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Robert James Lee Hawke AC DCL Condolence Motion

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Tags: Condolence

Robert James Lee Hawke AC DCL Condolence Motion: O'Connor


Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, on behalf of the Tasmanian Greens I support this condolence motion. I want to say a few about one of Australia's truly great prime ministers. I was in grade 11, 16 years old, when Bob Hawke was elected prime minister of this country. I remember, very strongly, that feeling of optimism, of possibility for this country's future. I remember feeling proud to be Australian. I remember listening to him say, 'No child will live in poverty', within a relatively short space of time. Although he could not bring that pledge to the Australian people to bear, there is no question that at the time that he said it he absolutely meant it.

In terms of the kind of prime minister he was, he was inclusive, big hearted and courageous. He came from an era of politicians where they were not so afraid to say what they really thought. They had the courage to do things that might not have been popular, but they could argue it through. I do not think we have political leaders of that kind of calibre and courage unfortunately in either major party today. It was a different generation of leaders. For anyone who wants to see a little bit of the real Bob Hawke unguarded, Sabra Lane, over the weekend posted a YouTube clip of about 17 minutes of press gallery questioning of the then opposition leader at the press club. One of the questions that was asked of him was about this honeymoon that he had with the media and when was the honeymoon going to end. He said something like, 'Well, I was ACTU leader and people said then I had cordial relations with the media. In opposition, people are accusing me of benefiting from the honeymoon. Well, if it is a honeymoon, it is a very long one and it about time we consummated it'. This was the kind of raw honesty that marked Bob Hawke as prime minister.

In the 1989-90 federal election, as a young journalist covering Bob Hawke in Tasmania, I was stunned by how much people loved him. There were fantastic scenes out of New Norfolk where he was on the campaign trail. This fan of his shoved her ice-cream in his face. Bob Hawke took a bite out of her ice-cream and then he let this lovely woman clean his face. He was the kind of leader who was easy to love. Before I discovered the Greens, I most certainly voted for Labor and for Bob Hawke as prime minister.

Regarding the contribution that Bob Hawke made as prime minister to this country, it is really important to remember that many of them were made with Paul Keating as treasurer at his side and they were a team and a potent team. A team that could argue the case for reform, for big changes for this country. They had the courage to do it and delivered groundbreaking reforms. They changed the face of Australia and many Australians would agree, for the better.

The ABC has prepared a short list of only nine ways that the Hawke Government changed Australia. The first was to bring us into the global economy by floating the Australian dollar, which previously had been pegged to the pound or the US dollar, opening the Australian economy to global competition, removing some of those sanctions and trade barriers. That was a hard road for this country to go down but ultimately it was exactly what we had to do.

Today, every Australian should be thankful for Bob Hawke for delivering universal healthcare through Medicare. It is a profound and important reform that unfortunately has been eroded by conservative governments at the federal level.

He struck an historic accord with the unions that led to a substantial peace in the workplace.

Mr O'Byrne - It was more than the workplace. It was social wage.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, I agree. After beating Malcolm Fraser in the 1983 federal election, Bob Hawke as prime minister, passed the World Heritage Properties Convention Act 1983 which along with legislation already passed by the Whitlam government, enabled the Commonwealth to protect Australian World Heritage sites from threatening actions. Now we know, history tells us that those threatening actions in contemporary Australia can come from the Australian Government and the Tasmanian government themselves, which sought to wind back extensions to the World Heritage area in 2014.

From a greenie's point of view, one of the most profound and meaningful gifts that Bob Hawke as prime minister gave to Tasmania and to this country was a wild Franklin River. That was a long, hard fight by conservationists, on the ground, on the banks of the Franklin River, back in 1981, 1982, 1983, defending that wild river from Robin Gray's plans to dam it. Today, the community of Strahan and the West Coast indeed, are the beneficiaries of that move by the Hawke government to save the Franklin River from damming. We have a vibrant economy on the West Coast in and around Strahan as a result of a wild Franklin and the Franklin-Gordon Rivers National Park. This would resonate with my colleague Dr Woodruff, who was arrested up there.

Mr Ferguson - Hear, hear.

Ms O'CONNOR - Prime Minister Hawke banned uranium mining at Jabiluka in Arnhem Land. Did you not know Dr Woodruff was arrested?

Mr Ferguson - No.

Dr Woodruff - I mentioned it in the House.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, totally. Badge of Honour. On her Green CV.

The Hawke Government banned new uranium mining at Jabiluka and then gave highly publicised priority to the World Heritage listing of Kakadu National Park. Prime Minister Hawke advanced the cause of women in this country and equality by banning gender discrimination in the workplace.

Mr Deputy Speaker, did you know that our national anthem, Advance Australia Fair, is a legacy of prime minister Bob Hawke? I personally think he made the wrong decision there; I absolutely think that I Still Call Australia Home is a better national anthem, but still, our national anthem Advance Australia Fair is thanks to prime minister Hawke. Also, he formally recognised and declared Australia's colours would be yellow and green.

On 4 June this year it will be 30 years since the tanks rolled in to Tiananmen Square and crushed the democracy protests that had been going on since early April that year. Thousands of dissidents, democracy activists and students were killed by the Chinese government who feared the seeds of democracy that were growing amongst the Chinese people. It was Bob Hawke who opened our hearts to Chinese students in Australia and said, 'You are welcome here and this is your home', and that again was a huge positive change for this country.

I want to end with a quote from Dr Bob Brown, who has written in the Australian - they actually published him in the Australian - where he said:

At the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of the saving of the Franklin River in Hobart in 2008, Bob Hawke referred to the growing stoush over global warming -

And as you look at the arguments and the positions of political parties today, you see a complete replication of what we experienced back there in 1983. The conservatives, they never change, they never learn. What was their argument back then? 'You can't do this, it will cost jobs, it will cost economic growth. You can't do it, you mustn't do it.'

And as Bob concludes -

Many in the audience wished he could be our prime minister once more. Bob Hawke has left Australia a magnificent and enduring environmental legacy.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I miss Bob Hawke from our political scene. I miss the kind of leadership that he gave this country. He made us feel proud to be Australian. Vale Bob Hawke.

Members - Hear, hear.