The Hawke Ascendancy
"The Hawke Ascendancy is the story of how the Labor Party returned to power in 1983 after its crushing defeat in 1975. It is the inside story of three men - Bob Hawke, Malcolm Fraser and Bill Hayden - and their unique power struggle. The account covers the full eight years which began with Fraser's 1975 supremacy and closed with Hawke's 1983 triumph and first year of office.
"This definitive work deals with the personality clashes, policy achievements and power struggles in both the Labor and Liberal parties. Hawke, alienated from his own party in 1975, finally broke down the doors of its opposition to him and became Labor's saviour. Fraser, invulnerable and all-powerful in 1975, eventually succumbed to external pressures and internal weakness. Hayden, an initially reluctant but then aggressive leader, took Labor to the very brink only to falter himself.
"Paul Kelly sketches the triumph and tragedy of individuals against the big issues of the era - economic management, resources development and Australia's place in the world. In the process he shows how Australian politics has been transformed. The Hawke Ascendancy is, above all, a gripping inside account of how our politics really works today."
"Hawke's not in Parliament and Whitlam's not taking us anywhere. You should run for the leadership." - Paul Keating
to Bill Hayden, February 1977.
"As far as I'm concerned Hayden is dead." - Bob Hawke, July 1979.
"Look mate! If Rin-tin-tin was around now at the peak of his popularity, he'd be killing Hawke and myself and everyone else." - Bill Hayden, June 1982.
"I'm not going to step down for a bastard like Hawke." - Bill Hayden to John Button, January 1983.
"Don't delay any longer - get it done fast." - Jim McCelland to John Button, 3 February 1983.
"When Hayden's cornered, he'll fight like a cat." - Malcolm Fraser to his colleagues.
"Are you sure they won't switch leaders on you?" - Janette Howard to her husband, John Howard, 3 February 1983.
"If the greedy bastards wanted spiritualism, they'd join the fucking Hare Krishna." - Neville Wran on the Australian Electorate, 4 February 1983, the day after Bill Hayden's resignation.
About the Author:
"Paul Kelly is one of Australia's most respected political reporters and commentators. After graduating from Sydney University and working in the Prime Minister's Department, he joined the Canberra Press Gallery in 1971. He served as political correspondent of The Australian in 1974-75, political correspondent of the The National Times in 1976-78 and again in 1980, and became political correspondent of The Sydney Morning Herald in 1981. Kelly has covered in both depth and breadth the Whitlam and Fraser years. He is the author of The Dismissal, the compelling double story of Whitlam's fall and Fraser's rise. The Hawke Ascendancy, which sheds new light on events from 1975 to the present is his second book."
First Paragraph from the Prologue:
On the morning of 28 January 1983 the leader of the Opposition in the Senate, John Button, launched his final bid to change the leadership of the Labor Party. Button judged that Australia's premier politician and Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was about to strike against Labor with an early election - an election he believed the ALP leader, Bill Hayden, could not win. The power-brokers of Australia's oldest political party had convinced themselves that Bob Hawke was their only hope: the saviour who could turn despair into triumph.
In the previous three weeks Button had made two visits to Brisbane to persuade Hayden, his best friend in politics, to resign the leadership in favour of Hawke. Both trips had been unsuccessful. Now Button made recourse to his own ultimate weapon of persuasion, the pen. His letter to Hayden was an appeal to Hayden's idealism and a dispatch of death for his ambition. Button was not just negoiating the fate of men. Subsequent events would prove that his letter was shaping the course of history.
From the Angus and Robertson hardback edition, 1984.
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Last modified: January 30, 2001.