TALENTED biographer Troy Bramston has written a new work on Bob Hawke and he promotes it in today’s Weekend Australian with three teaser articles. The book’s vanilla revelations do matter for the chronicles but, prima facie, are not very interesting. Secret letters between Hawke and Bill Hayden set out terms for the latter’s hari-kari as Labor Leader in February 1983. Hawke lied about being asked to commit ADF forces to the Gulf War in 1990. He asked to be asked. Whatever. These banalities don’t sell a book – nor will Bramston’s admirably conceived interviews about his subject with snooze-mobiles like John Major and Brian Mulroney. But sex…
It sells. What did Bob Hawke and Jeffrey Epstein have in common? Three things: disregard for the dignity of their prey, an island redoubt where they could escape scrutiny – in Hawke’s case, press-provided and metaphorical – and, third, reliable pimps. There is no suggestion, of course, that the former prime minister liked ’em young – not unlawfully young, anyway. With the Bobita Express given clearance to fly by the highest officials in the country, you do, nonetheless, have to ask what “steps” were taken – and by whom – to silence and control the cargo:
In the 1960s and 70s, some women threw themselves at Hawke, mesmerised by his charisma and power, while others phoned or wrote letters offering to have sex. Women were procured by party, union and business figures. Hawke also flatly propositioned women for sex. When rejected, he would often lash out with invective…
Hawke’s principal private secretary, Graham Evans, was alert to the risk of the prime minister being compromised by his infidelity, and raised it with Sir Geoffrey Yeend, the head of the Prime Minister’s Department. Steps were taken to ensure there was no risk to the government’s integrity.
Obviously, what Bramston and biographer-cum-mistress-cum-spouse Blanche d’Alpuget diagnose as Hawke’s “sex addiction” will move books. The aforementioned pseudo-affliction only exists as a class marker and a sad consolation to the cheated. In the same way the rich are eccentric while the poor are crazy, the powerful man is a sex addict, the everyman is a sleazeball. The ladies who loved Hawke – battered wives of a kind – needed to believe he couldn’t help himself. The self-deception allowed them to persevere even as the hard-drinking union boss had affairs and flings with women around Australia.
Love Hawke or loathe him, the fact that details have been divulged by the likes of Bill Kelty, former minister John Brown (whose mistress Hawke wanted to share) and head of the then PM’s security team, Roger Martindale, is a poorer reflection on their character than the randy man in the middle. The secrets of a friend you take to the grave. But I suspect Hawke saw most of the men around him as coat pullers and minnows. That’s probably one reason he was attractive to women. He was more interested in them than he was in blokey mateship. He played that so well because he saw through it so clearly. Men’s men are never in thrall to other men.
Yes, I liked Bob Hawke – despite his flaws, his ego and his uncritical acceptance of the subjectivism of the age. He loved Australia and was loyal to its allies; he was devoted to Israel and disdainful of extremists. When Tony Abbott was jeered on arrival at the memorial service for Gough Whitlam in 2014, it was Hawke who ignored the morons and welcomed the Prime Minister as honoured guest. I’m less interested in his sex life then I am in the toxic phenomenon of reporters keeping the public in the dark to protect favoured – meaning non-conservative – politicians. Just as the toadies of the American press kept quiet about Jack Kennedy’s dangerous liaisons, their Australian counterparts weren’t going to spoil the Hawke ascendancy, a privilege the media in 2022 still affords exclusively to Labor men. Perhaps Mr Bramston should write a book about that.