Any boss who sacks anyone for mourning today is a bum!
May 16, 2019 1:15 PM   Subscribe

RIP Bob Hawke - the longest-serving Labor prime minister of Australia has died at the age of 89.

Hawke was incredibly popular, leading the Australian Labor Party to victory in four successive federal elections. During his time as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, Hawke entered the Guiness Book of Records for scullng 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. In his memoirs Hawke wrote, "this feat was to endear me to some of my fellow Australians, more than anything else I ever achieved".

But Bob Hawke achieved much in politics that helped endear him to Australians. His government reintroduced universal healthcare, brought in a program of sweeping economic reforms, applied crucial pressure on apartheid South Africa, stepped up environmental protection, and - as the former head of the trade unions - reached an accord on industrial relations.

He served as PM from 1983 until 1991, when he lost an internal party room vote to his long-time political partner and rival Paul Keating. The story of their rivalry, and the story of their ups an downs in government is told compellingly in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation series Labor in Power. All five episodes are available on YouTube.

Hawke's death comes just two days before the Australian federal election, when another former trade union leader, Bill Shorten, is expected to lead Labor to power after six years in opposition. Although the latest polls show the conservative Coalition government is not out of the race yet. While he was too sick to attend the ALP's official campaign launch, Hawke's last act in public life was the release of a letter on Wednesday endorsing Bill Shorten.
posted by decent rooms and a bath (38 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by andraste at 1:27 PM on May 16


An awful lot of people I know strongly believe that the accord was a huge mistake, and that it was in large part responsible for the weakened state of organised labour today.

Anyhow, do people think this will help Labor at the polls? It seems likely to me.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 1:27 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


There are memes going around encouraging people to vote Labor for Bob, and the commentary is heavy on the symbolism, so I think it’s likely too.
posted by andraste at 1:40 PM on May 16


When Bob Hawke was in power it felt good to be Australian. He was a leader you felt you could believe in with an inclusive positive view for the future. We haven't seen his like since.

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posted by drnick at 1:43 PM on May 16 [7 favorites]


How did we go from men like this to Tony Abbott and Theresa May and the Ford brothers and Trump?

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posted by Bee'sWing at 1:51 PM on May 16 [6 favorites]


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posted by jjderooy at 2:13 PM on May 16


Vale Hawkey & thank you.
posted by joz at 2:31 PM on May 16


It would be just like Hawkey to force News Corp to have to run tributes to a Labor leader on their front page instead of whatever bullshit attack they had planned on the last day before an election.

Vale Bob Hawke.
posted by Merus at 3:26 PM on May 16 [19 favorites]




It would be just like Hawkey to force News Corp to have to run tributes to a Labor leader on their front page instead of whatever bullshit attack they had planned on the last day before an election.

What a beautiful thought.
posted by misterbee at 4:02 PM on May 16 [7 favorites]


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posted by pompomtom at 4:20 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


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> "An awful lot of people I know strongly believe that the accord was a huge mistake, and that it was in large part responsible for the weakened state of organised labour today."
I mean … they're not wrong, there is something to that, but a lot of people I know also consider that the unions brought it on themselves to a large degree by being crap during the Howard years. Standard union practice then seemed to consist of telling members "just wait until the next election; when Labor win we'll get things back & sorted".

Hell, even a few I've known in union leadership have been prepared to muse in quiet moments that they stuffed up badly by becoming too complacent under Hawke's accord, were totally unprepared for dealing with the reality of Howard/Costello, and they've never recovered - and probably never will - from that.
posted by Pinback at 4:29 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


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posted by acb at 4:35 PM on May 16


Also, Labor always look like sweeping to power up until just before the election. when the polls tighten sharply. Australians, it seems, love to feint at voting in a Labor government just to keep the conservatives on their toes and/or watch the Murdoch press sweat and squirm. Actually following through on this is somewhat rarer.

(Were I inclined and in a position to bet on Australian elections, I’d have put a modest sum on the conservatives scraping back in narrowly. The odds only look bad for them when one forgets the structural advantages they hold.)
posted by acb at 4:39 PM on May 16


"Actually following through on this is somewhat rarer"
In my lifetime it's been 50:50, though if you go back further then Menzies & Co's long run skews it.

And the post seems to be missing an explanation for the title, so for all you furriners out there…
posted by Pinback at 5:18 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


An awful lot of people I know strongly believe that the accord was a huge mistake, and that it was in large part responsible for the weakened state of organised labour today.


Whilst its easy to see the accord as a kind of vanguard for future neoliberal erosion, I'd be cautious doing so.

The accord was not responsible for subsequent legislation which has done far far more to water down IR protections. I wonder how many of the people deriding it were alive at the time and can appreciate the environment of Australia at that time. Many things we take granted for today wre unavailable or inaccessible.

Crtitics of the accord often focus on what was given up and don't pay attention to what was gained. Medicare may not have happened without the accord, the social service system was massively beefed up, unemployment fell and inflation reduced.

