, and what a travesty it would be to see them lost for 180 megawatts of power. They were people who banded together for a better, cleaner future. They campaigned together and they built a movement.
During this time, between 1979 and 1983, as I said, the political support from the Labor and Liberal parties initially just wasn't there, but then things started to shift. There were the divisions within the Labor Party. There were those who were pro dam. There were those who were anti dam. There were the different positions that different states took and different positions of the Labor Party in different states. By 1983 we had Malcolm Fraser as Prime Minister offering considerable compensation to the Tasmanian government to not build the dam, which was then rejected.
What that meant was that there wasn't a clear political voice. There wasn't the translation of that movement, that groundswell, into our political sphere with any power until Bob Hawke. Bob became a member of parliament in 1980 and became opposition leader on 3 February 1983, the very day the election was called. Bob came to that position with a personal position of protection for the Franklin. That had been his position at a Labor Party conference four months earlier when the person he succeeded, Bill Hayden, had been pro dam. Bob was pro the river. Labor changed their position at that conference to being in favour of saving the river and Bob's position of being pro river was instrumental to that. It wasn't until he became opposition leader—beginning on 3 February 1983, and then in that election campaign—that there was a clear political outlet for that movement.
We had Australian Democrat senators here in this parliament who had been campaigning for the Franklin, who did not have the power to protect the river on their own. We needed the support of one of the major parties. It wasn't until Bob was elected Opposition Leader going into that election campaign that the environment movement knew that they could wholeheartedly get behind supporting the Labor Party in that election campaign, and they did. I was part of that. The massive campaign, and the translation of that huge movement, really did cross all of Australia. They were then be able to focus that and say, 'If we're going to protect the Franklin River, we need to vote Labor.' I was proudly a Labor voter at that 1983 election. It was a landslide victory. The courageous leadership that was shown was so significant in taking that stand and then in enabling the translation of all of that campaigning into power here in our parliaments. It meant that Labor could be seen as speaking unequivocally, not sitting on the fence, and doing what was right, to be not just protecting that one precious bit of wilderness but sending a sign that these environmental issues, our precious animals and birds, our precious natural places, need to be protected in their own right.
So, when the Hawke government was elected in March 1983, the Franklin campaign was won. We did then have a battle; it was taken to the High Court. But, because of the World Heritage listing that had been previously put in place, the High Court decision meant that the Franklin was won. It was such a powerful moment for so many people. It was certainly pivotal for me in that time, from 1979 to 1983, being increasingly involved in environment campaigns—and also having learned about climate change. That factor of having been part of a campaign that was a massive movement of people fighting for what was right and then winning was pivotal. And Bob Hawke was central to that win. It was a pivotal moment that led to my journey to being here in this place, because it led to me being an environment campaigner.
My time as an environment campaigner employed in the environment movement almost perfectly coincided with Bob Hawke's time as Prime Minister. So I was there when he led a government that was the most pro-environment government in Australia's history. But there, once again, the achievements were through Hawke, as the Labor leader and as Prime Minister, being a reflection of the movement in the community and listening to the people in the community who wanted to see, who knew the importance of seeing, protection for our precious natural places.
The list of places that were protected during the Hawke government includes Kakadu and Daintree; the protection of the Antarctic, the protection of rainforests; and Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Shark Bay. But they were all on the back of big campaigns, of the community banding together, of roaring, of needing support but knowing that there were actually people that were listening here in Canberra. Of course, we didn't get everything that we wanted. Each one of those campaigns was still hard fought, but at least we knew that there was actually the potential for getting the change and the potential for getting good outcomes if people roared loudly enough.
It was also the time—here, it's almost incredible, when we're still having these debates about our climate crisis—of the initial beginnings of action from the Australian government. I remember in particular the Greenhouse '88 Conference that was supported federally; that was actually laying on the table what needed to happen to tackle our climate crisis. As I said, with Hawke as Prime Minister, we still didn't get everything we wanted. During that time, I was campaigning on forest protection—right up until the 1990 election.
That 1990 election, with Hawke, and with Graham Richardson as environment minister, was portrayed as being the 'election for the environment'. In fact, Labor used the iconic Franklin River poster as material for that election. I was working on protecting East Gippsland's forests, for which, despite all those environmental wins I mentioned, we were still having to fight really hard to try and get protection—for some of the most magnificent forests in the country. We had protest actions in the forests that we knew, in the lead-up to the election, were likely to result in some interest from the federal Labor government, who didn't want this conflict at the time. The lead-up to the election was meant to be all about how good the Labor Party were at protecting the environment. So, pretty quickly, we found ourselves in negotiations with Graham Richardson's office—and, I know, with Bob Hawke's office listening very closely—to see what could be done to get us to no longer be protesting in the forests in East Gippsland in the lead-up to that election.
We reached a deal that basically said, 'All right; we will stop protesting as long as, post election, there's a genuine process to determine whether it is appropriate to log those forests.' It was enough of a deal that for me, as a campaigner, I was happy to say: 'Okay, we will step aside. We'll stop the protest actions.' And then the election came and went, and, very sadly, that deal that I thought we had actually fell apart, and we did not get the outcome for those forests that I was expecting. The logging of some incredibly precious forests went ahead post that 1990 election. That was enough for me to realise that, yes, although we had just experienced this period of time that had the greatest protections for the environment, led by Hawke, there was still a lot more in terms of political voice that was needed. That actually led me to say, 'Well, if we've still got a government that, despite those protections, is willing to sell out our forests, we need to have people in our parliaments who would be an even stronger, uncompromised voice for the environment.' And it led me to throw myself into being one of the founders of the Greens.
I think the legacy of Hawke, if you look back now at what was achieved in that period from 1983 through to 1993 by him as Prime Minister, was extraordinary in terms of those environmental protections. It was leadership that we have not seen since then and that we had not seen up until then. And it's leadership that we desperately need now. His support for the Franklin River was important. It was an iconic campaign, but it was also symbolic and a motivation for environment campaigning around Australia and around the world. It changed the movement and it changed attitudes. But, ultimately, it was only protecting a small part of south-west Tasmania. What we are facing now—and the leadership that we need now—is an extinction crisis going on and a climate crisis going on. Precious natural places all around the world, including all of those precious natural places that gained protection during the 1980s, are under threat from our climate crisis and from our extinction crises. These are the challenges that we are facing now, and the leadership that Hawke showed in the eighties is what we need now—people having the political courage to stand up for the protection of our precious natural world, because these are existential crises that the world is now facing.
What better way to remember Bob Hawke than to remember the leadership that he showed on the environment and for us, as parliamentarians, to take a similar stand and to say, 'There are precious places that are under threat; there are precious places that need protecting,' and to take action to deal with our climate crisis. We need to take the action that is necessary and to have the political courage not to prevaricate, not to sit on the fence, not to say, 'Oh, well, there are short-term economic benefits to some powerful people in our society, so they are going to prevail.' That is selling out. That's not the sort of leadership that we need now. I think the memory of Bob Hawke means that we need to take the actions that are necessary—to transition out of coal and gas and oil, and to +do it in a way that protects workers, that protects ordinary people. We need to have the courage to take that action. My memory of Bob Hawke and what I think the legacy of Bob Hawke needs to be is a reminder to ourselves to take that action, to move forward from here and to continue to protect those precious places that he was so pivotal in saving.
This is not my first speech. In rising today I wish to share my condolences on the death of Australia's 23rd Prime Minister, Bob Hawke. Much has already been said about Hawke since his death in May. We've all shared his life stories, his place in Australian history and his influence on our national identity. This is hardly a surprise. Hawke was a giant of our nation and he made an enormous impression on so many of us.
Hawke's contribution to Australia is hard to overstate—Medicare, the Franklin River, the Accord, banning uranium mining, action on workplace gender discrimination, floating the Australian dollar. They are things that many people today take for granted, so deeply ingrained in our community are they. But for families like mine, and millions of others—migrants of first, second, and third generations—his commitment to multiculturalism, welcome, and compassion has meant the world. Hawke rejected racism. He rejected division. He refused to allow racial equality to become a political football, recognising the same shared humanity of us all. Even before he entered parliament he was leading protests against the Springboks, calling for an end to apartheid in South Africa. He took the work started by Al Grassby and Gough Whitlam in the 1970s and made it his own. When he established the Office of Multicultural Affairs he situated it within his own portfolio, making his own personal commitment to harmony and welcome clear to all. He wept speaking about the death of protesters in Tiananmen Square.
He was real; he was authentic—not afraid to show that leadership is not just about being loud and strong. The offer of asylum that he immediately made to Chinese students is a testament to his commitment to human rights. As Barrie Cassidy wrote in the Guardian shortly after Hawke's passing:
No matter how often he was advised to step warily on racism, given the diverse nature of Australia's electorates, he was uncompromising, calling it out whenever he saw it, or any hint of it.
I am too young to have voted for Hawke. In fact, I was born in the year he became Prime Minister. When I got involved in the Labor Party he was a figure of politics past, a piece of living history. But like so many of us, many generations in the party and the Labor movement, I have fond memories of meeting Hawke at a Labor or union function—surrounded, as he was, by many activists like me, eager to sit with a figure of inspiration. These are memories I hope to hold onto for all of my life.
He was a man of warmth and generosity, friendly to a fault—be it a crowd of young Labor members postretirement, and people of every possible background: children, parents, workers and Labor constituents. Many people from an enormous range of backgrounds are claiming a special affinity with Hawke, and here too shall I, as a proud Australian of Italian heritage. The spirit of Italy seeps into my home city, Melbourne—our coffee, our restaurants, our spirit of hospitality—and there's no doubt Hawke lived that spirit. It was part of who he was as well as something he embraced while working with the Italian communities in Coburg, Pascoe Vale, Brunswick and many more.
In a report in the Australian on election day, a member of Hawke's staff described his electoral office. She said:
… Mr Hawke liked his office to exude all the warmth of an Italian nonna’s kitchen, stocked with tea and biscuits open to all who wanted to pop in.
And she said that she:
… still remembers drinking cappuccinos with the then prime minister at the now closed San Marco restaurant.
For my part, there are many wellsprings of inspiration, but Bob Hawke will always loom large in my mind as I work in this place. We should all seek to reject division and racism. We should all strive to live up to Bob's legacy of generosity, welcome, compassion and leadership. Today I join my colleagues in this place in offering my sincere condolences to Hawke's family. He will be deeply missed. Arrivederci, Mr Hawke.
