The good wife who paid a high price

There was something about Hazel Hawke that made Australians want to reach out and protect her.
Nanjing Night Net

All of us know what it was. Nobody ever dared say it out loud.

Australia’s rock-fan craving for her husband, Bob, transformed the man she knew and maybe collective guilt turned her into our martyr.

Hazel lived the life of an ordinary wife and mother in a postwar Australia when family was the aspiration of all.

But her life turned less ordinary when Bob’s ascension to the heights of public life wreaked devastation on her children, her marriage, her husband and herself.

She kept a low profile for many years but her husband’s personality and achievements ensured she became public property.

The cost was huge: an abortion allowed Bob to fulfil his destiny as a Rhodes Scholar; his drinking and philandering shattered the family; two daughters had drug problems, their son refused to have anything to do with his father for years; she had three facelifts to improve her sense of esteem. And hovering off-stage was the other woman, Blanche d’Alpuget.

Australians knew all this but kept a conspiracy of silence.

Instead, as Hazel, who died this week, stood by her man with pluck and grace, Australians took her to their hearts in a manner never extended to any other prime minister’s wife.

Perhaps it was her vulnerability that made Hazel so beloved.

Sue Pieters-Hawke is adamant that her mother never allowed the bad times to get her down.

”There are plenty of things in public life that you’d prefer never happened,” she says. ”But Mum was never one to dwell on the negatives, she just got on with things.”

Other prime ministers’ wives were not nearly so sympathetic figures in the public mind: Dame Pattie Menzies was born to it; Zara Holt, Sonia McMahon and Margaret Whitlam had lives outside their husbands; Tamie Fraser lacked the common touch, as did Annita Keating; Janette Howard seemed a cipher for her husband’s politics while Therese Rein made millions from the public purse.

In 2003, Hazel revealed she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease on Australian Story. Her decision focused attention on the disease.

Pieters-Hawke thinks the public’s deep affection and respect for her mother stemmed from the many projects and causes she took up during her years at The Lodge.

Ms Pieters-Hawke says the outpouring of affection for her mother has been lovely.

”I think one of the defining things about mum was that she appealed to our better selves,” she says.

”Mum could help people look up and strive to be something better.”

Born in Perth in 1929, Hazel was one of Edith (nee Clark) and James Masterson’s two daughters. She left school at 15 and worked as a shorthand typist-bookkeeper for 11 years.

Hazel Masterson became engaged to Bob Hawke during his university years. They met as teenagers in Perth’s Congregational Youth Fellowship – she had been aware of him since she was nine, when Bob’s mother had directed a church play.

They were to endure a six-year engagement before he left for Oxford University in December 1953 as Western Australia’s Rhodes Scholar. He graduated with a bachelor of letters – schooled in economics – and returned to Australia in 1956.

In March they married and moved to Canberra, where he began a doctorate at the Australian National University. The first of three children, Susan, was born and the family shifted to Melbourne after Hawke obtained a researcher/advocate post with the ACTU. Another two children, Stephen and Rosslyn, arrived. A fourth, Robert jnr, died shortly after his birth in 1963. A baby had been aborted during the couple’s courtship in 1952 so Bob could go to Oxford.

As Bob climbed the ranks of the ACTU, the family lived in the Melbourne bayside suburb of Sandringham. The home became a focal point after he was elected ACTU president in 1969.

Hazel played the wife and mother in the background while hapless journalists sent to his home of a Sunday afternoon were routinely greeted by a semi-naked (or sometimes naked) Bob, who would dictate comments for the next day’s newspaper while swimming in the pool he boasted was paid for by ”Flinders Street” or ”Spencer Street” (Melbourne’s Herald, now defunct, or The Age respectively).

In 1980 Hawke won preselection for the safe Labor seat of Wills, centred around the northern Melbourne suburb of Coburg. And Hazel suddenly came into her own.

Bob spent much of his time plotting for the leadership and when he finally got it, and then the prime ministership, he had little time for the electorate.

His local numbers man, Coburg mayor Murray Gavin, stepped into his shoes but he lacked the clout and the persona and it fell to Hazel to become the de facto member for Wills.

