Hawke tipped to 'roast' press gallery reunion

Australian Labor Party leader, Bob Hawke, greets the crowd at the National Tally Room, Canberra on election night March 5, 1983. Photo courtesy of National Archives of Australia NAA: A6180, 7/3/83/1
Australian Labor Party leader, Bob Hawke, greets the crowd at the National Tally Room, Canberra on election night March 5, 1983. Photo courtesy of National Archives of Australia NAA: A6180, 7/3/83/1

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke will be reunited with his former adversaries from the press gallery in a special event being organised for Canberra's birthday long weekend.

Mr Hawke has agreed to speak at a reunion for journalists from the 1980s, to mark the 30th anniversary of the election of his government.

He is expected to say a few choice words about some reporters with whom he clashed, and tell amusing anecdotes about the era of the long lunch and travelling with the press on election campaigns and overseas trips.

The former journalists returning to Canberra for the reunion on March 9 at the National Press Club will be invited to tour their old haunt in Old Parliament House the next day or attend the Black Opal Stakes, being held on the long weekend to kick-off the Canberra Centenary celebrations.

The organising committee is inviting journalists, photographers, camera operators, technicians, support staff and media advisers of the time.

Barrie Cassidy, former press gallery president and later Mr Hawke's chief media adviser, pointed to a marked change in the way politics is conducted.

"Now every day is fought out as a separate political contest, whereas back in the late eighties and early nineties press officers had a medium to long term strategy and built their media appearances around that," he told Fairfax Media.

"The idea that the Prime Minister would have a doorstop every day and then follow up with other interviews was just fanciful, that would be the kind of tactic you adopt at election campaigns.

"I think because of that, where every day now becomes a separate contest, it makes decision making harder, it makes it more difficult for the political parties to do what needs to be done."

Organising committee spokesman Allan Yates said the reunion promised to be a great night of reminiscence and celebration.

"Already the response has been phenomenal," he said.

"This was a period where governments began a different kind of communication with the Australia community and a lot of that was through the press gallery ... we had a first-hand seat to the activities of that government."

The 1980s was a time of major change for society, not just for the press gallery or for politics.

"Computers came into play in a big way, they changed the way we did business," Mr Yates said.

"Mobile phones became more accessible and useable as we got towards the end of the eighties.

"At the time, economics was the politics of the world and countries that couldn't balance their books were becoming banana republics, dare I say it.

"Governments had to change the way they communicated with their constituents , the voting public and the electorates."

He said the period of the Hawke Government coincided with a change from newspapers as the main means of communicating to voters, to television.

"The simplest example of that is that media conferences for a major announcement were always held at four o'clock in the afternoon to accommodate next day's papers, whereas by the time the Hawke Government finished, most of those major announcements were made at 11 o'clock in the morning," he said.

"Governments and public figures and organisations realised how much more quickly they could spread their message and how far they could spread their message through the electronic media as opposed to the original print media channels."

Mr Yates predicts Mr Hawke will take the opportunity to "roast" some journalists from that time.

"We'll looking to him to say a few words about the gallery of those days which I'm sure will be robust," Mr Yates said.

Press gallery members at the time were able to partake of long lunches due to a slower media cycle.

"There is a lot of argument that the Fringe Benefits Tax introduced by the Hawke Government was designed to stop those long lunches," Mr Yates said.

"Despite that, there was a great need for politicians and media of the day to interact as closely as possible and that often came about over a lunch or at the Non-Members Bar."

Declaration: the writer is a member of the reunion organising committee.

This story Hawke tipped to 'roast' press gallery reunion first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.