There’s a wonderful academic thesis waiting to be written that tracks the public reactions of people adversely mentioned in The Latham Diaries.
Bob Hawke and George Pell are the latest prominent Australians to
directly attack Mark Latham without dealing with the specific
criticisms.

You can read Pell’s comments here, but it was interesting to hear Hawke talk about Latham on The 7.30 Report last night:

“I worked as hard as I possibly could to stop him becoming leader. I
rang so many people in the Caucus urging them not to vote for this man
because I thought he would be a disaster. In their lack of wisdom, they
voted for him and he became the leader. I regarded it as my obligation,
as a loyal member of the Labor Party, once they had made their mistake,
to go out and do what I could. I had him to my home. I talked calmly
with him about what I thought was the right tactics; the right
strategy, the right policy, the right approach. Unfortunately, he took
no notice of anything I said. But I regarded that as my duty. They made
a mistake in electing him. But they made him. It was my responsibility
as a loyal party member to see if I could get him up.”

Hawke claims he won’t be buying the book to stop Latham
getting his $3.90 royalty, which is amusing given one of the many
adverse comments that Latham makes about Hawke in his Diaries is that he is too money focused. Try this one for size:

Sunday, 14 March, 2004

Lunch at Bob Hawke and
Blanche’s place: a multi-storey mansion on Middle Harbour with a
separate unit/meeting space down below on the water. Hawke offered this
to me for ‘secret meetings – you can come in here on a water taxi’. He
must think I’m James Bond or something. I politely declined his offer.

An
amiable enough lunch and conversation, more workman-like than warm.
These two are tightly focused on money, far more than Janine and me. I
suppose you don’t end up in a posh joint like this otherwise. I kept on
thinking about Chifley’s house in Bathurst and Curtin’s in Cottlesloe.
Yes, we have changed too much as a Party. Maybe I’m the odd man out
these days, but I dislike wealth on this scale.

Hawke was a
legend when I first joined the Party 25 years ago. Is this why it is so
hard to have a normal conversation with him. I can’t stop grinning when
I look at him, thinking of the great story Ralph Willis tells from the
early 1970s. Ralph was a research officer at the ACTU and Hawke was
President. One day an announcement came through at around lunchtime
that Hawke was Australia’s Father of the Year, so Bob grabbed his mates
and went to the pub to celebrate.

Ten hours later it was Ralph’s
job to haul him out of the pub, get him into a car and take him home.
Ralph dropped him, full as a boot, on the doorstep as Hazel came out
the front and gave him both barrels, calling him every name under the
sun. Ralph drove away thinking to himself, ‘There’s Australia’s Father
of the Year’.

The Party has glorified Hawke’s alcoholism and
womanising but, in its day, it must have been horrendous for his
family. I can laugh at the Willis story because I wasn’t there, but
imagine being Hazel – the true hero of the Hawke years.

All up,
a strangely ambivalent day, memories of my first wife and Hawke’s. What
can you do about it; history is fixed in concrete. Bob and Blanche,
what a combination. As Janine and I left, the masseur was arriving for
their afternoon session – a good time to get out of there.

CRIKEY: Such valid observations about a grubby individual, with plenty of humour thrown in for good measure.

Peter Fray

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