He was loved by Australians in an era when kids sucked down ciggies and men chugged down beers like hipsters do lattes.
But there was another side to Bob Hawke – one that involved womanising, political treachery and rampant boozing.
While union heavyweights swilled cans of beer in his memory on Friday, Hawke himself once fought the demon alcohol which threatened to destroy his political career.
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Bob Hawke married Hazel Masterson in Perth in 1956 and they divorced in 1995. He later admitted he had cheated on her during their long marriage
Bob Hawke and Hazel Hawke from ABC Television’s Australian Story. Hawke would go onto marry Blanche d’Alpuget – the author of his 1982 biography
Unions members and supporters raise cans of beer during a memorial ceremony for former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke in Brisbane on Friday. Hawke had been a big drinker in his day
In 1980, while still at the ACTU, Hawke decided to flat out give up the booze.
‘I stopped, and I did it at a time which when I knew it would really test me,’ he recalled.
Hawke’s love of booze was legendary.
At university, while studying at Oxford, he entered the world record books for sinking a yard glass of beer in under 12 seconds.
But he knew his boozing could bring about his demise.
He recalled getting off a plane in Geneva where he was expected to get blotto with his union mates.
‘You know, (I) really worked hard but I also played hard,’ he recalled. ‘And I got off a plane at Geneva and my friends were there to see me when I arrived. A couple of them said, “Let’s go and have a drink”. I said “I’m not drinking” and the look of absolute unbelief on their face — but I knew if I could get through that month there I’d be right.’
In a documentary on his life – Hawke: The Larrikin and the Leader – former Labor politician Graham Richardson said he doubted Hawke would have got away with his behaviour today.
Bob Hawke skulls a cold beer during day two of the Fifth Test match in the 2017/18 Ashes Series between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground last year. He was a man not without fault
Bob Hawke in 2002 with Blanche d’Alpuget (centre) and Collette Dinnigan at a fundraiser for the homeless in Sydney. Hawke once said no Australian child would be living in poverty by 1990. He later admitted he had made a mistake
He said Hawke did ‘some appalling things when drunk … just plain bloody shocking’. It was an era before mobile phones, digital cameras and social media.
‘A Bob Hawke today behaving in the same manner would never have become prime minister. He would have been buried long before he got near the parliament,’ he told the program.
But in the 80s, Hawke was on political fire.
His popularity reached as high as 75 per cent – a record for a national leader.
He won four elections and was prime minister for nearly nine years.
In 1983 he was accused of ‘having blood on his hands’ when federal Labor leader Bill Hayden was forced to quit in favour of Hawke.
It was just in time for him to lead Labor to victory over Malcolm Fraser.
Australia’s longest-serving Labor Prime Minister: The life and times 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.
Hawke had come under fire when he took control from Labor leader Bill Hayden in 1983. Years later it would be Bill Hayden who signed-off on Paul Keating’s (left) entry to the top job as Governor-General
Paul Keating (left) signs documents in front of Governor-General Bill Hayden after being sworn in as the Prime Minister in Canberra. Bob Hawke had once been accused of having ‘blood on his hands’ over the way he took the top job from Mr Hayden years earlier
‘Could I ask you whether you feel a little embarrassed tonight at the blood that is on your hands?’ political reporter Richard Carleton asked him.
Hawke was furious.
But Carleton pressed on.
‘How do you expect the electorate to believe you were not party to the plotting going on over the past fortnight?’ he asked.
Hawke returned fire: ‘If it’s a question of the electorate having to believe between your stupidity in such a question like that and my integrity I have no doubt where their belief will fall.’
Hawke continued: ‘You can sit there with your silly quizzical face — you’ve got a reputation right around this country — yeah, it’s looking better still — you’ve got a reputation for your impertinence, your refusal to accept people at their face value, to try and ridicule the integrity of people.’
‘Now I don’t mind my integrity being on the line against yours.’
Hawke would himself fall to Paul Keating in 1991 on his rival’s second attempt at the top job.
