Mr Shorten told reporters he had visited Mr Hawke in his Sydney home last week after Labor’s election campaign launch.
“On his back verandah, sitting out there with his beloved Blanche, supported by Craig [Emerson, the former Labor minister]. He had the sun on his face, and a crossword in front of him, a cup of tea. He didn’t speak about himself to me. He did, as he always does, ask about the ALP and the election.”
Speaking at Brisbane airport on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr Hawke was Labor’s greatest prime minister “in my view”. In a separate, written statement, Mr Morrison also acknowledged Mr Hawke as Australia’s third longest-serving prime minister – and the most “electorally-successful” federal Labor leader, having won four successive elections.
“Profoundly Australian, Bob Hawke was a conviction politician who became a political legend. Bob Hawke was a great Australian who led and served our country with passion, courage, and an intellectual horsepower that made our country stronger,” Mr Morrison said.
“We remember him for his unique capacity to speak to all Australians as one – from everyday battlers to business leaders. His larrikinism was a big part of that.”
Former prime minister Paul Keating, who was Mr Hawke’s treasurer before challenging him for Labor leadership, also issued a statement on Thursday night.
“With Bob Hawke’s passing today, the great partnership I enjoyed with him passes too. A partnership we forged with the Australian people. But what remains and what will endure from that partnership are the monumental foundations of modern Australia.
“The country is much poorer for Bob Hawke’s passing”.
Mr Keating and Mr Hawke recently joined forces to endorse Mr Shorten’s economic plan. This was the first time the two former leaders had shared a platform since 1991, when Mr Keating resigned as treasurer to challenge Mr Hawke for the Labor leadership and prime ministership.
Ms Gillard also hailed her predecessor as “the greatest peacetime leader Australia has ever had. As a teenager Bob inspired me, as a PM he guided me. I will miss him. I wish so very much that Bob had been able to see one more election day.”
Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd described Mr Hawke as a “giant of Australian politics”, pointing to his establishment of Medicare and APEC, as well as his work with Mr Keating internationalising the Australian economy in the 1980s.
Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull tweeted: “Farewell Bob Hawke a great Australian, Labor leader and reforming Prime Minister. Australia is a better place because of him.”
Tony Abbott, another former Liberal prime minister, agreed with Mr Morrison that Mr Hawke was Australia’s greatest Labor prime minister.
But in politically-charged comments that have raised eyebrows, Mr Abbott added: “His key achievements – financial deregulation, tariffs cuts and the beginnings of privatisation – went against the Labor grain, as Labor’s more recent policy direction shows. You might also say he had a Labor heart but a Liberal head.”
Judith Ireland is a political reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House