Robert James Lee Hawke | 1929-2019

Bob Hawke, Australia’s 23rd Prime Minister has died. He was 89.

Bob is Australia’s longest serving Labor Prime Minister, leading the nation from 1983-1991. He was born in South Australia in 1929 but spent the majority of his childhood in Western Australia. With a keen interest in the everyday worker, he made his way up the ladder in the union movement and served for a decade as the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

Entering Parliament as the Victorian Member for Wills in 1980, it took only three years for Bob to become Labor leader – just three weeks before the 1983 election. He defeated Malcolm Fraser and led Labor to a historic victory and three more after that.

Bob Hawke in office showed a care and love for Australia and his achievements are many, chief of them the creation of our universal healthcare system, Medicare. He’s also responsible for the national anthem we sing today.

Bob worked closely with Paul Keating to open up Australia’s economy to the world and together they floated the Australian dollar, reduced tariffs and brought together government and the union movement to address the competing demands of wages, inflation and government spending on social programs and education. His government also introduced compulsory superannuation for Australians.

The Hawke government created Landcare and preserved the Daintree Rainforest for generations to come. He prevented the construction of the Franklin dam in Tasmania and was crucial in insuring that there was no mining in Antartica.

On the international stage, Bob helped to establish the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). He fought against racism, reacting strongly to the Tiananmen Square Massacre and South African apartheid.

You will be hard pressed to find anyone that says that Bob Hawke was a perfect person – even he would admit this! Ever the larrikin, he had a relaxed and comfortable personality, was fond of a drink and a party.

He divorced from his wife Hazel to marry his biographer, Blanche d’Alpuget in 1995. He was not afraid to open up to Australians about his life and his family struggles and in doing so created a strong bond between himself and everyday Australians.

It is unlikely that someone like Bob Hawke will ever become Prime Minister again – the nation’s expectations sadly now require banal and tedious figures – and it’s for this reason that he will always stand tall as one of our greatest Prime Ministers.

“The essence of power is the knowledge that what you do is going to have an effect, not just an immediate but perhaps a lifelong effect, on the happiness and wellbeing of millions of people…” – Bob Hawke

Rest In Peace.