Bob Hawke (Australian Biographical Monographs)
Bob Hawke ranks as one of Australia’s leading prime ministers. He enjoyed extraordinary electoral success, winning four elections and serving for eight years and nine months, a term exceeded only by Robert Menzies and John Howard. His political skills, including his popularity with voters and his emphasis on consensus, enabled his government to implement a large agenda of economic reform that transformed the nation. Often unpopular at the time, the scope and ambition of initiatives such as financial deregulation, reform of the tax system and cutting import tariffs are unimaginable in today’s political context. Hawke also left a substantial record on social policy, including the introduction of Medicare and directing welfare to those most in need, and on the environment, with measures such as blocking a dam on Tasmania’s Franklin River and preserving North Queensland rainforests. His extensive involvement in foreign policy, including playing a role in ending apartheid in South Africa, is often overlooked.
Hawke was a complex personality. A son of the manse, his life combined hard work, discipline and a sense of public duty with an undisciplined private life of heavy drinking, aggressive behaviour, multiple affairs and sexual liaisons and neglect of his family. The convention that journalists did not report on politicians’ private lives unless it affected their public duties meant Hawke survived with his reputation largely intact until recently. Today such conduct would disqualify him from leading the nation. Hawke may have adapted to today’s community standards in the interests of his long-nurtured ambition to become prime minister, but this remains an imponderable.
About the author:
Mike Steketee was chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald in the Canberra Press Gallery from 1984 to 1988 and continued to cover the later years of the Hawke Government as the Herald’s political editor.
Author: Mike Steketee
Publisher: Connor Court Publishing
Dimensions: 198 x 130 x 5 mm
Publication date: 22 August 2022
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