'Beers out for Bob': Aussies pay tribute to the nation's larrikin PM

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

Australians are paying tribute to former prime minister Bob Hawke in a manner reflective of his larrikin reputation.

As news of the former Labor leader’s death broke on Thursday, Australians took to social media to pay their respects to a man regarded as one of the nation’s most popular leaders.

And while his political peers honoured him for his pioneering social and economic reforms, people also fondly remembered Australia’s 23rd prime minister for his love of a cold beer, including his much talked about yard glass skolling record.

Using the hashtags #BeersOutForBob and #BeersForBob, Australians began honouring Mr Hawke by sinking a beer in front of the camera and then uploading images to Twitter and Instagram.

“Vale to a true Australian hero,” one person captioned a video of himself sinking a beer.

“From one beer swilling South Australian to another, Vale Bob Hawke. Thanks for everything that you did for this great country in your time,” another wrote.

Radio host Kyle Sandilands jumped on board, sharing footage to KIIS’s Instagram page of him seeing off a bottle of beer.

“In honour to one of the greatest prime ministers that ever lived,” he tells the camera.

Despite giving up alcohol during his time as prime minister, a feat of dedication which his former education minister Susan Ryan spoke of on the ABC in the wake of his death, Mr Hawke was a renowned beer lover.

He had been a heavy drinker, only heightening the commitment he made to become a teetotaller during his time as prime minister.

“I knew I had to change, and the major change, of course, was giving up the grog. I was not prepared to offer myself for leadership in a state where I could disgrace my country,” he said in a documentary titled Hawke: The Larrikin and the Leader aired on ABC last year.

But while many saw a happier side to Mr Hawke thanks to his larrikin portrayal in the media, his private life was at breaking point thanks to his heavy drinking and reports of infidelity.

His first wife Hazel Hawke, who died six years ago, had said his drinking often saw “his life spin out of control,” News Corp reported.

After politics, and a divorce from Ms Hawke in 1994 following 38 years of marriage, Mr Hawke returned to drinking, albeit in moderation.

Bob Hawke’s beer skolling record

His frequent enjoyment of a cold one in his later years became so iconic a beer company even adopted his name for their newly released lager in 2017.

Developing a reputation as a working class larrikin came relatively early for him, making a name for himself thanks in part to his ability to sink a beer.

Mr Hawke had gone down in Australian folklore after breaking the world record for skolling a yard glass of beer.

Downing the glass, which equates to 2.5 pints, as a student at Oxford University in 1954, he managed to see it off in 11 seconds.

Bob Hawke poses with a schooner of Hawke's lager. Source: Getty

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

Entertaining cricket crowds at the SCG

And his ability to see off a beer never seemed to evade him in his later years, with it becoming tradition for the former prime minister to down a beer at summer Test matches in Sydney from 2012.

As the years passed, the party piece was increasingly celebrated among the media and Australians alike, with the brief spectacle broadcast to homes right across the country.

Bob Hawke, 87, seeing off a beer at the Sydney Ashes Test in 2018. Source: Getty

While there was some resistance due to fears it promoted drinking in a society which had seen a spike in alcohol-related violence, Mr Hawke was more relatable to the nation more than ever.

At the 2018 Sydney Ashes Test, age was evidently taking its toll, with the then 88-year-old former prime minister labouring to the bottom of the glass.

Egged on by commentator Shane Warne and an eager crowd at the SCG, there was rapturous applause when Mr Hawke saw off his beer in several attempts.

Bob Hawke and former Labor leader Bill Hayden enjoying a beer in the 70s. Source: Getty

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