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16.05.2019 Europe

Former Australia's Prime Minister Bob Hawke Dies

MAY 16, 2019 EUROPE

Australia's most colourful prime minister Bob Hawke has died aged 89. The former Labor leader's charm reached across the political spectrum, often with the help of a joke or a beer, and he is credited with modernising the economy.

His second wife Blanche d'Alpuget said in a statement: "Today we lost Bob Hawke, a great Australian – many would say the greatest Australian of the post-war era.

"He died peacefully at home."

The son of a preacher, Hawke's first attempt to enter parliament in 1963 failed and he did not try again for 17 years.

Less than three years after entering parliament he was Labor's opposition leader and a month later was elected prime minister in the party's greatest victory in 40 years.

Hawke led his country from 1983 and went on to win four elections, and only left office following a party room coup.

His experience with the Australian Council of Trade Unions was valuable when it came to forging a consensus between labour unions and business, and he used his appeal to win broad support for economic reforms which sometimes saw critics accuse him of moving the Labor Party to the right.

The Labor party posted a tribute on Twitter to one of their most fondly-remembered characters.

"Vale Bob. We will remember him. In solidarity, forever. May he rest in peace."

Hawke cabinet member Susan Ryan remembers how popular he was with women voters.

"They really, really liked to get near him and to touch him and to get him to sign the autographs and so forth," she recounts.

"And the men liked him too because he was a sportsman and he had been a very effective trade union leader. So he was certainly Mr. Popularity."

His death comes just days before a general election that has seen a heated campaign which will probably see a change of leadership.

The centre-left Labor party has led the polls for months and is tipped to squeak over the finishing line, making Bill Shorten the sixth prime minister sworn into office in a decade.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who came to office less than a year ago via a party coup has campaigned virtually solo. Many members of his cabinet have either quit or were so politically toxic he kept them away from the cameras.