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Mr Hawke was awarded Lifetime Membership to the party at the Convention Centre in Sydney, after serving as Prime Minister from 1983 to 1991.

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He is the third-longest serving Australian Prime Minister, after Sir Robert Menzies and John Howard.

In presenting the party’s highest honour, current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd praised Mr Hawke’s ability to bring the Labor Party together after the ‘dark days’ of the Whitlam dismissal.

“Bob Hawke (is) the great achiever, great moderniser, but also, the great unifier,” Mr Rudd says.

The current PM entertained delegates at the conference with stories of being on the 2007 campaign trail with Mr Hawke.

“Hawkie did shopping centres with me,” Mr Rudd says.

The PM says he would be ignored and knocked over by people angling to see Mr Hawke.

“It was a humbling experience for any candidate,” Mr Rudd says, “especially one who has tabs on himself like me.”

Mr Hawke received a rapturous ovation apon being presented the award.

“You know I can be a bit emotional,” Mr Hawke says.

“And I must say, you’re testing the floodgates.”

Mr Hawke praised the party for it’s ability to embrace change, and for constantly renewing itself.

In particular, the former PM paid tribute to the unions, and noted his time as the head of the ACTU.

Mr Hawke says he was commited, as Prime Minister, to the “repudiation of any form of discrimination”, and made that a goal of his time in office.

“The Labor movement has been the enduring love of my life,” Mr Hawke says, wiping away tears as he ended his address to the party faithful.

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