Australia was rocked last night by the news that one of its favourite leaders had died after reshaping the country during his long and distinguished career.
ABC political editor Andrew Probyn said last night he expected the death of the Labor great, a transformative figure, would in itself transform the last day of campaigning and affect it “considerably”.
Bill Shorten’s campaign has said the death will impact his travel plans, with the Labor leader previously expected to campaign in Queensland on Friday.
Mr Hawke’s death comes just a day after he released a letter endorsing Bill Shorten, saying he was ready to be prime minister.
“Bravery, honesty and vision are needed of the next Australian government. Laying out a party’s detailed policies ahead of an election requires political courage. Bill and his team have shown that courage, trusting the fair-mindedness of the Australian people,” the letter stated.
— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) May 16, 2019
Condolences were led by Mr Shorten, who said Mr Hawke “inspired such profound affection and admiration, such loyalty and love among so many”.
“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,” Mr Shorten said.
The two met on Monday and one of the last photographs of Mr Hawke was with the Labor leader.
Last week Mr Hawke published a column with Paul Keating that was very critical of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments that Labor was incapable of managing the economy.
“It is a blatant denial of history for Scott Morrison to allege that the Labor Party cannot manage the economy when he knows the design and structure of the modern Australian economy was put in place exclusively by the Labor Party,” they wrote in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday.
The column suggested that the Liberal Party had “completely given up the economic reform agenda” and failed to understand the imperative of climate change and the opportunities of the digital age.
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National Press Club director and former press gallery journalist Mark Kenny said it was hard to tell what impact Mr Hawke’s death would have on the campaign but it had changed the atmosphere.
He said it would perhaps draw people’s attention to the difference between the style of leadership between modern politicians and that of Mr Hawke and other leaders such as Paul Keating.
“Bob Hawke was intent on doing big things and they went about it in a creative way and orderly way and they brought the necessary people and forces together and they got things done,” he said.
Kenny said Mr Hawke was about a big Australia and not “government by press release”.
“Some people argue we shouldn’t do anything on climate change because Australia only represents a small amount of emissions,” Kenny told ABC.
“Bob Hawke would never have taken that attitude about a challenge. He always saw Australia’s role as very large and he was an enlarger of the country.
“So I think in the sense of the comparison between Bob Hawke and the election now, there is that feeling that perhaps politics has got a little bit more petty and a little bit more inward and having a little less ambition in the whole process.”
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As the campaign reaches a sombre end with Mr Hawke’s passing, recent polling shows Labor is still on track to win on Saturday.
But the opposition’s lead over the Coalition has tightened 51 to 49 per cent on a two-party preferred basis, according to both an Ipsos poll for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and a YouGov/Galaxy poll for The Daily Telegraph.
The Ipsos result is tighter than the 52 to 48 per cent in Labor’s favour recorded in early May, with the new survey showing early voters have favoured the coalition over Labor by 53 to 47 per cent.
A series of YouGov Galaxy polls of marginal seats also show Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton will hold on to his seat of Dickson by 51 to 49 per cent compared with Labor.
The surveys suggest a coalition win in Reid, Deakin and Flynn while Gilmore is tipped to go to Labor.
But the Queensland seats of Herbert (Labor) and Forde (LNP) and Victoria’s Liberal-held seat of La Trobe are on a knife’s edge at 50-50.