Home News The Legacy of Bob Hawke – Australia’s 23rd Prime Minister

The Legacy of Bob Hawke – Australia’s 23rd Prime Minister

Image Source: Harold David

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”.

Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, spoke of Hawke as a mentor and childhood hero.

Former Labor prime minister’s Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard described Hawke as one of the greatest prime ministers Australia has had.

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”.

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.

Image Source: Herald Sun

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.