Australia mourns the death of one of its favourite sons

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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.

Russell Crowe


Julia Gillard


John Howard


Bill Shorten


Malcolm Turnbull


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?

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Written by Kaye Fallick

10 Comments

Total Comments: 10
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    Australia’s best leader, as a union man his first and only thought was for the union members, as a Prime Minister he had no equal and continued to fight for all Australians, a true Titan amongst men. Vale Bob Hawke May you Rest In Peace.

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    there is no doubt that Bob Hawke was a political phenom but to say infidelity, alcohol abuse, and absent father are now likeable qualities is a bit of a stretch, or perhaps I am the odd one out.

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    The Hawke/Keating era marked the beginnings of neoliberalism in this country which has given us corrupt banks, high unemployment, privatised compulsory national retirement system, unemployment as a tool of inflation control, privatised Reserve Bank which is now ineffectual in macroeconomic monetary management among other negatives. As one observer put it, Hawke was a labour man with a liberal head. Many of the macroeconomic reforms such as floating the currency and freeing up international trade were already in play by the Fraser Government, which is something many people forget. He sidelined Bill Hayden, a true labour man who really supported the working person, to gain power in an unlosable election. The much vaunted wages accord was a disaster, fueling inflation to previously unseen levels and had to be abandoned. It did little to stop industrial unrest. The implementation of Medicare, was already in Hayden’s plan, but Hawke added Medibank into the mix to placate the private health insurance corporates. While Hawke was a charismatic person, I doubt the working people have a lot to thank him for other than being a knock around bloke. The rest is all negative. RIP and thanks.

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    Good and bad in everyone and PM’s aren’t exceptions to the rule. Whilst Hawkey may have been the (then) contemporary ‘man for all seasons’ he at least accomplished what he did with a laconic style and panache that voters identified with, In the scheme of things his accomplishments certainly made the headlines but maybe the polish to these was only made possible with the ‘Undertakers’ je ne sias quoi assistance? Every dog has its day!

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    Hi Maelcolium
    I’m wondering what country you are from? I’m from Australia where the unemployment rate is currently 5.2% and the Reserve Bank is owned and operated by the Commonwealth government; it’s not privatised as you seem to think.
    Bob Hawke’s government floated the dollar, reduced import tariffs, deregulated the financial system, and the aviation and telecommunications industries. These reforms helped make Australia a more productive and competitive country, and we are all better off as a result.
    I don’t know what you mean when you say floating the dollar etc “was already in play by the Fraser Government….” The simple fact is Fraser didn’t have the vision, the ability or the courage to do those things. Fraser didn’t do them, but Hawke did.
    Most commentators, including John Howard and Scott Morrison, have been big enough to acknowledge Bob Hawke’s great contribution to Australia, which makes your opinions seem rather small, out-of-touch and miserly.

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    Hi Maelcolium
    I’m wondering what country you are from? I’m from Australia where the unemployment rate is currently 5.2% and the Reserve Bank is owned and operated by the Commonwealth government; it’s not privatised as you seem to think.
    Bob Hawke’s government floated the dollar, reduced import tariffs, deregulated the financial system, and the aviation and telecommunications industries. These reforms helped make Australia a more productive and competitive country, and we are all better off as a result.
    I don’t know what you mean when you say floating the dollar etc “was already in play by the Fraser Government….” The simple fact is Fraser didn’t have the vision, the ability or the courage to do those things. Fraser didn’t do them, but Hawke did.
    Most commentators, including John Howard and Scott Morrison, have been big enough to acknowledge Bob Hawke’s great contribution to Australia, which makes your opinions seem rather small, out-of-touch and miserly.

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    I would have liked to see Hazel get some recognition for supporting him during the years up to and during his Prime Ministership. The star of the footy team gets the personal credit, but those the star was able to lean on, confident of their unstinting labours and sacrifices, are usually forgotten.

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    Man of the people chose to live in a safe Liberal seat surrounded by affluent Liberals… says it all lol.

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      And prophetic he passed away before his Labor Party got routed… Seeing the disaster of the election result would have been enough to finish him off.


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