Bob Hawke dead: Leader’s love of beer helped secure popularity


Bob Hawke may have changed the Australian political landscape forever, but we will also remember him for how often — and how quickly — he could drink a beer.

Before, during, and after his prime ministership, the lager loving larrikin leader was frequently photographed necking the froth or videoed downing the liquid amber in one fluid movement.

Mr Hawke once held the world record for shotting a yard glass at university.

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media_cameraBob Hawke (R) drinking a yard of ale at the official opening of the Bob Hawke Hotel. Picture: Supplied
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media_cameraBob Hawke and others during the federal election campaign, 1977. Picture: Supplied
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media_cameraBob Hawke with labour candidates in a pub in Five Dock, Sydney. Picture: Supplied
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media_cameraBob Hawk in a pub in 1978. Picture: Supplied

But after sculling a beer at the cricket for the amusement of the press and hundreds of fans at the SCG in 2012 and 2014, he was accused of setting a bad example for Australians.

His display in 2014 on day two of the 5th Ashes Test in which he sank a schooner in front of the Richie Benaud impersonators attracted criticism because it occurred around the same time Australian cities were experiencing an upsurge in alcohol-related violence such as coward-punching, with critics citing Hawke’s favourite habit as an example of “binge drinking” and drinking irresponsibly.

“They sure don’t make politicians like they used to,” posted one YouTuber. “Every Aussie should go and get a beer, and thank this great man for everything that he did for this country.”

At the time, Ita Buttrose defended Mr Hawke’s antics on TV show Studio 10, saying, “I think you’re all getting your knickers in a knot over nothing. … He downed a beer. He’s one of the guys. Good on Bob Hawke for still being a man of the people. It’s got nothing to do with the issue of teenage drinking.”

At age 83, Mr Hawke was still known to participate in beer sculling competitions at the local pub.

It reinforced his image as a man of the people. As one comment noted, “Bob Hawke is a legend and a representative of the working Aussie who did well.” Another added, “Should be part of the Citizenship ceremony imo … Scull a beer like Bob!”

Mr Hawke was at it again at the 2017-18 Ashes.

“Doesn’t sip it. He gets it down,” said the cricket commentator as the camera captured Mr Hawke in the VIP box downing a pint. “Go on Bobby, show us your technique. Look how quick he is!”

Mr Hawke’s reputation as a tippler began during his years as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University where he made the Guinness world record in 1955 by downing 2 1/2 pints of beer in 11 seconds.

“This feat was to endear me to some of my fellow Australians more than anything else I ever achieved,” wrote Mr Hawke in his autobiography.

But even Hawke saw the dark side to his image as a lager-loving larrikin.

In 1980, he publicly swore off alcohol after admitting that he had taken “too much refuge” in having a drink and said he would abstain from drinking in favour of a career in parliamentary politics.

Originally published as Bob Hawke, drinking legend



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