Bob Hawke

Robert James Lee Hawke, AC, GCL (9 December 1929 – 16 May 2019) was an Australian politician who served as Prime Minister of Australia and Leader of the Labor Party from 1983 to 1991. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Wills from 1980 to 1992.

Bob Hawke

Hawke in 1983
23rd Prime Minister of Australia
In office
11 March 1983  20 December 1991
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor-GeneralSir Ninian Stephen
Bill Hayden
Preceded byMalcolm Fraser
Succeeded byPaul Keating
Leader of the Labor Party
In office
3 February 1983  19 December 1991
Preceded byBill Hayden
Succeeded byPaul Keating
Leader of the Opposition
In office
3 February 1983  11 March 1983
Prime MinisterMalcolm Fraser
Preceded byBill Hayden
Succeeded byAndrew Peacock
Member of Parliament
for Wills
In office
18 October 1980  20 February 1992
Preceded byGordon Bryant
Succeeded byPhil Cleary
Personal details
Robert James Lee Hawke

(1929-12-09)9 December 1929
Border Town, South Australia
Died16 May 2019(2019-05-16) (aged 89)
Northbridge, New South Wales, Australia
Resting placeMacquarie Park
Political partyLabor
(m. 1956; div. 1994)

(m. 1995)
RelativesAlbert Hawke (uncle)
WebsiteBob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library

Hawke was born in Bordertown, South Australia. He attended the University of Western Australia and went on to study at University College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, during which time he set a world record for downing a yard of ale in 11 seconds.[1][2] In 1956, Hawke joined the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) as a research officer. Having risen to become responsible for national wage case arbitration, he was elected as President of the ACTU in 1969, where he achieved a high public profile. He was also President of the Labor Party from 1973 to 1980.

In 1980, Hawke stood down from his roles as ACTU and Labor Party President to announce his intention to enter parliamentary politics, and was subsequently elected to the House of Representatives as the Labor MP for Wills in Victoria. Three years later, he was elected unopposed to replace Bill Hayden as Labor Leader, and within just five weeks led Labor to a landslide victory at the 1983 election and was sworn in as Prime Minister. He led Labor to victory three more times, in 1984, 1987 and 1990, making him the most electorally successful Labor Prime Minister in history. To this day, Hawke holds the highest ever AC Nielsen approval rating for an Australian Prime Minister, reaching 75% approval in 1984.[3]

The Hawke Government implemented a significant number of reforms, including major economic reforms, the establishment of Landcare, the introduction of the universal health scheme Medicare, brokering the Prices and Incomes Accord, creating APEC, floating the Australian dollar, deregulating the financial sector, introducing the Family Assistance Scheme, enacting the Sex Discrimination Act to prevent discrimination in the workplace, declaring "Advance Australia Fair" as the country's national anthem, initiating superannuation pension schemes for all workers, negotiating a ban on mining in Antarctica and overseeing passage of the Australia Act that removed all remaining jurisdiction by the United Kingdom from Australia.[4] Historians have generally praised the reforms implemented by the Hawke Government.[5]

In June 1991, Treasurer Paul Keating unsuccessfully challenged for the leadership, believing that Hawke had reneged on the Kirribilli Agreement. Keating mounted a second challenge six months later, this time narrowly succeeding. Hawke subsequently retired from Parliament, pursuing both a business career and a number of charitable causes, until his death in 2019, aged 89. Hawke remains his party's longest-serving leader, and Australia's third-longest-serving Prime Minister behind Robert Menzies and John Howard. He is also the only Prime Minister to be born in South Australia and the only one raised and educated in Western Australia.