What would Bob Hawke have said?
That’s the first thought that came to mind when I read the Daily Mail piece about the Prime Minister of Miracles, Scott Morrison, being compared to Labor’s best PM, the late Bob Hawke. Scott Morrison went to an National Rugby League (NRL) game the day after the Coalition won the election to cheer on his beloved Cronulla Sharks against the Manly Sea Eagles. Like Bob Hawke at a cricket match, Morrison was drinking a beer, as many footy fans do, and his fellow Sharks loved it (Photo above by Craig Golding AAP).
The tweets on Twitter came fast and furious: “ScoMo is our new Bob Hawke. The prime minister of the people.” Another tweeted: “ . . . chugging beers at the footy. He is definitely an Aussie.” And the piece de resistance: “ScoMo will be the new charismatic Bob Hawke-style PM. He will govern for all and bridge the political divide for the good of the country he and we love, Australia.”
Well, Bob might have said: “Good on you, mate. I like a beer, too, but you are a Liberal Prime Minister, and your previous nine months haven’t been the greatest. However, your campaign was much better than Bill Shorten’s, and you and the Party deserved the victory. And you’ve even managed to achieve a majority. But will you be able to unite the Coalition as Bill did with Labor?”
Scott Morrison could have replied, as he did in The Australian on the day after the election: “Labor had a very negative view of Australia; they misread the mood for change. Their big-tax and big-spending agenda was dressed up as vision . . . as John Howard said, they were dividing people . . . I said it was about bringing people together.”
The Deputy Opposition Leader, Tanya Plibersek, would have chimed in, as she did on election night: “The Liberals ran an extremely negative scare campaign. They just made up Labor policies … there was the death duties attack that they just made up … forcing people to drive electric cars, stealing your weekends, stealing your Tim Tam.”
The media, of course, weren’t counting Tim Tams. James Jeffrey, who writes The Sketch in The Australian, overheard two former ministerial staffers discussing what happened when the ABC projected a Coalition victory. One reacted: “I don’t think this is what the press gallery wanted.” The other said: “The gallery can get stuffed.”
Scott Morrison was stuffed – with adoration from Liberal supporters chanting “ScoMo! ScoMo! And he came up with the quote of the night, if not the year: “I’ve always believed in miracles.”
Well, he would believe in miracles, wouldn’t he? The Australian’s splash headline was: Messiah from the Shire. (For overseas readers, Morrison is from Sutherland Shire in south Sydney.)
What would Bob Hawke have said?
Before he died, Bob told Troy Bramston, senior writer for The Australian who’s writing a biography of Bob Hawke, that he wanted to see Bill Shorten lead Labor to victory, but “he was concerned about Labor’s drift from the centre ground. Hawke never subscribed to class warfare or the politics of envy. He was concerned Labor had reverted to a 70s tax-and-spend approach, did not understand the importance of aspiration or how markets could produce better economic and social outcomes than regulation and intervention.”
On the Q&A program on Monday night, an audience member, James Jeffery (no relation to the Oz’s writer: different spelling), asked: “Just today social media picked up on similarities between ScoMo and Bob Hawke having a beer while watching the footy. Like Bob Hawke, could ScoMo be our new “PM for the People”? (Associated Newspapers Limited Photo: Bob with an empty glass of beer at a Test cricket match.)
Political reporter for The Australian, Alice Workman, replied: “ … that’s what Scott Morrison talked about when he talked about ‘quiet Australians’ in his election victory speech, and that’s what he has always set out to do … I’m a true believer in that kicking a football and having a beer is super relatable and people love it … And getting your hands dirty on the campaign is a tried and true method of getting people to like you. And that’s what Scott Morrison fundamentally did.”
Former Liberal Defence Minister, Christopher Pyne, jumped in: ”And Scott also loved the campaign. I mean, he looked like he was really enjoying it. He liked getting out and talking to the people. He didn’t look harassed and harried or grumpy.”
Broadcaster and commentator, Alan Jones, was next: “Well, I think Scott would be embarrassed if his name was mentioned in the same sentence as Bob Hawke. Bob Hawke was a unique individual who made a phenomenal contribution to this country and he had just a wonderful rapport. Scott would aim, I guess, at the end of the day, to have that kind of record, but Scott would say, ‘Look, I’m only a starter here. Bob Hawke has history on his side.’ . . . He campaigns very, very well. You’re right, Christopher – he’s energetic, he’s enthusiastic, he genuinely loves it and wants to do it. But he would say, ‘I’ve got the job in front of me if I’m going to be mentioned in the same breath as Bob Hawke’.”
Shadow Finance Minister and Labor’s election spokesman, Jim Chalmers, talked about Scott Morrison’s remarkable campaign: “It was ultimately a successful campaign, but also to conclude that, even in his wildest dreams, he is not a cracker compared to Bob Hawke. I mean, Bob Hawke was one of a kind. And on Thursday night, we lost one of the greatest Australians ever. And I think one of the heartening things – Tony Abbott aside, John Howard aside – is that almost the entire country came together at that moment and recognised that we had lost something extraordinary.”
What would Bob Hawke say? Australian Story on ABC Monday night remembered Bob Hawke in a wonderful profile of his life first shown in 2014. It told the story of Bob Hawke from go to whoa, warts and all. He had the last word, as he should, mentioning “One of the happiest memories of my time in politics was my very last day. And one member of the opposition, he said: ‘You were a prime minister for all Australians.’ And that certainly warmed the cockles of my heart.” As it did to millions of Australians.
Bob Hawke told Troy Bramston that the “bond he shared with Australians was what sustained him in public life . . . and gave him faith in the essential decency of the people who lived in the greatest country on earth. ‘The genuine love and respect I had for the Australian people was warmly reciprocated. I think this is the basic point: that with a lot of politicians they look at them and say, ‘They’re just using us but Hawkie really is one of us’.”
That’s what Bob Hawke said. Now it’s your turn, Scott Morrison.
What would Bob Hawke have said?