An outpouring of grief and fond memories marks the passing of Australia’s much loved 23rd prime minister, Bob Hawke. Our third longest serving PM, who won four elections for Labor in 1983, 1984, 1987 and 1990, his death was announced at 7.30 pm last night by his widow, Blanche d’Alpuget, in a statement which said:
“Today we lost Bob Hawke, a great Australian – many would say the greatest Australian of the post-war era … Bob was dearly loved by his family and so many friends and colleagues. We will miss him. The golden bowl is broken.”
In the tributes that followed from all sides of politics, most noted were his genuine love of Australia and Australian people. Also how unaffected he was by high office, remaining an ‘ordinary bloke, who cared about ordinary people’. Which is perhaps why ‘Hawkie’ was one of the few prime ministers to earn an affectionate nickname within the electorate.
Born in Bordertown in South Australia, he became a Rhodes Scholar who was educated at Oxford, before returning to Australia to work within the union movement. He switched to politics in 1980 when he was preselected by Labor for the seat of Wills in suburban Melbourne. Bob Hawke took over leadership of the Labor Party just five weeks before the March 1983 federal election, winning a comprehensive victory over Malcolm Fraser’s Liberal-National party coalition
Over the next eight years prime minister Hawke and treasurer Paul Keating delivered some of the most comprehensive economic reforms this nation has experienced, in particular deregulation of banking, tariff cuts and floating of the Australian dollar, in an attempt to allow Australia to better compete on a world stage. Hawke, Keating and a highly talented cabinet also delivered reforms in the environment, the introduction of Medicare, and campaigned for human rights in South Africa and gender pay equality in the workplace. The introduction of compulsory superannuation flowed from their negotiation with trade unions to reduce demands for increased wages in a trade-off for more security in their retirement.
Another, often overlooked innovation, was the replacement of God Save the Queen as our national anthem with Advance Australia Fair, an achievement noted by PM Scott Morrison in his tribute last night.
Bob Hawke was many things to many people, but far from a saint, with public admissions of infidelity, alcohol abuse, and being a father who was not around for his family at critical times. And it is perhaps his ability to admit his wrongs and his fallibility that made him so much more likeable, and more genuine.
Above all, it was his exceptional ability to bring people, from all walks of society, and across political party divides, together for the common good that will remain his greatest legacy. Below is an array of responses to Bob Hawke’s passing from celebrities and former leaders.
R.I.P Bob Hawke. A great Labor Prime Minister. A great Australian.
“A working class hero is something to be” pic.twitter.com/cBGMKQxTPx
— Jimmy Barnes (@JimmyBarnes) May 16, 2019
Bob Hawke was the greatest peacetime leader Australia has ever had.
As a teenager Bob inspired me, as a PM he guided me.
I will miss him. I wish so very much that Bob had been able to see one more election day.
My condolences to Blanche, his children and grandchildren. pic.twitter.com/4wPHdIeBUZ
— Julia Gillard (@JuliaGillard) May 16, 2019
Rest In Peace Bob Hawke. A man of the people across the country, across the spectrum.
Personally, he was a cockweasel. He always made fun of my eyebrows and owes me $20.
A Labor heart but a Liberal head.
— John Howard (@johnjowardpm) May 16, 2019
The labour movement salutes our greatest son.
Australians everywhere remember and honour a man who gave so much to the country and people he cared for so deeply.
May he rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/NzKwxW1e4X
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) May 16, 2019
Farewell Bob Hawke a great Australian, Labor leader and reforming Prime Minister. Australia is a better place because of him. Lucy and I send our love and condolences to Blanche and all of his family.
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) May 16, 2019
If you would like to leave a tribute for Bob Hawke, all messages will be compiled and shared with family, and recorded in Labor Party archives.
What about you? What are your favourite Hawkie memories? Was he Australia’s best PM? Why not take part in our Friday Flash Poll and let us know who was?