5 lesser-known moments that prove Bob Hawke was a deadset legend


Tributes are pouring in thick and fast from all corners of Australia following the announcement that former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke has died.

Despite being a Rhodes Scholar and responsible for key economic and social policy reforms, Hawke also had a reputation as a larrikin and knockabout, with an authentic common touch.

Here are 5 lesser-known moments that prove his legendary larrikin status.

1. Ditching American dignitaries to hitchhike to the pub

Some of the very best Hawke anecdotes come from veteran ABC political journo Barrie Cassidy, who worked for the prime minster as press secretary from 1986 to 1991.

Reflecting on his old boss on ABC News Breakfast on Friday, Cassidy told a yarn he says proves Hawke’s egalitarian streak was not just rhetoric.

The press secretary was with Hawke one day at the MCG, chaperoning a delegation of US dignitaries, including federal congressmen, when he was bemoaning the plan to take the official bus back to the Hyatt hotel.

“A couple of young guys turned up and said ‘hey, Hawkey, you legend’. And he said, ‘if I’m such a legend, give me a lift back to the friggin’ pub’,” Cassidy recounted.

“And they said ‘righto’ and he got in the car with all these Americans watching and he drove off with these complete strangers. And he talked to me the next day and said ‘they were great guys [and] they put their mums on the mobile phone and I had to talk to them on the way to the hotel’.

“[The Americans] couldn’t believe a former prime minister would do that [but]…that’s how he operated.”

2. Wielding the ‘dagger that finally killed apartheid’

This ripper of a Hawke tale also comes from Cassidy.

Hawke was a passionate opponent of racism and, especially, the apartheid regime in South Africa, the former press secretary wrote in The Guardian.

Having mustered support of fellow Commonwealth leaders to impose sanctions against the racist South African government, he called in a big gun to seal the deal.

3. Interrupting a Machiavellian rant when nature calls

Hawke has always has an intimate relationship with his biographers. He even married Blanche d’Alpuget, the author of Robert J Hawke: An Unauthorised Biography.

And decades later, when sitting for cigar-chomping interview sessions with surfing journalist and former blackjack dealer Derek Rielly, he offered his later-life biographer this little nugget:

“Bob Hawke is midway through a harangue on Machiavelli’s assertion that that it’s better to be feared than loved (‘It’s bullshit!’ he growls),” Rielly writes in his book, Wednesdays with Bob.

“When he stands, theatrically hoicks his jeans upwards, eyeballs me and says, ‘Mate, I just gotta have a leak…’.”

4. Betting on horses instead of campaigning

Hawke famously loved a punt and one Queenslander wrote on Twitter about his personal run in with the Labor legend during the 2001 campaign.

It’s unclear what Labor leader Kim Beazley – who lost the election to John Howard’s Coalition – would have made of his star campaigner heading off to the pub for a bet instead of knocking on doors and kissing babies. But that’s just what Australia loved about Hawke.

5. Getting drunk and getting away with it


Hawke made no secret of his thorny relationship with alcohol. Having gained a place in the Guinness Book of Records for skolling a yard glass of ale in record time during his university days, Hawke became a teetotaller in 1980 when he was elected to parliament.

In his twilight years and much to the glee of cricket fans everywhere, he got back on the sauce in moderation.

Speaking to Nine’s Today Show on Friday, former Labor powerbroker turned Sky News host Graham Richardson said there was a good reason why Hawke gave up the grog, albeit temporarily.

“If you’d seen Hawkey in the pub, as I did a few times, it would not have made a good look on the television. He got away with a great deal and everyone knew he drank too much and he didn’t try to hide it. He’d get so untidy and if it’d be shown it’d be very ugly,” Richardson said.

“He was the larrikin kid who made it, he was the bloke who could get drunk every day of his life and get filmed and get away with it.”

The untold stories

Speaking to Business Insider Australia, labour movement figure Gary Weaven, a former ACTU assistant secretary and chairman of industry super funds-linked IFM Investors, said some of the best Hawke stories are yet to come out of the woodwork.

“There’s a lot to say [about Hawke],” Weaven said. “Some things will be said later.”