Friday, 14 June 2019


Farewell to Bob Hawke, a champion of social and economic reforms and friend to the social sciences

Today, Australia will farewell the Honourable Robert “Bob” James Lee Hawke AC, former Prime Minister of Australia, in a State Memorial Service.

Bob Hawke was Prime Minister of Australia from 1983 to 1991, overseeing nearly a decade of social and economic reforms.

Under Hawke’s leadership, Australia’s engagement with the world economy accelerated with the floating of the Australian dollar, removal of foreign exchange-rate controls, and the entry of foreign banks into Australia. Hawke was also crucial in the forming of the Asia-Pacific Economic (APEC) forum in 1989.

Hawke’s economic reforms went even further. He negotiated a ground-breaking agreement between the Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the Prices and Income Accord, to drive economic growth without also increasing wages and prices. The trade-off for this agreement was the introduction of the “social wage” – which included programs like Medicare, superannuation, educational reform, and labour-market adjustment schemes.

Hawke was a champion of research and education, he oversaw a restructure of the higher education landscape, establishment of national curriculum standards, and the introduction of the Higher Education Contributions Scheme (HECS) making University accessible to a vastly larger group of Australian students. He also was a champion of Australian immigration, including restructuring the operation of the immigration selection system.

In all these reforms, Hawke engaged with expert advice and innovative research. Academy Fellows ranging from Ross Garnaut on open regionalism, Bruce Chapman on HECS, Glenn Withers on the immigration points system and many more, contributed directly to the Hawke agenda. He did not shy away from such new ideas and drove a genuine reshaping of Australian society. Without many of his reforms, the Australia we live in today would be lessened.

Thank you Bob Hawke. Farewell.