Barrie Cassidy on a PM who was simply as devoted to creating financial accords as he was to selecting winners at the track
Bob Hawke’s head was buried in documents, his eyebrow furrowed, a pen in one hand, a stogie in the other.
It was 11 November 1986. A long flight to Perth. My very first day as senior press secretary and, I believed, a perfect chance to be familiar with him much better.
But we didn’t speak. The consistent notations went on all the method out west.
Once we ‘d landed he handed me a stack of crumpled papers, which obviously I disposed of.
Only later on did a worried federal cop describe the prime minister had actually provided me a diligently marked-up kind guide: racehorses taken part in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, all of them graded according to weights, track conditions, jockeys, current kind and times.
I had actually tossed the lot– 4 hours’ work– in the bin. On the first day.
I went and made it through on to much better value the intellectual larrikin that was Bob Hawke — the male as much at ease with world leaders as he was with punters at the races, simply as devoted to creating financial accords as he was to choosing winners at the track.
He was convincing and dedicated when he required to be, yet an excellent listener at the cabinet table. He was a difficult employee and an exceptional judge of patterns. He was comfy with individuals, and they with him. And he had a strong ethical compass.
The financial reforms that streamed from the preliminary financial top and the accord are well recorded.
Not so popular were his accomplishments around education. Australia had one of the least expensive high-school retention rates in the industrialized world when Hawke came to workplace in 1983. Simply 30% finished year 12. When he left workplace that number had actually increased to 70%. You can just think of the distinction that made to this nation.
Hawke was likewise proactive on diplomacy.
He was revolted with apartheid in South Africa and could not abide the shy actions around the globe. As head of the ACTU, he was a leader in the demonstrations versus the checking out Springboks.
As prime minister, he marshalled assistance at Commonwealth Heads of Government conferences– in the Bahamas in 1985 and in Vancouver in 1987– to assemble monetary sanctions versus South Africa.
He covertly flew the worldwide lender Jim Wolfensohn to Vancouver to put the restrictions in location. Years later on a South African foreign minister explained that action as the “dagger that lastly eliminated apartheid”. When cabinet ministers informed him world leaders were intent on mining Antarctica and the momentum was unstoppable, #peeee
He took the very same technique. He would have none of that. He flew to Paris and lobbied the French president. He got conservationist Jacques-Yves Cousteau on board. And 18 months later on, the continent was secured to mining.
But the character characteristic that many endeared him to me was his overall abhorrence of bigotry in any kind. He disliked it.
No matter how typically he was encouraged to step warily on bigotry, provided the varied nature of Australia’s electorates, he was uncompromising, calling it out whenever he saw it, or any tip of it.
Bob Hawke was the exception to 2 guidelines– well, possibly lots of, however 2 in specific.
First, he got rid of a drinking issue– a severe drinking issue– and went on to be Labor’s longest-serving prime minister.
An old playing golf friend of his, Col Cunningham, stated in the current book Wednesday’s with Bob: “They state beer damages the brain. Bob negated that theory. He’s still got his marbles when he must be a raving lunatic.”
And the 2nd is an exception to a guideline as soon as articulated by John Howard: that no political leader is popular permanently– “That is among the fantastic paradoxes of politics.”
Howard might be right, typically. In some way I reckon Bob Hawke was never ever more popular than he was in his fading years. That’s when individuals assessed what as soon as was, and might never ever be once again.
Barrie Cassidy is a political reporter and outbound host of the ABC’s Insiders program. In the 1980s, he was press secretary to then prime minister Bob Hawke.