Abbott slammed over Hawke tribute

Tony Abbott's tribute to former prime minister Bob Hawke has been slammed by a mourning public, who have accused the Liberal MP of being "disrespectful" towards the Labor luminary.

Mr Hawke's death at 89 was announced on Thursday evening, with tributes pouring in from both sides of politics.

But Mr Abbott's statement in which he described Mr Hawke as having "a Labor heart, but a Liberal head" has angered many Australians.

"Bob Hawke was a great prime minister. In my judgment, he was Labor's greatest prime minister," Mr Abbott said.


Bob Hawke and Tony Abbott in 2014.
Bob Hawke and Tony Abbott in 2014.

"But his key achievements - financial deregulation, tariffs cuts, and the beginnings of privatisation - went against the Labor grain, as Labor's more recent policy direction shows.

"You might almost say he had a Labor heart, but a Liberal head.

"Certainly, the Coalition supported nearly all of his big reforms, helping to make his tenure a time of economic revitalisation.

"All Australians should mourn someone who changed our country for the better, because he was always prepared to argue his case, even if it meant first persuading key people on his own side."

Mr Abbott's statement, which contrasted with those put out by other former prime ministers, was quickly criticised on Twitter.

What did you think of Tony Abbott's tribute?

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It was off. Tony put his foot in it


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Victorian MP Mary-Anne Thomas said of Mr Abbott: "Two more days until your career is over and you will be remembered as one of our worst prime ministers".

A former Greens candidate for the Legislative Council in NSW, Kym Chapple, wrote: "Wow, you are a disgusting grub."

Giovanni Torre posted: "This is as sick and petty as your response to Margaret Whitlam".

"Let me tell you mate, in 100 years people will remember Bob Hawke. In ten years no-one will remember Tony Abbott the smallest man to ever be PM."

And the critical comments posted by prominent Australians and members of the public kept coming.


Mr Abbott has previously been accused of politicising a high profile death. In a statement about Margaret Whitlam's death in 2012, he criticised the Whitlam government.

"There was a lot wrong with the Whitlam government but nevertheless, it was a very significant episode in our history and Margaret Whitlam was a very significant element in the political success of Gough Whitlam," Mr Abbott said.

He also came under fire in 2011 when he said "sometimes shit happens" while discussing the events surrounding the death of a digger in Afghanistan the previous year. Mr Abbott later defended his comments, saying they were "taken out of context" and that he would "never seek to make light of the death of an Australian soldier".

Mr Abbott's tribute to Mr Hawke has so far attracted more than 3000 overwhelmingly negative replies. He responded by sharing a related tweet about an hour later.

In contrast, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr Hawke was "true to his beliefs in the Labor tradition and defined the politics of his generation and beyond", while Malcolm Turnbull described him as a "great Australian Labor leader and reforming prime minister".

Mr Hawke's death was confirmed in a statement from his wife Blanche d'Alpuget, who said he died peacefully at home on Thursday.

"Today we lost Bob Hawke, a great Australian - many would say the greatest Australian of the post-war era," the statement read. "He died peacefully at home at the age of 89 years.

"I and Bob's children, Sue, Stephen, Rosslyn and stepson, Louis, and his grandchildren, will hold a private funeral.

"A memorial service will be held in Sydney in coming weeks.

"Bob Hawke and Paul Keating and their governments modernised the Australian economy, paving the way for an unprecedented period of recession-free economic growth and job creation."

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