She assiduously worked the senior citizens and childcare centres and was visible at official openings and her name lives on many plaques scattered around the electorate.

”She had a wonderful common touch. Very simple, just got on with things,” says a former Coburg council worker during the Hawke years. ”It might no longer be fashionable to value a woman who simply personified being a good wife, mother and neighbour but Hazel had them in spades. She was the sort of woman you knew would take your washing off the line.”

Little wonder then that she and Bob drifted apart.

At the dawn of the age of celebrity, Bob was one of the first political leaders to step outside the paradigm. Bob understood that to succeed he had to become public property. During his ACTU days, he assiduously supplemented a public image as the great mediator and conciliator with frequent appearances by his family in magazines and on television. As prime minister, he made cameo appearances on television series and presented the 1984 Gold Logie.

He cried about his daughter Rosslyn’s drug involvement after a 1985 story in The National Times reported that his other daughter, Sue, had a drug conviction that had been overturned on appeal. He cried for the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China in 1989. Earlier that year he was in tears, confessing marital infidelity.

Bob’s celebrity came at a time when society’s leaders started behaving like rock stars.

In 1976 Bob started an affair with d’Alpuget. Two years later, he proposed. The relationship stalled and Bob stayed with Hazel apparently for the good of his prime ministerial aspirations.

”’Divorce could cost Labor 3 per cent,’ he had fretted several times, back when this was an issue for us,” d’Alpuget wrote years later. ”As it turned out, he made the right decision: for himself, for me, for his family, for mine, for his party – and, as became obvious, for the nation.”

The non-couple collaborated on her admiring 1982 biography, Robert J. Hawke, a book that enjoyed the felicitous coincidence of being published as her lover firmed as favourite for prime minister. The pair resumed their relationship in 1988.

In 1994 Bob and Hazel announced their separation. He married d’Alpuget eight months after their divorce.

On Friday, Bob issued a statement in which he remembered his former wife with ”deep affection and gratitude”.

”She was more than a wife and mother – being father as well, during my frequent absences as I pursued an industrial then political career,” he said.

”I think there is general agreement that Hazel did an outstanding job as Australia’s first lady from 1983 to 1991. She was a constant support, particularly through some very difficult times.

”Our three children, Susan, Stephen and Rosslyn, adored their mother as did our six grandchildren and my thoughts are very much with them at this time.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Haddin looks at game in a new light

Australian Vice Captain Brad Haddin and his son with the Australian cricket team on their way to Englandfor the Ashes series against England 2013Photography Brendan EspositoSMH,22nd May,2013 Photo: brendan esposito\n Australian Vice Captain Brad Haddin and his son Photo: Brendan Esposito
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BRAD Haddin flies out of Sydney for London this weekend, and he will not be back for a while – not until late August, in fact, when the Test leg of the Ashes tour finally ends.

The greatest adventure for an Australian cricketer, it is a journey that, ordinarily, might have been front and centre in the gloveman’s mind for much of the past 12 months. However, it has not been an ordinary year for Haddin and his family. The corridors of the Children’s Hospital at Westmead became as familiar to the 35-year-old as the SCG training nets over the past 12 months. His daughter Mia’s cancer diagnosis, a blow more painful than any fast bowler could ever deliver, saw to that.

The anxiety and anguish brought on by her illness for a long time cancelled out the anticipation of a cricket tour. However, as the keeper departs, first to lead an Australia A squad in three matches before the main event of the English summer, there is some brightness for the Haddin clan. Two-year-old Mia has finished her treatment and is back in the family’s Sydney home with Haddin, his wife Karina and their two other children, Zac and Hugo. There remain complications with her health and a long way to go in her recovery but the outlook is far more positive.

If it had not been, Haddin makes very clear, he would not be going anywhere, certainly not to the other side of the globe, and might have quit the game altogether.

”If I could only do things half-hearted, I would have walked away from the game a happy man,” he says. ”But circumstances have allowed me to get back and keep challenging myself to be a better cricketer. And here I am.”

