Friday, May 17, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Vale Bob Hawke
Even the Labor great’s passing was well done

Image of Bob Hawke and Bill Shorten

AAP Image / Australia Labor Party

What Australia is celebrating today in a rush of affection for the late great prime minister Bob Hawke – his love of working people and hatred of racism, achievements like Medicare and guaranteed superannuation, the Accord and consensus-style politics – is everything today’s Coalition is not.

Yet Coalition luminaries from John Howard to Tony Abbott have the gall to claim credit for Hawke’s reforms, because some received bipartisan support. Howard may have an argument in a few cases; more often he was dragged kicking and screaming to Labor’s big reforms. For Abbott, however – the most oppositional, destructive, divisive politician in living memory – this is arch hypocrisy. Abbott torched the middle ground in Australian politics, very deliberately, to take the Liberal leadership in 2009, and the country has not yet recovered. Far from being in love with the Australian people, as Hawke was, the Abbott–Turnbull–Morrison governments have turned on the most vulnerable, ripping into the social safety net with their punitive welfare regime and selective austerity. Plenty of money around for private schools, negatively geared property investors and those with well-stuffed self-managed super funds; tough luck for anyone on Newstart or ParentsNext.

The newspapers that are celebrating Hawke’s legacy today but endorsing the Coalition for tomorrow need to take a look in the mirror. Those editors endorsing what Scott Morrison has bowled up this election – the political equivalent of Trevor Chappell’s infamous underarm delivery – are so wedded to the Coalition that they would probably have endorsed Fraser over Hawke in 1983.

The reaction to Gough Whitlam’s death in 2014 was galvanising, a reminder of what politics is meant to be about. The reaction to Hawke’s has been even more inspiring, because Hawke didn’t alienate huge swathes of the public. If anything, Hawke was toppled too soon in 1991, setting off the leadership malady that infected Labor for a quarter of a century and that is only now, perhaps, at an end. Today’s media is awash with acknowledgements of Hawke’s achievements, and rightly so – they stuck. Check out tributes from Barrie Cassidy, Bernard Keane [$], Lenore Taylor and Bob Brown. Bill Shorten – former union leader, consensus politician, reformer with a big policy program – is the rightful inheritor of Hawke’s legacy, and will be glad to have the public reminded of what a Labor government can achieve.

Even Hawke’s death was well executed – the giant could not have given a better handpass to Shorten if he tried. At his campaign launch, Shorten let the absent, ailing Hawke know, “Bob, we love you, and in the next 13 days, we’re going to do this for you.” Meanwhile, Hawke and Keating reconciled, and the pictures rolled out over the final weeks, underscoring that key Labor theme: unity. In his final days, Hawke published an open letter endorsing Shorten. And in the last published photo of him alive, he had his arm around Bill’s shoulder. The announcement of his death last night, after the evening news, guaranteed saturation coverage in this morning’s papers, which will spill into tomorrow and quench any last-minute fireworks from his opponents.

Hawke has given Australians a huge reminder of the happy consequences of the next-to-last time they voted a Labor leader in from Opposition. Win it for Hawkey? It’s a story so good, the voters might want to write it themselves. You can almost see Hawke winking – while lifting a cold one, no doubt – from up in the sky somewhere. A very Labor passing. Vale.

“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.”

The late Bob Hawke on Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“You’re not improving, are you? I thought you’d make a better start to the year than that. It is a ridiculous question. You know it’s ridiculous. I have no blood on my hands.”

Bob Hawke to ABC journalist Richard Carleton, after taking the Labor leadership from Bill Hayden.


The number of seconds Bob Hawke took to skol a yard glass of beer – equivalent to two-and-a-half pints – in his Oxford University days, a claimed world record.

“Medicare is a major social program of this Government. It will ensure basic medical and hospital cover for all Australians and will not leave two million Australians without any health cover, as the current inadequate private insurance system does.”

In a statement to parliament, then Labor health minister Neal Blewett announces the Hawke government will introduce Medicare from February 1, 1984.

The list

“It pays to be wary of nostalgia in politics. Decent leaders can in retrospect look like messiahs, and obituaries often try to turn middling figures into giants. But the difference in scale between Tony Abbott and Bob Hawke is not just distorted by time. Abbott’s witless and unasked for “appreciation” of Hawke, released moments after Hawke’s death was announced, was another reputational belly flop for a man who can never stop politicking. No matter how large the occasion, Abbott remains small-time.”

Everyone’s a winner on the nation’s big night in.

“The dispute is significant in the lead-up to [the] election, with the Coalition and Labor at odds over Hayne’s recommendation that broker commissions were conflicted remuneration and should be replaced by a fee-for-service model.Some within the broking industry believe this is CBA’s ultimate aim ... driven by the prospect of additional customer loan fees, savings on broker commissions and more profitable home loans.”

“‘I’ve learnt in the Labor Party as a leader that I don’t have to win every argument. My colleagues are capable and smart. I’m part of a much bigger movement. I’ve learnt that to lead you’ve got to be willing to listen, you’ve got to be willing to give some ground. You’re not always right.’”

“Object and Idea” | Ian Milliss at ACCA

The Monthly invites readers in Melbourne to enter the draw to win a double pass to artist Ian Milliss’s lecture “Object and Idea”, at ACCA. The prize includes a free cocktail by The Melbourne Gin Company on arrival. The lecture will be held on Monday, June 3 at 5.30pm for a 6.00pm start.

In this lecture, Milliss speaks about his motivations for declining to participate in the NGV’s 1973 exhibition Object and Idea. He explains that he had by then already begun to work with trade unions and resident action groups rather than with galleries and art audiences, and how this was part of the beginning of a politicised cultural activism that was only accepted by the art world many decades later.

Entries close at 11.59pm AEDT on Sunday, May 19, and the winner will be notified on Monday, May 20. ENTER HERE

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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