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Thu, 16 May, 2019Joanita Wibowo

"He will serve our nation well": Bob Hawke backs Bill Shorten in open letter to voters

"He will serve our nation well": Bob Hawke backs Bill Shorten in open letter to voters

Bob Hawke has issued an open letter to voters encouraging them to vote for Bill Shorten and his team at the federal election on Saturday.

The former Labor prime minister argued that Shorten’s trade union background is an “asset” that will allow him to manage Australia’s economy well.

“While Bill’s political opponents argue his trade union background is a liability for a future prime minister, I consider it an asset, as it was for me,” wrote Hawke. “Bill Shorten is ready to be Prime Minister of Australia. He will serve our nation well.”

Hawke was the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, while Shorten was the secretary for the Victorian branch of the Australian Workers’ Union.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has argued that a vote for Labor would lead to “union control of the government”. However, Shorten said he will not be a “handmaiden” for unions should Labor win the election.

“We’ve got some very good initiatives for business,” Shorten told The Australian.

“I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a member of a trade union, but I’ll be very clear because the government loves to muddy this water. To borrow from R.J. Hawke, I will work with all sectors, but I’ll be a handmaiden to none.”

In the letter, 89-year-old Hawke also delivered a blow to the Coalition government, criticising its strategy to “divide and frighten” constituents to gain seats.

“Labor’s political opponents are seeking to divide and frighten Australians ahead of this election – just as they did back in 1983 when I was seeking the prime ministership,” he wrote. “It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.”

Hawke also referred to the instability within the Coalition’s top ranks.

“Over the past six years, the Liberals have had three leaders while Labor has had one, and three treasurers while Labor has had one shadow treasurer,” he wrote. “As I said repeatedly when I was prime minister, if you can’t govern yourselves, you can’t govern the country.”

The letter came days after Hawke signed a joint letter with fellow former prime minister Paul Keating in support of Labor’s economic credentials.