Parliamentary speeches

Vale Bob Hawke

July 03, 2019

I'm very pleased to be able to make a very short contribution to this very important motion. All of us here in Australia in 2019 walk in Bob Hawke's shadow—especially those of us who are part of the Labor family and everyone who sees our country's story as written by its enlargers. Through this prism, none emerge more significant than Bob Hawke. Deputy Speaker and friends on many side of the House, if we believe, as I passionately do, that it was Gough Whitlam who imagined how modern Australia might be, it was Bob Hawke who made it and fixed so much of it so firmly in place that conservatives have not been able to dismantle its achievements. It was under Hawke that we as a country reached out to the world, standing confidently and optimistically in our place. His confidence in Australians, his belief in his fellow Australians and his love for his fellow Australians were turned into a confidence in Australia as a nation.

This debate has been going on for some time today, as is appropriate, and I am of the view that certainly the Bob Hawke of the 1970s would feel it's way past time that we adjourned to the pub for a more informal set of reflections! So I propose to be very brief and not go over ground that has been covered so eloquently by my colleagues, including our leader, and the Prime Minister and so many speakers on the government side in paying due respect.

But I want to touch on four things very quickly and then make a brief personal reflection. When we discuss how Bob Hawke opened Australia to the world, the one thing that we must focus on is how he built the social wage, an absolutely critical compact by a government that was reaching out to the world with a sense of a modern, globalised economy and a sense of responsibility to citizenship. If we think about that cornerstone of the social wage in Medicare, we understand just how important Bob Hawke's legacy is to how Australians see our country and our relationship to one another. The member for Parramatta spoke of school retention. It's amazing to think of Australia before that goal and what it has meant for us as a knowledge based economy. We can't neglect to reflect on his extraordinary contribution to the environment, his recognition of the challenge of climate change as a core responsibility for government to respond to and the series of commitments he made to preserve our beautiful natural environment—from the Franklin all the way to Kakadu and Antarctica.

Lastly, I mention his compassion. I think the thing that struck people more than anything else at the beautiful memorial at the Sydney Opera House was the reflection on his determination to do justice to those displaced by the tragic events in Tiananmen Square. That sense of compassion overriding advice in recognition of common humanity is something we should all look to as we recall the Hawke legacy, as indeed we look to how he conducted his government and his approach to politics and how he presented himself to Australians—a very true picture, which I think explains so much of the love for him that existed then and endures today and will endure beyond today.

Like probably most of us, I have my images of Bob Hawke that have guided me. There was the 1990 election. His very narrow victory then was the first political contest that energised and affected me. I was very privileged to work with and enjoy the mentorship of a man called Peter Redlich at the firm Holding Redlich. Peter Redlich was a great mate of Bob Hawke's. Peter Redlich couldn't understand why my political journey didn't follow Hawke's to a more pragmatic direction within the party.

Many can't understand it! But to see close up their friendship, how they modernised Labor and how Bob Hawke modernised Australia was an extraordinary privilege. To have briefly spent time with Bob Hawke is something I will cherish, as I will cherish the fact that Bob Hawke got to spend a little bit of time with my son, Daniel Giles, on the campaign trail in 2010. I'm not sure if Daniel remembers this, but I hope—in fact, I know—that he'll be talking about it for many years to come. All my condolences go to Blanche and Bob's family and to all of those who loved him. Vale, Bob Hawke.