It’s not surprising given Sue has spent months immersing herself in and gathering recollections about her father for Remembering Bob. The book is described as a collection of memories and stories about the iconic former prime minister, from old friends, colleagues, political foes and supporters as well as everyday Australians who crossed paths with him.
It’s not only been therapeutic, Sue says, but lovely to hear how beloved her father was and by so many. “The breadth and extent and variety of the people who did regard him so well and with fondness and respect is enormous and I find very touching,” she admits.
So would the famously emotional Bob have loved this celebration of his legacy and life?
“The flip answer is yes, but I think he’d be humbled. He was not at all without humility as some people know and some people would be surprised by. [He was] very deeply touched by a sense of privilege to be a leader in different capacities, both within the union movement and the country. He never took it for granted.”
“When he was ready to die, he got impatient about that!”
After leaving office, Bob’s professional legacy was often overshadowed by events in his private life. In 1995, Bob left his wife Hazel, Sue’s mum, to marry writer Blanche d’Alpuget and his family’s very open upset and disapproval became headline news.
But despite various clashes over the years, the family came to accept Blanche and Bob’s relationship. These days, Sue says, Blanche is “very much” in her life.
“She’s my remaining family elder, my stepmum, and I honour her and value her as such,” she says.
Bob, meanwhile, acknowledged the mistakes he’d made in the past before he died.
“Dad did some apologising where he needed to. And a sincere apology always makes a massive difference,” says Sue.
But there are still some things Sue wishes she could have said.
“Resolution isn’t necessarily always a closed deal. You resolve anything and everything that’s there that you’re aware of and I think I did that and others did that, but then something strikes you later and you think, I wish I’d done that and said that at the time too.”
She continues: “I had one of those a couple of weeks ago and I had a bit of grief and upset with it, but you know he did his best and you did your best and you resolve it in your own way afterwards.”
Known for his larger-than-life personality, her dad, Sue says, became more easy going towards the end.
“He did get quieter and more internal and peaceful and reflective. He mellowed beautifully. He could be cranky ifhe had pain or this or that but he could always be cranky in his life. He was an impatient sod,” she says.
For more, see this week's New Idea - out now!