Hawke’s reign at the top did not come without ridicule.
‘Do you know why I have credibility? Because I don’t exude morality’: Bob Hawke’s best quotes
‘As a bloke who loved his country, still does. And loves Australians and who wasn’t essentially changed by high office.’ – when asked how he would like to be remembered.
‘Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.’ – amid champagne soaked celebrations after Australia II won the America’s Cup in 1983.
‘I just said to myself, ‘If you’re going to become prime minister of this country you can’t afford ever to be in a position where you can make a fool of yourself or of your country’, and I never had a drop for the whole period I was in parliament.’ – on giving up the drink.
‘If this was 11 years ago, I’d be getting pretty thoroughly drunk but fortunately for me and even more fortunately for others that is 11 years ago, and the only beer that will be passing my lips will be the totally non-alcoholic variety.’ – after being deposed as leader by Paul Keating.
‘Do you know why I have credibility? Because I don’t exude morality.’
‘The world will not wait for us.’ – Boyer lecture, The Resolution of Conflict, 1979.
‘He’s one of the worst human beings I’ve ever met. He treated black and white with equal contempt. He was a horrible human being.’ – on Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe.
‘The previous Olympics, for instance, you have the Brits getting up, they win a medal — they do win one occasionally — and up goes God Save The Queen, and then Australia gets up and it’s the same anthem — now, that’s crazy.’ – on recommending Advance Australia Fair as a new national anthem in 1984.
‘I just loved him and he loved me… He was a most humble man, the most decent man I’ve ever met in my life and he always looked for the best in people to find positives.’ – on his father.
Hazel and Bob Hawke in happier times. Hawke would later admit he had cheated on his wife
In 1987 he would make a speech that repeatedly came back to haunt him.
‘By 1990, no Australian child will be living in poverty,’ he said.
Of course, 1990 came and went and children were still living in poverty.
Hawke would later admit he had gone way off-script.
What Hawke was meant to say was: ‘By 1990, no Australian child need live in poverty.’
When it came to women, Hawke also ran into his fair share of troubles.
He admitted infidelity in a 1989 television interview where he said he had been unfaithful to his then wife of 33 years, Hazel.
Asked by interviewer Clive Robertson about accusations of being a womaniser and what that meant, Hawke responded: ‘They mean that I wasn’t faithful to my wife.’
Asked if that was true, he said: ‘Yes’.
In a 2010 interview with the ABC’s Kerry O’Brien, Hawke did not hide from his sordid history of womanising.
He was asked how a public figure like himself while Prime Minister could conduct an affair or affairs without getting caught.
Bob Hawke and his wife Blanche d’Alpuget. Hawke made no apologies for falling in love with his second wife, whom he married shortly after is split with Hazel
‘Well, not easy, is the answer to that – obviously not easy,’ Hawke replied.
‘But I had – I hope this doesn’t sound too immodest, but I had staff and security people and so on who were dedicated to me. They just didn’t work – we had a marvellous relationship.’
Asked if he felt discomfort about his behaviour, Hawke provided a candid response.
‘Look, discomfort in a sense I don’t want to make life unpleasant or unhappy for other people in recollection,’ he said. ‘But, the simple indisputable fact is love is not something that you can control … And once you fall in love, which I had with Blanche, and that involves falling out of love with your wife, this is not something to be apologetic about.’
When it came to parenting, Hawke also struggled.
His daughter Susan Pieters-Hawke told ABC’s News Breakfast on Friday that ‘parenting was not his strong suit’.
‘He was enormously pleased and relieved our mother was such an extraordinary parent because he had deficits on that front,’ she said.
Despite her father being Australia’s third-longest serving prime minister and knowing parenting wasn’t his strongest talent, Ms Pieters-Hawke said she still looked up to her dad.
‘In the normal sense of parenting, he wouldn’t rate highly, but in some of the less normal senses of parenting, I think he was a fabulous and inspiring dad,’ she said.
