Former prime minister Bob Hawke has put forward a bold plan to fix . Photo: Andrew Meares Crowds at the Woodford Folk Festival on the Sunshine Coast. Photo: Supplied
Bob Hawke believes he has the recipe to fix the nation: think big, get better candidates, abolish state governments and use “rational, unemotional thinking” to solve issues for the greater good.
The former prime minister – who won four elections and is considered one of the nation’s most popular leaders – used what has become his regular address at Queensland’s Woodford Folk Festival to once again push for a federation overhaul.
It’s one of Mr Hawke’s pet issues – having first made the argument in a 1979 Boyer lecture – and he said the time had come to “think big” and reform the nation’s political set-up for the good of the country.
“What we have today – as I have said before – basically represents the meanderings of British explorers across the n continent more than 200 years ago,” he said.
“They wandered around and lines were drawn on a map and jurisdiction and governance followed.
“So you have 13 parliaments [including senates] dealing with much the same issues and I believe that the simple fact is the states should be abolished.
“I raised that with my own colleagues and, would you believe it, they are not overly keen on it.
“So many comfortable seats to put bums on in parliaments all over this country, but it seems to me that that is what ought to happen.”
Mr Hawke said he would keep the state boundaries “for interstate sport and that sort of thing”.
He said the quality of political candidates also needed to improve.
“I think this is more of a problem for the conservative side of politics than mine, because on our side we tend to have some ideology-driven mood which brings up good people,” he said.
“You just look at it: you have a businessman, a good bloke who has done well, who tends to be on the conservative side of politics. Quite apart from the money he would lose going into Parliament, so many would have to ask themselves, I’m sure, ‘Why should I go in and subject myself, and my family, my wife and children, to this intrusive inspection of their daily lives?'”
Mr Hawke said the time had come “where we have to think big if we are going to face the big issues of our time; we have to be prepared to face changes which are quite radical”. These included global warming.
He recommended the Turnbull government consider opening for the storage of nuclear waste.
“The issues at stake here are of such fundamental importance that we require rational, unemotional thinking,” he said.
“Slogan-mongering is not good enough – nimby, not in my backyard – ignores the fact that the world’s leading geologists have said that we have the world’s geologically safest backyard, [the] most remote backyard, and we cannot ignore that fact if we are to be serious to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.”
He said he had begun investigating such issues shortly before he was replaced as prime minister by Paul Keating, and believed it would be “a win for the global environment” as “an essential part of the attack which must be made on this grievously creeping global warming”.
He said it would be “a win for the n economy” and provide the nation with the funds to address “the greatest stain” on its character: “the great gaps that exist between our Aboriginal brothers and sisters” and the rest of the nation.
The international community would embrace the opportunity, he said.
“On one of my recent visits to China I met with a recent prime minister of Japan and when I told him about what I saw as this possibility of taking the world’s [nuclear] waste – I don’t exaggerate – he nearly had an orgasm.
“That would have been a sight, wouldn’t it?”
Mr Hawke has become a regular fixture at the end of year festival, attracting hundreds of attendees to his talks. This year, he helped open the festivities, leading the crowd in a rendition of Waltzing Matilda.
With James Jessup
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