CHAMPION COLUMN | Thanks Bob, you made us better

COLUMNIST: Chris Hayes, Fowler federal MP.
COLUMNIST: Chris Hayes, Fowler federal MP.

Bob Hawke certainly was a man who believed in Australia, and I think it's fair to say Australia believed in him. He was a true son of the Labor movement, but beyond that he was probably Australia's greatest agent of change. Our nation will be forever in his debt for the magnitude of change under his leadership, not only the structural reform of our economy but our outlook as a nation. As a young union official, I was in awe of his passion and determination that championed the lives of working men and women. He inspired us. He was a household name.

He was a skilled negotiator, always wanting consensus. He wanted to persuade powerful unions to moderate their positions to ensure workers in weaker sectors of our economy weren't left behind. He genuinely cared for all workers.

He'll be remembered for his work in transforming the economic framework of this country. He and Paul Keating were a formidable duo. They did it by encouraging people with the argument that we can be better. He deregulated the financial sector. He floated the Australian dollar. He opened up our economy to the world. He caused us to be a more confident nation, more outward-looking.

He believed in the environment. He fought to prevent the damming of the Franklin River, the expansion of protection for the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests in Tasmania, and the Daintree Rainforest in Queensland and the banning of uranium mining in Jabiluka and Kakadu's Coronation Hill. Not for political expediency. Not to get a vote. But in the genuine belief that the natural beauty of our country had to be preserved. Bob's investment in education and universal healthcare show he worked not only for Australia, but for every Australian. At the start of his prime ministership in 1983, only three out of every 10 kids completed high school. When he left the prime ministership, it was eight out of 10.

CHRIS HAYES, Fowler federal MP