Australian Labor Party 2016 Federal Campaign Launch
Australian Labor Party 2016 Federal Campaign Launch

Most Aussie farewell ever for Bob Hawke

Thousands of dignitaries, politicians and ordinary Australians have gathered at the Sydney Opera House to farewell Bob Hawke.

The flags on the top of the Harbour Bridge are at half-mast today to honour the iconic former Australian prime minister, who died on May 16 aged 89.

The Labor legend - the country's third-longest serving leader - "died peacefully" at his home, immediately sparking an outpouring of tributes from people of all walks of life and from across the political spectrum.

Echoing the political giant's larrikin nature, one of Mr Hawke's famous songs, Men at Work's Down Under, will feature prominently, closing the memorial and played on a didgeridoo.

Today's 90-minute memorial will include a number of speeches, including from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

The eulogy will be delivered by Kim Beazley, the former Labor leader and US Ambassador, now the Governor of Western Australia.

And Mr Hawke's long-time political partner and then replacement, former PM Paul Keating, will also offer remarks.

Bob Hawke died last month just before the election. He was 89. Picture: AAP
Bob Hawke died last month just before the election. He was 89. Picture: AAP

 

Paul Keating arrives at the memorial service for Bob Hawke.
Paul Keating arrives at the memorial service for Bob Hawke.

ABC News spoke to his son Stephen Hawke, as well as Sam and Kel Corbett, and Sophie Taylor-Price, the grandchildren of Bob Hawke, on the steps of the Opera House this morning.

Stephen recalled Mr Hawke "simply as my dad".

"It's really not much more complicated than that - he was me old man," he said.

"You know, he wasn't the perfect father but he was very much a loving father and was loved in return by all of us. So, yeah, he's just my dad, nothing more than that."

Bob Hawke and Hazel with their young children.
Bob Hawke and Hazel with their young children.

 

Bob Hawke's memorial service is being hosted at the Sydney Opera House.
Bob Hawke's memorial service is being hosted at the Sydney Opera House.

Sophie, who was born in 1985, recalled her memories of her grandfather at the height of his political power in Canberra.

"My fondest childhood memories are with my grandma and grandpa," she said.

"I remember spending time in the Lodge and Kirribilli House. I remember, we would all get thrown in the bath together after rolling down the hill on Kirribilli Lawns, the itchy buffalo grass.

"I remember sitting on my grandfather's knee. I remember Whisky the cat. And I just, I remember them as, like, really special grandparents, with lots of people around them.

"But I had no concept of it being public life or public office. It's only in the, sort of, later years that I really comprehended that."

Former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating at the Labor campaign launch in 2016. Picture: Getty Images
Former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating at the Labor campaign launch in 2016. Picture: Getty Images

Mr Albanese described his involvement in the memorial as "a tremendous honour".

"Bob Hawke is in my view Australia's greatest prime minister ever," Mr Albanese said on the Today show this morning.

"He taught Labor that you need to bring people with us on change. He transformed the economy, he transformed social policy through the creation of Medicare - there is no question that he is Australia's greatest ever environmental protector because the Daintree, Kakadu, the Tasmanian wilderness and indeed Antarctica all exist thanks to Bob Hawke's Government."

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten, accompanied by wife Chloe, is also in attendance, making one of his first public appearances since last month's election loss.

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke drinks a beer at the cricket.
Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke drinks a beer at the cricket.

The week after the May 18 poll, which Mr Hawke just missed, his wife Blanche d'Alpuget gave her first interview on ABC's 7.30.

In an often emotional appearance, Ms d'Alpuget revealed the final tragedy of Mr Hawke's life was that he didn't get the chance to vote in the election.

RELATED: Tony Abbott slammed over tribute to Bob Hawke

Blanche d'Alpuget at home in Northbridge after her husband Bob Hawke passed away last month. Picture: Ryan Osland
Blanche d'Alpuget at home in Northbridge after her husband Bob Hawke passed away last month. Picture: Ryan Osland

But she said she took comfort in the fact the Labor great didn't live to see the party's shock loss.

"He decided he wasn't going to postal vote," Ms d'Alpuget revealed. "He was going to go up in his wheelchair and vote, but he didn't get there.

"He said to me, 'I can't make any further contribution. I've got no contribution to make now.' Which was one of the reasons he wanted to die, because he thought of his life as contributing to society."

Scott Morrison arrives at the memorial service for Bob Hawke.
Scott Morrison arrives at the memorial service for Bob Hawke.

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