I rise to speak on the condolence motion for Robert James Lee Hawke. He was born on 9 December 1929 and, sadly, passed away on 16 May this year, just two days before this year's federal election. Looking around the room, I suspect that I have known Bob Hawke longer than just about all the current senators. I would like to share a few anecdotes about his life and my and my family's connection with it. Bob Hawke was born in Bordertown in my home state of South Australia. His mother, Edith, known as Elly, was a school teacher and his father, Arthur, known as Clem, was a Congregationalist minister. Politics was in Bob's family. In 1924, his uncle Albert had become South Australia's youngest-ever member of parliament when he won the seat of Burra Burra in the mid-north of South Australia, which included, interestingly enough, the town of Farrell Flat, not far from my vineyard. He was elected for Labor in the House of Assembly at the tender age of 23. After losing the seat by just 11 votes in 1927, he moved to Western Australia where he would later become Premier, serving in that role from 1953 to 1959. When Bob's older brother, Neil, died of meningitis in his late teens, the family also moved to Western Australia.
Of course, Bob Hawke's early years in Bordertown means we proudly claim him as a South Australian, the only Prime Minister who was born in South Australia. Julia Gillard, that other great South Australian Prime Minister was, of course, born in Wales but grew up in Adelaide. From humble beginnings, Bob Hawke grew to become a giant of the labour movement and of the Labor Party. First, though, he had to complete his studies as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. It was there that he famously established a world record for sculling a yard of ale. In 2015 I took my grandson Edward Mallacher, who was born in Oxford, to see the memorial to Bob at the Turf Tavern where that particular event occurred.
Bob joined the Australian Council of Trade Unions in 1956, as a research officer, replacing Harold Souter, the ACTU's first-ever research officer, who then became acting secretary. For the next 13 years, he ran the national wage cases, lifting the wages and living standards of all Australians. In 1969 he narrowly defeated Souter, who was the right-wing candidate, to become elected ACTU president. I first met Bob Hawke in 1979 at the ACTU Congress in Melbourne at the now knocked down Dallas Brooks Hall in East Melbourne. By this time, his support base in the labour movement had shifted from the left to the right. The big debate of the conference was on the banning of uranium mining at Jabiluka in the Northern Territory—which you might recall, Mr Acting Deputy President. Bob spoke cogently and passionately on the issue for hours, only to lose the debate.
He left the ACTU and entered parliament in 1980. In 1983, as the recently elected Labor leader, he won a smashing victory and never lost a federal election as Prime Minister. In 1984, in order to provide extra support to Bob as the new Labor leader, my union, the SDA, which had not been affiliated to the ALP in Victoria since the split in the 1950s, rejoined the party. My predecessor as national president of the SDA, Jim Maher, was pelted with tomatoes at the Victorian conference when they were readmitted to the ALP, thus creating the name 'tomato left' in that state. In 1988 I was preselected as Labor's candidate for the federal seat of Adelaide in the by-election following Chris Hurford's resignation and appointment as consul-general in New York. In what became known as 'the timed telephone call by-election', Bob got the message that the public didn't like the idea, and I lost the first of many political battles.
I still remember the day very vividly. I was travelling with Bob and the then Premier of South Australia, John Bannon, to launch the new Mitsubishi Magna at Tonsley Park. Bob got a call, and after he'd hung up he said, 'We've got an election issue.' I said, 'What is it?' Bob said, 'The Libs are silly enough to support Telstra's call for timed telephone calls.' Later that day, after a successful campaign launch at the North Adelaide Football Club, Bob did a press conference. In the final question, and out of the blue, he was asked, 'Will you support timed telephone calls?' Bob said yes. In the car later, taking Bob to the airport, I said, 'I thought we were going to oppose timed telephone calls,' and he said, 'Well, it's too late now; I've said it,' and, of course, it was too late.
Bob Hawke was Prime Minister from 11 March 1983 to 20 December 1991, and he was a great Prime Minister. Among his achievements—many already recognised today, as I'm sure many more will be—it's worth highlighting that it was Bob Hawke who floated the Australian dollar; opened the Australian economy to the world, creating to this day 28 years of continuous economic growth; founded the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, APEC; created Medicare; gave the Commonwealth power over World Heritage sites; stopped the damming of the Tasmanian Franklin River; prioritised and started World Heritage listing of Kakadu; and adopted green and gold as our national colours.
After he left the prime ministership, I caught up with Bob again in Vienna in 1995. It was only a week or so before he was due to marry his second wife, Blanche d'Alpuget. Bob was back amongst his old union mates and was happy to share yarns, cigars and a few glasses of beer, but I'm not sure that Blanche approved.
In 2007, Bob Hawke was in Adelaide supporting the now member for Spence, Nick Champion, who was at the time Labor's candidate in what was then the federal seat of Wakefield. My daughter Teresa volunteered to help out and was given the job of being Bob's driver. He declared her the best driver that he'd ever had. On the way back into town, he did get a little bit upset when he thought Blanche had forgotten to ring the Hyatt Hotel, where he was staying that night, to put in an order for parmesan cheese on his spaghetti that night. Blanche hadn't forgotten, of course; it was just that Bob couldn't hear her calling. My eldest daughter, who's got a rather famous photograph with Bob from the time she was three years old, also used to serve Bob at George's Fish Cafe on Gouger Street when he came to Adelaide for meetings of the Hawke foundation.
Like many in this place and the other place, I was honoured to attend the memorial at the Sydney Opera House with my wife and daughter last month. That memorial—appropriately, I believe—focused on Bob Hawke's achievements and hard work, rather than his charisma or his larrikinism. Australia owes much to Bob Hawke to this day, from the establishment of Medicare to the protection of our unique and precious environment and the adoption of our national sporting colours. He was a Prime Minister who worked for Australians and for Australia's future. He will be greatly missed.
This is not my first speech, and I thank the Senate for allowing me this contribution to this important condolence debate in advance of my first speech. I don't mind saying that I wept when I heard that Bob Hawke had died. I think that my kids were a little mystified when they saw this sudden and unexplained outburst of emotion from their dad. I wept because Bob Hawke's tenure as Prime Minister was the soundtrack to my teenage years. It was impossible for my adolescent experience to conceive of the Australia that went before Hawke—of the enormous feat of imagination, courage and leadership that it took to drag the country from the torpor of conflict and stagnation after the nation-building phase of the postwar years into a new Australia.
Hawke conjured a modern Australia where working- and middle-class people's lives were chained by the power of government. His four election victories between 1983 and 1991 cemented Labor social democratic achievements. Transformative change, the kind that is felt in the lived experiences of all Australians, takes not just winning government but long-term government to make reform durable. Hawke taught Labor and the labour movement about the value of national consensus and governing in the interests of all Australians as the core propositions of Labor governments. That lesson is vital.
There has been an enormous effort by conservative commentators and Hawke's erstwhile political opponents to rewrite history. The endless column inches about the 'Hawke-Keating era of reform' are rarely written by people who are genuinely motivated by the same principles that underpinned Hawke's achievements. It is as if the conservatives at the time supported all or any of Hawke's efforts to reform our economy, our society and our democracy or his conception of modern Australia's place in the world. These were all hard things to do, and his opponents were much more venal and opportunistic then than they now claim.
The consensus that Bob sought was built out of a radical proposition that transformative change required genuine consultation with every Australian and with the organisations that they formed. It was a deep egalitarianism, a commitment to inclusion that must surely have been forged in his years in the trade union movement. In practice, this meant governing in cooperation with the institutions that were capable of representing and consulting with ordinary Australians. Kim Beazley set it out best in his eulogy at Hawke's grand memorial at the Sydney Opera House just a few weeks ago:
… he governed with the peak organisations—the unions of course, but also the employer groups—Indigenous, environmental and rural groups—multicultural, arts, sporting, social, religious groups. For him they were the transmission belts of change to the community, feedback and adjustment.
It was the legitimacy of the institutions that represented people, and Hawke's ability to work constructively with them, that was core to the changes that the Hawke government made. He summarised this approach in his 1988 Boyer lecture:
Within Australia we have together I think found the secret of a successful society. It is simple and it is powerful. It is to formulate policies with maximum input from those likely to be affected, to take account of the aspirations of all significant groups and to seek to harmonise as far as possible the actions of those groups.
Hawke understood the value of democratic participation, that democracy doesn't begin and end at the ballot box, electing representative governments that implement policy to individual consumers of government services.
Our democracy is, or should be, built on the fundamental belief that citizens are capable of understanding and interacting with power, and that the expression of that belief is collective organisation. Active participation in unions and associations, migrant organisations, environment groups, churches and RSLs is a core feature of a healthy democracy, and it's government's job to encourage and facilitate that vital democratic work. Democracy doesn't stop at the factory gate, and it should flourish in our workplaces and communities. Hawke's vision of a healthy pluralist social democracy, as much about the way that change is delivered as the outcome of the change itself, puts his opponents' tepid neoliberal version of consumer democracy in the shade. It was core to the achievements of that period of successful reform in government.
I don't think it's possible to talk about Bob Hawke without mentioning his commitment to internationalism and racial equality. His mobilisation of CHOGM sanctions against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa—against significant opposition, including here in Australia—was crucial to deposing that fascist, racist regime. His commitment to democracy is surely reflected in his brave and principled decision to allow more than 40,000 Chinese students to stay in Australia in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
I met Bob Hawke many times in my career as a trade union official. All of them were memorable, and I'll treasure those memories. I'll never forget finishing a dinner with him on the Gold Coast. We were interrupted by people all the way to the restaurant and by passers-by all the way through the dinner. Bob would have been in his early 80s and he was generous, genuine and spontaneous with all of them. To be around him was to experience a mix of charm, principle and raw intelligence. We returned very late to our hotel that night to find that the bar had sensibly closed. I convinced the manager to reopen it, essentially using Bob's name to open the bar, and we kept the bar humming for more hours than was sensible. A crowd of patrons sat to hear Bob sing, tell terrific stories and make jokes that will not bear repeating in this place.
