Bob Hawke, Australia’s third longest serving prime minister, passed away last night at the age of 89.
The final days of the federal election have been overlooked by his death, uniting present and former politicians, a testament to the prominent role he played in building modern Australia. Major party leaders paid tribute to the former Labor prime minister who served for 8 years from 1983 to 1991.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described Hawke as “a great Australian” who “defined the politics of his generation and beyond”.
Bob 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.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) May 16, 2019
Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, spoke of Hawke as a mentor and childhood hero.
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
Former Labor prime minister’s Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard described Hawke as one of the greatest prime ministers Australia has had.
Bob Hawke is a giant of Australian politics. He and Paul Keating internationalised the Australian economy. He established APEC and radically deepened Australia’s engagement with Asia. He established Medicare. Together with Therese and the entire nation, I mourn his passing.
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) 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
Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull tweeted: “Farewell Bob Hawke a great Australian, Labor leader and reforming Prime Minister. Australia is a better place because of him”.
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
Hawke was considered as a charismatic and peaceful politician. Here are some of his greatest achievements and contributions to modern Australia.
1. Floating the Australian Dollar
Arguably his most outstanding contribution was in 1983 when his government floated the Australian dollar on the global currency market. Prior to this, the Australian dollar’s value had always been fixed to either the British Pound or the US Dollar.
The currency float paved the way for modernising the national economy and introducing it into the global market. Hawke approved the entry of foreign-owned banks, reduced tariffs to 5 per cent, introduced the Capital Gains Tax and Fringe Benefits Tax, the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) and privatised state-owned institutions such as the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas.
2. Bringing back Medicare
In February 1984, the Hawke government announced that it would be introducing a new universal health care system, known as ‘Medicare’, which was firstly introduced by Gough Whitlam but partially dismantled by Malcolm Fraser’s government.
3. Founding the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
Hawke founded the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 1989 in order to facilitate free-trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region and strengthen relationships with its 21 member countries.
4. Introducing Compulsory Superannuation
In the 1991 federal budget, Australia’s first compulsory superannuation scheme was introduced. Initially opposed by business, the superannuation scheme is now marked considered as the most significant policy implemented by the Hawke Government, delivering approximately 9.5 per cent in retirement savings.
5. Gender Equality in the Workplace
The Hawke Government introduced the Sex Discrimination Act in 1984 which outlawed gender discrimination in the workplace, which is today known as the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.
6. Advance Australia Fair
Hawke replaced God Save The Queen with Advance Australia Fair after ten years of debate and a referendum. He believed our national anthem needed to be changed, stating “The previous Olympics, for instance, you have the Brits getting up, they win a medal — they do win one occasionally — and up goes God Save the Queen, and then Australia gets up and it’s the same anthem — now, that’s crazy.”
Remembered as the “larrikin leader”, Bob Hawke was a leader who had the ability to connect with the Australian public on a closer level than preceding and succeeding Prime Ministers were able to.
A memorial service will be held in Sydney in coming weeks.