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Hawke, Robert James (1929–)

Subject History

Place Australasia » Australia

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


Prime Minister of Australia (1983–91). The son of a Congregational minister, he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University but gave up an academic career for one in the labour movement. His intelligence and hard work ensured that he became President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in 1970, a position he held for ten years until he was elected to the federal parliament. He had joined the Labor Party as a student and was its national President from 1973–8. His biography, written before he was chosen as leader of the Labor Party in 1983, showed that he had been a womanizer and heavy drinker, but these revelations did not appear to harm his reputation, as he won the 1983 general election and three subsequent elections to become the most successful Labor Prime Minister in Australian history. In office he did not pursue socialist policies, though Medicare, financed by a 1 per cent levy on incomes, provided basic health and hospital care for all Australians. He also introduced a scheme in 1992 to improve the education, housing and health care of the Aborigines, the most deprived section of the Australian population. Hawke sought consensus in industrial relations and to persuade all sides to work together. As the economy dominated political life, Paul keating, the Treasurer, was his most influential minister, who persuaded Hawke to abandon many traditional Labor policies. The currency ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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