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18 May 2019


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Bill Brown MBE

The late Bob Hawke was the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions when he visited Bougainville in September 1971. (He did not become prime minister of Australia until 1983.)

According to the media, Mr Hawke and his family were visiting Panguna for a week “to get away from it all.” In Kieta, people thought his visit might actually be related to Bougainville Copper’s concerns with the almost daily industrial disputes that were plaguing the mine as it moved towards commercial production.

I was not interested in his visit. I don’t think I even knew he was even on the island until Ray Ballmer, the head honcho of Bougainville Copper (director of operations and general manager) invited the Browns to make up a small dinner party of five: the Hawkes - Bob and Hazel; the Browns (Pamela and me) and himself.

We arrived at the Kobuan venue, a few minutes’ drive from Kieta, soon after dusk. Surprisingly, the company’s guesthouse, perched on the hillside, was still built of local materials with plaited-sago walls and push-out shutter windows looking out over the beach below.

When Hawke asked if it was OK for his children to be playing alone on the beach I said, “No. It is already dark and there are lots of ne’er-do-wells around…. Let’s get them back home, pronto.”

Somehow that led to a discussion of the Papua and New Guinean friends he had made on earlier visits when acting as advocate for the local officers in their arbitration case. He seemed to know them all and to be on first name terms.

He had visited Port Moresby from Melbourne on nine occasions between December 1965 and November 1967 for periods ranging from one week to two months, once with his family.

The conversation got more exuberant, and lubricated, when we discovered that only three days separated us in age.

It was one of those unique evenings. Four hours of enjoyment with a tad of cut and thrust only marred momentarily when Hazel decided to proclaim that individuals should not be allowed to own shares in corporations, and Hawke brought her back to earth.

He issued an unequivocal edict: “Shut up and no more grog!”

Corney Korokan Alone

Bob Hawke sounds like a great friend of Papua New Guinea....more understanding and supportive unlike former Prime Minister John Howard who benefited immensely from the plantations his dad established in PNG.

RIP Bob Hawke!

Arthur Smedley

When Bob Hawke was in Port Moresby in 1965 his children attended the Ela Beach International School.

Lindsay F Bond

Model of mixing with 'nearer neighbours', a possibility for Australia's aspirants of intent at political and diplomatic careers. Priceless, precise presentation, Keith.
Courage for entering and engaging, as demonstrated by Hawke and indeed so many Australians prior to PNG independence PNG, such courage surely lives on?

Roslyn Tony

Thank you for the gift of his life and may his soul rest in eternal peace.

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