The great Bob Hawke has left us.
A titan of a man, one of the most revered political figures in Australian history, and possibly the most universally beloved Prime Minister the nation has ever seen.
In the hours since news of his passing at the age of 89 broke late yesterday evening, much has been said of Hawke’s policy contribution to all Australians, be it Medicare, superannuation, the Sex Discrimination act, the floating dollar, various economic and industrial relations reforms, compassion and asylum offered towards Chinese students following the Tiananmen incidents, and untold others.
What we’d like to take a moment to reflect on is something entirely different. Something that encapsulated the deep and unabiding affection working class Australia had for Hawke. Something that was as integral to his personality and charm as his deft ability to navigate the political sphere:
His ability to smack piss like a fucking champion.
Hawke and beer were a match made in heaven, and his relationship with the amber fluid was a storied one. The story of how, at University, he set a then-world record by downing a yard glass of beer in 11 seconds is legendary. In Hawke’s own memoirs he suggested this feat may have done more for his burgeoning political career than anything else.
Following Australia II’s historic America’s Cup win in 1983, Prime Minister Hawke – ever the enabler of a big night on the turps – famously declared “any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.”
When the Prime Minister tells you to drop what you’re doing and toss one down for the country, you bloody well do it. Can you ever imagine feckless chuds like Morrison or Abbott ever daring to suggest the common folk go suck the dick off a cold one? Pure and utter fiction.
The mythical reverence of Hawke only grew as he did, far beyond Parliament House and well into his later years, and fuelled by the schooners he never once turned down the chance to knock back.
Repeatedly, most often at the cricket, Hawke would belt down a cold Froth Whitlam to the braying approval of the waiting masses. At the SCG Test Match it became something of a tradition. Hawke, by that stage well into his 80s, being handed a cold one by a complete stranger and summarily crushing it like an absolute mad dog.
He did it for a select handful of lucky punters who were good enough to capture it on film.
He did it for a larger group of Richie Benaud‘s, in an effort that can only be described as “marvellous.”
He did it for the entire stadium, plastered across the big screen, hoovering it down with the gusto of a man a third his age.
I was lucky enough to meet Bob Hawke at the SCG once. Such a legacy he carried with him. Thoughts are with his family and Jill, his personal assistant of many years who I was also lucky enough to meet. pic.twitter.com/wdh2d7nhnV— Kate Hutchison (@hutch8) May 16, 2019
For the few, and for the many.
Such was Hawkie’s inextricable relationship with beer, that he received what’s probably the highest honour he could’ve ever dreamed of: An entire brewery named in his honour, the Hawke’s Brewing Co, who not only put Bob’s face on tinnies and taps across the country, but plastered his visage stories high on several Sydney pubs, like the Carlise Castle in Newtown.
A rare honour for anyone, let alone a politician. And one the good old boy clearly relished, even as his 88th birthday dawned in late 2017.
Since we learned of his passing late last night, much has been said of the man born Robert James Lee Hawke; of his politics, his charm, his wit, his relationship with the people of Australia. But few have been able to sum up Bob Hawke better than Barrie Cassidy on ABC News Breakfast this morning, in a story involving an ageing Hawke, a bus load of US congressmen, and a chance lift back to the bar with a car full of strangers.
"They couldn't believe a former prime minister would do that."@barriecassidy shares a recent and largely unknown story about Bob Hawke that stunned a group of visiting US dignitaries. pic.twitter.com/lb1fyBGZvI— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) May 16, 2019
That was Bob Hawke. A leader, a reformist, a man of the people, and a bloke who, above all else, knew the value of looking at annoying situation, declaring “fuck it,” and bailing to the pub.
One for the country, Robert.