Former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke is famous for sculling beer as much as he is anything else. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke is famous for sculling beer as much as he is anything else. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Bob Hawke’s iconic drinking moments

BOB Hawke may have changed the Australian political landscape forever, but we will also remember him for how often - and how quickly - he could drink a beer.

Before and after, but never during his prime ministership, the lager-loving larrikin leader was frequently photographed necking the froth, or videoed downing the liquid amber in one fluid movement.

Mr Hawke even once held the world record for shotting a yard glass at university. But what impact did his uniquely Australian reputation as a big drinker have on his political career?

Bob Hawke (R) drinking a yard of ale at the official opening of the Bob Hawke Hotel. Picture: Supplied
Bob Hawke (R) drinking a yard of ale at the official opening of the Bob Hawke Hotel. Picture: Supplied

 

Bob Hawke and others during the federal election campaign, 1977. Picture: Supplied
Bob Hawke and others during the federal election campaign, 1977. Picture: Supplied

 

Bob Hawke with labour candidates in a pub in Five Dock, Sydney. Picture: Supplied
Bob Hawke with labour candidates in a pub in Five Dock, Sydney. Picture: Supplied

 

Bob Hawk in a pub in 1978. Picture: Supplied
Bob Hawk in a pub in 1978. Picture: Supplied

Bob Hawke had been pegged as a fan of the hops since he joined the ACTU in the 1950s, and that helped to cement his image as a man of the people, an ally of the working class.

But after sculling beer at the cricket for the amusement of the media and hundreds of fans at the SCG in 2012 and 2014, this image was thrown into question and he was accused of setting a bad example for young Australians.

"They sure don't make politicians like they used to," posted one YouTuber. "Every Aussie should go and get a beer, and thank this great man for everything that he did for this country."

Mr Hawke's display in 2014 on day two of the 5th Ashes Test - in which he sank a schooner in front of the Richie Benaud impersonators - attracted criticism because it coincided with a time in which Australian cities were experiencing an upsurge in alcohol-related violence such as coward-punching, with critics citing Hawke's favourite habit as an example of "binge drinking" and drinking irresponsibly.

At the time, Ita Buttrose defended Mr Hawke's antics on TV show Studio 10, saying, "I think you're all getting your knickers in a knot over nothing. … He downed a beer. He's one of the guys. Good on Bob Hawke for still being a man of the people. It's got nothing to do with the issue of teenage drinking."

Mr Hawke was at it again at the 2017-18 Ashes.

"Doesn't sip it. He gets it down," said the cricket commentator as the camera captured Mr Hawke in the VIP box downing a pint. "Go on Bobby, show us your technique. Look how quick he is!"

Well into his 80s, Mr Hawke was still known to drop in to the local pub and participate in beer sculling competitions.

It reinforced his image as an ordinary bloke who succeeded in life but never forgot his roots. As one commenert noted, "Bob Hawke is a legend and a representative of the working Aussie who did well." Another added, "Should be part of the Citizenship ceremony imo … Scull a beer like Bob!"

Mr Hawke was part of a generation of Australian men who ended their working days by going to the pub with their mates - a custom that many have since found problematic, leading to habits of alcohol abuse and domestic violence.

But Mr Hawke's reputation as a tippler has also been celebrated, and began during his years as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University where he made the Guinness world record in 1955 by downing two 1/2 pints of beer in 11 seconds.

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

But even Mr Hawke saw the dark side to his image as a lager-loving larrikin.

In 1980, he publicly swore off alcohol after admitting that he had taken "too much refuge" in booze and said he would abstain from drinking in favour of pursuing a career in parliamentary politics.

"I just said to myself, 'If you're going to become prime minister of this country you can't afford ever to be in a position where you can make a fool of yourself or of your country', and I never had a drop for the whole period I was in parliament," he said.

Throughout his marriage to his first wife, Hazel, Mr Hawke had drank heavily and suffered from alcohol poisoning after grief-drinking over the death of their infant son.

Only in his post-parliament days did he take up the grog again, but never to excess.

But his beer-sculling prowess was indivisible from the charisma that gave the man near folk-hero status in Australia, and in 2017, as if to commemorate that fact, he put his name and face to microbrewery startup Hawke's Brewing Co., which pledged to uphold "the values of a national icon - the great former Prime Minister Bob Hawke."


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