News National Goodbye, Bob: The nation mourns a beloved former prime minister

Goodbye, Bob: The nation mourns a beloved former prime minister

Bob Hawke and wife Blanche d'Alpuget in 2013. Photo: AAP
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Bob Hawke has died on the eve of the federal election and been hailed a Labor hero, a reformer and the greatest peacetime leader Australia has ever had.

Australia’s longest-serving Labor prime minister passed away at home with his wife and family on Thursday. He was 89 years old.

His death was announced at 7.40pm on Thursday by his wife, Blanche D’Alpuget, who led the tributes for the former Labor leader and his legacy of introducing the modern Medicare system, universal superannuation, the Accord with unions and the floating of the dollar.

“Today we lost Bob Hawke, a great Australian. Many would say the greatest Australian of the post-war era,” Ms D’Alpuget said.

“I and Bob’s children, Sue, Stephen, Rosslyn and stepson, Louis, and his grandchildren, will hold a private funeral,” she added.

“We will miss him.

“The golden bowl is broken.”

The Australian flag will fly at half-mast on Friday on all government buildings at home and overseas to mark the death of Mr Hawke.

Ms D’Alpuget, his wife and biographer, said that Mr Hawke’s consensus-style leadership brought together the trade union movement and the business community, while increasing the social wage through Medicare.

“Among Bob’s proudest achievements were large increases in the proportion of children finishing high school, his role in ending apartheid in South Africa and especially his successful international campaign to protect Antarctica from mining,” she said.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said the party had lost “our greatest son” and his legacy would endure forever.

“The Australian people loved Bob Hawke because they knew Bob loved them. This was true to the very end,” Mr Shorten said.

“In Australian history, in Australian politics, there will always be B.H. and A.H: Before Hawke and After Hawke. After Hawke, we were a different country. A kinder, better, bigger and bolder country.

“Bringing the country together never meant presenting people with the soft option, or taking the nation down the low road or the lazy path of least resistance.”

Just two days ago, Mr Hawke released an open letter to all voters endorsing Mr Shorten after he was too frail to attend the ALP campaign launch.

“Labor’s political opponents are seeking to divide and frighten Australians ahead of this election – just as they did back in 1983 when I was seeking the prime ministership,” he wrote.

“It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Bill Shorten is ready to be prime minister of Australia. He will serve our nation well.”

Bob Hawke death
Bill Shorten and Bob Hawke during a visit to the former PM’s home. Photo: AAP

Former prime minister Paul Keating, who served as the Hawke government’s treasurer before successfully challenging for the leadership in 1991, said Mr Hawke had helped build the foundations of modern Australia.

“With Bob Hawke’s passing today, the great partnership I enjoyed with him passes too. A partnership we forged with the Australian people,” Mr Keating said in a statement.

“But what remains, and what will endure from that partnership, are the monumental foundations of modern Australia.

“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.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr Hawke was “profoundly Australian, a conviction politician who became a political legend”.

“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 said.

“He was true to his beliefs in the Labor tradition and defined the politics of his generation and beyond.

“We remember him for his unique capacity to speak to all Australians as one – from everyday battlers to business leaders. His larrikinism was a big part of that.”

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said “a Labor legend has passed tonight”.

“Bob Hawke showed us how to govern and transformed modern Labor,” Mr Albanese said.

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd paid tribute to Mr Hawke’s role in establishing the modern Medicare system.

“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,” Mr Rudd said.

Former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard said she “wished so very much” that he had lived to see one more election day.

“Bob Hawke was the greatest peacetime leader Australia has ever had,” she said.

“I will miss him. I wish so very much that Bob had been able to see one more election day.”

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said Bob Hawke was a “hero to working people” who helped establish Australia’s superannuation system.

“As a leader of our nation and of our movement, Bob was a hero to working people – an architect of the accords, the father of Medicare, and a founder of universal superannuation,” she said.

“Millions of working people owe their health, their prosperity and their dignity in retirement to Bob’s work. We will never forget him. Solidarity and Vale Bob Hawke.”

Actor Russell Crowe tweeted Mr Hawke was a great man who made Australia “confident”.

“A great man who never lost his humility. Guinness book of records 1954, 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. Rhodes Scholar. Trade Union Leader. Prime Minister. Statesman. Thanks for everything Mr Hawke.”

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