Labor’s greatest winner: How Bob Hawke led his party to four election wins
Robert James Lee Hawke, died on Thursday May 16, aged 89
Bob Hawke, one of Australia’s greatest prime ministers, combined a potent mixture of political and personal qualities.
Labor’s most successful federal leader, who presided over the modernisation of Australia’s economy, was a larrikin with a narcissistic streak and little overarching ideology.
He was a man of shifting factional allegiances who could still give and command great personal loyalty; a pragmatist with a sense of destiny; passionate yet calculating.
His success in four elections and through nearly nine years in The Lodge depended largely on two strengths rarely seen in combination – a peerless ability to win the affection of the people and great managerial and negotiating skills.
He had two careers with the first, in the ACTU, providing the platform for the second in parliamentary politics. He was unique in having led Labor’s industrial, organisational and political wings.
Yet despite his unmatched electoral record, he was dumped undefeated by a party that usually allowed its leaders a couple of losses.
Robert James Lee Hawke, who died on Thursday, aged 89, was born on December 9, 1929 in Bordertown, South Australia.
His father Clem, a Congregational minister, had been an ALP member and uncle Bert was to be a Labor premier of Western Australia. The family’s faith was in the puritan tradition. Mother Ellie hated the sin of not fully using one’s talents.
Blanche d’Alpuget, later his second wife, recounted in her mid-career biography of Hawke that when Ellie was pregnant with her second son, her Bible kept falling open at the verse in Isaiah: ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder.’
Ellie said he was called Robert because it would sound good when he became Sir Robert.
An active member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Ellie pledged the future compulsive drinker to a life of abstinence.
In 1939 after elder brother Neil died of meningitis, all his parents’ love and aspirations were turned on their remaining child, and the family moved to Perth.
Hawke matriculated from Perth Modern School, the government school that was the springboard for so many bright kids, and started law at the University of Western Australia.
Cricket, the church and Labor politics were his main interests. Some contemporaries thought he was brash. He’d already started talking about himself as a prime minister.
Then he almost killed himself in a motorbike accident.
According to d’Alpuget, the family was convinced that God, by sparing him, had given a sign. And Hawke himself now believed that he was an instrument chosen by the Lord.
The self-belief remained, but not its theological underpinnings.
Legends were already building about his drinking – although he tried to hide it from his mother – his successes with girls, and his politicking.
According to one possibly apocryphal story, when he wasn’t selected for the first grade cricket team, he stacked a meeting, had the selectors sacked and installed new ones who picked him.
A visit to India, where he was appalled by the poverty, ended his belief in God.
By then he was engaged to Hazel Masterton. The engagement was to last five years and survive a major crisis.
As Hazel revealed in her memoir, she became pregnant. But he had applied for a Rhodes scholarship, which was then open only to single men. After guilt-filled agonising, she had an abortion.
Hawke won his scholarship and left for Oxford, with Hazel following. The next two years were the most carefree of their lives – though chiefly remembered for his making the Guinness Book of Records for downing two and a half pints of beer in 12 seconds.
At Oxford he did a research degree on Australia’s arbitration system, an unusual choice.
Neal Blewett, another Rhodes Scholar who became a minister in the Hawke governments, said this meant the dreaming spires left little imprint on him, intellectually or culturally. But it was typical of a man who believed learning was for practical purposes.
In 1958, having returned to Australia and finally married Hazel, Hawke joined the ACTU as a research officer.
Starting with the 1959 basic wage hearing, he built up a formidable reputation as an advocate, often leaving employer representatives and the bench behind with his grasp of economics.
He overcame union prejudices against his university education and developed a formidable labour movement network, partly through drinking sessions.
Tales of his heroic drinking helped his larrikin image. But Hazel’s memoirs make it clear that it was obsessive and destructive. While she was struggling at home to bring up three children and wrestling with the grief of losing a fourth baby, he was out drinking or womanising. She contemplated divorce.
