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Robert James Lee Hawke

(b. 1929) Australian Labor statesman, Prime Minister 1983–91


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(b. 9 Dec. 1929).

Prime Minister of Australia 1983–91 Born in Bordertown (South Australia), he studied economics and law at Perth and as a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford, joining the Australian Labor Party in 1946. A research scholar at the Australian National University (1956–8), he then became a research scholar for the Australian Council of Trade Unions (1958–69) before becoming its president in 1970. He joined the national executive of the Labor Party in 1971, but did not become a member of the House of Representatives until 1980. He joined the party's parliamentary executive, and on 5 March 1983 was unanimously elected to the party's leadership.

Succeeding Fraser as Prime Minister on 11 March 1983, Hawke based his long tenure on a careful maintenance of an internal balance of power within Labor, between broad left, centre left, and right. Anxious to appease business, he achieved a government‐sponsored compromise between business leaders and trade unions, inaugurating a six‐year‐long spell of industrial peace. Criticized for being less radical than the Whitlam government, his pragmatic policies effectively seized the middle ground in Australian politics, which was maintained by Keating after him and which ensured Labor's long tenure in office. He was helped by a dramatic economic recovery (1983–5), though his liberalization of the banking system caused a massive increase in Australia's (private) foreign debt. A renewed decline in economic growth from the late 1980s, and increasing hostility to his long grip on power, eventually led to his replacement by Keating.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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