Following the news that former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke passed away on Thursday evening, a number of political leaders and politicians have taken to social media to pay tribute to Australia’s longest-serving prime minister.
While most credited Hawke for all he achieved as the country’s 23rd PM and former leader of Labor, Tony Abbott has sparked debate with his official statement, claiming Hawke had “a Liberal head”.
“Bob Hawke was a great prime minister. In my judgement, he was Labor’s greatest prime minister. But his key achievements – financial deregulation, tariffs cuts, and the beginnings of privatisation – went against the Labor grain, as Labor’s recent policy direction shows,” Abbott wrote.
“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 of time of economic revitalisation.”
Still, Abbott encouraged all Australians to mourn Hawke because he “changed our country for the better”.
“He was always prepared to argue his case, even if it meant first persuading key people on his own side,” he added.
The statement, shared on Twitter, quickly drew criticism, with many labelling Abbott a “disgrace”.
One comment read: “A cold, dead, rotting fish has more heart & soul than this poor excuse for a human being. Nothing about @TonyAbbottMHR spells decency, humanity or the brotherhood of the collective ‘us’, everything that Hawkie stood for. How does someone misread & politicise the loss of a giant?”
Another said: “This is so gross. He was supported by his team, and Australia, to lead for four terms. You were deemed unworthy to make it through one. Do you not have friends & advisors to warn you before you post & say this crap? Or is it that you just don’t listen to them. Honestly.”
A third added: “You’re trying to score political points from the death of one of Australia’s greatest public figures within hours of his passing? Hawke was a giant. You are a tawdry little pissant. Long may you rot in obscurity.”
It was hard to find just one person who agreed with what Abbott wrote in the thousands of comments left on his Twitter post. In a later Twitter post he added: “[Hawke] had the capacity to reach out to everyone across party lines. He was a great Australian. Margie and I extend our deepest sympathies to Blanche and his family.”
In contrast, other politicians from all sides of parliament paid their respects for Hawke.
“Bob Hawke is a giant of Australian politics. He and Paul Keating internationalised the Australian economy,” former PM Kevin Rudd said. “He established APEC and radically deepened Australia’s engagement with Asia. He established Medicare. Together with Therese and the entire nation, I mourn his passing.”
Bob Hawke is a giant of Australian politics. He and Paul Keating internationalised the Australian economy. He established APEC and radically deepened Australia’s engagement with Asia. He established Medicare. Together with Therese and the entire nation, I mourn his passing.
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) May 16, 2019
Current PM Scott Morrison described Hawke as a “great Australian”.
“Bob Hawke was a great Australian who led and served our country with passion, courage, and an intellectual horsepower that made our country stronger. He was true to his beliefs in the Labor tradition and defined the politics of his generation and beyond,” he said.
Bob Hawke was a great Australian who led and served our country with passion, courage, and an intellectual horsepower that made our country stronger.
He was true to his beliefs in the Labor tradition and defined the politics of his generation and beyond.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) May 16, 2019
“He had a unique ability to speak to all Australians and will be greatly missed. My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Bob’s widow Blanche and his family. May he Rest In Peace.”
Barnaby Joyce added: “Well, we will all miss him. Have to admit it, we were all proud of him as he was one of us. Vale Bob.”
Well, we will all miss him. Have to admit it, we were all proud of him as he was one of us. Vale Bob
— Barnaby Joyce (@Barnaby_Joyce) May 16, 2019
Julia Gillard said Hawke was her inspiration and “the greatest peacetime leader Australia has ever had.”
“I will miss him so much. I wish so very much that Bob had been able to see one more election day,” Gillard said. “My condolences to Blanche, his children and grandchildren.”
Bob Hawke was 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. pic.twitter.com/4wPHdIeBUZ
— Julia Gillard (@JuliaGillard) May 16, 2019
Hawke reportedly died at his Sydney home on Thursday, with his wife d’Alpuget confirming his passing in a statement to media.
“Today we lost Bob Hawke, a great Australian – many would say the greatest Australian of the post-war era,” she said.
“I and Bob’s children, Sue, Stephen, Rosslyn and stepson, Louis, and his grandchildren, will hold a private funeral. A memorial service will be held in Sydney in coming weeks.
“Among his proudest achievements were large increases in the proportion of children finishing high school, his role in ending apartheid in South Africa, and his successful international campaign to protect Antarctica from mining.”