Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : People : Labor Icons Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

 

 

 

AUSTRALIAN LABOR ICONS

 

 

BOB HAWKE

 

I'd first met Bob Hawke 12 years earlier when, as President of the ACTU and candidate for Wills, he came to the Coburg Football Club to give a motivational speech prior to the 1980 VFA finals series.

"I've had a long association with sport.  I played first grade cricket at university in England," he began, the words delivered with the air of confidence we might have expected from an Australian captain.  The ear was tugged and the eyebrows lifted as Hawke led us through the vast array of challenges "public life had presented".   

 

"Let me say that unless I'm required in Poland to help Solidarity in its negotiations with the totalitarian Polish government I'll see you during the finals," he said as he prepared to depart.  The words "totalitarian government" hung in the air like a neon advertisement for Labor revisionism.  There was no mistaking Hawke’s self-congratulatory manner.  

I didn't see much of Bob Hawke again until he turned up at the 1988 Grand Final against Williamstown. 

 

Now that he was the Member for Wills and the game was to be played at the Essendon Football ground, in the Liberal heart of the electorate, he had every reason to be in attendance.  Known for moments of extravagance where sport was concerned, Hawke was in his element at Windy Hill.  Before the game he appeared in the change-rooms with his entourage and returned amidst the pandemonium to hoist the Cup and pose for photographs.  It was the populist Hawke at his best.     

 

"Hazel and I would love to throw a roast and a few spuds on the BBQ at the Lodge for you and the boys", said the PM as we dissected the win over Terry Wheeler's Williamstown in 1988.

Well, you wouldn't expect that from Johnny Howard!

 

When he slobbered over the America's Cup I was embarrassed.  When he fraternised with the rich I could only wonder why he was in the Labor Party.  Yet his ability to engage the ordinary punter was beyond reproach.  Malcolm Fraser tried it at Carlton but never looked comfortable.  Hawke by contrast was in his element with an adoring crowd.  He had a tendency to draw his face very close when engaged in personal discussion.

 

 

At Essendon, in the aftermath of our Grand Final victory, the Prime Minister provided the crowd with a vignette from that narcissistic love affair.  Leaning over with his face almost touching mine, as the crowd grappled with their own ecstasy, he whispered, "Given the quality of your pre-match speech to the players we should be putting you up for pre-selection for the Labor Party."  They were to be prophetic words.  As coincidence would have it, a photographer pressed the shutter on his camera at exactly the right moment to capture me in a pose which suggested I was about to devour Hawke's ear.

 

JIM CAIRNS

When the silvery-voiced bloke on the end of the phone dropped the name ‘Jim Cairns’, my heart skipped a beat. …. When Cairns stood on the back of a truck in Swanston street in 1970 and swept us up against the imperialist USA and its murderous attack on the people of Vietnam, I felt truly independent and proud.  I admired him unreservedly and didn`t care what he and the enchantingly beautiful Junie Morosi did under the cover of dark.  Watching him fall under a barrage of cant and hypocrisy from those who never questioned the dalliances of the ruling class made me so angry.  I wasn't able to tell him then and I wanted to tell him now. 

 However, Jim Cairns was not on the phone to talk about himself or be indulged.  He had a simple message. ''Economic rationalism is threatening the fabric of our lives.  We must put the market to the service of our community and society," he said.  No-one in the ALP, not Hawke, not Keating, was singled out for criticism.  I sensed he was almost embarrassed to be speaking in a way that might be construed as disloyal to the Party.  This was obviously a by-election which meant a great deal to those who believed the ALP had lost its way.

 
As told in my book, Cleary Independent, published by HarperCollins in 1998.

My Letter to the Australian in 2010

Blanching at the idolatry
 
Amid the postulating about whether Bob Hawke or Paul Keating was the greatest, one sobering event has been ignored. After Hawke was banished by Keating in 1991 the punters who supposedly adored him voted independent in the 1992 by-election and 1993 election for his old seat of Wills. In fact voters sent more primary votes my way than to the ALP in 1992. The lesson surely, is that ‘ordinary’ people are not so beholden to idolatry as to be incapable of turning their backs on supposedly god-like politicians.
 
The ‘two bulls in the paddock’ were career politicians in a power struggle, not gallant soldiers risking their lives, as author Blanche d’Alpuget romantically implies when she says ‘ they would fight until their legs and arms come off’. Blanche’s rarefying of political squabbles is as sad as it is unnecessary. As the punters discovered when Prime Minister Hawke appeared in the rooms after Coburg’s VFA premiership win in 1988, no one could charm like the silver budgie. And as anyone who watched Keating during the Mabo debates knew, his working class origins were no impediment to sophistication of thought and vision. If only it was the quality of a Prime Minister’s ideas and character, rather than their capacity to win a power struggle that set tongues wagging!


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