Bob Hawke: Final Speech As Prime Minister

Bob Hawke lost the leadership of the ALP to Paul Keating in a Caucus ballot at 6.30pm on December 19, 1991.

Keating defeated Hawke by 56 votes to 51. He was sworn in as prime minister the following day.

Hawke served 8 years, 9 months and 9 days as prime minister. He won four general elections.

Several hours after his Caucus defeat, Hawke delivered his final speech to the House as prime minister and as a member of parliament. He resigned from his seat of Wills on February 20, 1992.

Hansard transcript of Prime Minister Bob Hawke’s final speech to the House of Representatives.

Mr HAWKE (Prime Minister) —I move:

That the House—

(1) at its rising at this sitting, adjourn until 2 January 1992 at 1.40 p.m, unless otherwise called together by the Speaker or, in the event of the Speaker being unavailable, by the Chairman of Committees, and

(2) at its rising on 2 January 1992 after an address by the President of the United States of America, adjourn until Tuesday, 25 February 1992, at 2 p.m., unless otherwise called together by the Speaker or, in the event of the Speaker being unavailable, by the Chairman of Committees.

At this time of the year it has become almost habitual to say that this has been an eventful year, but I do not think anyone would gainsay me if at this point I said that it has been an eventful year. Any parliamentary year that begins with a special sitting to debate Australia’s involvement in a war would, for that reason alone, very seriously merit that description. This year has been much more than that, both internationally and here in Australia.

I suppose that uppermost in the minds of us all have been the further momentous changes in the Soviet Union and in eastern Europe. Whatever our political differences here, we are at one in a sense of joy that people so long oppressed and denied the opportunity of political liberty and the opportunity for full expression of their individuality, not only politically but economically, have now been given that chance.

Democracy is not something that just happens. It is something which has to be striven for. But, just as importantly as the striving for its achievement, very much we know that it has to be fought for to be maintained. We know, and I think we are proud of the fact, that in the striving to secure and to maintain democracy, the Parliament has a pivotal and foundational role. That is a privilege for us who are part of it. It is also an enormous responsibility.

Mr Speaker, the year has been full of so many changes and, if I may say so, so many achievements that I simply cannot take your time or hope to continue to receive your attention if I go to them all. I hope you will excuse me if I say, however, that I do have a sense of pride that this has been a year of considerable achievement domestically and internationally.

One achievement comes very particularly to my mind. Having had the opportunity last Saturday of seeing a great Australian produced film called Antarctica, I think the Government and this Parliament are entitled to have an enormous sense of continuing pride that this country, through the efforts of this Government and with the support of the Opposition, took a lead internationally in ensuring that that great and vast pristine continent should be preserved forever into the future as a safe place for the world.

The year 1991 has also seen the proceedings of this House televised for the first time as part of the steady effort to improve the operation of this place and to make it more accessible to the people whom we represent. It is a matter of regret to me that, for various reasons, we were unable to introduce further reforms to the procedures adopted in this place. But may I say as one who remains totally committed to this place that in time I hope those proposals will be adopted not only to the benefit of honourable members but also to the benefit of the people of this country.

As it is now very late, I have no intention of keeping honourable members here any longer than is necessary and so I extend to all honourable members, friends and foe alike, my best wishes for a happy and safe Christmas.

I also extend greetings to all those who work so tirelessly and so efficiently to keep this Parliament functioning smoothly and efficiently. The Clerk, the Deputy Clerk, the Clerk Assistants and the Serjeant-at-Arms have, as always, ensured that the business of this House is completed in the professional manner that we have come to expect, despite our own failings at times in the realms of parliamentary procedure.

The Joint House Department, the attendants, the transport office and all the others too numerous to name, of course, deserve not only our heartfelt thanks for a fine job well done but also the Christmas break upon which they will embark once we get out of their hair.

The same applies to the Parliamentary Liaison Officer, Clare Nairn, and her assistants, who once again have done a tremendous job. To you, very many thanks. It is, I am pleased to say, a tradition for me to single out the switchboard operators for very special mention. I do this because this select group of marvellously efficient, helpful and courteous ladies are for so many people the first contact point with Parliament House. I simply want to say to you, ladies, that your professionalism reflects well on us all. To Marlene and all her colleagues, my very sincere thanks. Mr Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my able and very well liked—indeed, loved—Leader of the House.

Honourable members interjecting—

Mr HAWKE —Let me say I have no hesitation in declaring my love for him, and I thank him for his contribution throughout the year. Kim is a very special sort of bloke. He is the sort of colleague whom everyone wishes he had but very few of us are fortunate enough in fact to have. His advice is invariably sound; his good spirits and his enthusiasm for the parliamentary process are infectious; and, least but not last, he makes us all look well dressed.

In paying a sincere tribute to you, Kim, it would of course be totally remiss of me if I were not to mention your Opposition counterpart. It goes without saying that the quality and the integrity of the people who fill these positions are absolutely vital to the good running of this place. And Wal, you are a man of integrity. The relationship that you have with Kim is something which I know he respects, and we are all the beneficiaries of that relationship.

Honourable members interjecting—

Mr SPEAKER —Order!

Mr HAWKE —Bring the buggers to order, will you, Mr Speaker. I would also like to thank Kim’s senior adviser on parliamentary matters, John O’Callaghan, who will be leaving us. Johnno will be leaving us for a more sane experience in January. Johnno, your contribution has been immense, if you are there.

Government members—He is in the gallery.

Mr HAWKE —Johnno, your contributions have been immense. Thank you for what you have done and the way you have done it. The best and most sincere thing I can say to you as a measure of your contribution is that you will be sorely missed by all of us and you go with our very best wishes.

Honourable members—Hear, hear!

Mr HAWKE —Mr Speaker, I wish you and your deputies and committee chairmen a merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and we thank you for a difficult job well done.

I most sincerely extend to all honourable members my personal best wishes for a very happy, restful Christmas and New Year. Please, all of you go off with your dearly loved ones and have the rest that you deserve.

Mr Speaker, when I talk about members, obviously you will tend to think I am directing those remarks to my own side of the House. But in my time here as Prime Minister we have had some good jousts with you mob opposite, and I embrace you entirely in the remarks I make when I say I wish you the opportunity of having a good rest.

I would penultimately like to say to my own staff, whom I have not mentioned to this point, that I cannot adequately find the words to convey to you the sense of indebtedness that I feel, and I thank you very much indeed.

Finally, as this will be my last speech in this chamber as Prime Minister after nearly nine years, I would sincerely like to thank all my ministerial colleagues and those of my Party who have accorded me the privilege of leading this Party, this Government and this great country over the last nine years. It is impossible to tell you what pride I feel that you have given me that opportunity. I thank you most sincerely.

Whereupon honourable members stood and applauded.

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