True believers’ Melbourne tribute to Hawke – News Report

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The Miezises had never met Anne Tan until Friday night, but as the trio sat in front of Bob Hawke’s old watering hole toasting the great Labor prime minister, it felt like they were old friends.

On election day eve, the John Curtin Hotel across from the Trades Hall on Lygon Street was full to the brim with true believers, keen to have a beer for Bob.

The few hundred Labor supporters and unionists had gathered at the Trades Hall to pay their respects for the party’s longest serving prime minister who died on Thursday aged 89.

Knocking back a Corona with Ms Tan at the pub, Sue and John Miezis said they “just had to be here” to “pay tribute to a great man”.

Mr Miezis first saw Mr Hawke debate at the Trades Hall 46 years ago and he and his wife were chuffed when Mr Hawke as prime minister replied to their son’s Ben letter with a photo.

“I thought I’ve got to be here to say goodbye to him because he was amazing then and he was amazing up until very recently,” he told AAP.

Ms Tan, a lifelong unionist, bought his biography in the mid-1980s and had it signed by Mr Hawke and his first wife Hazel.

“He was charismatic, he just fixed you with those blue eyes and you felt as though he was just talking to you,” she recalled of the brief bookshop encounter.

Earlier in the evening, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten met with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and his predecessor Steve Bracks for a beer at the same pub and toasted with cans of Hawke’s Lager.

Meatworkers unionists Tony and Heather Gili raised a glass for Mr Hawke inside the pub in front of a giant photo of the Labor legend.

“He meant a lot to us, my parents struggled before Medicare came in,” he told AAP.

“I just wish he was still around for another two days, he maybe would have seen Labor come back in,” Ms Gili said.

A Labor victory on Saturday had the mourners cheering, when the Trades Hall Secretary Luke Hilkari closed the service on Friday night and invited them across the road “for a pot, not a yard glass, because tomorrow we’ve all got work to do.”

Labor MP Brendan O’Connor and former deputy prime minister Brian Howe spoke of Mr Hawke as a staunch union leader and a consultative prime minister, one who proved Labor could make lasting reform.

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