It wasn't perfect but let's not make perfect the enemy of the good, here.
posted by smoke at 5:24 PM on May 16 [6 favorites]


He served as PM from 1983 until 1991

So about 5 PM terms based on recent history....

He once held a Guinness world record by downing 2 1/2 pints of beer in 11 seconds.

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posted by inflatablekiwi at 5:24 PM on May 16


He once held a Guinness world record by downing 2 1/2 pints of beer in 11 seconds.

Bob downs a schooner in 6.8s

He was still doing this party trick as recently as 2018.

hooroo mate
posted by adept256 at 6:24 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


It would be just like Hawkey to force News Corp to have to run tributes to a Labor leader on their front page instead of whatever bullshit attack they had planned on the last day before an election.

My first thought was "I hope he pre-poll voted" and my second was similar to above, hahaha, brilliant timing, now the media is full of Hawke tributes today and sucked in ScoMo et al.

He was PM all through my childhood.

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posted by kitten magic at 7:45 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


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posted by Mister Bijou at 8:02 PM on May 16


Australians, it seems, love to feint at voting in a Labor government just to keep the conservatives on their toes and/or watch the Murdoch press sweat and squirm. Actually following through on this is somewhat rarer.

The shy tory is not just a UK phenomenon.
posted by pompomtom at 8:36 PM on May 16


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posted by Joe in Australia at 9:15 PM on May 16


I’d like to think that his final act was offer himself up as a Blood Sacrifice, a feat of tremendous ritual magic to sway this ridiculous battle of an election. It seriously feels like Good vs Evil right now- that’s how important this election is.
posted by Philby at 9:39 PM on May 16 [8 favorites]


An awful lot of people I know strongly believe that the accord was a huge mistake, and that it was in large part responsible for the weakened state of organised labour today.

I think, in the context of the time, it was hugely valuable. The Anglosphere had grown quite tired of union demands, particularly when they appeared to be a significant drain on the economy (we only found out much later that the money was being moved into tax havens). The choice was not between the accord and power for working people; the choice was between the accord and getting crushed by the next Liberal government in the same way Thatcher had.

As it was, they tried, but having that clear line of demarcation helped.
posted by Merus at 9:41 PM on May 16


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posted by rednikki at 9:50 PM on May 16


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posted by Coaticass at 9:56 PM on May 16


“Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.”

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posted by sconbie at 10:00 PM on May 16






Then Australian PM did not consult cabinet before making a tearful promise to allow Chinese students to stay after the Tiananmen Square massacre

What a fucking legend. Imagine someone doing this today. You can't, because they are all too chicken shit.
posted by smoke at 11:39 PM on May 16 [10 favorites]


No, I can't imagine that, but I really can imagine any of the current crop of conservatives saying they'd "A-bomb Arabs".

Which is a bit of a disappointment. I'm not trying to say he was some secret fascist or anything. I do think it's dangerous to lionise past labour leaders and celebrate them uncritically, especially now, when more minds are turned to their actions than probably will ever be again.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 12:23 AM on May 17


His PMship was over by the time I was born. From how my parents talked about him, it always sounded like I missed out big time. Vale Bob.

Is anyone planning to make an election post for tomorrow?
posted by Panthalassa at 1:03 AM on May 17


Barry Cassidy said the following:
Not so well known were his achievements around education. When Hawke came to office in 1983, Australia had one of the lowest high-school retention rates in the developed world. Just 30% completed year 12. When he left office that number had increased to 70%. You can only imagine the difference that made to this country.
I've never heard that before. If true, it is un-fucking-believable.
posted by nnethercote at 1:56 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]


I heard the BBC yesterday report that Australians will remember him for breaking that beer-drinking record and being a good bloke, which was damning with faint praise. Australians will remember him for a bloody sight more than that.

Bob was PM from the year I was 15 until I was 23, and in that time I studied politics at university, so he was a huge figure in the formation of my political worldview. (We always thought of him as Bob; he was only Hawke in the phrase "the Hawke Government".) I remember reading Blanche D'Alpuget's biography of him one summer back then, before they became an item; obviously it painted him in a good light, but it was a useful corrective to the view of him on the left as being too pragmatic and too accommodating to business. In student circles at the time we saw him residing over the reintroduction of fees, which was a huge disappointment, but a lot of the popular blame for that attached to the education minister rather than Hawke himself. Similarly, Paul Keating took a lot of the flack for the economic rationalisation that started under Hawke. Bob was teflon-coated.

