Hawke, Hon. R.J.L.


I rise to support the Premier's motion and acknowledge the contribution made by the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition in respect of the outstanding contribution that Mr Hawke has made to political life, and indeed to public life generally, covering the period that he led the ACTU. I would like to make a few comments and reflect on Mr Hawke's visits to South Australia in the 1970s, during his time as the leader of the ACTU, which I think was an important developmental and educational period for the purposes of, ultimately, public life in the parliament and in government.

As the minister now responsible for gambling, I would hope that if the commissioner for liquor and gambling reads any of this contribution he understands the context in which it is presented—the 1970s, which predated him and the laws that currently apply, which fortunately are not retrospective. But let's place it to this: Mr Hawke did frequently visit South Australia, as I am sure he went around to other regions of the country. He visited South Australia for a number of activities associated with both his leadership of the ACTU and his meetings with other leaders of very powerful unions that operated both here and around the country.

He came for a number of other extracurricular activities, and I will address his membership of the round table for poker playing. I will not mention who else was at the table, other than the fact that my father was one of them. The regular sittings they had of these occasions were in a context of a time when gambling was still largely done through SP bookmaking and when the Totalizator Agency Board was a new concept being developed but was not yet in place.

The card playing also predated the era of the 1980s, which came with the advent of the Casino and subsequently, in the latter part of the that decade, the establishment of poker machines. It is within that context I say these few matters. Firstly, it was a game that had various different leaders in politics and industry around the table. It was also a time whilst I was at school and university when I was frequently the handbag for my father in relation to events, given my mother was not there.

Can I say that what developed from the camaraderie around the table was a capacity for Mr Hawke and others at the table to pick up the phone at any time and discuss matters of mutual interest. It meant that they were able to deal with a transport dispute on a Christmas morning, for example. Where there had been a problem, phone calls were made. My father would not come to the Christmas lunch table until these issues had been resolved, and it invariably meant some phone calls to Mr Hawke and others to get on to someone else, who might be the head of another union, to sort out that issue. That was a type of direct conversation and resolution of major industrial matters, which did not always culminate in there being a strike, but frequently there were frequently threats to be a strike.

Remember that this was an era also when there was a very high level of membership of the union. The ACTU, the Transport Workers Union and others were very powerful unions in Australia. I will never forget the capacity of these men—they were all men—to translate the resolution in a dignified manner to be able to arrest damage, to be able to place productivity back on the agenda, to provide for fair entitlements obviously for the membership of the unions, etc.

It was an extraordinary era during which I am sure all the men around that table, who went into different areas of enterprise, learnt the value of that level of camaraderie. It did translate for me in having to pick up from the airport all sorts of odd bods, including a very young Laurie Brereton and an even younger Patrick Conlon, who was working for one of them at the time, and drive them out to the property, where they would have conversations and inevitably end up having a game of cards.

I just make this point: it is important in public life, whether one aspires to and achieves the prime ministership, as Mr Hawke did and whom we recognise today, to maintain a level of civility, maintain a camaraderie but also a powerful pursuit of what we are here to represent, but obviously ultimately to resolve it in a manner which is for the benefit of the public.

I hope that Mr Hawke will be remembered for the good he has done for our country as a prime minister. Sure, he had some other extracurricular activities. Some of them helped, perhaps some of them did not, but he was a man who stood by his conviction and administered that for the benefit of the people of Australia. I hope that my father is up there setting up the cards as we speak.