Bob Hawke

Bob Hawke’s long list of achievements need not go remarked upon by me, if only because other people are already doing so today. In broad strokes though I can try to describe him from my personal perspective. 

Bob Hawke was a Fabian Socialist - the idea that you could make society fairer by gradually reforming the systems that govern, rather than with revolutionary overthrow. That's actually why Paul Keating and him didn't see eye-to-eye in the end. They wanted the same outcome but Keating felt that Hawke was too slow to reform. In Keating's outlook, incrementalism is the great enemy of a progressive agenda. Keating only bothered to challenge him when Hawke slowed down in the later third of his time in power. But it's important to state that Keating would never have gotten so much done without Hawke leading the country and allowing his cabinet to act independently. He was the most supportive Prime Minister a Treasurer could ask for.  Hawke won four elections in a row, creating all that political capital needed to change the place and for that alone he is a heroic figure.

But Bob Hawke was more than a political giant. He became an Australian cultural icon, not unlike how Paul Hogan did during the same period. Australia was created in part as a rejection of the English class system. Which is why we have the tall poppy syndrome. Australians are encouraged to be successful but you are under no circumstances allowed to act as if you're better than other people.  It's anathema to 'being Australian'.  When he arrived in 1983 he abolished the knight and dame grades. Australian citizens are the same in class terms because there is no class, it's a class free zone, that's the aspiration. 

People are saying that they don't make politicians like him anymore. In reality they hadn’t existed until he arrived. A true one off. His train pulled into the station, everyone climbed aboard, and he took the country off in a big new exciting imaginative direction. As a sidebar, Hawke couldn't exist in 2019, if he ran now he'd of been #MeToo'd and taken off the ballot. Then again if he was around now he'd be a different person. Like all great individuals he was both a product of his time and the time became a product of him. Hawke made people laugh but he was actually even better at laughing. I like this photo of him play jousting with Andrew Peacock at a ribbon cutting event.