I was also there as a young industrial relations student at the University of Sydney in 1993 when Hawke gave the inaugural Kingsley Laffer lecture, hosted by Professor Russell Lansbury. That in large part inspired my commitment to industrial relations as a field of study and work and my commitment to workplace democracy and the great potential of the Australian labour movement to effect lasting beneficial change for all Australians. Vale Robert James Lee Hawke, Australian unionist, politician, Prime Minister, larrikin and leader.
Our nation has lost a true champion in Bob Hawke. Bob Hawke visibly loved Australia. It is a love that we celebrate today and it is a love returned to him. It is a privilege to be a member of this place today to pay my respects as this new parliament begins and to remember the values for which he stood and that he drew upon throughout his life, be that within the trade union movement or leading the Australian government. The great privilege to be a graduate of the University of Western Australia is one I share with our former Prime Minister. He is still very fondly revered and remembered there. When reflecting on his time there during the UWA centenary dinner in 2011 he gave praise for UWA, Australia's first free university:
… I had the opportunity of coming to this great institution—the only free university in the British Empire as a result of the marvellous request of Sir Winthrop Hackett. £450,000 back in 1911, calculated today to be worth $33 million, and that enabled students from poorer backgrounds like myself to come here.
He also said:
I believe all of you here tonight will share my indebtedness, my deep sense of indebtedness, to The University of Western Australia for its continuous, unqualified and rigorous commitment over the hundred years of its existence to pure unadulterated teaching and research.
That fondness for Bob Hawke is felt throughout Western Australia and indeed throughout the UWA community.
It is a good place for me to start these remarks because it is an indebtedness that I share, along with the Hawke and Keating government's strong commitment to accessible higher education in our nation—an indebtedness for so many things, be that equal opportunity, environmental protection, a strong economy and, importantly, Australia's sense of place in the world. I have enjoyed hearing today, and over recent weeks, so much about his critical legacies and those of the Hawke-Keating government.
I want to share with the chamber today one of those legacies, a legacy which ranks right at the top for me. It was Bob Hawke's infamous pledge that no Australian child would live in poverty. It is a pledge that was ridiculed over time but should be viewed today as one of the Hawke government's most critical achievements—not as an embarrassment, which it was often viewed as. He was supposed to say, 'No child should live in poverty by 1990,' not that no child would live in poverty. The fact of the matter is that the measures announced by the Hawke government back in 1987 would have had the effect of immediately cutting the number of children in poverty in our nation by between 33 per cent and 36 per cent.
The legacy that I remember in this place today is those falls in child poverty around our nation—a fall of some 50 per cent in non-working single parents and 80 per cent among non-working couples with children. They were simple, practical measures like the family allowance supplement linked to wage growth; uniform rent assistance for social security recipients with children; a new child disability allowance; and the Child Support Agency, which, for the first time, used the tax system to collect child support payments from non-custodial parents. In the time after Bob Hawke's infamous speech, government spending per child on low-income families in our nation jumped by some 61 per cent in real terms for children aged zero to 12 and 124 per cent for children aged 13 to 15.
I'm sad to say that in our nation in recent years these outcomes have slipped. In our nation, we have more than 700,000 children living in poverty. The number of children in poverty in our nation has not continued to decrease, but it has climbed some two per cent in the last 10 years. So to be true to be Hawke's legacy, as we look to debate the tax bills in this parliament, we can and should, as he would have done, reflect on where our nation's precious resources are directed.
For me and so many other Australians, Bob was a figure embodying our sense of Australia. As a Western Australian, I very much remember, as a child, seeing his character on display during the historic win of the America's Cup—the glee and debate and laughter in our household when Bob Hawke said, 'Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.' It was a taste of the time in our state—a time of great excitement and development. The first time I ever saw Bob Hawke in the flesh—and I was very privileged to meet him a number of times in my political career, but this was the first time—was as a child, surrounding by dancing girls in the lead-up to the America's Cup down in Fremantle. It was my first experience of seeing figures in public life up close, apart from the time my mother took me to see the Queen arrive at Perth Airport in the 1970s.
Bob's actions and attitudes instilled in us a sense of pride in our Australian character but not a sense of arrogance. Among the things I most admire about him are reflections not in my later political life but back in my childhood where I could see how his leadership was important not just in Australia but globally. It was part of defining what it meant to me as a child in my connectedness to the world. It was about being a global citizen, and it's a sense of identity we still leverage from today. We also have a great deal to thank him for in our national identity: multiculturalism; internationalism, as I said before; environmentalism; equality; and a fair go for all. He was able to define for us who we were and what we stood for as a country. It was there in the government's actions. It was there in our words.
It reminds me that this comes down not just to our character as a nation but to our character as people—not as collective people only but also as individuals. In terms of the things that we value as people in our nation, when we say we value our sense of multiculturalism and internationalism, we value our environment and we value a fair go—when they are things we embody as individuals, that we celebrate inside ourselves as part of our own character—it was wonderful to see those things on display in our Prime Minister, in Bob Hawke, so visibly as part of his character. For someone of my generation, the way he has shaped my own character is abundantly clear to me—his policies, his leadership and, importantly, as I've said, the values his government promulgated. They've shaped me as a person. I know I share that sense with a great many other Australians. Bob Hawke's actions always spoke louder than words, and Bob's actions were a mighty roar. He has been such a great part of our national character and a humble inspiration for my own, and he will be greatly missed.
Much has been spoken today in this place on the legacy of Bob Hawke, and it is a great honour for me to add my remarks on the life of the Hon. Robert James Lee Hawke AC, Prime Minister of Australia from 1983 to 1991. As a nondrinker, I won't be regaling the Senate with stories of me in a bar with Bob Hawke. And despite hearing from other senators today about how they penned a letter to Bob Hawke, I didn't do that either. But I did meet him on many occasions, and I'm very proud that he led our country. Who could forget—those of us who are old enough—Bob Hawke, as president of the ACTU, demolishing journalists on TV? To me, it seemed to be almost every night that he would be on the television in his fiery defence of workers and trade unions. This is the Bob Hawke I first became aware of. I joined the Labor Party in 1983, shortly before Bob Hawke challenged Bill Hayden and won the leadership of the party. So, for me, Bob Hawke as our leader and our PM is personal. His changes impacted my life and the lives of my family in a positive way.
There are four areas that I want to mention today in my remarks. I'd like to begin with Medicare. The chequered history of Medibank and Medicare—introduced first by Whitlam, fundamentally changed by Fraser and finally settled by Hawke—made a fundamental difference to the availability of quality health care for me and my family. Private health insurance under Fraser was a significant burden on my family. We were a low-income family. Whitlam's introduction of Medicare initially provided relief to us and of course delivered affordable health care—sadly short-lived, as Fraser tore down those reforms. I recall during this time not visiting doctors because of the cost and always using the accident and emergency departments of our already overburdened public hospitals. As a low-income earner at that time, I had no other choice. So, of course the election of the Hawke government and the return to the original model set up under Whitlam was cause for celebration for me as a young woman, as a young parent of young children. I lived the words described by Neal Blewett when he introduced the legislation with the words that Medicare would be 'simple, fair and affordable'.
The next area I want to touch on is the Franklin Dam, and a few people here have spoken about that today. Whitlam's reforms to access to university enabled me to enrol in university as a mature-age student—although not so old, at 26. Apart from studying, I got involved in a range of campaigns. One of these was opposing the damming of the Franklin River. This opposition movement to the dam, which would have flooded the Franklin River, was Australia-wide, and for many it was their first real campaign. It seemed to me at the time that we were very active in Western Australia, although a long way from Tasmania, and particularly active at Murdoch University.
What Bob did was nothing short of miraculous. He fought the Liberals at every turn, both here in the federal parliament and in the state of Tasmania. As they thwarted his attempts to stop the dam, he came back with yet another strategy to stop their ambition to dam and destroy this magnificent river. In the end, he was successful.
The Tasmanian dam case is the most famous and influential environmental law case in Australian history. It was also a landmark in Australian constitutional law. In 1981 the area in which the dam was proposed was nominated for listing under the World Heritage convention. But that wasn't enough to save the damming; it wouldn't have prevented the construction of the dam. To stop it, what was required was the incorporation of the protection of the area under international law and incorporating that into Australian domestic law. The Commonwealth took the matter to the High Court and sought and won an injunction. The decision continues to have importance in Australia today. Large parts of Australia's main environmental law come from this Franklin River decision. Years later, when I visited the dam and saw its pristine state, I couldn't believe that at one time we were going to destroy that magnificent river. I thank Bob for his absolute undying attention to stopping that proposal.
The other area I want to touch on is uranium mining. This is a vexed issue in the Labor Party—I stand in opposition to uranium mining—and this was demonstrated between Whitlam and Hawke. Land belonging to the Mirarr people of the Kakadu and West Arnhem regions in the Northern Territory was first targeted as a location for uranium mining in 1974. Again, I was an active opponent of that proposal. The Whitlam government had signed agreements with two mining companies to provide uranium ore to Japan. But, upon election in 1983, Bob Hawke buried the Jabiluka project by declaring that the export permits would not be granted. He also gave highly publicised priority to the World Heritage listing of Kakadu National Park. The park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in three stages. Of course, some would think the mining of uranium at Jabiluka today, whilst in limbo, is unfinished business.
The last area that I really want to touch on today, which profoundly affected me and enabled me to achieve much more than I would have done if it hadn't been for Hawke, is the area of gender discrimination in the workplace. In 1984 the Sex Discrimination Act, as it was called then, outlawed sex discrimination in the workplace. Bob Hawke appointed Susan Ryan to the portfolio of Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, and she served in that role from 1983 to 1988. As Susan Ryan said:
When Bob was swept into power in March 1983 with his team of ministers he had a comprehensive policy agenda ready to go. It included the achievements for which he is most commonly praised: restructuring and strengthening of Australia's economy; globalising it; abandoning outdated measures like protection; reforming taxation; and building strong relationships with our regional neighbours.
It also included the most detailed set of commitments to Australian women ever developed. We delivered on virtually all of them. A lot were highly controversial and not widely popular.
At the time—and this is unbelievable, because for some of us 1983 doesn't seem so long ago—it was not unlawful to sack women who married, it was not unlawful to sack women who became pregnant and it was not unlawful to sack women just because they were women. Maternity leave was scarcely available. Women could not get home loans. Girls' education was restricted, and fewer girls got into higher education. Most of our community thought this was all okay.
