It’s been 14 years since we have had a PM who could really deliver a speech, and it was fitting that the nation’s greatest speechwriter, Graham Freudenberg, was in the audience last night to hear Julia Gillard speak about Bob Hawke.

Launching Blanche D’Apulget’s Hawke, The Prime Minister, the PM said: “Bob Hawke achieved an historic transformation of the way the people perceived our party, the ALP. Hawke remade the ALP as the party of national unity.”

Bob’s standing with the Australian people is the stuff of legend, she said, adding that although his partnership with Paul Keating was “bittersweet”, in its prime “it was a formidable partnership, like Curtin and Chifley.”

“The story of Bob Hawke will shine as Australians yet unborn discover this remarkable man and his astounding contribution to our national life. Hawke’s brilliant political career is over but the long tail of his comet still shines,” she said.

And she’s looking forward to putting Bob to work in the upcoming campaign: ”Even today on the hustings, Bob can generate more excitement than probably any of us who sit currently in the parliament. You might say that Bob Hawke has never spurned the admiration of the Australian people.”

Plenty of former Hawkeites were in the audience, including Bob Hogg, Ralph Willis, Susan Ryan, Neil Blewett, John Brown and Bob Sorby. Current pollies Maxine McKew, Peter Garrett and Craig Emerson also turned up, along with former premier Bob Carr, who chatted happily to Bob Ellis and actor-turned-political-tragic Rhys Muldoon.

Publisher Louise Adler, married to actor Max Gillies, said that that her family owed Hawke a great deal, adding that Gillies’ “Silver Bodgie” was his favourite character. The CEO of Melbourne University Publishing said that Hawke’s own 1994 autobiography, The Hawke Memoirs, remains the biggest selling political biography of all time.

Hawke, The Prime Minister is the sequel to D’Apulget’s first book about Hawke, published in 1982, and encompasses the years 1983-1992. And for those who cannot get enough of the man, MUP is relaunching the first volume later this year.

Next to the podium was the ageless Blanche, who said it was a book about “leadership, which is an issue that had not been covered”. It’s not a hagiography, she said defensively; “he hated it when he first read it”.

Hawke said that that he had given Blanche permission to write the first one, provided it was warts and all: “But I did not know what a great wart-discovering capacity she had, not a wart escaped her attention.”

He thanked his children and grandchildren, his Chinese housekeeper, his PA and driver, with a special mention for his golf buddies. He also thanked Blanche, who is “the love of my life”. But could we now have a ban on octogenarians talking publicly about their s-x lives? This is the second time Hawke has talked about the joys of their “physical love” and I think that’s enough.

Blanche herself plays up her role as the femme fatale — even at 66, she looks amazing, slinking around the room in a leopard skin dress and Louboutin heels. But if you can keep your mind off B1 and B2 in the bedroom, the good news is that she can write like a dream. On Whitlam:

“The magnificent Whitlam’s political judgement turned out to be so inept that, from his starting point as an ALP Moses leading the Children of Labor out of the Wilderness, his ending was as a kind of political Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the guru whose cult of freedom degenerated into orgy and criminality, as the Whitlam government was to degenerate into desperation and a folly that resembled madness.”

She also quoted Ross Garnaut on the actions of adviser Peter Barron, who had come up through the bowels of the NSW Labor Right:

“I remember one Caucus meeting Bob came back shaking his head, saying, ‘those bloody troglodytes from NSW’!” and Barron said, “Bob; they might be troglodytes. They might all be as thick as planks, but I don’t want ever to hear you call them troglodytes again. You’re PM because they put up their hands when we want them to.”

And on Graham Richardson:

“To the left wing of the ALP, there was little to distinguish between Richardson and Mephistopheles except, perhaps, the devil cut a more dashing figure. It was Richardson’s personality that was intensely attractive. Full of vitality and brisk intelligence … he kept bad company, was guilty of numerous moral delinquencies, was loyal to friends, a fighter, frank. He was also a gifted liar. He seemed to understand the bottomlessness of human desire.”

But I totally disagree with her assessment of Keating’s pheromones.

“Keating, with his love of art, beauty, clothes and shopping was sexually unthreatening to female journalists, whom he wooed and wowed in long conversations, whereas Hawke had a sexual edge that made many women uncomfortable.”

If, as is widely predicted, the PM calls an election this week, we may be seeing a lot more of her on the podium. Last night’s speech was evidently written by staffer Tim Dixon. Tim, maate, keep it up.