If Haddin has learnt anything about his occupation over the past year it is about context. The ferocious competitive streak will doubtless remain, and could be an important asset for a young Australian team searching for an identity, but events have conspired, however cruelly, to drum home the priorities in his life irrevocably.

Cricket is still cricket, and the Ashes are still the Ashes. It is just that the ordeal in his personal life has made him view the sport, and his place in it, entirely differently.

”I’d be lying if I said it didn’t,” he says. ”I think I’m a lot more comfortable now with where cricket is at. Sometimes you can get caught in the bubble and think international cricket is the be-all and end-all. But with what happened at home, it put things in perspective. And I’m very comfortable now with where my game is at and where my cricket is at. I’m lucky that I’ve got a very strong family at home. I’ve got a wife that has done an extraordinary job, who has gone through this journey with me as well. It does put things in perspective.”

His daughter’s health was not the only issue standing between Haddin and playing for his country again. Since he rushed home from the Caribbean in April last year, Matthew Wade had been anointed as his replacement.

Haddin had flown to the West Indies that month after a home series against India in which he scored only 86 runs at an average of less than 30. Question marks had been raised about his glovework, then he lost his place in the one-day team. Wade took his chance, making a hundred in his first Test series, then another last summer against Sri Lanka in Sydney, and Haddin seemed destined to play out his days less glamorously for NSW.

H

e accepted that scenario with utmost diligence. His pair of centuries in the Sheffield Shield, the first of which, at Bankstown Oval last September, was compiled after a night in hospital with Mia, helped him to an average of more than 50 for the season. After Wade struggled in India, Haddin was suddenly handed back the top job, and after Shane Watson stood down was enlisted as vice-captain to boot.

Asked what he thinks selectors want from him in England, Haddin offers ”probably some experience”, ”maybe a bit of normality”, and ”to get back to playing some good, tough, consistent cricket”.

That was anything but the environment he was cast into when he was called up to the forgettable tour of India in March as standby for Wade and replaced the injured Victorian in Mohali. Haddin was in transit as four players, including Watson, were suspended for the third Test there for failing to complete performance feedback, and all hell broke loose back in Australia. Haddin turned up at the team hotel in Chandigarh the next day to learn as well that Watson, whose wife was heavily pregnant, had, as a result, returned home.

”It’s something that you don’t want to walk into in international cricket, especially with the Australian cricket team,” Haddin says. ”I was actually aloof to what was going on. It’s a different Australian cricket team than I was first involved with. There’s a lot of young guys. But we’ve got to throw all that out the window now. We’ve just got to be accountable for coming together as a group. There is no excuses for not presenting ourselves and being ready for a campaign like the Ashes.”

Promoted back into Michael Clarke’s XI and to the deputy leadership in one hit, Haddin says he feels more accountable than before for the how the team is travelling in terms of performance and culture. His presence is certainly a welcome addition to the team’s international playing odometer.

The last time he was the No. 1 choice in Tests, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey were still in the side. Now Haddin is older than anyone in the Test squad except – by a mere 53 days – recalled batsman Chris Rogers. He is more experienced than anyone in terms of Tests played, aside from Clarke.

In one way Australia need Haddin more than Haddin, seeing the game in the more sober light in which he does, needs them. That, however, would ignore the toil he put himself through in the most trying of situations, reluctantly leaving his daughter’s bedside for training or a match when he could have given it away. How much he wanted this.

”I never doubted that I could get back to this level,” he says. ”It was just whether circumstances allowed me to get back to playing cricket. I knew that it was going to take a lot of hard work to fight my way back to where I am now, but I never doubted that I could get back.

”Things are going in the right direction at home, and now it’s about winning this campaign.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Demetriou backs Hird to stay on

AFL boss Andrew Demetriou says James Hird is entitled to remain Essendon coach while the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority’s probe into the club continues.
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Six weeks after saying that standing down was ”an option he [Hird] has to consider”, Demetriou suggested ASADA’s findings would ultimately determine the fate of the club legend.