Bob Hawke and Susan Ryan also presided over the passing of the Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986 and a massive increase in spending on child care. There was considerable political opposition to all these reforms, including when it came to child care and affirmative action laws, even from within Hawke's own cabinet. Without his strong endorsement, they would not have happened.
The Sex Discrimination Act, as it was known at that time, changed Australia in a fundamental way. For the first time, there was federal protection against discrimination on the grounds of sex—which, of course, these days we refer to as gender—marital status and the condition of pregnancy in employment, and the provision of a range of goods and services. In practice, what Bob Hawke and Susan Ryan achieved was that, from 1983 onwards, it was against the law to treat women differently—to deny them employment because they were pregnant, for instance, or because they were married. Hawke's legacy lies not just in his successful reintroduction of Medicare and his other outstanding achievements. Throughout the rest of his time as Prime Minister, his ability to make radical policy changes for the benefit of the general public, against the direct wishes of the powerful groups in our society, provides useful lessons for political leaders of today.
The memorial held at the Opera House last month was wonderful, packed to the rafters and live-streamed to the crowd watching outside. I pay my sincere condolences to Blanche, Bob's children, his stepson, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren. It was only fitting that we sang 'Solidarity Forever', as we had on many occasions before with Bob, and there was the beautiful rendition on the didgeridoo of 'Down Under'. Vale Bob Hawke, and rest in peace.
I rise to also make a brief contribution to this condolence motion to honour the life of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke. As I reflected at the time of his passing, Bob Hawke was Prime Minister when I first became interested in politics. His government inspired me and showed me that what happens in politics matters and helps to shape the nation. I'm certain that I'm not the only Labor politician of my generation in this place who was energised by Bob's example or continues to draw inspiration from the example of his passionate leadership and his government's prodigious record of achievement.
But Bob Hawke was not only a giant of the Labor movement and the Labor Party; he was also a leader who commanded respect right across the political divide. In politics, that is no mean accomplishment and it's something that current politicians can learn a lesson or two from. He has an enduring legacy which Australians continue to benefit from today. Every time we go to the GP or a hospital, we are benefitting from the work that Bob Hawke started by establishing Medicare, building on the work of another great Labor politician, Gough Whitlam. Australia's universal health system is the envy of many countries around the world. Medicare and the system that Bob was keen to build not only ensures all people have access to health care when they need it but also makes a strong statement about the kind of country we are: a compassionate and accommodating nation that makes sure that your bank balance or your financial situation is not an impediment to gaining health care, often at some of the darkest moments in one's life. It certainly ranks amongst the greatest of Labor's achievements. In fact, it's difficult to think of a more practical expression of Labor values than Medicare. Bob also achieved many other policy milestones during his time as Prime Minister. His passion for people at the heart of government policy and decision-making was clear. He protected the environment by preventing mining in culturally significant sites and saved the Franklin River in Tasmania. He opened up the Australian economy to the world and floated the dollar.
Many others have spoken of his incredible national and international achievements, but, as a proud Canberran and ACT senator, I also want to focus my remarks on Bob Hawke and Canberra. Bob loved Canberra, our nation's capital. It's the city that I'm proud to call home and I represent here in the Australian Senate. Bob not only lived here when he was Prime Minister but also took up residence in the nation's capital between 1956 and '58 while he studied his doctorate of law at the Australian National University, focusing on the Australian wage-fixing system.
Bob's larrikin behaviour was on show back at that time when he decided to take advantage of the absence of the master at University House residence on the ANU campus. Historian Dr Jill Waterhouse recounted a story in TheCanberra Times recently, telling how he and a group of fellow students stormed around the residence where unmarried PhD students lived and also went for a swim in the ornamental pond, home to some goldfish. The midnight swim disturbed a visiting conference of bishops who were said to be very unimpressed. The official incident report stated that a drunken party, involving shouting and stampeding about the courtyard, swimming in the pool, the use of obscene language and banging on doors, was not calculated to help with the public relations of the university. The event secured Bob's banishment from University House. He was asked to leave the college council as well as incurring a 15 pound fine. It was perhaps a mark of what was to come—he did challenge the authorities, who were unimpressed, but he gained the admiration and applause of his fellow students.
Bob did, however, base himself here in Canberra for the duration of his time as Prime Minister and made the Lodge, on Adelaide Avenue, his home, moving in in 1983. Bob was Prime Minister for the opening of the building we stand in today: Australia's new—at the time—Parliament House. Few buildings are more closely associated with Canberra, and there are few visitors to this city who do not visit this incredible building.
But nothing sums up Bob's passion for Canberra more than his love for something much more humble than the grandeur of Parliament House: the Canberra Raiders. It's reported that, when he was asked why he went for the Raiders despite being a member of parliament with an electorate in Melbourne, he responded with, 'Because I live in the bloody place.' Bob was a loyal and passionate fan of the Raiders and was their No. 1 ticketholder from 1983 onwards. He also reportedly hosted premiership celebrations and commiserations at the Lodge, and he was also spotted from time to time walking into the Raiders' change rooms following games.
It's these stories that occurred right here in the nation's capital that confirm that Bob Hawke was indeed a Prime Minister for the people and one that saw the value in Canberra as the heart of the nation. He was one of the few Prime Ministers of recent times who made Canberra their home and immersed themselves in Canberra life. I was also struck by the words of former Hawke press secretary Geoff Walsh who said that Hawke was a true Canberra supporter and not only because he lived here during his prime ministership. He said:
He was a defender of the national capital, both intrinsically in the sense of it being the seat of government for the whole country, but also in terms of its functionality and utility …
People would sometimes be critical of Canberra, and he, in his ultra-logical way, would say, well, if you look at the quality of policymaking that comes out of Canberra, you couldn't complain about how well the nation is being served, in terms of economic prosperity, national security, the conduct of our international relations, all of which were essentially run—to a large degree—out of the Canberra bureaucracy.
Canberra is home to the Australian Public Service. It's made up of thousands of Canberrans and many more around the nation who work hard every day to support the government and to ensure that the government's agenda is delivered. Too often I think politicians and media commentators alike use Canberra and the APS as a punching bag or as an easy scapegoat for policy failings. Hawke had a passion for the Canberra bureaucracy and the essential role that the APS plays in our democratic system, which reminds us that we should value our public servants and federal bureaucracy more.
Bob taught us that we, as Labor—and as Labor in government—have a duty to be bold with our agenda and to change Australia for the better. With Bob's passing, we, the Labor Party, should be reminded of the significant value that Labor governments make to the social fabric of our nation. He always showed us in very practical ways that we should embrace change and be visionary with our agenda and not be deterred by the narrow-minded rhetoric of some other parties or politicians that occupy the hallways. He demonstrated that policy should always be developed with people at its core.
Bob will be missed but he will always be remembered. His legacy is immense. His personality was unforgettable. His passion for Australia and for Australians was infectious. His contribution to Australia and to the broader world will never be forgotten. On behalf of the people of the ACT, I pass my condolences on to his wife, his children and his grandchildren. You have the support of a nation standing with you at this time.
I first met Bob Hawke in 1980, at the height of the Noonkanbah dispute, when First Nations peoples united to take on the Western Australian Liberal government of Sir Charles Court and the international mining company AMAX, which wanted to drill on sacred land. The meeting took place at Tullamarine, and Bob struggled with the concept of a sacred site of land at a place called Pea Hill. However, he listened intently and promised to do what he could at that time. Bob was then President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and a key ally in what would become one of Australia's most significant demonstrations of non-violent resistance. Noonkanbah was a turning point for First Nations land rights, and Bob Hawke, along with his son, Stephen, then a liaison officer with the community, promoted the cause to national significance.
Much has been said in the weeks since the death of Bob Hawke about his love for his country and its peoples. I have some reservations about some of that, and I approach his legacy, and I know some of my colleagues approach it, with some frustration, anger and annoyance because he couldn't achieve and deliver for First Nations—because of some of the vested interests and the hard-Right attitudes in our community—when it came to treaty and national land rights in particular. I reflect on the period with ambivalence and great disappointment and regret that, in relation to what could have been and what he hoped would be, because of Bob's sense of pragmatism and sense of understanding of the challenges he faced, we were not able to achieve the unity of the Australian people with his aim and vision and ours. The reality is that Bob's empathy for the cause of First Nations was not shared by the broader Australian population at the time. Political leadership should reflect hard on this conundrum as pivotal to the process of reconciliation.
Bob was at ease in the company of blackfellas because his belief system did not allow for discrimination. Although he did shy away from the regime of national land rights and although he did have a rush of fervour towards the promise of a treaty with Aboriginal people and failed to deliver it, he did remain committed to high ideals of reconciliation. And when he did deliver, like the time he put Aboriginal cultural values above those of development-minded colleagues and prevailed over cabinet to veto mining at Coronation Hill in the Northern Territory, his stand on First Nations views contributed, in our view, to his demise as a Prime Minister. In the case of his walking away from the national land rights agenda, let's face and acknowledge the awful reality that powerful forces were against him. The hysterical lobby of a virulent mining industry, sadly backed by an equally virulent Premier of my home state, Western Australia, killed that aspiration.
But today I put aside the prime ministerial failures of Bob Hawke, because he was, in his heart, a committed friend of Australia's Indigenous peoples. I was the director of the Central Land Council, and Bob Hawke attended the annual Barunga Sport and Cultural Festival in June 1988, the year of Australia's bicentenary. Gerry Hand, the minister at the time, was a great help in getting Bob to Barunga. There are many stories to be told about that, and Gerry would remember them—especially about the need for Bob to have a pair of red underwear on in case he needed to go to the ceremonies. It was there that he was presented with the Barunga Statement by the chairmen from the Northern and Central land councils.
The Barunga Statement was a historic declaration of self-determination and of cultural Aboriginal culture. It requested the Commonwealth parliament to negotiate a treaty recognising Aboriginal prior ownership, continued occupation, and sovereignty, affirming our human rights and freedoms over 30 years ago. In return, the Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, famously declared, 'There shall be a treaty.'
Although he was unable to deliver on that commitment by the time he left office in December 1991, he did deliver on his commitment to Indigenous self-determination. His demonstration of that was the creation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in 1990. ATSIC gave a real voice to Indigenous people, regionally and nationally. It was a real instrument of self-determination and self-management; however, it suffered as a creature of legislation. Alas, ATSIC was dismantled by the Howard government in 2005.
