WATCH: Thousands farewell former PM Bob Hawke


Former Hawke government minister Kim Beazley has paid tribute to his "mentor" and "friend" at the state memorial service of Bob Hawke.

Giving the eulogy for Australia's 23rd prime minister, Mr Beazley, himself a former Labor leader, told the assembled dignitaries at the Sydney Opera House that the two had a close relationship.

"I loved Bob, he was my mentor, he was my friend," said Mr Beazley.

The former defence minister recalled how he persuaded Mr Hawke to have a cabinet meeting at sea.

No sooner did the navy ship get through the heads than the storm rolled in and the cabinet table began to move, "pinning the prime minister to the bulkhead," Mr Beazley recalled to laughter.

"'F-this', he said repeatedly," said Mr Beazley.

He said that afterwards Mr Hawke told him he wouldn't be doing that again.

"Cabinet is the heart of our government, we cannot have the cabinet table running away and killing a couple of us on the way through."

Mr Hawke's daughter Sue Pieters-Hawke said "Dad was so powerful a presence in our lives that I don't comprehend that he is gone."

She said she took comfort that he was ready to go and died peacefully with Blanche holding him.

The ceremony began with a welcome to country from federal Labor MP Linda Burney, before Mr Hawke's friend and former minister Craig Emerson took up his duties as master of ceremonies, calling herself the economic and "horse racing adviser" to Mr Hawke.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison then gave a speech, saying Australia "will forever be grateful" for Mr Hawke.

"Australians all let us rejoice for the life of Robert James Lee Hawke," Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said he was a"proud father of modern Australia".

"Bob Hawke loved our country and we are a better nation for it."

Labor leader Anthony Albanese farewelled a man who was a giant of his party.

"Farewell Bob," he said. "You go with the nation's gratitude, you go with the nation's respect and you go with the nation's love."

Former prime ministers John Howard, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott are in attendance.

Other guests include senior Labor figures Tanya Plibersek, Penny Wong and Kristina Keneally, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, former Labor leader Bill Shorten and radio broadcaster Alan Jones.

Also there are cabinet ministers Matthias Cormann and Peter Dutton, Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, former NSW premier Morris Iemma and ex-senator Derryn Hinch, who arrived wearing a splendid aqua-marine coloured scarf.

More attendees are former governor-general Dame Quentin Bryce, NSW Governor Margaret Beazley and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian

Mr Keating, Mr Hawke's treasurer between 1983-1991, buried the hatchet with his old ally and rival before he died and will speak at the service.

Also expected to speak are former ACTU secretary Bill Kelty, who helped Mr Hawke bring in enterprise bargaining, his former economic advisor Ross Garnaut and Mr Beazley.

His widow Blanche d'Alpulget will speak to end the ceremony after tributes from his eldest daughter Sue Pieters-Hawke and granddaughter Sophie Taylor-Price.

The Sydney Philharmonia Choirs will also perform.