“When he was a union advocate in the 60s and 70s, he spent a fair bit of time here socialising,” Mr Shorten said. “If the walls could talk.”
A visit to the pub isn’t complete without some drinking buddies and, with camera crews in tow, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews and former premier Steve Bracks were only too happy to oblige.
They ordered cans of Hawke’s pale ale, a beer brewed in honour of the former prime minister. An “easy-going tropical-style” beer, it was a long way from the mass-produced lagers consumed so heavily by Hawke’s generation.
“I’ve been coming here on and off for 33 years,” said Mr Shorten, although you got the sense it had been a while since he’d last pulled up a stool and sat at the wood-paneled front bar.
“It’s a bit different now,” he said. “They’ve got trivia nights.”
Indeed, the front bar would be unrecognisable to many of the old timers who boozed on at the male-dominated Curtin in the wake of Victoria’s repeal of the six o’clock swill laws in the late 1960s.
Boxed red and white wine has been replaced by sangiovese and pinot grigio on tap. Written on the specials board was no roast of the day, instead a southern fried tofu burger. Smoking, long banned in Victoria’s pubs, exists only through the old cigarette machine in the corner.
“We don’t have some of the scuffles of the old days,” said publican Ben Russell.
However, the Hawke connection lives on, often through the stories of those who were there at the time.
“They’ll have a few beers and talk about Bob coming back after a fifth day Test and snuggling into that corner over there,” Mr Russell said. “It’s got tons of political history.”
On Saturday, Mr Shorten will be hoping to make some history of his own. Win, lose or hung parliament, it’ll be solidarity forever at Hawke’s old stomping ground.
Tom Cowie is a journalist at The Age covering general news.