Australia grieves over death of Bob Hawke

Mr Hawke’s wife Blanche d’Alpuget announced the tragic news in a statement this evening, saying he died “peacefully at home”.

This is how the country is reacting.

Obituary: Former prime minister Bob Hawke dead at 89


Ms d’Alpuget’s statement came while 7.30 was airing its prerecorded election interviews with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Host Leigh Sales briefly interrupted those interviews to inform viewers of Mr Hawke’s death, and appeared to be fighting back tears as she listed his achievements.

“It’s my very sad duty to break the news this evening that the former Australian PM, Bob Hawke, has died aged 89. His wife issued a statement a short time ago,” Sales said.

“Mr Hawke was Australia’s 23rd prime minister. It’s very difficult to overstate what a giant he is of the Labor Party and of the Labor movement.

“Along with his treasurer, Paul Keating, they introduced an enormous series of economic reforms which paved the way for the modern Australia in which we all live today.

“Mr Hawke, with the assistance of his Labor team, began Medicare in 1984. He ushered in a series of improvements in productivity in the Australian workplace, thanks to a series of accords between businesses and unions. He floated the Australian dollar. He dismantled tariffs. They’re just a few of Bob Hawke’s achievements.

“Shortly we will play you an obituary of Bob Hawke, but as Bob Hawke knows more than anybody, politics has to go on. And we are in the middle of an election campaign, so firstly we will bring you our interview with Bill Shorten as planned, in the interests of fairness and balance.”

When Mr Shorten’s interview had aired, the program switched to an obituary for Mr Hawke.

Sales’ colleague Barrie Cassidy, who worked for Mr Hawke, paid tribute to him in glowing terms.

“What was he really like? John Singleton once said of Bob Hawke that he was an intellectual knockabout, and I really liked that expression. I think it covers all bases. He was the sort of person who was just as at ease with world leaders as the punters at the race track. It was the same to him. People had the sense they could approach him at any time and have a chat with him,” Cassidy said.

“I tell you what most impressed me about him – he wouldn’t cop racism. He just wouldn’t cop it at any level. At the very whiff of it, he’d be right onto it.

“When he worked with the ACTU, he led the campaign against the Springboks tour over apartheid. When he became prime minister, without telling anybody, a few public servants, he organised sanctions against South Africans.

“Years later, the foreign minister of South Africa said that was the dagger at the heart of apartheid. That’s what Bob Hawke did.”

Barrie Cassidy paying tribute to Bob Hawke.Source:ABC


“The golden bowl is broken,” said Mr Hawke’s wife.

“Bob was dearly loved by his family, and so many friends and colleagues. We will miss him,” Ms d’Alpuget said.

“Bob Hawke and Paul Keating and their governments modernised the Australian economy, paving the way for an unprecedented period of recession-free economic growth and job creation.

“Bob’s consensus-style approach of bringing together the trade union movement and the business community boosted job opportunities while increasing the social wage through Medicare and extra financial support for low-income families.

“Together with his highly talented cabinets, he foresaw the Asian Century and positioned Australia to take full advantage of it through a program of sweeping economic reforms.

“Among his proudest achievements were large increases in the proportion of children finishing high school, his role in ending apartheid in South Africa, and his successful international campaign to protect Antarctica from mining.

“He abhorred racism and bigotry. His father, the Reverend Clem Hawke, told Bob that if you believed in the Fatherhood of God then you must also believe in the Brotherhood of Man. Bob would add today, the Sisterhood of Women.”

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke and his wife Blanche d'Alpuget. Picture: Getty Images

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke and his wife Blanche d’Alpuget. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Supplied


Mr Hawke was of course a legend of the Labor Party, and Bill Shorten was quick to issue a statement expressing his sadness.

“The Australian people loved Bob Hawke because they knew Bob loved them. This was true to the very end,” Mr Shorten said.

“With his passing, the labour movement salutes our greatest son, the Labor Party gives thanks for the life of our longest serving prime minister, and Australians everywhere remember and honour a man who gave so much to the country and people he cared for so deeply.

“In coming days and weeks our nation will give its tribute to a leader and statesman who inspired such profound affection and admiration, such loyalty and love among so many.

“We will remember and revisit the images we know so well: Bob with microphone or megaphone in one hand, the other moving in time with his words, rallying, inspiring and delighting a crowd.

“Bob with head cocked, one hand grasping his earlobe, listening respectfully to an Aboriginal elder, a captain of industry, laughing with an American president or charming a local parent out doing their shopping.

“Maybe in the stands, eyes fixed on the track, creased and folded form guide in hand, ticking off another winner. Or in that iconic jacket, mouth open with laughter, dodging the beer and champagne, giving his prime ministerial blessing to a national sickie.

“Those images will always be with us, the words to accompany them will pour in from across the country and around the world.

“But the most powerful and enduring tributes to Bob Hawke are not words or pictures, they are found all around us.

“We honour him. We will remember him. In solidarity, forever. May he rest in peace.”

Bill Shorten making his statement on Bob Hawke's death.

Bill Shorten making his statement on Bob Hawke’s death.Source:ABC

Bill Shorten with Bob Hawke.

Bill Shorten with Bob Hawke.Source:Supplied

More to come.


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