Tony Abbott has made a controversial comment about Bob Hawke.
Tony Abbott has made a controversial comment about Bob Hawke.

PM won’t back Abbott’s words on Bob Hawke

PRIMEMinister Scott Morrison has distanced himself from words used by Tony Abbott after the death of former prime minister Bob Hawke.

The former Liberal prime minister has been variously accused of having a pea for a heart and of using Mr Hawke's death for his own political gain on the eve of the federal election.

He's also been accused of reinventing history by claiming the coalition supported "nearly all off his big reforms, helping to make his tenure a time of economic revitalisation".

The man who wants to be the next Labor prime minister of Australia, Bill Shorten, said it was apparent Mr Abbott, who is fighting to hold his seat of Warringah, was "a man under pressure".

"Bob Hawke had a Labor head and a Labor heart," he said on Friday. Mr Abbott briefly discussed the furore on Sydney radio 2GB on Friday with broadcaster Alan Jones.

"Bob Hawke had a remarkable ability to reach across party lines," Mr Abbott said.

"A lot of the things that he did in the early 80s were things which many people felt might have been done by the Fraser government."

Mr Abbott described the Labor legend as having "a Labor heart, but a Liberal head"

"Bob Hawke was a great prime minister," Mr Abbott said.

 

Former PM  Bob Hawke was arguably Australia’s most popular PM.
Former PM Bob Hawke was arguably Australia’s most popular PM.

"In my judgment, he was Labor's greatest prime minister.

"But his key achievements - financial deregulation, tariff cuts and the beginnings of privatisation - went against the Labor grain, as Labor's more recent policy direction shows. "You might almost say he had a Labor heart, but a Liberal head. Certainly, the Coalition supported nearly all his big reforms, helping to make his tenure a time of economic revitalisation.

"All Australians should mourn someone who changed our country for the better because he was always prepared to argue his case, even if it meant first persuading key people on his own side."

Mr Morrison said he hoped no-one was trying to be partisan in the wake of Mr Hawke's death.

"I think it [the post] was more about the broad spectrum of views he [Hawke] was able to embrace, and how all Australians from either the Liberal or Labor side were able to appreciate what he was about," he said.

Mr Abbott copped flak for his statement on Twitter, which was described as "disgraceful" and "loathsome".

Former NSW Labor premier now senator for NSW Kristina Keneally said Mr Abbott was "wrong on the facts, and so wrong in his sentiment".

"The Liberals opposed Bob Hawke on: Medicare, compulsory superannuation, The Accord, tax reforms.

"In short, the Liberals opposed the Hawke-Keating reforms," she posted on Twitter.

Australian broadcaster, comedian and author Wendy Harmer didn't hold back on Mr Abbott - who Mr Hawke once described as "not a bad bloke" but "mad as a cut snake".

"You might also say you have a pea where your heart should be @TonyAbbottMHR," she tweeted.

 

SHORTEN'S POWERFUL STATEMENT

In a statement tonight issued after the announcement of Mr Hawke's death, Bill Shorten said Mr Hawke was a "leader of conviction - and a builder of consensus".

"In Australian history, in Australian politics, there will always be B.H. and A.H: Before Hawke and After Hawke. After Hawke, we were a different country. A kinder, better, bigger and bolder country," Mr Shorten said.

"The Australian people loved Bob Hawke because they knew Bob loved them, this was true to the very end.

Bill Shorten makes a statement on the passing of Bob Hawke. Picture: Damian Shaw
Bill Shorten makes a statement on the passing of Bob Hawke. Picture: Damian Shaw

"At our Labor launch I told Bob we loved him, I promised we would win for him. I said the same to him the next day at his home, when I visited.

"The Sydney sun was out, that famous silver mane, now snow-white. Cigar in hand, strawberry milkshake on the table, the hefty bulk of his dictionary holding down the day's cryptic crossword.

"I gave the man who inspired me to go into politics a gentle hug, I tried to tell him what he meant to me, what he meant to all of us. I couldn't quite find the right words, few of us can, when we're face-to-face with our heroes.

"Blanche is in our hearts today, so too are Bob's children, Sue, Stephen, Rosslyn, his stepson Louis and his grandchildren."

 

 

FORMER PMS PAY THEIR RESPECTS

Former prime ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Julia Gillard also offered their condolences.

"Farewell Bob Hawke a great Australian, Labor leader and reforming Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull tweeted.

"Australia is a better place because of him. Lucy and I send our love and condolences to Blanche and all of his family.

Former PM Julia Gillard has remembered Bob Hawke as the "greatest peacetime leader Australia has ever had".

"As a teenager Bob inspired me, as a PM he guided me.

"I will miss him. I wish so very much that Bob had been able to see one more election day. My condolences to Blanche, his children and grandchildren."

 

Julia Gillard says Bob Hawke was her guide as leader.
Julia Gillard says Bob Hawke was her guide as leader.

 

Paul Keating, Mr Hawke's longtime adversary, tonight paid tribute and reflected on their " great partnership".

It was, the former PM said, "a partnership we forged with the Australian people."

"But what remains and what will endure from that partnership are the monumental foundations of modern Australia.

"In what was our last collaboration, Bob and I were delighted to support Bill Shorten last week in recounting the rationale we employed in opening Australia

to the world.

 

Bob Hawke with Paul Keating and Julia Gillard in 2016.
Bob Hawke with Paul Keating and Julia Gillard in 2016.

 

"Bob, of course, was hoping for a Labor victory this weekend. His friends too, were hoping he would see this.

"Bob possessed a moral framework for his important public life, both representing the workers of Australia and more broadly, the country at large.

"He understood that imagination was central to policy-making and never lacked the courage to do what had to be done to turn that imagination into reality.

"And that reality was the reformation of Australia's economy and society and its

place in the world."