Bob Hawke, 23rd Prime Minister of Australia dead at 89

Bob Hawke Prime Minister
Image: Facebook

Bob Hawke,  the Australian Prime Minister whose government formulated the first national strategy to fight AIDS, died today aged 89. Hawke also became the first former Prime Minister to vote YES during the 2017 same-sex marriage postal survey.

At a time when support for the YES campaign dipped, Hawke offered his public support. He and wife Blanche d’Alpuget filled in their votes on camera for Australian Marriage Equality.

Hawke announced his position on marriage equality years before. In 2012, during an appearance with marriage equality opponent John Howard, he declared his support.

“I’m very much in favour of the law being changed to allow marriage between gay people.”

Howard, of course, changed the law in 2004 to make marriage, “a union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.”

The AIDS Crisis

After the successful Grim Reaper advertisements in 1987, in 1988 Hawke’s cabinet approved a number of strategies to combat the AIDS crisis.

Those reforms proved contentious at the time. The Hawke government disregarded the controversy in order to combat the crisis.

The Minister for Health at the time, Neal Blewett, came out as gay years later after he retired from politics.

However, even as a closeted politician, Blewett unfailingly supported the LGBTIQ communities throughout his tenure as Health Minister.

“”We would be derelict in our public health responsibility to Australians if we did not provide appropriate education and prevention programs.”

The government strategy recommended removing limitations on the sale of condoms and establishing needle exchanges.

It advocated for the removal of discriminatory laws that might hinder prevention campaigns aimed at homosexuals and sex workers.


Hawke came to prominence in Australia as a trade unionist. He often acted as de facto opposition leader during years when Labor proved less effective in the role.

His popularity grew from his reputation as an Aussie larrikin. He enjoyed a beer, or two, or three…

He sometimes appeared on television after a few beverages. On one memorable occasion current affairs host Mike Willesee asked Hawke about Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s opposition to daylight saving.

“He reckons the sun shines out of his arse,” said Bob Hawke on national television, “and he’s not getting up an hour early for anyone.”

What’s not to love?

As Prime Minister, Hawke gave up drinking and became renowned for his consensus style of government. Since leaving politics he remained an iconic figure in both the trade union movement and Labor Party.

Bob Hawke, dead at 89.

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