News National In his own words: Bob Hawke’s most memorable quotes
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In his own words: Bob Hawke’s most memorable quotes

bob hawke
Bob Hawke will be remembered as much for his colourful and impassioned words as for his reforms. Photo: AAP
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Bob Hawke is remembered as a reformer, an orator and one of Australia’s greatest ever statesmen, but he was also known for speaking his mind.

Here are a few of Mr Hawke’s best remembered quotes from his time as prime minister and as a beloved Labor elder statesman:

After Australia II’s landmark America’s Cup victory in 1983: “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.”

To 60 Minutes’ Richard Carleton in 1983: “You’re not improving are you? I’d thought you’d make a better start to the year than that. It’s a ridiculous question, and you know it’s ridiculous. I have no blood on my hands. I was not involved in the discussions that Bill Hayden’s fellow leaders had with him. I hope the standard of your questioning improves.

“You can sit there with your silly quizzical face — you’ve got a reputation right around this country — yeah, it’s looking better still — you’ve got a reputation for your impertinence, your refusal to accept people at their face value, to try and ridicule the integrity of people.”

On recommending Advance Australia Fair as the new national anthem in 1984: “The previous Olympics, for instance, you have the Brits getting up, they win a medal — they do win one occasionally — and up goes God Save the Queen, and then Australia gets up and it’s the same anthem — now, that’s crazy.”

To Clive Robertson in 1989 when asked about accusations of being a womaniser: “They mean that I wasn’t faithful to my wife.”

At the 1987 ALP campaign launch: “By 1990 no Australian child will live in poverty.”

After being deposed as prime minister by Paul Keating in 1991: “If this was 11 years ago I’d be getting pretty thoroughly drunk, but fortunately for me and even more fortunately for others, that is 11 years ago and the only beer that will be passing my lips will be the totally non-alcoholic variety.”

On floating the Australian dollar in 1983: “We had this crazy business of the secretary of the treasury, the secretary of the prime minister’s department and the Governor of the Reserve Bank sitting down deciding what the exchange rate would be. Now, this is crazy.”

On later insinuations of infidelity: “The only significant other woman in my life while I was prime minister was Blanche, the only significant one. Once you fall in love, which I had with Blanche … that involves falling out of love with your wife. This is not something to be apologetic about.”

On giving up alcohol: “I just said to myself, ‘If you’re going to become prime minister of this country you can’t afford ever to be in a position where you can make a fool of yourself or of your country, and I never had a drop for the whole period I was in Parliament.”

On former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe: “He’s one of the worst human beings I’ve ever met. He treated black and white with equal contempt. He was a horrible human being.”

On former prime minister Malcom Fraser: [Malcolm Fraser] went straight from Melbourne Grammar to Oxford. And he would have been a very lonely person, and I think he probably met a lot of black students there who were also probably lonely. I think he formed friendships with them, which established his judgement about the question of colour. That’s my theory. I don’t know whether it’s right or not, but that’s what I always respected about Malcolm. He was absolutely, totally impeccable on the question of race and colour.”

On his relationship with former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher: “It was a remarkable relationship. Margaret and I had a love/hate relationship. She was always defending the South African regime and we had some terrible fights, including an enormous one in Canada. But to her great credit, she never allowed that to get in the way of our relations.”

On Tony Abbott: “I like him personally but I think he’s as mad as a cut snake. What’s the bugger going to say next?”

On Scott Morrison: “It is a blatant denial of history for Scott Morrison to allege that the Labor Party cannot manage the economy when he knows the design and structure of the modern Australian economy was put in place exclusively by the Labor Party.”

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