The passing of former Australian Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke has created one final twist in this, the most bizarre election campaign ever seen. Hawke was beloved by his party, his opponents and Australians from all demographic groups. No one has said a bad word about him.
The media commentary has been that Hawke’s death will benefit Labor this election because the Labor camp will be motivated to do it for Hawkie, and voters will reminisce about what a positive Labor Government can do for them.
But Bill Shorten is no Bob Hawke, in fact the opposite. In his comments on the passing of Hawke, Shorten delivered them with no emotion at all, at his NPC robotic-sounding worst. The contrast between the two Labor leaders there and then could not be more obvious.
The reason why the public liked Hawke and why he won four elections, becoming Labor’s most successful ever Prime Minister, is because he came across as authentic, both in his public image and private dealings. When he spoke to people he was genuinely engaged and concerned with what they had to say.
He also was aware of his own moral failings in his personal life and didn’t pretend to be holier than thou like today’s politicians. Sadly a heavy drinking, chain smoking womaniser politician wouldn’t make it past the party preselection process, let alone make it to be Prime Minister.
With memories of Hawke now re-entering the public consciousness, what is more likely to occur is that voters will draw a distinction with Hawke’s brand of politician and the choices for Prime Minister this election.
The Liberal Party was eager to highlight Shorten’s awkward staged public persona and the cringeworthy moments it has produced in an election advertisement. Scott Morrison does come across as the more relatable down to earth character of the two.
There are of course the policy differences between Bob Hawke and Bill Shorten. Hawke, assisted by his Treasurer Paul Keating, deregulated the Australian economy, enabling it grow to the prosperous state it is in today. It was the factor in the public re-electing Labor for its longest period in government.
Today Shorten is promising to increase taxes and regulation and has been more interested in channeling the Whitlam big government social justice vision than Hawke’s policies.
Tony Abbott correctly made the point that Hawke’s policy agenda showed he had a Liberal head even though he was Labor at heart, of course Abbott was then accused of politicising a political death. But Abbott’s comments demonstrated why Hawke is revered even by conservatives.
When voters go into the polling booth today and if Hawke is in their memory, they are certainly not going to be of the opinion Shorten is of the same mould. There was only one Bob Hawke and his brand of Labor passed many years ago.