Well this was an absolute delight to read. A collection of insights and anecdotes gathered from, yep, Wednesday afternoon conversations with Bob Hawke. Not quite a full biography, longer than an essay, more interesting than a simple interview piece.
Derek matches Bobs irreverence with a writing style that is both engaging and considered without being stodgy and boring. Political insights are coupled with little gems and reflections on a man that is a national treasure for his common touch as much as his relentless pursuit of monumental reforms for Australia.
Far from simply one man’s take on the situation, Derek takes the time to talk to those close to Bob, past and present, to round out a colourful piece that touches on Bob the man, the friend, the lover, husband, and of course, the Prime Minister.
I personally saw Bob Hawke speak some 8 or 9 years ago at a function; sandwiched between Wayne Swan and the MC he was a standout. Not simply for the way in which he speaks the common tongue with eloquence and understanding, but in the fact that he stood for something that means so much to me. It was refreshing to see a statesman enunciate a sharp vision for a country in which equality of opportunity was a driving motivation, rather than a sub-heading on a list of things that are too hard to actually achieve.
The wonderful thing about a good biography is not simply what has been included, but what has been omitted. How does the narrative go when a person who missed the Hawke era* reads it? I never had the chance to develop personal feelings about Bob Hawke the PM, but the context provided by Rielly in this account of the then-and-now of Australia’s most popular Prime Minister goes a long way to bringing a young fella like myself up to speed.
As a result of reading this, my desire to meet and speak with Bob Hawke has increased some 30-fold, his conviction and ability to connect to Australians (his approval rating of 75% is the highest of all time in Aus.) is admirable and a true inspiration.
I tip my cap to Derek Rielly (the handsome rooster) for this accessible, insightful and respectful story of a story. Commentary surrounding the mention of the C-Bomb to former conservative Prime Minister John Howard and the toiletry habits of our former heads of state make this a tale about others that endears readers to the author as much as the subjects he is speaking to. I literally polished this off in two days, I was so glued to the telling of the story. The humility and incredulity of the circumstances surrounding how this got written are a welcome change in the world of virtue-signalling and humble-bragging. Full disclosure however, I do have a special affinity for clever people who swear.
The list of things to read has increased, while I attempt to find a way to speak to a number of the figures in the book (Singo, Beazley, Blanche), as well as the author. I recommend highly that anyone vaguely interested in the man that delivered Medicare and vastly improved education outcomes to Australians checks this out.
Shoutout to Avoca Hill Bookstore, South Yarra, where I saw and immediately purchased this as my first read for 2018. An excellent choice.
*(He served as PM from 1983-1991 and I was born in 1986)
Josh Reid Jones - Founder of The Just Be Nice Project and Odin Sports