Parenting may not have been Bob Hawke’s strong suit but he was a truly great father to the nation, his grieving daughter says.
A day after the 89-year-old former trade union leader and Labor prime minister died peacefully at his home, Susan Pieters-Hawke has offered an intimate glimpse of what it was like to be raised by him.
She said her father – lauded in death as the labour movement’s greatest son – had spent his life consumed by the notion of a fair go for all.
In the Hawke household, that meant the kids getting involved in long and detailed explanations of social justice issues like better pay and conditions for Aussie workers.
“‘What does that mean, dad?’ would lead to a long discussion,” Ms Pieters-Hawke told the ABC on Friday.
“I remember having the whole of arbitration system and the justice system … decent wages … everything explained to me when I was about eight using a box of corn flakes as an example that helped me understand what he did in the arbitration commission.
“In the normal sense of parenting, he wouldn’t rate highly, but in some of the less normal senses of parenting, I think he was a fabulous and inspiring dad.”
The nurturing aspects of parenting were left to Hazel, his late first wife who bore him four children.
“He was enormously pleased and relieved our mother was such an extraordinary parent because he had deficits on that front.”
Mr Hawke’s death has sparked an outpouring of anecdotes from ordinary Australians for a man who wanted to be remembered as unchanged by high office.
He was sports mad. He swore. He loved a drink until it became a demon in his life. He was never afraid to party.
A man identified as Steve called the ABC on Friday to recount the day Mr Hawke shouted drinks for an entire racetrack when a horse he co-owned, Ha Ha, won the Golden Slipper in 2001.
“30-odd thousand people got free beer for an hour. It was pretty awesome,” he said.
Journalist Sophie Tedmanson used Facebook to describe the first glimpse she ever got of the silver-haired PM, through a pall of smoke.
She was eight and had gone to a Labor party meeting with her mum.
“He was at the end of a long corridor surrounded by men in suits & a huge puff of smoke,” she wrote.
“When he saw me he hid one hand behind his back, bent down & shook my hand with the other & told me I had a beautiful name. I said: ‘What are you hiding, Mr Prime Minister?’ trying to see what was in his other hand.
“Cue guffaws of laughter & an impressed grinning nod from the charismatic PM that left a huge mark on me.”
Serious tributes also abounded, for better wages, Medicare, sex discrimination laws, and the death of Tasmania’s Franklin Dam.
For Naaman Zhou it was thanks for a safe haven when one was desperately needed.
“Bob Hawke let my parents stay here after Tiananmen Square, when they were students. Something many Chinese-Australians will be talking to their children and families about …”