But as well as attempting to introduce ID cards and a GST, neither of which warmed him or Keating to the public, he did some undeniably good things. He saved the Franklin River, which would be under many feet of water now if not for Bob. He brought back universal healthcare, which Gough Whitlam had started but Malcolm Fraser and his treasurer John Howard had dismantled. His record as past leader of the ACTU meant that we had a decade of industrial calm. As nnethercote quotes Barry Cassidy, his time in office saw major improvements in school retention. (At the end of Grade 10 in 1983, I was one of about one or two dozen kids out of a hundred in my country school who expected to go on to Grade 11 the following year. I think about half a dozen of us went on to uni in 1986, although some more of us went later on.) His record on improving the rights of women in Australia was strong. And this moment was one of his finest.

I was going to contextualise him for any UK readers here by saying "imagine Tony Blair as if the Iraq War had never happened", though that isn't strictly fair, because the 1991 Gulf War started while he was still PM, and Australia was part of the international coalition that took part; however, the context of that war was pretty different, and there was no particular sense of lingering betrayal among the Australian people over it - I think more people turned against him (for a while) when he left Hazel for Blanche. Another Hawke/Blair comparison is that, like Blair and Gordon Brown, Hawke had an agreement with his treasurer Paul Keating to hand over power at a certain point. (Keating became my preferred PM of the two, but that's a story for another day.) There's no question that Blair took a lot of inspiration from Hawke: the Hawke/Keating government was seen as a prime example of the Third Way.

I got to shake his hand once, at an event in Hobart. Got a personal split-second of that famous smile and those piercing eyes. Burned into my memory today.
posted by rory at 2:38 AM on May 17 [10 favorites]


even a few I've known in union leadership have been prepared to muse in quiet moments that they stuffed up badly by becoming too complacent under Hawke's accord, were totally unprepared for dealing with the reality of Howard/Costello, and they've never recovered - and probably never will - from that.

And that reality was just brutal. I was there on the docks with my Mum and Dad supporting the MUA as the odious Corrigan's team of scabs was on its way back from Dubai, just baffled that there was nothing that could be done to stop Howard and Reith reducing decades of progress in workers' rights to Five Allowable Matters.

From his first day in politics, John Howard had made it his mission to dismantle the Australian union movement. Everybody underestimated his ability to get it done because he'd always been seen as such a contemptible little worm of a man. By the time we all noticed that the worm had actually chewed out the foundations it was just too late.

It has to be remembered, too, that Howard was by no means acting alone; union busting had become a worldwide enterprise under the Reagan and Thatcher administrations, with public opinion being pushed inexorably against the union movement under the baleful influence of an ascendant Murdoch press.

It is going to take a long, long time to get organized labour back to the kind of playing strength it had at the time of the Accord, but it has to be done. Humanity can't afford to keep being bled dry by the present tiny coterie of evil money-grubbing psychopaths.

Vale, Bob. Australia will not see the like of the Silver Bodgie again in my lifetime, I fear.
posted by flabdablet at 3:10 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]


Derail/aside, but: Certainly everyone underestimated Howard & Reith at first, but Reith was definitely sniffing around earlier for something to stake his industrial relations "reforms" to - the earlier Fynwest attempt to recruit former commandos & train them as scabs was evidence enough of that. The way the dispute was engineered also had strong parallels with the SEQEB dispute a little over a decade earlier in Qld, where Joh had pulled the rug out from underneath the ETU, brought in scabs, and very nearly succeeded in bringing in some draconian anti-union and anti-protesting/picketing laws. Quite a few of the same people encouraging things behind the scenes in all 3, too, if I can believe what I've been told over the years.

As it went along after Patrick had brought their scabs in, the Howard government was seemingly planning to start kicking heads and taking names in a big way as well - I know that something big seemed to be building at the Port of Brisbane. In the couple of days before the Federal Court made their decision on the union's case against Patrick's dodgy 'restructuring'/sackings, all the spare telephone exchange & link capacity there was allocated to the Federal police, physical security was being beefed up, and the police manning the gates and fences there were getting antsy - but that seemed to dissipate when the union won that case.

I've often wondered what the Howard government would've done if Patrick had won that case (or the subsequent High Court appeals) & tried to pull off Joh's failed moves. It certainly wouldn't have been pretty for anyone, least of all organised labour in this country…
posted by Pinback at 6:16 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


The Accord may have been novel to the anglosphere, though similar settlements are par for the course in continental Europe. West Germany had a similar arrangement going further (unions rein in their wage demands and strike action in return for seats for workers on company boards), and the proto-Accord was probably the Saltsjöbaden Agreement, enacted in Sweden in 1938.

The English-speaking world prefers a more adversarial approach. I blame Reagan/Thatcher/Ayn Rand/Senator Joe McCarthy/the horseshoe shape of the Westminster House of Commons/something.
posted by acb at 6:47 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


I'm wholly ignorant of Australian politics, but I got a bit of sense for the love for this guy when a friend posted to Facebook "Vale the Silver Bodgie" along with this ad for Hawke's beer. It's just so very Australian, the friendly entirely informal approach to humanity, even the political leaders. Hard for this uptight American to imagine having this much fondness for a politician.
posted by Nelson at 6:51 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]




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