The year after ATSIC was established, Prime Minister Hawke established the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. I well remember when his then minister for Aboriginal affairs, Robert Tickner, was dispatched to Derby to try and woo me to take up the job as the council's first chairman. At that stage in my life, I was reluctant to return to the national stage after my experience of working as a commissioner at the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. And let me remind you that the royal commission was of Bob Hawke's calling. He was appalled by the proliferation of suicides amongst Aboriginal people in custody and he withstood criticism from those, including those within his own party, who saw the royal commission as a waste of time and money.
Anyway, back to the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and the government's effort to recruit me to chair it. My grandfather had just passed away, and I was wanting to anchor myself in my own country and culture. That was until Bob Hawke himself got on the phone. His powers to cajole and coerce are acknowledged by all who ever dealt with him, but it was not until you were subjected to that special Hawke treatment that you really appreciated that you'd been confronted by a great persuader. I yielded in the face of his supplication and agreed to sign on as the foundation chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.
Little did I know that he had only a few months left in office as the Prime Minister. Fitting then that it was his last duty, literally in the last few minutes of his prime ministership, in December '91, to unveil the Barunga Statement in Parliament House, where it rests today. In that brief ceremony, Mr Hawke said that he had promised in '88, back at Barunga, to hang the Barunga Statement in the Parliament House 'for whoever is Prime Minister of this country, not only to see, but to understand and also to honour'. With the presence of the Barunga Statement in this great building, he called on those to follow him to continue to find solutions to the abundant problems that still face Aboriginal peoples in this country. Nearly three decades have passed away since that exhortation, but those last words of Prime Minister Bob Hawke still hang in the air. May they inspire us all and remind us that we are yet to reconcile as a nation.
Bob was passionate about our nation. When Bob Hawke was talking about reconciliation, he wasn't talking about just practical reconciliation, the myth that simply adjusting social and economic policy settings constitutes real reconciliation; he knew it had to be about finding an accommodation of the rights and interests of the sovereign position First Nations held and never ceded. In fact, he identified this false dichotomy in the first item of substantive business which he moved in this new Parliament House, on 23 August 1988. Back then he said:
… the true remedy does not lie purely in the allocation of resources. For if we provide budgetary assistance but not hope, not confidence, not effective consultation, not reconciliation, then that assistance will fail to lift Aboriginal and Islander people from their disadvantaged state.
More than 30 years on from that speech, reconciliation may have become an insipid word or even a corrupted concept because of the dashed hope, the broken promises, the corporatisation and the program failure to close the gap, amid glittering functions at the well-off end of town.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a plea to the Australian people. It captures the contemporary and historical dispossession experienced by First Nations Peoples. The 'tyranny of our powerlessness' is about being constantly ground down and denied in preference to every other interest, constant delays and broken hopes. The time for such piecemeal measures has gone. The proposal of a pathetic voice to the parliament reliant upon an enabling power supported by referendum has not shifted the political appetite to commit with clear time frames. Such an interim measure, if achieved by way of referendum, could spark hope and indicate that Australia is serious in establishing an entirely new relationship with First Nations peoples. Embarking upon a treaty pathway, enlightened by truth-telling, would work towards healing our past and laying the foundations of unity for our future.
The abundant problems referred to by Bob Hawke still exist today; they still beset us. But there is a way out of this conundrum. My appeal to the political leadership of today, in remembrance of the commitment of Bob Hawke, is that we address the hard task of reconciliation; we address the question of a treaty and we set out the treaty framework process for a treaty with First Nations as part of their mantra of voice, truth and treaty making; that we own up to the constant detrimental procrastination; that we work to give pride to all Australians of goodwill; that we give certainty for First Nations; that we return politics to something decent, in the manner of Bob Hawke's leadership, despite his attempts and failures, that we, in our unity, can make real. Until we reach such an ultimate resolution we will always remain a damaged and divided nation. Thank you.
Today I join colleagues in paying my respects to a great Australian, Bob Hawke. Bob was Australia's 23rd Prime Minister and former head of the Australian union movement, as the president of the ACTU. Winning four elections for Labor, he gave us Medicare, superannuation for all and access to higher education and training. He shaped our modern Australian identity, opening the Australian economy to the world, improving our ties with Asia and providing the international leadership needed to end apartheid and protect Antarctica. Without peer, Bob changed our country and our world for the better.
A key early memory of mine is not in industrial relations but in international affairs. Bob's outspoken advocacy against the Vietnam War was fundamentally a matter of workers' rights. Our sons and brothers were being conscripted to fight America's war in Vietnam. Too many lost their lives and those who returned faced misguided aggression and years of isolation. Always sensing an opportunity to heal, it was in 1987 that Bob declared 18 August as Vietnam Veterans Day. Since then, Australia has better embraced our Vietnam vets, including those conscripted for service.
Bob's firm stance on apartheid in South Africa was an inspiration to the world over—workers standing in solidarity with Nelson Mandela, himself a committed trade unionist, and all South Africans in their pursuit of self-determination and freedom. Some said at the time that sport and politics shouldn't mix. But sport is humanity's way of imitating battle and celebrating life, and the courage of banning the South African cricket and rugby teams was pivotal in changing hearts and minds.
As Prime Minister, Bob's leadership on the Antarctic is particularly special for us Tasmanians. As Australia's gateway to Antarctica, Bob's ability to deliver the Antarctic Treaty and conserve our great southern continent for science has given my state the ability to trade off our geographic advantages, inspiring thousands of young Tasmanians to study the Antarctic—her plants, animals, culture and climate—in the pursuit of greater knowledge about us as a species and our precious world. It is this long-term economic vision that comes back time and again when recalling Bob's achievements.
When Bob came to power in 1983, Labor failed to win a seat from Tasmania in the House of Representatives. We Tasmanians don't like to be told how to manage our state from inner-city Melbourne, but we do respect politicians of vision. Over the coming 15 years Labor would win every seat in Tasmania, in part due to Bob's and his team's policies that clearly improved the lives of working people. The Franklin River, one of the nation's wildest, is protected forever because of Bob, with many visitors every year enjoying a thrilling ride through her gorges. He's best known as the father of Medicare, Australia's precious public health system, envied the world over for ensuring that a single mum in Devonport, a farmer in Smithton, a factory worker in Burnie and a miner in Queenstown can all access first-rate health care.
Two further fundamental pillars of modern Australian society shaped by Bob's leadership are superannuation and gender equality. I started my working life in a factory in Ulverstone. The division of labour between men and women was clear, and it was fierce. Women were casuals, restricted to the roles in the factory that attracted the lowest pay. Men could drive the forklifts and operate the machinery, and, in return, take home the higher pay. Bob's workplace gender equality reforms, achieved in 1984 with Australia's first female minister for women, Susan Ryan, enabled my union to take forward and win equal-opportunity cases that removed some of those barriers, ensuring that women workers were employed and paid based on their skills, not their gender.
On the same note: for the first 12 years of my working life I received no superannuation. Some of my female colleagues who had been working there for decades had no savings for their retirement. Our same story was repeated over and again across the country. When Bob and Labor introduced compulsory superannuation, these women, myself included, had some financial independence for the first time in their lives. We were no longer just workers; through our own superannuation, we had a stake in the companies that ran this country.
Bob remained a committed unionist and Labor activist in his retirement from politics. Awarded life membership of my union, the AMWU, Bob would regularly attend conferences to share his stories and inspire the next generations. I was privileged to meet Bob on a number of occasions. His stories would entertain and enthral for hours—yes, literally hours. Of course, we would end with a passionate rendition of 'Solidarity Forever'. Underneath Bob's beautiful melodies, the words ring so true. The final lyrics sum up his impact on us, our nation and our world. As Bob sang on so many occasions:
In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the union makes us strong.
'Solidarity forever', Bob Hawke.
I join with my colleagues in paying tribute to the remarkable life of Bob Hawke. When you think about the combination of intellect, larrikinism, compassion and the understanding of people from all walks of life, and the fact that he was able to maintain this combination his whole life in the differing roles that he had—particularly in later life as well—it was an authenticity that was unique and combined all the great elements of Australian life. I think that the achievements that he had are all the more remarkable, given that they did happen so close to the devastation that the Labor Party suffered from the end of the Whitlam government. When you put it in that historical context, what Hawke was able to achieve with Keating, so close to the devastation of the Whitlam government, is made all the more remarkable.
So many of my colleagues have already dealt with Hawke's remarkable life and achievements. I particularly want to single out Senator Dodson, who I thought gave a really honest assessment of and some examples of some frustrations that the Indigenous community and Australians had about a lack of progress but also a remarkable record in that area as well. Senator Wong outlined his remarkable achievements in the foreign affairs area as well, which not only set up Australia so well but also set up an immensely proud Labor tradition at the same time.
I want to focus on some other aspects, particularly the role that Bob Hawke played in Queensland, which was both an achievement in terms of policy and a remarkable political success at the same time, and then, similar to Senator Urquhart, I will finish with some personal experiences that I had with him. The election win of Bob Hawke in 1983 combined with my first year of primary school. So basically my whole school life was through the time of the Hawke and Keating governments. When you think about Queensland during the seventies and eighties, it was a particularly dark place politically. We were wiped out following the demise of the Whitlam government, and we had the ascendancy of the corrupt, moribund Joh Bjelke-Petersen government through that whole period. So the Queensland Labor Party, through the seventies and eighties, was a pretty break place to be, with not much optimism on the horizon. They were tough times.
When it goes to how that had an impact on Queensland, there was continual underfunding when it came to education—we really were left in the dark and left behind when it came to education—and, when it came to the environment, degradation was the modus operandi of the Bjelke-Petersen government. It was a really bleak time that Queensland was suffering through. When Hawke came in in 1983 and achieved what he did and built that long-term government, for true believers in the state and for those people who relied on Labor governments, he was a real saviour for that state—combined, eventually, with the election of the Goss government in 1989.
When you look at the environmental achievements of Hawke, there were some significant ones that he put in place, and the fact that he was able to do this despite the hostility of the state conservative governments at the time makes it all the more remarkable. These achievements included listing of the Daintree Wet Tropics and Gondwana Rainforests in Queensland; protecting the Daintree Rainforest from logging; saving the Shelburne Bay region of Cape York from sand mining; expanding the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park; and working with both the NFF and the ACF to set up Landcare—a remarkable list of environmental achievements in Queensland.
