Subjects: Bob Hawke tribute.
CHRIS SMITH: Anthony Albanese, the Member for Grayndler is on the line right now. Anthony, good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good afternoon Chris. Good to speak to you, even if under these circumstances.
SMITH: Yes, a sad day and, no doubt, very sad for members of the Labor Party. But I can’t help but be entertained, hearing all of those great, classic bits and pieces – those ‘Hawkeisms’ mate. Was he a really good bloke?
ALBANESE: He was a terrific bloke. And this morning, someone said to me in Balmain, I was handing out at East Balmain Wharf there, and someone said to me: ‘I don’t know how you can smile today’, and I said: ‘Hawkey would want us to be smiling today’. I spoke to him, pretty regularly, even at the Woodford Festival in after Christmas. He turned up there. I did his spot that he usually does – a political spot, where more than a thousand people turn up.
SMITH: Did you have to sing Waltzing Matilda too?
ALBANESE: No one wanted to hear me sing mate. I might have some capacity, but capacity to sing is something that no one would want. Hawkey, of course, had a great voice, and loved to sing. And he at that time, it struck me that, you know, his view of the world was that he had lived a good life, it was certainly a full life, he enjoyed each and every day, but that he didn’t particularly want to not live in good health for a long period of time, and his health was deteriorating. That was very hard on Blanche, and he was very conscious of that. She was very much a rock to him, of course, in his later period. And their relationship was wonderful, and my condolences go to her, and the rest of the Hawke family, and all his friends, and many thousands and – literally millions of Australians, of course, loved him. Even people across the political divide, I think, he was respected for being a great Australian who always did his best for the nation. And one of the things about Bob was that he was as comfortable in a boardroom or talking to a president or a world leader, as he was down at the TAB or in the local pub. He was just one of a kind.
SMITH: Have you got a Bob Hawke story you can share with us?
ALBANESE: Oh Hawkey – there so many. He is quite extraordinary. He did launch my biography. I was so proud that he agreed to do that. When Karen Middleton asked me who I wanted to launch, if I had an idea of who should launch the book, I said Bob Hawke. And she said: ‘who’s your second choice?’ and I said Bob Hawke. And she said: ‘who’s your third choice?’ I said that’d be Bob Hawke. Because I just think he represented the best of Labor and the best of Australia. And he always had time for people. People wouldn’t necessarily know that a range of us would go and just sit at the feet of the great man, and just ask him questions, get his advice, get his views on what was happening in the world, and it was always wise counsel.
SMITH: I’ll bet.
ALBANESE: He said to me that, you know, ‘you’ve got to be true to yourself. Just be yourself.’ ‘Show people – don’t be frightened of showing people who you are’. And of course, a number of times, he broke down in public and exposed who he was, whether it was about personal issues within his family, or whether it be the treatment of those students and democratic demonstrators in Beijing, who were crushed under tanks. And of course, he intervened after that. And one of my great memories of him will be of him at the Chinese restaurant at West Ashfield there – the club which is the centre where a lot of the Chinese students, who were allowed to stay in Australia after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, all gathered for, I think it was either the 20th, or the 25th anniversary of that decision to make them stay. And they just loved him. He had made a difference to their lives. They since have enabled their families to come, and he was revered. It was quite remarkable, and he took those obligations very seriously. When he launched my book, I expected him to, you know, come along and say a few things about me, and say things about what he thought was happening in the current contemporaneous political sphere. But he walked into my office – he had so many post-it notes in that book. He had read every page. He had little anecdotes of his own experience, and how it was related to the book. He took it so seriously. I was incredibly humbled that he had done that.
SMITH: I bet. Yes, he always did his homework, and he was always prepared to work. He was a great, great worker. Well mate, we’re sorry for your loss. And I think, in some ways, the nation has lost a mate in many ways.
ALBANESE: Oh absolutely. Indeed.
SMITH: Thank you very much for your time, and have a fantastic day tomorrow. Enjoy yourself, and all the very best.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much Chris.
SMITH: Okay, Anthony Albanese.