In the lead up to Bob Hawke’s 85th birthday, Australian Story presents the first television documentary profile about the Australian Labor Party’s most successful and popular leader. Why was he so popular? What was the man behind the myth really like?
Using archival footage and never before seen family photographs, the story documents the volatile life of a politician whose private and political exploits captivated a nation.
Hawke’s stellar rise through the ranks of the ACTU saw him touted as a future prime minister but his character flaws threatened to derail his career. Journalist Paul Kelly explains: “There were the women, and there was the grog, and for a long time people thought this private life meant that his political ambitions would never be realised”.
Bob Hawke’s wife, Blanche D’Alpuget, talks frankly about the extent of Hawke’s problems with alcohol. “He used to start drinking brandy at breakfast time. He would be paranoid about people. He was once paranoid about me, which I found really astonishing.”
During the Prime Ministerial years we are taken behind the scenes at the Lodge as grandson David Dillon fondly remembers the support he and his brother received from Bob and Hazel as David’s mother battled personal problems.
We speak to Hawke’s inner circle, including media- shy son Steven Hawke, who lays to rest the notion that he and his father are estranged.
“There’s a perception that me and Dad weren’t on the best of terms at times. I don’t really know where it comes from to tell you the honest truth. I don’t like a thing being made of the fact that I’m a Hawke and that’s got nothing to do whatsoever with being a rejection of Dad or the work he’s done. We get on fine.”
In his first television interview, best friend and confidante Col Cunningham talks of the backlash Bob Hawke faced when he chose to leave Hazel. “I said, ‘gee Bob, people will hate you, especially the women’, cause everyone loved Hazel.”
Bob Hawke’s daughters and grandson David Dillon talk candidly about the family rift caused by their father’s decision to marry Blanche D’Alpuget. Dillon says “When our grandparents split and Bob moved on with Blanche it really tore our family apart.”
Sue Pieters-Hawke, whose strained relationship with Blanche D’Alpuget ended in a physical altercation three years ago, talks for the first time about the way in which that rift has been healed. “It took a bit of time to come around I think but it’s a matter of deep satisfaction to me that the family has reformed. Blanche has been a great step grandmother to my kids and a great stepmother to me.”
Other interviewees include Kim Beazley, Gareth Evans, Ralph Willis, Bill Kelty, Craig Emerson, Geoff Walsh, Ross Garnaut, Peter Coleman and stepson Louis Pratt.