Vale Bob Hawke

House of Representatives

Condolence Motion 

I remember the first time that I met Bob Hawke. I was but a lad riding on my dad's shoulders. It was at Frye Park in Kelmscott, and there was a huge crowd. That's really all I can remember, but I was only about three or four at the time. I'm told by our local state MP from that time that the occasion was the opening of the new Kelmscott soccer club facilities just up from where my office is now. He said it was like the coming of the Messiah—thousands of people all jostling just to be able to touch Bob on the head as he walked through the crowd. In a way, that is how I have and will forever remember Bob Hawke: the man adored by the people. Such occasions were common. A former federal MP for my community described it as like watching Pope Bob. Another predecessor of mine noted the delight Bob had at posing for a photo at the gravestone of an Australian soldier, killed in action during the war in France, with the same name as that MP.

A pseudo Western Australian, Bob Hawke attended school in WA and studied law at the University of Western Australia with my grandfather in the late 1940s. They were both born in South Australia too. Prime Minister Hawke led the federal Labor government I grew up under and he epitomised the Labor values that I learnt. In a way, they encapsulated that government. In a sense, it was the third way before that was a thing. As our 23rd Prime Minister, he reformed our country in many ways with one of the most brave and ambitious policy agendas in our history. Indeed, in modernising our country he changed our country and transformed our economy. He turned Australia into a world leader in so many areas. Critically, though, it was full of hope and bold of idea. However, as much as the government benches now try to claim credit and align themselves with the policies from that time, there has always been a critical difference, and that is in the way that Labor, under Hawke, always ensured a proper social safety net, for growth is stronger when it is shared, and when wages and living standards rise everyone in the community should benefit.

Bob was also a strong advocate for women's rights, striving to achieve equal payment for men and women and protecting women from sexual harassment in the workplace. The current Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 is the legacy of the Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act of 1986. By 1990, the Hawke Labor government had committed more than $1 million to establish the Commonwealth-state National Committee on Violence Against Women.

When Bob came to office, fewer than three in 10 kids finished school. By the time he left, that number was eight in 10. Bob helped us realise a person's education or future prospects should not be determined by their postcode, and this is a message that continues to resonate with me today. Prime Minister Hawke also infamously said that by 1990 no Australian child would be living in poverty. I remember studying cartoons about this in my social studies classes in high school in the mid-1990s. I recall thinking at the time that it was a bold goal that clearly wasn't achieved, but in no way was it something that should not be striven for. He inspired me to work to help change the story for the kids in my community, one of Western Australia's lowest socioeconomic areas. Bob's beginnings were in union organising and bargaining for all, making sure, in a way that was responsible, through the Prices and Incomes Accord, for economic growth, that every worker received a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.

Perhaps most quintessentially, each and every Australian carries with them each and every day a monument to Bob Hawke and his government—a green and gold reminder in the form of a Medicare card. It ensures that we do, indeed, live in the lucky country and that the health of one of us matters to all of us.

I turn now to my new shadow portfolio of WA resources. There's a good chance that our resources industry wouldn't be what it is today without Bob Hawke's input. He was a pivotal figure in opening up the Pilbara iron ore industry to foreign investment. In the late 1980s, he was one of the main drivers behind ensuring delivery of the landmark Channar joint venture agreement, a 20-year joint venture that has resulted in the export of more than 250 million tonnes of iron ore to China by Rio Tinto. Today, China accounts for more than 83 per cent of WA's iron ore exports. Bob is also credited with facilitating the petroleum resource rent tax, alongside WA senator Peter Walsh and, of course, Treasurer Paul Keating. This was a vital initiative on tax reform for minerals, which effectively saved Western Australia from the possibility of going broke at the beginning of the term of the Hawke government.

Now, no event that Bob took part in lately was complete without a bellowing rendition of 'Solidarity Forever'. I'll spare the chamber my version. On one of his most recent trips to WA, when he came to help in the election of the McGowan state Labor government, it was no different. On that visit I had the opportunity to introduce my son, Nicholas, to Bob, and later Bob sang Solidarity Forever with us all. Soon enough Nicholas will be old enough to appreciate what a special moment that was for him and for me.

I extend my condolences to Blanche, Bob's children and his grandchildren. Vale, Hawkie. Rest in peace.


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