Labor PM, who served from 1983 to 1991, modernised Australias economy and introduced significant social reforms
Australias 23rd prime minister and Labor elder statesman Bob Hawke has died.
Hawke died peacefully at home, aged 89 years, according to a statement by his widow Blanche DAlpuget released on Thursday evening.
The former Labor prime minister had been unwell for months, too frail to attend Labors campaign launch, but was political to the last: his final public statement was an open letter urging a vote for a Shorten Labor government.
Hawke died two days short of the election he predicted he would not live to see, an election Bill Shorten promised to win for Bob.
Hawke is survived by his second wife, DAlpuget, who was also his biographer, and three adult children, whom he had with his first wife, Hazel Hawke.
DAlpuget described Hawke as a great Australian many would say the greatest Australian of the post-war era.
In a statement she paid tribute to Hawke and Paul Keating for modernising the Australian economy, paving the way for an unprecedented period of recession-free economic growth and job creation.
DAlpuget said Hawke abhorred racism and bigotry and his proudest achievements were his role in ending apartheid in South Africa, large increases in the proportion of children finishing high school, and his successful international campaign to protect Antarctica from mining.
Shorten thanked Hawke for his lifes service on behalf of the labour movement who he said had lost its greatest son the Labor Party and Australians who remember and honour a man who gave so much to the country and people he cared for so deeply.
In coming days and weeks our nation will give its tribute to a leader and statesman who inspired such profound affection and admiration, such loyalty and love among so many.
Hawkes family will hold a private funeral, to be followed by a public memorial service in Sydney in coming weeks.
Scott Morrison said Hawke was a great Australian who led and served our country with passion, courage, and an intellectual horsepower that made our country stronger.
He was true to his beliefs in the Labor tradition and defined the politics of his generation and beyond, Morrison said.
He had a unique ability to speak to all Australians and will be greatly missed.
Renowned for his larrikin behaviour and heavy drinking during his younger years when he was leader of the trade union movement, Hawke brought a common touch to the job of prime minister and an ability to connect with the Australian public.
He served as prime minister between 1983 and 1991, making him the longest serving on the Labor side of politics.
Hawkes cabinet colleague Neal Blewett noted in the compendium Australian Prime Ministers that it was family lore that Bob would one day become prime minister.
From at least the age of seventeen, after a brush with death in a motor bicycle accident, Hawke came to share this sense of destiny, Blewett wrote.
Hawkes government, in which he and his treasurer, Paul Keating, forged a strong partnership, will be remembered for its reforming zeal and for modernising the Australian economy, including floating the Australian dollar, removing tariffs and modernising industrial awards.
The Accord, struck with the trade union movement in 1983, brought relative industrial harmony to Australia and allowed Hawkes government to rein in inflation, while transforming work practices and the economy.
The accord also delivered Australias first compulsory superannuation scheme, after Hawke agreed with the unions that a 3% pay rise would instead be paid by employers as superannuation. The scheme was initially opposed by business but is now regarded as a landmark reform and delivers 9% in retirement savings to all workers.
In a statement Keating said the country was much poorer for Hawkes passing, praising the morale framework he brought to public life, representing working people and the country at large.
He understood that imagination was central to policy-making and never lacked the courage to do what had to be done to turn that imagination into reality, Keating said.
And that reality was the reformation of Australias economy and society and its place in the world.
Hawkes government also introduced significant social reforms including reintroducing universal health care, rebadged as Medicare, lifting school retention rates and expanding youth skills programs and ending poverty traps inherent in the social security system.
Early in his term Hawke halted the Franklin dam in Tasmania, saving wilderness areas from destruction. He went on to deal with other difficult environmental challenges, such as preserving old-growth forests.
However, Hawkes willingness to compromise and accommodate business interests as prime minister earned him criticism from his former union colleagues, particularly when he embarked on a program of privatising government assets and sided with the airlines during a pilots strike.
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