Another achievement which I think is really important and says a lot about the Hawke government and the way they were able to achieve so much in Queensland was the increase in university enrolments. In 1980, Queensland had 22,000 people enrolled in three universities and, by the end of the Hawke and Keating governments, we had 101,000 people enrolled and six universities. Those additional universities were based in regional areas. When you think about the increased number of people who were able to go to university and the fact that those people were able to do that in regional communities, it was a remarkable, longstanding achievement that has been to the betterment of Queensland.
They're just some practical examples of the impact that Hawke's policies and his government had on Queensland. Those achievements are particularly relevant given the hostility of the relationship with the Bjelke-Petersen government at the time. The fact is that Hawke was able to provide inspiration for Labor people in that state and was able to show them that there was a brighter future, despite what they had been suffering for such a long time under the Bjelke-Petersen government.
The other thing that goes with that is the remarkable electoral results that Hawke achieved as Prime Minister. As people who witnessed the last federal election will realise, for Hawke to achieve winning 50 per cent of the seats in Queensland over such a long period of time is a remarkable effort, particularly coming so soon after the defeat of the Whitlam government. But I think probably the most remarkable single event was in 1990 when, after winning a number of elections in a row, they won the seat of Kennedy. I wouldn't want to go back and look at the primary vote in Kennedy at the recent federal election. The fact that, after winning a few elections, in 1990 they were able to win the seat of Kennedy with Rob Hulls—who went on to have a successful career in Victorian politics—shows you the magnetism of Hawke across Queensland. It wasn't just in the south-east; he was able to achieve unbelievable electoral results in regional Queensland as well.
Just a couple of personal reflections that I wanted to finish on in regards to Bob Hawke: a couple of senators in this chamber will remember the 2012 state election pretty well; the Labor Party was pretty friendless in the last week of the campaign—and Senator Watt might actually talk about this—but it was pretty bleak times in the last week of the election campaign. And I just know the boost in morale that we got—we didn't have visitors flying in from other parts of the country trying to help out—from the visit we got from Bob Hawke in that last week of the campaign. Sure, it didn't necessarily help our vote, but I certainly know that the troops got a real morale boost from that. And I think it shows you his commitment to the Labor cause and the fact that he would be there for us in good times and in bad. I still remember that—that he was still prepared to come, still prepared to do that, when the result of that election campaign was obvious. And the morale boost that our troops got from that was remarkable.
I'll finish on this. One of the best experiences I've ever had as a Labor Party member was in 2016 at the Labour Day weekend in Barcaldine, and that combined with being the 125th anniversary of the shearers' strike. The special guest for that Labour Day weekend in Barcaldine was Bob Hawke. It was just remarkable to see him—obviously reasonably frail at that stage—and just the way he was received by the true believers who were there. Also the Labour Day in Barcaldine is a true community event; people come from all political persuasions, from all walks of life, and it really is a community celebration. And to see the way that Bob Hawke was received throughout the weekend—because the way it works in Barcaldine is: you need to get there on the Friday and you stick around till afterwards on the Monday, so you end up spending a few days there and really get a sense of the community. But to spend that time with Bob, to see the way he was received, both by true believers and those from the community who came along and who travelled from greater distances, was a truly special occasion for me and one that I will always remember—having that time to spend with him and just seeing the warmth in which Australians hold him and the regard in which they hold him. Of course, Senator Urquhart, you won't be disappointed to know he belted out a very good rendition of 'Solidarity Forever' at the showgrounds in Barcaldine, with a great bunch of support for that as well.
So: Bob Hawke—remarkable achievements, particularly in Queensland. He will forever be an inspiration for those of us who follow in his footsteps, and we pay tribute to his life and we pass on our condolences to his friends and family.
Thank you, Madam Deputy President. I'm very pleased to follow my fellow Queensland senator Senator Chisholm in making a few remarks in this condolence motion for former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke, and I'd like to begin at the outset by expressing my sympathy to his wife, Blanche, his family members and, of course, his partner in life, work and politics, Hazel.
I was 10 when Bob Hawke was first elected, in 1983, and that big win, which ushered in 13 years of Labor government, was the first election that I remember. I remember my father helping out on the local Labor campaign, and I'm not entirely sure if it was in that election campaign, but I'm pretty sure it was, that I remember helping my father deliver copies of the Yellow Pages, which of course doesn't exist anymore, as part of a Labor fundraising drive—Labor raised funds by getting paid to deliver the Yellow Pagesand I remember walking up and down the hills of Mount Gravatt with my father to deliver the Yellow Pages.
The thing I most remember from that night when Bob Hawke and Labor won in 1983 was Malcolm Fraser, the outgoing Prime Minister, crying on TV as he lost, and I remember saying to my father—not really knowing who Malcolm Fraser was, being a 10-year-old—'Dad, why is that guy crying?' and my dad rubbed his hands with glee: 'He's lost! And he's gone.' My father and my mother and all of my extended family, I know, were ecstatic to see Labor re-elected after being in the wilderness for a few years after the short-lived Whitlam government, which my family had also been very excited about.
So the first Hawke win in 1983 was the first election that I remember. And the first election that I worked on as a volunteer was the 1990 federal election, when Bob won, I think it was, his fourth term in office. The thing that I remember most about that, as a 17-year-old first-year university student handing out how-to-vote cards at Greenslopes State School, was that I had made some rookie errors in being a first-time helper. I'd signed up to hand out how-to-vote cards through the hottest part of the day, through the middle of the day, for more hours than I probably should have agreed to, because I wanted to play my part. Most importantly, what I hadn't realised was that if you're going to do that you need to take a hat and you need to put on a lot of suncream, and I did neither. I remember a couple of days afterwards—sure, we won the election; that was fantastic—having this terrible sunburn, to the point where the skin on my nose was peeling. I remember ripping it off and having this massive scab on my nose for a couple of weeks. At least the good thing about that was that it was a reminder to me that Labor had won the election and that I had played my little part in that. It was a good election to be part of.
As many others have said, the Hawke government had an incredible influence on Australia and on me personally. As others have noted, the Hawke government and then the Keating government governed right throughout my teenage years. Quite apart from some of the individual achievements which were delivered, which I'll mention shortly, what that meant, having that government in power for all of my teenage years, was that I grew up thinking that long-term federal Labor governments were the natural order of things. Sadly, both recent events and older history show that that is not necessarily the case, but I sincerely hope to see that change and to see federal Labor again become the natural order of things when it comes to federal governments.
Beyond me personally, I truly think that the government of Bob Hawke and then Paul Keating really did shape the thinking of my generation, Generation X Australians, and their expectations of what governments can do; what they will do; how they will act; and how they will treat all in our community with fairness, with kindness, with respect for the people's intelligence and with consideration for both the positive and negative aspects of change and the need to provide for those who do not benefit from change that is introduced by governments. Overall, I think my enduring memory of the Hawke government and its achievements was that that was a government that really made you proud to be Australian.
Now, for all of that, I have to admit that, through the Hawke-Keating governments, I was probably more a Keating man than a Hawke man. That was probably just a reflection of the angry young man that I was—and some may say the angry middle-aged man that I have become.
Senator Bilyk interjecting—
A grumpy old man in training, as Senator Bilyk says. I was more attracted to the fight and the passion and the arguments and the invective of Paul Keating at the time, but I have to say that the older I get the more I appreciate the strengths of Bob Hawke and what he brought to his government, and the incredible personal contribution that he made as that government's leader. It was his heart, his raw intellect, his intuitive grasp of what the Australian people wanted and cared for, and, more than anything, his ability to bring warring tribes together to achieve the common good. Whether it be employers and unions, whether it be farmers and environmentalists and First Nations people, he had an uncanny ability to find common ground and bring people with him to shape big, positive change for the community. I think that skill is something that, obviously, all of us in this place can learn from.
That was, to me, the major contribution that Bob made, aside from any of the individual achievements: his incredible ability to bring the Australian people with him, which is recognised in the number of election wins that he was able to deliver for Labor and for the Australian people. That was based on a real hallmark of his government, being his constant engagement with the public and the peak bodies that represent parts of our community. That was the secret to his electoral success and for the enduring nature of the change that he delivered. Because it's one thing for a government to bring in a change; it's another thing for a government to bring in a change that future governments of different political persuasions simply cannot abolish, because they have become so embedded in the national psyche and in what Australians expect of their governments.
I have mentioned in passing that Bob and his government did record many achievements, and I might just briefly reflect on a couple of those: the introduction of Medicare after the abolition of Medibank by the Fraser-Howard government; the incredible economic reforms brought in by Bob's government, laying the foundations for prosperity in what is now our 28th consecutive year of economic growth; the introduction of the social wage, delivered in partnership with the business community and trade unions; and, most prominently, the implementation and creation of a world-leading superannuation regime, of which we are all still immensely proud.
A number of speakers have reflected on the incredible environmental achievements of the Hawke government: the protection of Kakadu, Antarctica and, in my home state of Queensland, protection of the Daintree rainforest and the expansion of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Senator Dodson spoke very positively of Bob Hawke's achievements in relation to our First Nations people—in particular, the Barunga Statement and floating the concept of the need for a treaty, which remains unfinished business for all of us in this place and across Australia.
Bob led incredible engagement with Asia, which was most manifest in his leading and development of APEC, an Asia-Pacific trading partnership. He fought racism on the world stage by taking the side of Nelson Mandela and his people against the racist apartheid regime of South Africa. He led incredible advancements for women in Australia. And, of course, none of us can forget the statement he made in granting permanent residency to Chinese students after the dreadful Tiananmen Square massacre.
The thing I want to focus on, though, which I don't think is commented upon as much as it should be, is the achievements of the Hawke government in the education sphere. Senator Chisholm mentioned the incredible role the Hawke government played in expanding university opportunities for working-class kids right across Australia. That, along with the investment in vocational education and training, really did provide a huge opportunity to so many Australians who hadn't previously had them.
