Deakin University, Waurn Ponds
March 5th 1983
Bob Hawke made me kiss her. Bob Hawke made her kiss me.
He was always surrounded by an aura of destiny. Bold, brassy and assertively imposing. Regardless of your political allegiance, there was an almost universal recognition that one day he would lead our country. He had charisma and confidence. In spades.
Me, then, well… If he was supremely self-confident, I was sufficatingly self-conscious. He could walk into a room of strangers and command attention and allegiance, I’d walk into a room and feel the walls creeping slowly toward me. I was fidgety, flighty, wide-eyed and often overwhelmed.
She was something else. Tall, thin, almost fragile. Liz’s beautiful face was pale and radiated like bone china. She spoke in slow, soft, gentle tones. She was the first vegan I ever met. Importantly, she sometimes found my jokes funny. Liz’s shyness seemed even more pronounced than mine. I liked her. A lot. Amazingly, she liked me a lot, too. Although we were both at university together, w e relied on a mutual friend to act as a go-between, running messages between us like we were a couple of nervous high school students. As our mutual interest grew, our ability to make eye contact with each other diminished.
Kajagoogoo were something else again. A ridiculous, British synth-pop band that had a huge hit at that time called Too Shy. Try making sense of these lyrics:
Time (after) time, (I’m) short of breath, don’t even try
Try a little harder
Something’s wrong, you’re not naive
You must, must be strong
Oh, baby, try
Hey girl, move a little closer
The annoyance factor in this irritating song increased when the catchy chorus kicked in, speaking directly to my own tongue-tied torture.
‘Cause you’re too shy shy
Hush hush, eye to eye
Too shy shy
Hush hush, eye to eye
On the radio or Countdown, this insistent, irritating ditty was an unbearable reminder of my romantic ineptitude. Too Shy? Too shite was more like it.
Too Shy wasn’t played at the campus election party that night in 1983, but instead we heard a collection of punk, post-punk and new wave LPs. I recall a common room. Lots of people. A TV set. A heap of cheap alcohol. Cigarette smoke. And the election result.
That night, the Labor party ended the long, desultory reign of Malcom Fraser’s Liberal-National coalition. Eight seemingly interminable years of high unemployment, low confidence and Fraser’s imperious tone gave way to a renewed confidence, a fairer social vision and sweet possibility.
That night Robert James Lee Hawke was elected to become Australia’s 23rd Prime Minister. Immediately (and invisibility) he issued his first Prime Ministerial decree.
Bob Hawke made me kiss Liz. Bob Hawke made Liz kiss me. Rolling ripples of confidence circled out from Canberra in a way never felt before or since. His victory was our victory. His inspirational energy and unbounded confidence touched me and touched Liz as we touched each other, kissing as we sat on the grotty carpet, pressed up against the side of a motley couch, in that smoky student common room. The deep relief of that election night was, I’m told, also felt across the country.