The day after Ian Robson resigned as Essendon chief executive, Demetriou said he made a clear distinction between a response to the corporate governance review Essendon commissioned Ziggy Switkowski to undertake – the findings of which suggested Robson’s position at the club was untenable – and the doping investigation led by government authorities.

”He, like other people at that club, is entitled to await the outcome of the ASADA investigation,” Demetriou said of Hird, who on Friday said he intended to remain Essendon coach for ”a long time”.

”That is going through its final stages, as I understand it, with the players.

”We’re not that far away from concluding the interviews and on that basis they will then have an opportunity to submit their report.”

Demetriou was challenged in the radio interview on 3AW as to why Hird, who said in February when the Essendon doping probe was launched by ASADA that the buck stopped with him, had not already been judged to have failed in corporate governance like Robson clearly was.

”No, you could argue that the head of the football department is the general manager of football operations who has got a reporting line to the CEO,” Demetriou said.

”The coach is responsible for the onfield playing. He [Hird] said he would accept full responsibility [in February], but we haven’t found out the outcome of the [ASADA] report. We don’t know what substances were taken. We don’t know whether they were, in fact, illegal or legal.

”The outcome of that is entirely lying with ASADA and it’s very dangerous to pre-empt and pre-judge what those reports will show because they are entitled to have those finalised.

”The Switkowski report was about corporate governance and it went to the heart of who was accountable insofar as the corporate governance of that club and that’s why Ian Robson quite rightly accepted responsibility as the CEO.

”But we do need to get the ASADA report finalised and hear what the outcomes are, because at the end of the day I’ve got no doubt that they will uncover the truth and that’s when we’ll hear more.”

Asked about Hird’s comment on Friday that he planned to be Essendon’s coach for a long time, Demetriou said: ”He’s got no reason at this stage not to assume that because he hasn’t seen the outcome of the WADA report, so I think that’s an entirely consistent position to take.”

Meanwhile, the AFL boss expressed a degree of sympathy for Hawthorn star Lance Franklin, who this week apologised for a verbal altercation in a bar that led to a woman describing the forward on Facebook as ”an absolute disgrace of a human”.

”Sometimes there are some things that can be said to people that are very hurtful, and they can hurt them and they can lose their temper. And in the case of Buddy Franklin that’s what I understand happened.

”There were some hurtful things said to him, and I’ve seen it happen with players, particularly when they’re been racially abused.

”He has apologised. He’s admitted the error. I wasn’t there … but from what I understand if what was said to him was true, it’s completely unacceptable what was said to him as well. I don’t think there’s a place for it.”

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Call for Nicholls statue at MCG

AFL community engagement manager Jason Mifsud has called for indigenous footballer and former South Australian governor Sir Douglas Nicholls to be the next athlete honoured with a statue outside the MCG.
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The ground will host the centrepiece of the AFL’s indigenous round, Dreamtime at the ‘G, on Saturday night and Mifsud took the opportunity to push for a bronze sculpture of the former Fitzroy player to join likenesses of Australian sporting legends including Sir Donald Bradman, Leigh Matthews, Betty Cuthbert and Ron Barassi.

”Given there’s no indigenous athletes currently there, I think it’s a discussion that’s worthwhile having,” Mifsud said on Friday.

”I’d argue it’s well past due, not on the basis of them being indigenous, but on the basis of their contribution in any of their chosen sports.

”I think it’s meritorious for that reason first and foremost and if they’re indigenous then that’s just another attribute that they bring to that collection of statues.”

Mifsud agreed that Polly Farmer, Nicky Winmar and Cathy Freeman would also be worthy candidates for the honour, but said Sir Douglas would be his personal choice.

”I think his is a great untold story in this country of an indigenous athlete who has made a really significant contribution to the broader community,” he said.

”He was the only VFL/AFL player who has subsequently gone on to be a governor of a state and knighted by the Queen.”

Statues of AFL Hall of Fame legend John Coleman and Australian cricketer Neil Harvey are the next two to be unveiled before the Boxing Day Test with another, taking the total number to 15, to be announced in coming months.

MCC spokesman Shane Brown would not be drawn on the identity of the next athlete to be honoured.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.