Relationships

Shannen Findlay

Bob Hawke and Blanche d'Alpuget felt a “click”: Inside Australia’s most favourite love story

The affair between Bob Hawke and Blanche d’Alpuget is one of the biggest scandals in Australian political history, and in later years turned into one of the nation’s greatest and favourite love stories.

Hazel Masterton met a young and dashing Bob Hawke when he was attending university in Perth and the couple became engaged in 1950.

The two married in 1956 and welcomed four children – Sue, Stephen, Rosslyn and Robert Jr who sadly passed away as an infant.

Throughout their marriage, Mrs Hawke stood by her husband’s side as he talked about his political aspirations and won the hearts of the Australian people – first as the head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in the 1970’s, before joining parliament in the 1980’s.

Hazel served as the First Lady during Bob’s years as Prime Minister from 1983 – 1991.

However, it was in 1970 when Blanche d’Alpuget met Bob Hawke for the first time at a party in Jakarta, where the young writer was living with her husband, Antony Pratt.

What she described to Mamamia’s No Filter podcast was not a spark between her and Mr Hawke as they talked long into the night about the city, but a “click.”

“I hadn’t been long married, and I was very keen on my husband,” the 74-year-old told Mia Freedman in 2018.

“I didn’t know who the hell [Hawke] was; I thought his name was Robin.”    

The next time she met with Hawke was six years later and by then, her marriage had been “going down the drain. The connection he and his soon-to-be mistress had a click that “was different,” she said.

The public was outraged when it had emerged the nations most beloved politician was leaving his wife of 38 years to marry d’Alpuget – a beautiful, blonde writer 14 years his junior, four years after he had left office.

It had been discovered the two had been in a secret love affair for over two decades.

“It was the ’70s, and I was a feminist, I was in the women’s movement. We didn’t believe in monogamy, we believed in liberty, equality and sorority and supporting other women, and affairs were par for the course. They were part of that life,” she said.

“But one tried to be discreet and not hurt anybody.”

Scroll through the gallery above to see Mr Bob Hawke and his wife, Blanche d'Alpuget.

“I’ve been in love with Bob since 1976,” she told news.com.au.

“I fell in love with his character. He was a man of absolutely good character, as far as I was concerned. He was clever and genuinely charismatic. He’s a man of enormous compassion, and I saw all of those things.

The secret couple had gone through a string of break-ups and rekindling’s, but what had sealed their fate together, and to go public with their relationship was a single pause from Bob.

“I was in a sea plane up in far-north Queensland, I was doing a story for The New York Times on the Great Barrier Reef, and the sea plane crashed into the sea,” d’Alpuget explained to Freedman.’

“We had to swim out the window. There were six passengers and the pilot, and we were very lucky to be alive because we all grabbed on to the wings, as [aviation fuel] was pouring out of them and covering us."

Nearby, a yachtsman had seen the accident and rescued the seven from the polluted water, pulling them into his dinghy before the plane completely sank.

Once the group was safely onshore at Hamilton island, each passenger was given one phone call each.

 “The one phone call I made was to 'Go Between', the man who was [Bob's and my] secret contact. But he was a drama queen and he rang up Bob and said, 'Bob, Blanche has been in a plane crash,' and he paused. Bob said in that moment he felt himself die.

“And then the man added, 'But she's alright'. But it was just that instant; he knew then that, had I died, his life wouldn't have been worth living.”

The longest serving Labor prime minister announced his separation from his wife, Hazel in 1993 and publicly declared his love for Ms d'Alpuget.

Eight months after he and Hazel’s divorce was finalised, he and his long-ago mistress married in Sydney.

Mrs Hawke passed away in 2013 from dementia-related complications at age 83. Mr Hawke visited her before she died, and paid tribute to her life in a public statement.

“I remember Hazel with deep affection and gratitude,” he said. “She was more than a wife and mother, being father as well during my frequent absences as I pursued an industrial then political career.”

On Thursday May 16, 2019, Bob died in his Sydney home at age 89.

“Today we lost Bob Hawke, a great Australian – many would say the greatest Australian of the post-war era,” Blanche said in a statement.

“Bob was dearly loved by his family, and so many friends and colleagues. We will miss him,” she added.

“The golden bowl is broken.”

Scroll through the gallery above to see Mr Bob Hawke and his wife, Blanche d'Alpuget.