Hawke Tells All on Wednesdays
Bob Hawke is the most electorally successful Labor Party leader in Australian political history.
He rose from the ranks as a research officer in the ACTU to become its president in 1969, before being elected to the House of Representatives and then becoming Prime Minister in 1983.
That was the same year he announced that, “Any boss who sacked anyone today for not turning up is a bum,” when Australia won the America’s Cup.
Journalist Derek Rielly has penned an extraordinary portrait of Australia’s ‘larrikin’ PM, titled Wednesdays with Bob (Pan MacMillan $29.95), after being invited to his home at Northbridge for a series of intimate interviews.
“I was asked if I wanted to write a book and when the idea was pitched to Bob’s wife, Blanche D’Alpuget, she loved it,” Derek told The Beast.
“It was an extraordinary experience and so many doors opened up.”
“I was lucky enough to interview former Liberal PM rival John Howard, Labor allies Gareth Evans and Kim Beazley, diplomat Richard Woolcott, economist Ross Garnaut and friends Col Cunningham and John Singleton.”
The book is a strange, funny, uniquely personal study of a man who held the leadership for four terms and won the hearts of many Australians as a leader who was always in the corner for the Aussie battler.
Derek recalled on the first visit Hawke looking up from his cryptic crossword to examine the visitor.
“The rehearsed greetings, ‘Oh, Mr Hawke, it’s a pleasure beyond my imagination to be in your company…’ ‘Good afternoon, Mr Hawke, I’m extremely delighted to…’ are forgotten. ‘Mate. Mate. Hello… mate!’ ‘Did you bring a cigar?’ Hawke greets me in return,” Derek said.
And even during Derek’s fourth visit it was already, “Mate I just gotta have a leak.”
Former advertising guru and multi-millionaire knockabout John Singleton has been good pals with Hawke for almost four decades and the chapter on Singo provides a hilarious insight into two great Aussie characters.
“F**k me drunk… Hawke’s changed his f**king number,” Singo says when trying to ring Hawke to ask if there’s anything he shouldn’t say to the interviewer.
Hawke cemented his friendship with Singo when he employed him to run the Labor Party election campaign.
Even though Singo had created anti-Labor ads in 1974, Hawke approached him at a black tie dinner party when Labor was sliding in the polls during Hawke’s third term as PM.
“Listen mate; all the polls, all the advertising… is all shit. You’re the only one that knows this business and I’ve got a deal for you,” Hawke tells Singo. “If I get you to handle the campaign… you have to promise to be on my side… and you have to promise never to dud me.”
Singo replies: “Mate, I’d love to. You’re a genius, I’m a mug, but I will never dud ya.”
These are just a few anecdotes from a book that includes topics like TV host Sonia Kruger’s views on Islam, ‘On Being a Politician’, ‘Ending Aparthied’, chapters on Kim Beazley, John Howard and even ‘Tapping a Keg’.
All in all it’s a great insight into a great Australian political legend.