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BOB HAWKE CONDOLENCE MOTION

July 03, 2019

Senator Katy Gallagher

I rise to also make a brief contribution to this condolence motion to honour the life of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

As I reflected at the time of his passing, Bob Hawke was Prime Minister when I first became interested in politics. His government inspired me and showed me that what happens in politics matters and helps to shape the nation. I'm certain that I'm not the only Labor politician of my generation in this place who was energised by Bob's example or continues to draw inspiration from the example of his passionate leadership and his government's prodigious record of achievement.

But Bob Hawke was not only a giant of the Labor movement and the Labor Party; he was also a leader who commanded respect right across the political divide. In politics, that is no mean accomplishment and it's something that current politicians can learn a lesson or two from. He has an enduring legacy which Australians continue to benefit from today.

Every time we go to the GP or a hospital, we are benefitting from the work that Bob Hawke started by establishing Medicare, building on the work of another great Labor politician, Gough Whitlam. Australia's universal health system is the envy of many countries around the world.

Medicare and the system that Bob was keen to build not only ensures all people have access to health care when they need it but also makes a strong statement about the kind of country we are: a compassionate and accommodating nation that makes sure that your bank balance or your financial situation is not an impediment to gaining health care, often at some of the darkest moments in one's life.

It certainly ranks amongst the greatest of Labor's achievements. In fact, it's difficult to think of a more practical expression of Labor values than Medicare.

Bob also achieved many other policy milestones during his time as Prime Minister. His passion for people at the heart of government policy and decision-making was clear. He protected the environment by preventing mining in culturally significant sites and saved the Franklin River in Tasmania. He opened up the Australian economy to the world and floated the dollar.

Many others have spoken of his incredible national and international achievements, but, as a proud Canberran and ACT senator, I also want to focus my remarks on Bob Hawke and Canberra. Bob loved Canberra, our nation's capital. It's the city that I'm proud to call home and I represent here in the Australian Senate. Bob not only lived here when he was Prime Minister but also took up residence in the nation's capital between 1956 and '58 while he studied his doctorate of law at the Australian National University, focusing on the Australian wage-fixing system.

Bob's larrikin behaviour was on show back at that time when he decided to take advantage of the absence of the master at University House residence on the ANU campus. Historian Dr Jill Waterhouse recounted a story in TheCanberra Times recently, telling how he and a group of fellow students stormed around the residence where unmarried PhD students lived and also went for a swim in the ornamental pond, home to some goldfish. The midnight swim disturbed a visiting conference of bishops who were said to be very unimpressed.

The official incident report stated that a drunken party, involving shouting and stampeding about the courtyard, swimming in the pool, the use of obscene language and banging on doors, was not calculated to help with the public relations of the university. The event secured Bob's banishment from University House. He was asked to leave the college council as well as incurring a 15 pound fine. It was perhaps a mark of what was to come—he did challenge the authorities, who were unimpressed, but he gained the admiration and applause of his fellow students.

Bob did, however, base himself here in Canberra for the duration of his time as Prime Minister and made the Lodge, on Adelaide Avenue, his home, moving in in 1983. Bob was Prime Minister for the opening of the building we stand in today: Australia's new—at the time—Parliament House. Few buildings are more closely associated with Canberra, and there are few visitors to this city who do not visit this incredible building.

But nothing sums up Bob's passion for Canberra more than his love for something much more humble than the grandeur of Parliament House: the Canberra Raiders. It's reported that, when he was asked why he went for the Raiders despite being a member of parliament with an electorate in Melbourne, he responded with, 'Because I live in the bloody place.' Bob was a loyal and passionate fan of the Raiders and was their No. 1 ticketholder from 1983 onwards. He also reportedly hosted premiership celebrations and commiserations at the Lodge, and he was also spotted from time to time walking into the Raiders' change rooms following games.

It's these stories that occurred right here in the nation's capital that confirm that Bob Hawke was indeed a Prime Minister for the people and one that saw the value in Canberra as the heart of the nation. He was one of the few Prime Ministers of recent times who made Canberra their home and immersed themselves in Canberra life. I was also struck by the words of former Hawke press secretary Geoff Walsh who said that Hawke was a true Canberra supporter and not only because he lived here during his prime ministership. He said:

He was a defender of the national capital, both intrinsically in the sense of it being the seat of government for the whole country, but also in terms of its functionality and utility.

People would sometimes be critical of Canberra, and he, in his ultra-logical way, would say, well, if you look at the quality of policymaking that comes out of Canberra, you couldn't complain about how well the nation is being served, in terms of economic prosperity, national security, the conduct of our international relations, all of which were essentially run—to a large degree—out of the Canberra bureaucracy.

Canberra is home to the Australian Public Service. It's made up of thousands of Canberrans and many more around the nation who work hard every day to support the government and to ensure that the government's agenda is delivered. Too often I think politicians and media commentators alike use Canberra and the APS as a punching bag or as an easy scapegoat for policy failings. Hawke had a passion for the Canberra bureaucracy and the essential role that the APS plays in our democratic system, which reminds us that we should value our public servants and federal bureaucracy more.

Bob taught us that we, as Labor—and as Labor in government—have a duty to be bold with our agenda and to change Australia for the better.

With Bob's passing, we, the Labor Party, should be reminded of the significant value that Labor governments make to the social fabric of our nation.

He always showed us in very practical ways that we should embrace change and be visionary with our agenda and not be deterred by the narrow-minded rhetoric of some other parties or politicians that occupy the hallways. He demonstrated that policy should always be developed with people at its core.

Bob will be missed but he will always be remembered. His legacy is immense. His personality was unforgettable. His passion for Australia and for Australians was infectious. His contribution to Australia and to the broader world will never be forgotten. On behalf of the people of the ACT, I pass my condolences on to his wife, his children and his grandchildren. You have the support of a nation standing with you at this time.

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