One should not speak ill of the dead, but nor should one be absurdly kind’.
I’m reminded of this ancient truism everywhere I hear prattle about what a wonderful man Bob Hawke was.
Bob’s first act as PM – and I’m talking about within 36 hours of getting the job – was to ban Palestinians from visiting Australia to advocate for their people, in contrast to Malcolm Fraser’s far more even-handed approach.
As head of Australia’s union movement, his sole achievement was to ban ‘resale price maintenance’ so that wholesalers could only recommend what the retail price was rather than dictate it.
What I remember about Hawke’s time as PM was his use of air force pilots to break the civil pilots’ strike. Some unionist. Then there was that loud promise to plant one billion trees, which turned out to include those trees that replanted themselves – ie regrowth.
And don’t forget the war on drugs – a campaign that largely featured Angry Anderson on billboards across the country and was spectacularly unsuccessful.
The only good thing I remember from his incumbency was that at one stage he disappeared from public view for several months.
Seriously though, Bob and his predecessor Paul Keating sold out our economic system to the US dollar. These ‘reforms,’ as Keating likes to call them, included floating the dollar and allowing rich Asians to buy our real estate and inflate prices beyond the reach of ordinary Australians.
My only direct contact with Bob Hawke was when I heckled him at a Murwillumbah by-election rally. He had the nerve to claim that Labor hadn’t broken any election promises, to which I yelled out ‘what about uranium, Bob?’
He turned in my direction and said something like ‘see what happens when you give them the vote?’ This side of Bob’s personality was never far below the surface.