KEY figures from transport and the maritime community have united to recognise the contribution of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke who died on Thursday at the age of 89.
Mr Hawke was PM from 1983 until 1991, having previously led the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
Maritime Union national secretary Paddy Crumlin said Mr Hawke was a “loyal, respected and consistently determined friend and comrade of Australian Seafarers, Waterside Workers and Port and harbour workers”.
“As a trade union official he supported and, in return, was supported by Australian maritime workers,” Mr Crumlin said.
“During those [trade union] years, he secured a functional, productive, safe and progressive Australian waterfront and a merchant navy that was essential to Australia’s national interest.
Former Ports Australia chief executive David Anderson was private secretary to transport minister Peter Morris during the Hawke years.
He said “Bob Hawke led a very talented ministry who were genuinely concerned about good public policy and long term reform”.
Mr Anderson also recalled a trip to the Lodge with Mr Morris to see the PM one Sunday.
“Bob Hawke wanted to talk about our roads program. He was seated in the lounge room with tennis clothes on stroking a very large cat,” Mr Anderson said.
“He asked the minister if additional funds could be injected quickly into the program and on our leaving said ‘I’m relying on you blokes to make this work’.”
Victorian Transport Association Peter Anderson said Mr Hawke was a friend of the transport industry who “led many of the positive reforms we enjoy today”.
“His example of leadership and fairness is the legacy that our country’s leaders can use in the future,” Peter Anderson said.
Mission to Seafarers Victoria chairman Neil Edwards was a middle-level and later senior officer of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet during the Hawke years.
“For those of us who worked with Bob Hawke as Prime Minister, he was Australia’s best,” Mr Edwards said.
“Hawke had the most penetrating yet broad mind, he was the bravest yet most considered reformer, and he was a real democrat with the deepest connection with the Australian people in all their diversity. Nobody worked harder, nor more cheerfully for the common good.”
Mr Edwards noted the tributes to Mr Hawke as referring to his intelligence, larrikinism, ability to achieve consensus as well as being a nation-builder and a visionary leader.
“What that tells you is that Hawke’s greatness has much to do with the scope of the challenges his government faced, and the breadth of skills and understanding he brought to addressing them.
DCN looks forward to publishing a longer tribute to Bob Hawke written by Mr Edwards.