Robert James Lee Hawke, (9 December 1929 – 16 May 2019) was an Australian politician who served as Prime Minister of Australia and Leader of the Labor Party from 1983 to 1991. He was also Member of Parliament (MP) for Wills from 1980 to 1992.
Hawke was born in Bordertown, South Australia. He attended the University of Western Australia and went on to study at University College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. In 1956, Hawke joined the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) as a research officer. Having risen to become responsible for wage arbitration, he was elected ACTU President in 1969, where he achieved a high public profile.
After a decade serving in that role, Hawke announced his intention to enter politics, and was subsequently elected to the House of Representatives as the Labor MP for Wills in Victoria. Three years later, he led Labor to a landslide victory at the 1983 election and was sworn in as Australia’s 23rd Prime Minister. He went on to lead Labor to victory three more times, in 1984, 1987 and 1990, making him the most electorally successful Labor Leader in history.
The Hawke Government created Medicare and Landcare, brokered the Prices and Incomes Accord, established APEC, floated the Australian dollar, deregulated the financial sector, introduced the Family Assistance Scheme, announced “Advance Australia Fair” as the official national anthem, initiated superannuation pension schemes for all workers and oversaw passage of the Australia Act that removed all remaining jurisdiction by the United Kingdom from Australia. During his time as Prime Minister, Hawke recorded the highest popularity rating ever measured by an Australian opinion poll, reaching 75% approval in 1984.In June 1991, Treasurer Paul Keating unsuccessfully challenged for the leadership, believing that Hawke had reneged on the Kirribilli Agreement. Keating mounted a second challenge six months later, this time narrowly succeeding. Hawke subsequently retired from Parliament, pursuing both a business career and a number of charitable causes, until his death in 2019, aged 89. Hawke remains Labor’s longest-serving and Australia’s third-longest-serving Prime Minister; he is also the only Prime Minister to be born in South Australia and the only one raised in Western Australia.