Condolences - Hon. Robert James Lee Hawke AC

Bob Hawke has become an embodiment of a uniquely Australian form of leadership. Bob's type of leadership can be summed up as a 'both/and' style; both determined and irreverent, both successful and humble, and both resolute and kind.

I rise to add my condolences about a great Australian. His passing was a great loss to Australia. Bob Hawke has become an embodiment of a uniquely Australian form of leadership. Bob's type of leadership can be summed up as a 'both/and' style; both determined and irreverent, both successful and humble, and both resolute and kind.

I'm not going to repeat the many achievements of Bob's long public career that others have catalogued here today. I just want to recognise and reflect on one aspect of that. Bob was rightly a hero of the Australian Labor Party, but he was also an Australian hero for what he achieved and how he shaped a better nation. He played a key role in removing one of the three stools of what has been called the Australian settlement. That settlement had effectively guided Australian public policy since Federation. It was first coined by Paul Kelly, and it represented, basically, a troika of three different policies that went together from our founding moments. The first was immigration restrictions and the White Australia policy, the second was high protective tariffs to develop a manufacturing industry in Australia, and the third was centralised wage bargaining. The White Australia policy was, of course, dismantled by the Holt government in the 1960s. Centralised wage bargaining wasn't completely removed until the reforms of the Howard government in the late 1990s. But it was Bob Hawke and his government that can be credited with the removal of high tariffs, the opening up of the Australian economy to the world and the foundation of the strong economic growth we've experienced since.

I want to point out, as a member of the Nationals party, that Bob Hawke did succeed where the Country and National parties had long ago failed. It was the Country Party in the 1930s which first tried to bring down Australia's tariffs. The first coalition agreement between the Country Party and the United Australia Party actually achieved—the Country Party successfully argued for the removal of tariffs on a number of items. Of course, the Country Party's campaign to save farmers money on having to pay tariffs for imported goods was lost. Later, the Liberal Party and the Labor Party were lock step in support of high protection, and so the Country Party took a different path. It took a 'if you can't beat them, join them' path, and under John McEwen established a protection all-around approach, where, if we were going to protect our manufacturing industries, we had better protect agriculture too. By the 1970s, however, the bankruptcy of that approach had become evident. Even as a child growing up in the 1980s, I remember the distinct concern that something was not quite right with our country. I remember Japanese exchange students coming here in droves and having all the latest gadgets and seeming much wealthier than us, and terms like 'banana republic', 'poor white trash of Asia' et cetera were thrown around about our nation.

Obviously, that was not our future. In the last 30 years, we carved out a different path than many thought we were headed down in the 1980s. A lot of the thanks for avoiding that predicted decline does go to the leadership shown by the Hawke government. Reducing tariffs and protection themselves was not an easy decision. It meant hardship for many Australians that had previously relied on those policies. But it was the right decision to open Australia up to the world, to make ourselves a stronger nation and to lay the foundations for the 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth that we have now all enjoyed.

The Hawke government's hard decisions were made easier through the general support that was given by the Liberal and National parties through those times, and we have tough decisions today, of course. We have tough decisions around our budget, the development of our regions and our resources, and the sustainable management of our environment. A greater degree of bipartisanship would make it a lot easier to make these hard decisions today for our future.

Of course, being on this side of the chamber, I did not agree with everything that the Hawke government did. It was under the Hawke government that the Labor Party seemingly first discovered the political opium of doing deals with the green movement to win elections. That first occurred, as has been mentioned, with the Franklin dam but moved on to other issues like the Coronation Hill mine and others. Whatever the short-term benefits of that approach, the longer term impacts have been disastrous for the Labor Party, culminating in this year's election, where many workers left the once proudly self-described workers party. This approach is simply wrong. It is not right to ignore the local knowledge and local interests of people in Australia at an altar of national political calculation.

Hopefully, the result of this year's election will help the Labor Party rediscover the central success of the Hawke government's time, which was a focus on economic improvement to make the lives of average Australians better. That is Bob Hawke's shining achievement as leader. He will be rightly remembered as one of the founding parents of modern Australia. For that reason, he has not passed from Australia's memory. He will long be remembered, which I am sure will be of some comfort and condolence to his surviving wife, Blanche, and other loved ones.

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