Bob Hawke: Long-serving Australian prime minister dies at 89 | News | DW | 16.05.2019
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Bob Hawke: Long-serving Australian prime minister dies at 89

Just days before a federal election in Australia, the country's longest-serving Labor prime minister has died. Bob Hawke served from 1983 to 1991 and oversaw the floating of the Australian dollar.

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke died on Thursday at the age of 89. The Labor Party politician gained a reputation as a transformative and charismatic lawmaker during his time in office.

"The Australian people loved Bob Hawke because they knew Bob loved them, this was true to the very end," Labor leader Bill Shorten said in a statement.

His second wife said the late politician "died peacefully at home." She described Hawke as a "great Australian — many would say the greatest Australian of the postwar era."

Hawke was born into a preacher family in South Australia in 1929. As a 17-year-old, he suffered a traumatic motorcycle accident that nearly cost him his life. Hawke said the near miss increased his drive to succeed. The future politician went on to become a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University. During his time in the UK, Hawke also set the world record for drinking a "yard" glass of beer, which contains three pints or 1.4 liters, in 11 seconds.

Landslide victory for Labor newcomer

After returning to Australia, Hawke built his reputation as a trade union leader, eventually winning a seat in Parliament in 1980. Shortly before a snap election in 1983, he was chosen to head up the Labor Party. Hawke went on to record a landslide victory over conservative incumbent Malcolm Fraser to become the 23rd prime minister of Australia.

During Hawke's tenure, the country enacted economic deregulation, including the floating of Australia's currency. The charismatic leader was also able to use his trade union experience to form a consensus between unions and employers. Hawke also notably pushed for economic sanctions to be imposed on South Africa over apartheid.

He won four consecutive elections thereafter and was only forced out of office in an internal party coup. His eight years in office make him the longest-serving Labor prime minister in Australia.

The news of Hawke's death comes just days before Australia is due to hold a federal election, with Labor maintaining a thin lead over the center-right coalition.

dj/rt (AFP, AP, dpa)

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