Yes I love Bob Hawke and long may he reign
Bob Hawke - like most public figures - always likes to get his picture in the paper.
But there was one time when I beat him at his own game.
It was the annual cricket match between the ACTU XI and the Press XI in Port Melbourne in the mid-70s.
A photographer for the old Sun News-Pictorial was running late and desperate for a picture as deadline approached.
Not known for my cricketing skills, I was dismissed cheaply and saved my best shots for the camera on the sidelines.
On Monday morning it was my picture on the front page of the newspaper, not Bob’s photo.
It is one of my rare wins.
Bob has just turned 80 (Wednesday, Dec 11) and had a great celebration last week at the Sydney Opera House.
I have known Bob for more than 40 years and it has been a great ride.
Regardless on which side of the Australian political fence you sit on, Bob enjoys almost universal respect.
Everyone remembers the aftermath of Australia’s victory in the 1983 America’s Cup when he donned a colourful jacket and declared: “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.”
Bob Hawke is part of the Australian psyche.
He lost the prime ministership 17 years ago but those years seem to have flown by.
Too often there are stories of political leaders who lose their way after losing office. But not Bob.
He has the common touch and an occasional larrikin streak – most recently on display at his 80th birthday with a performance by a bikini-clad dancer.
But behind that public image there is also a Rhodes scholar, a razor sharp mind and a strategic thinker.
Seeing him in action as the ACTU president in the 1970s, I saw not only his passion and dedication to improve the lot of working people but also the trust he built with the business community.
In Canberra as part of the Hawke Cabinet, I witnessed a great chair of Cabinet who gave ministers their head as part of an activist and team-orientated government
The historic economic, social and industrial reforms in the 1980s under the Hawke Government played a key role in Australia weathering the global recession better than any other advanced nation.
As Australia’s longest-serving Labor prime minister he played a key role in making Australia a more open and competitive nation.
After his leadership role with the union movement through the 1970s the timing of his move to politics was crucial and he attacked it with typical flare.
As Michael Gordon described in the book The Hawke Government, A Critical Retrospective he discovered Bob one day in his Speedos, poolside, with a can of light beer listing on a large notepad the pros and cons of running for Parliament.
When Bob did decide to run, we assisted him by locking-in support from the Storemen and Packers Union that helped win a difficult pre-selection battle for the seat of Wills in the run-up to the 1980 election.
But our role in launching his brilliant political career almost backfired.
After Bob won pre-selection, the Storemen and Packers Union decided to liven up the annual union picnic at Ringwood Oval with a special “Burke and Wills” camel race to capture the spirit of our early explorers.
As the candidate for Wills, Bob was racing a camel against the sitting member Keith Johnson from the seat of Burke.
It was a great stunt and attracted a lot of interest.
When the race got underway, Bob’s camel took the lead but then veered off towards a nearby freeway. We did stop the runaway camel and the rest is history.
Bob Hawke is a great contributor and continues to influence this nation.
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