In 1969 Hawke, after forging a temporary alliance with the left, won the ACTU presidency.
He used this position to become Australia’s best known politician outside parliament.
Hawke gradually shifted to the right, his natural place on the Labor spectrum.
His negotiating skills were formidable, though critics claimed he would wait until an agreement was close, then parachute in to finalise it and claim the credit.
He developed important contacts with the big end of town, partly through membership of the Reserve Bank board and a major economic inquiry.
The contacts extended overseas, particularly through the International Labour Organisation and in the United States and Israel, to which he had an emotional attachment.
His platform widened in 1973 when he also became ALP president.
From the twin peaks of the party and the union movement, he watched the Whitlam government unravel. Hawke learnt from its excesses and determined not to repeat them when his time came.
In 1980, having finally stopped drinking, he entered federal parliament and went straight to opposition leader Bill Hayden’s front bench.
Hawke, convinced that only he could beat Malcolm Fraser, targeted Hayden from the start. His great allies were the polls, which showed he was prefered to both Hayden and Fraser, and the unions.
Hayden called a leadership vote in July 1982 and won by five votes. It was not enough, especially after a disappointing by-election result.
In the new year Hayden was persuaded by old allies to abdicate. At the same time Fraser – believing he could beat Hayden but not Hawke – called an election. It was a pre-emptive strike that failed by hours.
The dour Fraser, troubled by high unemployment and inflation, was no match for a confident Hawke who behaved as if he was already prime minister.
On March 5, with a swing of almost four per cent, Hawke was swept to power with a 25 seat majority.
Electorally, that would be his high point. Next year, in beating Andrew Peacock, the majority was cut. This was Hawke at his lowest, largely because of daughter Ros’s drug problems.
In 1987, benefiting from Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s destructive Canberra campaign, he beat John Howard despite being outpolled by the Coalition on the primary vote. In his fourth victory, against the recycled Peacock in 1990, he didn’t even win a majority of the two-party prefered vote.
He owed that win partly to the Howard-Peacock rivalry and partly to a Green preference strategy in marginal seats.
From the start of his prime ministership, the essence of Hawke’s inclusive leadership style was clear.
There was no public service bloodbath. Nor was there the obsessive interference with ministers that marked the Fraser years. He claimed, with some justice, that he had the most talented team of ministers in Australia’s history and, generally, he let them get on with it.
Hawke reduced the size of cabinet, over which he presided with skill and courtesy – a chairman rather than a despot. However, cabinet often was effectively subordinate to its key committee, the Expenditure Review Committee.
He imposed cabinet solidarity, which reduced the opportunity for caucus revolts. So, too, did the the high degree of factional discipline which he developed with the help of trusted right, left and centre left leaders.
His style was corporatist and he was not a great parliamentarian. The unsurpassed deal-maker was not at home in parliament’s fiercely adversarial atmosphere.
He preferred to work through big interest groups – the ACTU, the major employer and industry organisations, the peak farm, ethnic, indigenous and conservation lobbies.
The transformation of Australia’s economic life dominated his governments.
Dealing with industries featherbedded by tariffs, the distortions of subsidies, inefficient public enterprises, the dead hand of financial regulation and rigid labour markets as the unforgiving new demands of globalisation emerged was particularly difficult for a Labor government.
Blewett believed Hawke was the ideal leader for the times. He was a supreme optimist, convinced of his ability to negotiate through the most intractable problem; and a complete pragmatist, unburdened by ideology.
It became fashionable, to Hawke’s irritation, to speak of the Hawke-Keating government.
Paul Keating, his Treasurer, rival and successor, was the second most important figure.
During their years of productive, if rarely personally close, partnership they were complementary. Hawke could deal with the interest groups, internal Labor sensitivities and appeal to the people; Keating appealed to the financial elites and, with the feline savagery of his rhetoric, could dominate parliament.
But at the start it was Hawke who better understood the economic needs and it was he, with old ACTU mate and Employment Minister Ralph Willis, who negotiated the original accord, the trade-off with the unions that ensured wage restraint.
