They should be sitting in a park somewhere, shouting at clouds. But instead two former career politicians who both climbed to the dizzying heights of ‘Prime Minister’ have turned up to the National Press Club to complain about people not living ‘real lives’ before entering politics.
Bob Hawke, aged 87, and John Howard, 78, sat through the sort of love-fest that only the ABC’s ultra-congenial Annabel Crabbe could ever deliver. Without a hint of irony, both men expressed a dislike for ‘young people’ who enter politics having never really lived a real life.
Hawke told the audience: “I detest seeing a young bloke or lady go into a trade union office, or a politician’s office, and spending a good deal of their time organising numbers in the branches.”
This from the guy who, at age 15, was already boasting to friends that he would one day be Prime Minister of Australia. Hawke joined the Labor Party in 1947. And to give the ‘young uns’ some context of how long ago that was, it was shortly after the end of the Second World War.
By 1952, Hawke, living a ‘real life’, was on a Rhodes scholarship to London… because real people go to Oxford.
By 1957, as the Vietnam War was getting underway, Hawke was already working at the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He was elected president in 1969, but had already unsuccessfully contested the 1963 federal election (the year international direct dialing was introduced, so that Australians could more easily phone overseas).
Hawke finally won the 1980 election in the seat of Wills, and was leader of the Opposition by 1983, and Prime Minister a short time later, until 1991.
As for John Howard, here’s his contribution: “We have too many people who enter Parliament now, particularly at state level, who have had no experience in life other than politics.”
For the record, Howard unsuccessfully tried to enter state politics at the age of 27. By then, he’d already been a member of the Liberal Party for a decade – like Hawke, he joined at the age of 18, in 1957. That’s almost two decades before colour television came to Australia.
By the age of 23, Howard was the president of the Young Liberals. The first commercial fax machine (by Xerox) was finally launched two years later.
Howard was endorsed as the Liberal candidate in the state seat of Drummoyne in 1967 at the age of 27, the same year a vote was held to decide whether or not Aboriginal people should remain under the Flora and Fauna act.
By 1974, he was elected to federal parliament in the seat of Bennelong. That’s where he spent the next 33 years of his life, until he became only the second Australian prime minister in history (after Melbourne Stanley Bruce) to be voted out of office while still in The Lodge.
Also without hint of irony, the ABC news story reporting on the event includes a one-minute clip of the men talking. And when we say ‘men’, we mean John Howard, because the ABC played none of what Hawke had to say. The more things change….
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