National

Bob Hawke ‘wasn’t averse to ceremony’

By AAP Newswire

The Sydney Opera House seemed to be the perfect place for Australians to bid farewell to Bob Hawke.

Icons in their own right, it was where the former prime minister held many a campaign launch - including his first successful election bid in 1983.

Popular impersonator Max Gillies said Mr Hawke probably considered the Opera House his own.

"He had a good sense of humour and could tell a joke," he said, reflecting on the many laughs he shared with Mr Hawke.

"The last time I remember him being here he stepped off a barge, silver suit ...I think he thought this was his place.

"He didn't stand on ceremony but he wasn't averse to ceremony."

Aside from the throngs of dignitaries and well-known Australians, thousands who were lucky enough to get free tickets filled the stands inside the Concert Hall, while others gathered on the front steps outside on a chilly winter's afternoon.

Many clapped, other smiled and some wiped away tears while watching the nearly two-hour long state memorial service, which was broadcast on a big screen in the forecourt.

Among them was Annie Huang, who made the trip from Sydney's south for the service.

She held a small bouquet while her partner Martin Chen clutched an order of service booklet.

The Hurstville couple said they felt compelled to say goodbye to Mr Hawke.

"We love Bob," Ms Huang said.

"He did a good job - especially for the Chinese students.

"He was a big-hearted man."

Stu Tubbs, from Cremorne on the lower north shore, brought his dog Frankie along for moral support.

"I just wanted to say thanks to Bob and goodbye to a great Australian," he said.

"I think the service was moving, fun and respectful."