The death of Labor legend Bob Hawke reminds us today of the power of union women and men to change the shape of this country for the better.
Statement from Jo-anne Schofield, National Secretary of United Voice:
Before becoming Prime Minister, Bob Hawke fought for increases to workers’ wages as an advocate for the ACTU.
And through his political life Bob Hawke stood up for the importance of working people in Australia.
It is right and proper Bob Hawke is being remembered today as a great reformer who established Medicare for all Australians, promoted a social wage and gave workers superannuation.
In the shadow of Bob Hawke’s passing it’s a good time to remember what unions and Labor are capable of: the ability to create a better, fairer Australia.
Bob Hawke also holds a special place in the heart of United Voice, and its predecessor the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union, both as a powerful advocate for union members and as a member of the union himself.
Indeed, former General Secretary of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union, Ray Gietzelt, was a vital force in the push to have Bob Hawke elected as President of the ACTU.
Bob Hawke was eligible to stand for the position as a member of the FMWU. The close relationship between these two men endured up until Ray’s death in October 2012.
Characteristic of the spirit of reform he would later represent in the role of Prime Minister, historian Margo Beasley wrote the assent of Bob Hawke to ACTU President saw dramatic change in policies at the peak union body.
These included opposition to the Vietnam War, opposition to French nuclear testing in the Pacific and opposition to apartheid in South Africa, as well as leading the charge for support for land rights, social welfare and environment policies.
The Hawke Labor government managed huge economic changes for our country, but at the same time Bob Hawke always kept an eye to the impact of structural and technological change on workers.
Those changes were accompanied with protections and assistance to transitioning industries.
This greatly contrasted with the approach of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and the free market, trickle-down approach of conservatives today.
Bob Hawke’s passing is a timely reminder that governments are here to lift people up, and to provide a safety net that no-one can fall below.
His life-long passion for the cause of union members and our movement will be long remembered by unionists – as will the echoes of his renditions of “Solidarity Forever”.
Our condolences are with Bob’s family at this time.
In Unity. Vale Bob Hawke.