Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Oscar winner at the Bob-a-thon

Only ex-Prime Minister Bob Hawke could draw an Oscar winning actor to a book launch. Geoffrey Rush confirmed he had always been a Hawke fan. It was also an opportunity to meet for the first time the new Prime Minister Julia Gillard-a smaller, prettier woman in real life with amazing white porcelain like skin

PM Julia Gillard with Bob'n'Blanche
Hawke, The Prime Minister  is the next instalment on Hawke's life covering his 9 years as PM and is written by his wife, Blanche d'Alpuget. Her first biography of  Hawke remains the best selling political biography of all time in Australia.

Hawke fan
Hawke is a unique creature almost universally loved even by his political enemies. At 81 he still draws an admiring crowd anywhere he goes. When Bob gets out on the hustings for the Labor Party during an election campaign it can be pandemonium. With the image of the average Aussie, Hawke is anything but. 

After attending 3 universities including 2 years at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, Hawke went straight into the top spot at the ACTU without ever having to hustle for a job He became the unionist's hero when unions  were the most powerful force in the country. 

An example of his power was when Frank Sinatra visited Australia for concerts in 1972 and referred to female reporters as "$2 hookers". Unions closed ranks and refused to re-fuel Sinatra's plane. Frank found himself stuck in the penthouse suite of the Boulevard Hotel without even room service while his manager Jilly Rizzo fumed. Hawke was called into conciliate and told Cranky Frankie that of he didn't have wings he'd never leave the country without apologising first.

Peter Garret at the book launch
B1 & B2
Over a day long drinking session a deal was thrashed out with Sinatra agreeing to give 2 charity performances.
Later Sinatra was to tell friends "that Hawke could have given the guys in Chicago lessons".

The episode was later made into a film-The Night They Called It A Day with the late Dennis Hopper playing Frank.

Hawke's forte was conciliation. Preventing strikes before they happened whilst getting wages up. Big Business loved him and got behind him in his election campaign for PM. Along the way he saved huge swathes of Australia and Antarctica as national parks, was instrumental in ending war in Cambodia, formed APEC, sent troops to the first Gulf War, actively opposed the later invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

An example of Hawkie's amazing charisma was at an American Australian Association dinner about 8 years ago. Then PM John Howard was the guest of honour. When Hawke walked into the room it was electric. He was quickly surrounded by ambassadors from all over Asia. The US Ambassador, a George Bush Jr pal warmly embraced him. When Howard arrived he was like any other guest. A waiter with  a plate hors d'Ĺ“uvre would have gained more attention. As the politician Gareth Evans once said scathingly-"when Howard walks into a room, it's like he just walked out of another one". No wonder the cricket world wants anyone but him to be the new boss.

Next Sunday in the Hawke-a-thon is the premiere of Hawke, the Movie. A gripping look at the tussle between he and Paul Keating who eventually deposed him in a party room coup, just like Julia Gillard who launched the book, did with Kevin Rudd.

And on facebook you can join the Bring Back Bob Hawke page.

Hawke The Prime Minister is published by Melbourne University Press

Hawke (the film) starring Richard Roxburgh premiers on Sunday night at 8.30pm on the Ten Network