Australia

Former PM Bob Hawke remembered with love and laughter at 'a very Australian celebration'

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Hundreds of Australians have gathered at the Sydney Opera House to pay tribute to the "Don Bradman of Australian politics" Bob Hawke.

It's a tribute fitting for a man described as a national hero and one of Australia's best ever prime ministers.

Scores of political leaders from both sides of politics packed the Sydney Opera House's Concert Hall and hundreds of Australians gathered outside on the forecourt for former Prime Minister Bob Hawke's state memorial service, following his death last month.

Members of the public stand for the national anthem as they watch the service from the steps of the Sydney Opera House.
Members of the public stand for the national anthem as they watch the service from the steps of the Sydney Opera House.
AAP

Mr Hawke died peacefully at his Sydney home on 16 May.

Nine speakers, including Mr Hawke's former political rivals, colleagues and family members, addressed the distinguished audience during the service while the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs provided the music.

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Former Labor leader, Kim Beazley, pays tribute to Bob Hawke
Former Labor leader, Kim Beazley, pays tribute to Bob Hawke

Mr Hawke conducted the same choir during his 80th birthday celebrations in 2009 and footage of the iconic performance was played during the service.

A service for beloved former PM Bob Hawke will be held on the Sydney Opera House steps on Friday.
A service for beloved former PM Bob Hawke will be held on the Sydney Opera House steps on Friday.
AAP

Indigenous Labor MP Linda Burney delivered the acknowledgement of country, marking the beginning of proceedings. As part of her acknowledgement, she said Mr Hawke stood tall in Australia's history as a man who "offered a vision for an inclusive forward-thinking Australia".

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https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/1538438723779/albanese-address-at-hawke-memorial
https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/1538438723779/albanese-address-at-hawke-memorial

"For first Australians, Bob Hawke was able to tap into Australia's sense of fairness, to find the rightful place for first peoples," she said. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also praised Mr Hawke's achievements in Indigenous policy, but began his address by admitting that he only "knew Bob from a distance".

"In that way, I can reflect and share with you the common remembrance and speak of the affection he inspired from millions of Australians who only knew him in this way," he said.

"Today, we will rightly honour his many achievements for our economy, for our security, for Indigenous Australians, for our society and Australia's place in the world. As a Liberal, I'm honoured to acknowledge these achievements as I know others would be."

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese reflected that Mr Hawke was "Labor to the core of his being", but added that his "heart was too big to be contained by party lines".

"Just because you didn't vote for Bob didn't mean that you were beyond his love," he said.

"Bob Hawke was not towering physically but somehow he seemed bigger than all of us. He was Australia amplified but he almost wasn't part of our lives at all."

Giving a touching eulogy to his mentor and friend, former Labor leader Kim Beazley described a time when had convinced Mr Hawke to hold a cabinet meeting on a ship to commemorate the Australian Navy's 75th birthday.

Bob Hawke's wife Blanche d'Alpuget with other members of the Hawke family.
Bob Hawke's wife Blanche d'Alpuget with other members of the Hawke family.
SBS News

On board, he said to laughs from the audience, Mr Hawke was pinned to the wall by a rolling table in rough seas but continued the meeting anyway.

"Afterwards, pretty cross, he said to me: 'You know, cabinet is the heart of our Government, we cannot have the cabinet table running away and killing a couple of us on the way through'."

Paul Keating, Mr Hawke's former deputy and ultimate successor, spoke of their cabinet's focus on creativity and loyalty.

"What matters is the value of the legacy, its quality and its endurance. On both counts, Bob Hawke well earned a five-star rank and 24-carat stars at that," he said.

Despite the fact Mr Keating ultimately overtook Mr Hawke as leader, he said their cooperation and friendship lasted to the end.

Mr Hawke's eldest daughter, Sue Pieters-Hawke, remembered a lifetime of "love, laughter and deep bonds", describing their upbringing as one deeply connected to the Labor Party. 

"Our parents taught us to listen to people, to seek out facts and think for ourselves," she said.

Scott Morrison speaking at Bob Hawke's state memorial service.
Scott Morrison speaking at Bob Hawke's state memorial service.
SBS News

Sophie Taylor Price said she was inspired by her grandfather Mr Hawke to dedicate her life to working against climate change, describing Mr Hawke's efforts to change the world's mind about support for mining in Antarctica.

"In 1991 the Madrid protocol was executed, making the last great wilderness on earth a place devoted to peace and to science, protected from exploitation. Now that is legacy," she said, urging people to honour the former prime minister by applying his values to future decisions about the environment.

Shining light on Mr Hawke's union days, former secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Bill Kelty painted a picture of a larrikin who would fight hard but love harder.

"Bob was no saint. Bob had his faults. But he did a power of good for this country," he said.

"His greatest legacy is a simple one. Here is this person who raised the aspirations of this nation."

Then-Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks pay tribute to M
Then-Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks pay tribute to Mr Hawke in May.
AAP

Mr Kelty said that in his final weeks, Mr Hawke was still passionate about a treaty for First Nations Australians, climate change and "aspiring for this country to be better".

Closing off the speeches, Mr Hawke's wife Blanche d'Alpuget gave passionate thanks and said the day marked the transition "from the grief of loss to the celebration of a life triumphantly well lived".

"Long live love," she said.

Mr Hawke made the Guinness Book of Records for downing a yard glass while a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and in his later years indulged fans at the cricket by knocking back drinks.

But he gave up the drink in politics and proudly boasted he "didn't touch a drop" while in parliament.

Bob Hawke's eldest daughter, Sue Pieters-Hawke.
Bob Hawke's eldest daughter, Sue Pieters-Hawke.
SBS News

The former ACTU leader rose through union and Labor ranks and won the party four elections, with his late first wife Hazel by his side.

But in 1991 his treasurer Paul Keating replaced him as leader, his marriage hit the rocks, and eventually he and Hazel divorced. He married his biographer Ms d'Alpuget in 1995.

Mr Hawke was laid to rest at a private family funeral shortly after his death. 

Bob Hawke with the famous Australia jacket
Bob Hawke with the famous Australia jacket
courtesy of Gregg Porteous

Towards the end of the offical service, tributes from overseas were played, including from former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard who expressed her condolences from Stockholm, Sweden.

"A million words could be written and a million more spoken about Bob Hawke,such is the breadth of his achievement. But for me, the essence of the Bob I knew is caught by one word - inspiration," she said.

In a written tribute, former Labor leader and Governor-General Bill Hayden described Mr Hawke as the "Don Bradman of Australian politics". 

"If there is a heaven I'd like to think that they've now got a larrikin up there, still carousing, chatting up the angels, or puffing on a giant cigar, a beer in hand while reading the form guide ... still campaigning, still winning and still getting things done," Mr Rann wrote.

With AAP

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