But the Hawke government did more than just invest in people once they had left school; they did an incredible job in ensuring that more Australian kids remained at school for their full 12 years to set themselves up for life. In fact, in 1983, when Bob first came to office, Australia had one of the lowest high school retention rates in the developed world. In 1983, only 30 per cent of Australian kids completed year 12. By 1991, when Bob left office, that number had increased to 70 per cent, and it has obviously continued growing ever since. I have no doubt that that achievement—ensuring that more Australian kids, particularly those from working class and disadvantaged backgrounds, have the opportunity to stay at school and get a good-quality education—is another thing which has laid the groundwork for the economic success of Australia over the last 20-odd years.
I have listened to a lot of the speakers from across the parliament today. I think it says a lot about Bob that so many speakers today, regardless of their party affiliation, have claimed parts of Bob's legacy. But I can assure all of you that Bob was a Labor warrior and his achievements were truly Labor achievements of which we are all incredibly proud.
A number of people have also reflected on Bob's penchant for singing. Every time I saw Bob, one of Australia's most electorally successfully politicians, sing that great anthem of the Labor movement, 'Solidarity Forever'—and I joined with him in singing that—it was a reminder that you can be true to your Labor values and also be electorally successful. And that is what all of us who seek to form government are really here to achieve.
I will give one personal anecdote. I didn't know Bob as well as many others in this place did, but I saw Bob's passion for the Labor cause firsthand during my short-lived career as the member for Everton in the Queensland parliament. I had one term as a state member and, heading into my second election, I was sitting on the incredible margin of 1.4 per cent. I was part of a state Labor government that I'm sure Senator Scarr and Senator McGrath know it's fair to say had, by 2012, fallen well out of favour with the Queensland public. So, there I was, sitting on my 1.4 per cent margin, contemplating my future and facing almost certain defeat. But, despite that—and Senator Chisholm mentioned this as well—Bob did his Labor duty and came to campaign in my seat and in many other seats that, frankly, we were very unlikely to win.
In keeping with the gloomy prospects of the state Labor government at the time, the day that Bob came to campaign with me was an absolutely shocking day. It was pouring with rain and there was driving wind. It was one of those days when, even if you weren't a member of parliament about to lose his seat, you really just wanted to stay in bed and pull the doona up over you. But Bob did the right thing and he came to visit and came to do what he could. I remember driving between different campaign events—I think it was between the Gaythorne RSL and the Arana Leagues Club—and Bob turned around in the seat and asked me, 'So, young fella, what's the margin out here? What are your chances?' and I said, 'One point four per cent, Bob.' His reaction was simply, 'Oh,' so the conversation stopped there. If someone as electorally successful as Bob Hawke reacted like that, you knew that you really didn't have much of a chance. Nevertheless, Bob worked his magic that day, I noticed, especially with the older women who were in the Arana Leagues Club coming down for afternoon tea. They had a particular affection for Bob. It gave me and my supporters a huge morale boost to have Bob out there working with us. Just for that one moment, in what was otherwise a pretty disastrous campaign, we were able to think: 'You just never know.' Of course, it didn't work out that way.
The highlight of that particular day was when I did something which I later learned one never does with Bob: I challenged him to a beer-sculling competition in the Gaythorne RSL. I remember doing it with the then member for Ashgrove, Kate Jones, and the then Premier Anna Bligh. The worst thing about that, I subsequently learned, is that I had the temerity as a first-term state Labor MP to actually beat Bob in the sculling competition. Given his track record in Oxford and other places, I was pretty proud of myself. I remember turning to the camera which was filming us and saying, 'I just beat Bob Hawke!' Bob, sharp as a tack, turned around and said, 'Yeah, mate, but, weight for age, I was all over you!' Bob was always going to have the last laugh.
Bob's sense of humour was certainly brought to the fore at the magnificent memorial service that was held for Bob recently at the Sydney Opera House. There were two things that I took away from that day, being fortunate enough to attend. There was the incredibly diverse crowd that was present for Bob's memorial service. It again reflected the incredible range of achievements, in all aspects of life, that so many people from so many backgrounds came together. There were many representatives of First Nations people, there were environmentalists, there were peace activists, there were businesspeople, there were unionists, and there were just mums and dads and ordinary Australians there to express how much they appreciated Bob. I thought it spoke volumes of the man that so many different people from so many backgrounds thought they needed to be there that day to say their goodbyes. The other thing that I took from that memorial service was the number of times over the course of the day when the speeches made reference to love. Again, I think that really captured something that was at the heart of Bob, and that was that Bob Hawke truly loved Australia, he truly loved Australians and they, in return, loved Bob Hawke.
Bob, in closing, we loved you. We thank you. Condolences to your family for sharing you with us. Australia will be forever grateful.
I also rise to pay my condolences on the passing of the Hon. Robert James Lee Hawke AC—the man that our nation knew affectionately as Bob or Hawkie. I had the honour also, as many of my colleagues did, of attending Bob Hawke's memorial service in Sydney. I thought it was an incredibly fitting celebration of his personal and public life. It was full of entertainment and good humour, but it also told the story of how great Bob was. Of course, we all know that Bob had a reputation for being a larrikin. We often hear the media decry how scripted politics has become, while at the same time politicians complain that they do not get fair treatment from the media and that, therefore, they have to tread carefully, and both blame each other, but I think it shows that the practice of politics has changed. I wonder whether we will ever get the leadership style of a down-to-earth, fair dinkum, knockabout character like Bob Hawke again.
It seems to me that Bob Hawke was a product of his time. It seems inconceivable that Australia today could have a Prime Minister who holds the world record for drinking a yard glass or who, as recounted in an anecdote from his former press secretary, Barrie Cassidy, accepted a lift from a couple of young strangers who called out from their car, 'Hawkie, you're a legend.' As Mr Cassidy explained to the hosts of ABC News Breakfast, Bob called back, 'If I'm such a legend, give me a lift back to the pub,' then, to the shock of the American VIPs he was hosting, jumped into the car with the two young men instead of taking the official buses that were lined up for delegates to the Australian American Leadership Dialogue. Because Bob was such a good sport, he also chatted with the two young men's mums on their mobile phones while they drove him back to the Hyatt.
Bob Hawke was seen as a quintessential Australian. I think that accounted, in part, for his popularity. I say 'in part' because, despite his larrikin nature, he did take the job very seriously and he achieved an enormous amount as the longest-serving Labor Prime Minister in Australia's history. It was Bob Hawke's government that established Medicare, which has given Australians a healthcare safety net. We saw in the 2016 federal election the degree to which Australians value their universal public health insurance scheme. The Hawke government introduced major reforms to education, in particular the introduction of the HECS system. While some students may have bemoaned the loss of free education, this contribution scheme gave a massive boost to the number of students who were able to access a university education. Because it was deferred until they had the means to pay there were no financial impediments.
It was the economic reforms of Bob Hawke, together with his Treasurer Paul Keating, which laid the foundation for Australia's world-leading almost three decades of economic growth. The Hawke-Keating government floated the Australian dollar, made dramatic cuts to tariffs and gave the Reserve Bank the power to set interest rates to keep inflation stable. This economic modernisation followed the 1983 Prices and Incomes Accord in which businesses, trade unions and the government reached agreement on minimising inflation while ensuring that the workers shared in the economic gains. As has been said by many others today, Bob had that ability to bring all people to the table and for everybody to feel like it was a win-win situation. Under the Hawke government Australia also had a great deal of confidence and influence on the national stage. One of Bob Hawke's greatest achievements in foreign policy was Australia's contribution to the international pressure that brought down the apartheid regime in South Africa—a huge advance for human rights.
One of the moments that struck me was when Bob's granddaughter, Sophie Taylor-Price, addressed his memorial service. An old clip played with her, about age 4, sitting at her grandfather's knee while he talked about the need for urgent action on climate change. She explained how her grandfather in his final months expressed profound sadness at the world's failure to take stronger action. With that said, Bob Hawke had a huge impact when it came to the environment, including preventing mining in the Antarctic and stopping the Gordon-below-Franklin Dam project, a move which, while controversial at the time, is accepted by most people today as having been necessary. As Senator Dodson mentioned earlier, another one of Bob's unfinished legacies was his advocacy for a treaty with Australia's Indigenous people. I'm hopeful that this parliament can make significant progress on a makarrata commission, constitutional recognition of Australia's first peoples and a voice to parliament.
You cannot serve for nine years as a Prime Minister and not leave an indelible mark on the soul of the nation. Bob Hawke's legacy will be with us for decades, possibly even centuries to come. Australia will miss his infectious smile, his jokes, his larrikinism and his singing, but what we will miss more is his wisdom. Australia will continue to owe Bob Hawke a great debt of gratitude for his service as a great Labor Prime Minister but also as a Prime Minister for all Australians. Robert James Lee Hawke AC, thank you for your service.
This is not my inaugural speech. Firstly, I'd like to extend by condolences to Blanche d'Alpuget and Bob Hawke's family. Many of us were and are great fans of Bob Hawke, as was my father, Neil Sheldon, who passed away many years ago. He was a great admirer of Bob and, on the few occasions my dad, a staunch Labor man, met Bob at Labor and community functions, he told wonderful stories of a man with great intellect, a thirst for knowledge, and a great love of sport and his fellow man.
Bob Hawke was a man of great skills, used to settle some of the country's most adverse, seemingly intractable disputes whilst leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and, of course, later Prime Minister. But, friends, I'll take you back to Frank Sinatra's tour of Australia in 1974 to briefly tell the story of when Bob saved 'Ol' Blue Eyes' during the siege of Sydney. In July 1974, Frank Sinatra took the stage at Festival Hall in Melbourne, singing his opening number to great applause. As was his way after the first few songs, he sat on a stool, sipping honeyed tea to relax his throat before the next number and chatted with the audience. Of course, on this night the audience, as it had been on previous occasions, was in the palm of his hand. He was beloved in Australia, and we were happy to see him in person.
Frank Sinatra had been in Australia for a week or so and had been hounded by the press for the entire time. He was tired and had clearly had enough. He dropped a bombshell that turned into a symphony of counter-emotional explosions over the coming days. Referring to Australian journalists from the stage, he said:
They keep chasing after us. We have to run all day long. They're parasites who take everything and give nothing.
He later went on to say, 'They're bums and they're always going to be bums.' It was turning his tour into a public relations disaster. Not a guy to support women's liberation, he dropped the atom bomb and said:
… the broads who work for the press, they're the hookers of the press. I might offer them a buck and a half I'm not sure.