The floating of the dollar – and for many years afterwards Hawke and Keating sniped over who should get most credit – ushered in a host of financial deregulations.
The tax system was overhauled, with the base broadened and the rates cut. Privatisation started, despite deep misgivings within the party. Tariffs were slashed, with special industry plans for the most vulnerable industries. Free tertiary education was ended. The first steps in enterprise bargaining were taken.
This destruction of Labor sacred cows was achieved without fracturing the party. It’s doubtful if Keating could have done that.
Hawke’s other great interest was foreign affairs.
With first Hayden – before, in Hawke’s final act of atonement, he became governor-general – and then Gareth Evans as foreign minister, Australia was an initiator beyond its shores.
The most important was APEC, very much Hawke’s personal project. The most worthy was bringing peace to the killing fields of Cambodia.
Hawke made Australia an active player in world disarmament forums and, through the Cairns group, an influential advocate for free farm trade during the protracted Uruguay round of world trade negotiations.
The ending of mining and oil drilling in Antarctica was a personal initiative.
He was quick, despite misgivings in the party, to commit Australia to the first Gulf war.
He initially delighted environmentalists by blocking the Franklin dam in Tasmania and was usually ahead of the coalition on matters green, especially during the years Graham Richardson was environment minister. And he established Medicare, a new version of Whitlam’s Medibank that Fraser had undone.
Sometimes he over-reached. His promises to end child poverty and to negotiate an Aboriginal treaty came back to mock him.
Through it all, until the sad, dying days of his last government, Hawke was, to the public, good old Hawkie, the leader with the common touch, if often wreathed in cigar smoke or, occasionally, tears.
No-one else could turn a shopping mall walk into a triumphal progress, as he greeted shoppers in his distinctive voice; even when he snarled at a ‘silly old bugger’ in a Whyalla supermarket.
He could toss off a tip for the races, which sometimes won; or barge into a game of carpet bowls and roll down a good one.
His love of sport and delight in Australian victories were impossible to counterfeit.
In the euphoria of Australia’s America’s Cup triumph, Hawke, champagne-soaked and flag-jacketed, declared ‘any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.’
That was 1983, with it all in front of him. By the end of the decade it was going wrong.
In late 1988 he and Keating, each with a trusted witness, signed the secret Kirribilli House pact in which Hawke promised to hand over to his increasingly impatient treasurer after the 1990 election.
He reneged, ostensibly because of Keating’s December 1990 ‘Placido Domingo’ speech in which he implied that only he was a true leader. Hawke also believed he was the more likely to win in 1993.
Keating brought matters to a head in June 1991, revealing the Kirribilli pact – in truth, a deal which displayed the arrogance of both – and launching a challenge.
It failed by 22 votes and Keating retired to the backbench while his supporters nibbled away at Hawke’s declining support and confidence.
Neither John Kerin, the new treasurer, nor Brian Howe, the new deputy PM, performed well.
Worse, Hawke seemed unable to combat a reunited opposition under John Hewson and his economic plan Fightback! Worst of all, the polls said the people were deserting him.
In December, Keating challenged again and this time won by 56 votes to 52. Labor, for the first time, had voted out a serving prime minister.
After leaving parliament, he and Hazel – who’d been a major political asset – divorced.
He married d’Alpuget and, soon after, Hazel began her long battle with Alzheimer’s disease which ended with her death in 2013.
Hawke remained active as a business consultant, company director, visiting professor – and lead singer at party functions. His ‘Solidarity Forever’ was much admired.
He wrote his memoirs and co-authored a major report on the ALP.
His political instincts were still acute – he lobbied unsuccessfully against Mark Latham during the 2003 Labor leadership battle and campaigned vigorously in the 2007 election that finally brought Labor back to power.
And his place in the Labor pantheon was formally acknowledged in 2009 when he became only the third person to be awarded national life membership of the party.
Source: Australian Associated Press