Former Australian Prime Minister in Antarctica

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke inspecting Wilkins Runway (Photo: Australian Antarctic Division)
Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke inspecting Wilkins Runway (Photo: Australian Antarctic Division)
Mr Hawke descends the stairs of the Airbus A319 at Wilkins Runway (Photo: Australian Antarctic Division)The Wilkins Runway crew with Bob Hawke (Photo: Australian Antarctic Division)Hawke's Hut is the double story green building in the centre (Photo: Tony Fleming)

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke today made a flying visit to Antarctica to officially open the Wilkins Runway Living Quarters.

The Hon R J L Hawke AC Living Quarters, or Hawke’s Hut, is a two-storey facility housing a mess, kitchen, lounge, laundry and bathroom facilities for runway crews during the summer season.

The Hut is sledmounted to ensure minimal impact on the environment and can be easily moved during winter months to avoid snow buildup.

During his visit Mr Hawke met expeditioners working at Wilkins and nearby Casey station.  He was accompanied by the Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Dr Tony Fleming, on the planned, scheduled flight returning research and support personnel from Antarctica

More than 20 years ago, Mr Hawke’s Government led a push to reject mining in Antarctica. That action eventually led to the signing of the Madrid Protocol in 1991, designating the frozen continent as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science.

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke visits Antarctica

Video transcript

Director Australian Antarctic Division Dr Tony Fleming

It’s my absolute pleasure to welcome Bob Hawke to Wilkins and Antarctica. He changed the world’s mind about mining in Antarctica and we are indebted to you for that.

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke

What was going to happen beforehand was a thing called CRAMRA, which was going to be a Convention for Regulating Antarctic Mineral Resource Activity. I said that’s ridiculous, I just could not believe that civilized nations of the world were going to really destroy the pristine quality of the last remaining and pristine continent.

You just imagine mining down here and the accidents that could have occurred, so I was determined that this wouldn’t happen. People said we had no chance, but with the cooperation of my good friend Roccard, the Prime Minister of France, and Felipe Gonzalez, from Spain. We just set about and we turned it over, which was marvelous and now it’s fulfilled my nomination of it as nature reserve, land of science, and that’s what it is.

I am sort of prejudice of course I’ve got a great sense of almost proprietorship of the place because we’ve been involved in seeing that it was preserved. Therefore it’s almost impossible to describe the feeling of pride and excitement that I have being here. The other immediate impression I have is the enthusiasm of the, all the people, that are here, they are doing a great job for Australia. They are here with the total support and endorsement of the Australian nation and the Australian Government.

The work that they are doing is not only important for Australia but important for the world as a whole. And they should I think feel proud of themselves for the contribution that their colleagues in the past have made and that they are making now. I would like to congratulate the Australian Antarctic Division. I think the work that you are doing in protecting the Australian commitment and involvement in this area and doing it in such a constructive way is a matter in which you should all be very proud and all Australians should feel very much in debt to the fine work the Division has been doing over the years and continues to do.

[end transcript]