The Australian Journalists Association immediately demanded an apology, and Sinatra refused. Industrial action was taken by working people across Melbourne, Sydney and the country against Sinatra—and his shows, his flights and even serving him meals. Eventually he was stranded in the presidential suite on the 23rd floor of the Boulevard Hotel in Sydney. He demanded to speak to the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, and Gough simply said that the man to speak to was the head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Bob Hawke.
Subsequently, Bob went on to point out the following and said to Frank:
If you don't apologise your stay in this country could be indefinite. You won't be allowed to leave Australia unless you can walk on water.
Of course, Sinatra's personal outrage caused him to turn to even the US admiral stationed in Tokyo Bay with the Pacific Fleet, asking him to send a Navy SEALs team in to extract him by helicopter from the roof of the Boulevard Hotel in a further attempt to fly home without an apology. Sinatra was turned down by the admiral, so he then called upon the Teamsters of the USA to come to his aid—a union heavily involved in port trucking and distribution across America. He asked them to put a trade embargo on Australia. The Teamsters rejected this request to get embroiled.
Desperate, as his last resort he decided to talk to the great Australian negotiator Bob Hawke. As it's told, Bob arrived on the 23rd floor and was met with a dishevelled Frank Sinatra and his team in a room that smelled of stale cigarettes and sweat, which hadn't been serviced by hotel staff for many days. In the middle of that pungent room stood, on a pristine dining table, a bottle of fine brandy and fine cigars. After many drafts of the statement—and many more draughts of brandy—Bob Hawke, Frank Sinatra and Mickey Rudin, Frank's lawyer, managed to hammer out a deal. Ultimately, the joint statement of regret by the crooner and Australia's unionists was read out by Bob Hawke on the steps of Sinatra's hotel. While unions had their win for feminism, Sinatra had his payday by completing his Sydney show and having it televised to Melbourne. Bob Hawke, the master negotiator, lifted the siege of Sydney. The crooner left after the Sydney show. He returned to Australia on numerous occasions over the coming decades, forever respecting feminism's vanguard in Australia and Bob Hawke's skill as a negotiator. Vale, Bob Hawke, a unionist, a father, a husband, an Aussie through and through. We'll all miss you.
When Prime Minister Morrison spoke at the memorial service for Bob Hawke last month, he described the unique relationship Mr Hawke had with the Australian people, 'a nation that Bob Hawke loved and that deeply loved him in return'. Australia's First Nations people held a special place in Bob Hawke's heart, so I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land and their elders past, present and emerging.
The Hon. Robert James Lee Hawke AC, Bob, will be remembered for a raft of reasons, well recounted here today and in recent weeks: floating the dollar; opening the economy to global markets; the Accord and its consensus approach to industrial relations; Medicare; banning uranium mining in Jabiluka; the listing of Kakadu National Park on the World Heritage List; and Landcare, just to name a few from the extensive legacy left by the Hawke government, a government that changed the nation for the better.
Prior to the election of the Hawke government, the World Heritage Committee had also listed the Franklin River in Tasmania as a World Heritage site. On coming to power on 5 March 1983, Hawke's government passed the new conservation act and, at the end of the Tasmanian state government's challenge, on 1 July 1983, the High Court ruled that, 'There shall be no dam on the Franklin River'. That legacy not only lives on in the physical preservation of that natural wonder but directly led to the ongoing protections of our nation's natural assets through federal powers, not least the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Bob Hawke was also the first Australian Prime Minister to recognise and call for action to combat what we now refer to as climate change.
Today I wish to remember another legacy of the Hawke government: tackling gender discrimination in the workplace. Bob was a fierce opponent of discrimination in all its forms. In 1969, as an advocate for the ACTU, Bob Hawke successfully argued for equal pay for equal work. With Bob at the helm, the ACTU continued in its advocacy for equal pay, despite the opposition from the McMahon government. Fortunately for the working women of Australia, Hawke's advocacy was matched by the Whitlam government's commitment to equal pay. Hawke's leadership drove the historic 'equal pay for work of equal value' ruling, meaning that, finally, women and men had to be paid the same amount for doing the same job.
The Hawke-led ACTU also successfully advocated for the minimum wage to be extended to women. It seems extraordinary, when you stop and think about it, that, as recently as 1972, women in Australia were not automatically entitled to be paid the same minimum wage and could be paid less than men for doing the same job. Hawke's leadership, combined with a remarkable team at the ACTU and the political leadership of the Whitlam government, meant that the working women of Australia were finally equal to men.
Upon entering politics, Hawke continued his commitment to and advocacy for equality. Following the 1983 election, Bob Hawke appointed Susan Ryan to the portfolio of Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women. He also appointed Anne Summers to head the Office of the Status of Women within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Hawke's commitment, along with these two key appointments, ensured that progress in the fight against discrimination was rapid. The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 outlawed sex discrimination and protected women from harassment in the workplace. It was introduced to the parliament by Susan Ryan and it passed, despite strident opposition from some. Both then Senator Ryan and Mr Hawke then drove the passage of the Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986. The act was superseded by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 and, currently, the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.
As with so many reforms that tackle discrimination and disadvantage legislatively, the lineage starts with Bob Hawke in 1984. In 2019, 35 years later, the divide in opinion caused by the proposal of such legislation is interesting to revisit. The sky would fall in and civilisation would end, apparently. The arguments against the bill included:
… the legislation as a whole is tainted with the pseudo-intellectualism of selfish and unrepresentative feminism and doctrinaire marxist-socialist precepts of contrived equality—defying even the laws of nature.
I quote again:
Men, by nature, are more likely to be leaders, providers and protectors. We can legislate all we like, but we will not change that.
I quote again:
I started to do my research on this Women's Electoral Lobby … They are all women who had had problems, et cetera. They were women who had something against men.
… … …
I have looked at the four women on the Government side. They are nice ladies. I have nothing against them, I have talked to them. We talk to each other. But they are all the same. They are always campaigning to save the cats, save the dogs and save the whales … I do not mean that nastily … But the majority of Liberal women are quiet and do not say very much.
Well, we know that's changed now, thankfully!
Former Senator Susan Ryan was Australia's first Labor female cabinet member, and in 2005 she reflected on the 1984 Sex Discrimination Act, writing:
The Act coincided with a defining moment in Australia's social development … Australia was finally poised for progressive social change … In 1983, those defenders of the status quo who wanted no social change, recognised their last opportunity to prevent progress, and they gave it all they had. The Sex Discrimination Bill became the emblematic action that if allowed to succeed would change Australian society forever.
The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 passed, and the sun rose the next day. The world did not end. Thirty-five years later, it is, as I've said, the forebear of vital legislation, not least the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012. The vision of Bob Hawke and his determination to face down those who fearmongered at the slightest sniff of change is a hallmark of the man and of the Prime Minister. For economic reforms, for the environmental protections, for universal health care and for making anti-sex-discrimination the law, our nation is grateful.
Bob Hawke did indeed love Australia, and that love drove him to become one of our nation's best loved and most successful prime ministers. My condolences go to his widow, Blanche; Bob's children, Sue, Stephen and Rosslyn; and his grandchildren. Bob, we thank you for your service and your legacy. Solidarity forever.
I rise to join with so many others today in offering my sympathies to Bob Hawke's family. We know that you grieve the loss of a dearly loved husband, father and grandfather. Like my Senate colleagues who've already spoken, I also wish to record my admiration for the Hon. Robert James Lee Hawke, Australia's 23rd Prime Minister. The breadth of Hawke's contribution has already been reflected in the remarks offered by others today, and I intend to confine my remarks to reflecting simply on Hawke's environmental record, for two reasons: because it was important to me growing up as a girl in the eighties and because of the importance of that record to modern Labor.
In 1983, Hawke was given the opportunity to lead Labor on a campaign back to government, and the campaign coincided with an unprecedented community campaign that aimed to prevent the dam on the Franklin River in Tasmania. Hawke opposed the dam and was determined to act where the Fraser government would not. At a pre-election rally in Melbourne in February 1983, Hawke noted the significance of the campaign. He said:
Environmental issues have become more prominent in this campaign than in any previous election, through the bitter and divisive controversy over the proposed Gordon-below-Franklin dam, the building of which will irreversibly damage a key part of Australia's and the world's natural and cultural heritage.
And so one of the first acts of the Hawke government was to introduce the legislation that would protect the Franklin River. The World Heritage Properties Conservation Bill was adventurous and creative, from both a policy perspective and a legal perspective, and it was ultimately tested in the High Court.
The Hawke period is often remembered as the golden age of consensus, but these debates were bitterly fought. The introduction of the legislation to resolve this dispute was faced with uproar from the then opposition. The then Liberal member for Franklin interjected, 'You hate Tasmania, the lot of you.' These ideas were controversial, but Bob had the foresight to look past the day-to-day political debate and look to the future. It took conviction, creativity and leadership to secure the national interest, and these first steps laid the groundwork for his government's approach to conservation. The passage of the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act allowed the Commonwealth to protect Australia's World Heritage sites from external threats. From the forests of Tasmania to the Daintree, Australia's ecosystems were listed on the World Heritage listing and preserved for the future.
Bob also went on to convince global leaders of the importance of protecting the Antarctic from mining, and he prevailed in cabinet to stop the mine at Coronation Hill, listening to the Jawoyn people and understanding this as an issue of both cultural and environmental significance. Without his determination, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and North Queensland might look very different to how they look today. I've camped and hiked and visited in all of these places, and they are amazing. It's a legacy of our natural heritage that I seek to share with my children.
Bob not only renewed our national story, but he also expanded and renewed the story of the Labor movement. The Labor movement has always known what the power of government can do for working people, but also the significance of collective action to secure the interests of working people. Bob saw the environmental movements of the seventies and the eighties as collective action and he embraced that broader vision of what collectivism might mean and what it might mean for the Labor movement to be part of it. Our shared interests as a community can be more important than the profits of a single company. This ethos applies to both our shared economic interests as a community and our shared environmental interests. When there was a tough fight to be had on the environment, Bob did not shy away.
Three decades later, that commitment to the environment and to understanding our natural heritage as a shared legacy that we all have a stake in is a core part of Labor's story. Bob embodied the best of the Labor movement. He defended those who were most in need of defending and he understood that Labor's vision must be large. We have to form a big tent and invite everybody in. We owe Bob a great deal. Vale, Bob.
Question agreed to, honourable senators standing in their places.