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Robert (Bob) James Lee Hawke AC

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 Prime Minister, 11 March 1983 to 20 December 1991
Australian Labor Party

Known for his charisma, larrikinism, and love of sport, Bob Hawke (1929-2019) is the federal ALP’s longest serving and most electorally successful leader, with four successive victories. His consensus-style leadership brought about significant and enduring economic, social, and environmental reforms.1

Hawke was born in Bordertown, SA, before his family relocated to Perth when he was 10.2 He studied arts and law at the University of WA and became its Student Representative Council president. Hawke then studied economics at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, graduating in 1955.3 In 1956 he married Hazel Masterson; they had four children.4 After their divorce in 1995, Hawke married Blanche d’Alpuget.5

In 1958, Hawke became a research officer/advocate with the ACTU.6 He achieved growing prominence, serving as national president of the ACTU (1969–80) and the ALP (1973–78), having initially joined the latter in 1947. He also sat on the boards of the Reserve Bank, the Immigration Advisory Council, and the International Labour Organisation. In 1979 he received an AC.

Following his unsuccessful candidacy for Corio in the 1963 federal election,7 17 years later Hawke won the federal seat of Wills. He immediately became Opposition Spokesperson for Industrial Relations, Employment and Youth Affairs. After taking over the party leadership in 1983, Hawke led the ALP to victory at the subsequent election. Across its almost nine years, the Hawke Government’s policy program proved wide-ranging, with a focus on industrial relations, globalisation, and economic reform. Hawke’s National Economic Summit was instrumental in achieving policy consensus and paved the way for financial deregulation and floating the Australian dollar. His Government also established the Australian Electoral Commission, Commonwealth responsibility for world heritage-listed sites, Medicare, the Family Assistance Scheme, universal superannuation, and Landcare. Other achievements included the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, helping form the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and agreement on a national single gauge rail network.

Hawke laid the foundation stone for Australia’s new Parliament House in 1983 and subsequently hosted its opening five years later. In 1990, his Government oversaw Australia’s entry into the Gulf War, while an economic recession saw his own popularity decline. Defeated in a party room challenge by his Treasurer and deputy Paul Keating in 1991, Hawke resigned from Parliament in 1992.8

After politics, Hawke campaigned for an Australian Republic and established a successful international consultancy business. In 1997 the University of SA established the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, Research Institute and Library, and in 2002 he co-led (with Neville Wran)9 a review into reforming the ALP. Hawke died in 2019 and received a state funeral at the Sydney Opera House.10

Desmond Robert (Bill) Leak
An alumnus of the Julian Ashton Art School, Bill Leak (1956-2017) was best known for his prolific work as a political cartoonist. Adelaide-born, he was a regular contributor to some of Australia’s leading publications. After an eclectic beginning, he travelled to Europe to focus on his career as a portraitist. Returning to Australia in 1982 with intentions of continuing on this path, he instead became a cartoonist for the Bulletin and regularly contributed to other magazines. Leak subsequently worked as a cartoonist for the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Financial Review, and the Australian. Leak won nine Walkley awards, 20 Stanley Awards from the Australian Black and White Artists’ Society (of which eight were gold awards for Cartoonist of the Year), and he was twice awarded News Corp’s Cartoonist of the Year. An Archibald Prize finalist 12 times, Leak took out the Packing Room Prize twice, and, with Malcolm Turnbull as the subject, was also a People’s Choice winner in 1994.11

Robert (Bob) James Lee Hawke
by Desmond Robert Leak
Oil on canvas
119.5 x 105.4 cm
Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

1. Information in this biography has been taken from the following: T Bramston and P Dalgleish, ‘Bob Hawke: guide to archives of Australia’s prime ministers’, National Archives of Australia; K Murphy, ‘Bob Hawke, the typical Australian who enjoyed extraordinary popularity as a public figure’, Guardian Australia, 16 May 2019; ‘Prime Ministers of Australia: Bob Hawke’, National Museum of Australia; ‘Australia’s Prime Ministers: Robert Hawke’, National Archives of Australia. Websites accessed 24 September 2021.
2. Bramston and Dalgleish, op. cit., pp. 7–9.
3. Ibid., p. 11.
4. ‘Robert Hawke’s partner: Hazel Hawke’, National Archives of Australia, accessed 24 September 2021.
5. Bramston and Dalgleish, op. cit., pp. 12, 24, 180.
6. Ibid., p. 11.
7. Ibid., p. 12.
8. B Graham, ‘Bob Hawke’s complicated relationship with drinking’, News.com.au, 17 May 2019, accessed 28 September 2021.
9. M Cockburn, ‘Neville Wran: Labor premier had a golden run’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 April 2014, accessed 27 September 2021.
10. I Roe, Bob Hawke farewelled at state funeral in Sydney’, ABC PM, 14 June 2019, accessed 26 August 2021.
11. Information in this biography has been taken from the following: W Brown, ‘Bill Leak’, The Australian Media Hall of Fame, Melbourne Press Club; L Foyle, ‘Desmond (Bill) Robert Leak’, Stanley Hall of Fame, Australian Cartoonists Association. ‘Leak, Bill’, A McCulloch, S McCulloch and E McCulloch Childs, eds, The New McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art, Aus Art Editions in association with The Miegunyah Press, 2006, p. 603. Websites accessed 25 March 2021.

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