Has Bob won the election for Bill? Shorten supporters and political experts say Hawke’s death was his ‘last gift to Labor’ – after polls show the Coalition closing the gap
- Australia’s longest serving PM died peacefully on Thursday aged 89
- Passing before an election was his ‘final gift to the party, said supporters
- ABC News journalist Barrie Cassidy and others commented on timing
Bob Hawke’s death two days before the election was his final gift to the Labor Party and could help them win the election, supporters and political experts said last night after he passed away at home aged 89.
In a touching tribute on ABC News, veteran journalist Barrie Cassidy, who was Mr Hawke’s press secretary from 1986, said his old friend showed a great ‘sense of timing’.
‘It’s an extraordinary day for the Labor Party when you think about it,’ he said.
‘Bill Shorten was out there today where Gough Whitlam gave the famous ‘It’s Time’ speech and then Bob Hawke, with what a sense of timing.’
Former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke, who died aged 89 on Thursday, pictured with his protege Bill Shorten
Several Labor voters Tweeted about the timing of former PM Bob Hawke’s death
Labor voters quickly followed suit, with several tweeting about the timing of his death.
Blair Williams wrote: ‘I am absolutely loving Bob Hawke’s timing. His last gift to the Labor party.’
Shifa Mustapha said: ‘Only a short time now before the election… Today’s timing of the sad news about Bob Hawke [may he rest in peace] is somehow impeccably fitting and has overshadowed the Coalition’s favoured media position. Thus his legacy continues to shine.’
Patrick McGorry added: ‘Timing of his passing is poignant but possibly exquisite. A sliding doors moment for Australia.’
It was not only Labor supporters who noted the timing, with several political commentators and journalists discussing how it may affect the election.
Mr Hawke before his death and in his last public act wrote a letter to voters endorsing Mr Shorten and his team
Australia is in mourning after the death of Bob Hawke, who died surrounded by loved ones two days before he expected to see his party return to power (Pictured: Bob Hawke and his first wife Hazel in 1987)
One of the country’s great prime ministers, Hawke never hid the highs and lows of his colourful life from the public – and Australians loved him for it (Pictured: Bob Hawke and his wife Blanche d’Alpuget in 2008)
ABC political editor Andrew Probyn said the death of Australia’s longest serving PM would transform campaigning and affect the election ‘considerably’.
Nine Political editor Chris Uhlmann said a Labor shadow cabinet minister told him he feared the death would be bad news for the campaign.
‘I was actually on the phone to a cabinet minster last night who said “Hawkey has died’ and paused and then said “that will be bad for us”,’ he told Today.
‘The election was going tight in any event and now it will be dominated over the next 24 hours by the passing of one of the greatest Australians.
‘Labor is great with its history and it will reinvigorate them. It’s the “do it for Hawkey moment” for them because he’s part of this campaign even though he was physically unable to get to it.’
Monday’s Newspoll showed the campaign race remains tight, with the Coalition lifting its primary vote to 39 per cent.
But Labor still led by 51 to 49 per cent on a two-party preferred basis, with its primary vote also up slightly to 37 per cent.
THE LIFE OF BOB HAWKE
- Born December 9, 1929 in Bordertown South Australia.
- A decade later his family moved to Perth, following the death of older brother Neil.
- Attended Perth Modern School before studying law at the University of Western Australia.
- Almost died in a motorbike accident.
- Took up a Rhodes scholarship but was only able to after his fiancee Hazel Masterton had an abortion, as it was only open to single men.
- While his research focused on wage determination, he became better known at Oxford for making the Guinness Book of Records for downing two and a half pints of beer in 12 seconds.
- After returning to Australia and marrying Hazel, he joined the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
- By 1969 he was ACTU president and the nation’s best known politician outside parliament.
MP to Prime Minister
- First attempted to enter parliament in 1963, losing to Liberal Hubert Opperman.
- Elected federal president of the Labor Party in 1973, while also ACTU president.
- He was prominent in protests in Canberra after the governor-general dismissed the Labor Whitlam government in 1975.
- Entered federal parliament at the 1980 election as MP for the Victorian seat of Wills.
- Became leader of the Labor Party February 1983, less than a month before the Liberal Fraser government called the election.
- Led the ALP to victory and became prime minister with the campaign slogan Bringing Australia Together.
Achievements as Prime Minister
- Opened the economy by floating the dollar and deregulating the financial system.
- Cut tariffs and reformed the tax system.
- Established Medicare in 1984.
- Led international efforts to protect Antarctica from mining and to save Tasmania’s Franklin Dam.
- Increased the old-age pension, doubled public housing funds and the number of childcare places.
- Established the Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation.
- Campaigned against apartheid in South Africa.
Downfall as Prime Minister
- In late 1998 Hawke and treasurer Paul Keating signed the Kirribilli House pact, where he promises to hand over to Mr Keating after the 1990 election.
- He reneged on the deal.
- After one failed attempt, Mr Keating toppled him in December 1991. It was the first time Labor voted out a serving prime minister.
- Married Hazel Masterson in Perth in 1956 and they divorced in 1995.
- The couple had four children: Susan, Stephen, Roslyn and Robert.
- He remarried in 1995 to Blanche d’Alpuget, the author of his 1982 biography.