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Former Australian PM Bob Hawke dies aged 89

Author
NZ Herald, news.com.au,
Section
World,
Publish Date
Thursday, 16 May 2019, 9:50p.m.
Hawke was Australia's longest serving Labor PM. (Photo / Getty)
Hawke was Australia's longest serving Labor PM. (Photo / Getty)

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke has died aged 89.

Hawke was the leader of the Labor Party from 1983 to 1991 and was in office as the Prime Minister from March 11, 1983, until December 20, 1991.

In a statement, his wife Josephine Blanche d'Alpuget said Hawke died peacefully at home.

"Today we lost Bob Hawke, a great Australian - many would say the greatest Australian of the post-war era," she said.

"I and Bob's children, Sue, Stephen, Rosslyn and stepson, Louis, and his grandchildren, will hold a private funeral."

"A memorial service will be held in Sydney in the coming weeks."

Hawke was born in Bordertown, South Australia in 1929. He was the son of a Congregationalist minister and a teacher — and the nephew of Albert Hawke, who would go on to serve as premier of Western Australia.

The family moved to Perth after Hawke's older brother Neil died at the age of 18, having contracting meningitis. Hawke had his own near-death experience in his late teens after a serious motorcycle accident.

He studied at the University of Western Australia, then at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar, where he submitted a thesis on wage-fixing in Australia — an appropriate topic, given his future career in the trade union movement and politics.

Hawke met his first wife Hazel at a church camp, and married her in 1956. Two years later, they moved to Melbourne and he took a job with the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He would go on to lead the ACTU for 10 years.

Bob and Hazel had four children, the youngest of whom, Robert Jr, was born with severe brain damage and only lived four days.

The couple were shattered. Soon after his youngest son's death, Hawke collapsed with alcohol poisoning. To escape the grief, he threw himself into his campaign for the presidency of the ACTU, which was ultimately successful.

During the 1970s, Hawke emerged as a popular leader in both the union movement and the Labor Party. He developed good relations with all sides, including employers, and it seemed a political career was inevitable.

He had already run for parliament once, in 1963, when he lost to the incumbent Liberal minister Hubert Opperman.

But Hawke was also fighting personal demons. His womanising and drinking, which had earned him a reputation as a larrikin, was now threatening to derail his life.

After suffering a physical collapse in 1979, Hawke went public with his struggle against alcoholism, promising he would overcome it.

"He always knew that he wanted to be Prime Minister. So when he stopped, he didn't have a drop for something like 11 years," former Labor minister Graham Richardson later said.

 

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