A story of Australia's 23rd prime minister.
On Wednesdays this past year the longest serving Labor prime minister – he won four elections between 1983 and 1991 and maintained a 75% approval rating with the Australian people – has welcomed writer Derek Rielly into his home for animated conversation and indecently fine cigars. On a sun-soaked balcony the irreverent young writer and the charismatic old master talk life, death, love, sex, religion, politics, sport, fatherhood, marriage and everything in between. The result is an extraordinary and unique portrait of a remarkable Australian eloquently, emotionally and humorously reflecting on his past, present and future as never before.
Interspersing these chats with Hawke are Rielly’s interviews with Bob’s contemporaries – former nemesis John Howard, Labor allies Gareth Evans and Kim Beazley, lover and wife Blanche D’Alpuget, good mates John Singleton and Col Cunningham, diplomat Richard Woolcott and economist Ross Garnaut and more – all painting Hawke’s enigma from the outside and paying tribute to a man who strode the world stage with aplomb and won the hearts of millions in Australia and worldwide.
Robert James Lee Hawke AC, GCL (born 9 December 1929) is an Australian politician who was the Prime Minister of Australia and the Leader of the Labor Party from 1983 to 1991.
Hawke was born in South Australia but moved to Western Australia as a child. He attended the University of Western Australia and then went on to Oxford University 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 President of the ACTU in 1969, where he achieved an unprecedented level of popularity. After a decade as ACTU President, Hawke announced his intention to enter politics, and was immediately elected to the House of Representatives as the Labor MP for Wills.
Three years later, he led Labor to a landslide election victory at the 1983 election and was sworn in as Prime Minister. He led Labor to victory at three more elections in 1984, 1987 and 1990, thus making him the most electorally successful Labor Party Leader in history. The Hawke Government created Medicare and Landcare, brokered the Prices and Incomes Accord, formed APEC, floated the Australian dollar, deregulated the financial sector, introduced the Family Assistance Scheme, announced "Advance Australia Fair" as the official national anthem and initiated superannuation pension schemes for all workers.
Hawke was eventually replaced by Paul Keating at the end of 1991, who would go on to deliver the Labor government a record fifth consecutive victory and a record thirteen years in government at the 1993 election. He remains to date Labor's longest-serving Prime Minister, Australia's third-longest-serving Prime Minister, and at the age of 88 years, 23 days, Hawke is currently the oldest living former Australian Prime Minister. To date, he is the only Australian Prime Minister to be born in South Australia, as well as being the only one raised and educated in Western Australia.