Bob Hawke changed Australia for the better. Here's 5 things that wouldn't exist without him.


Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke is being remembered for the way he changed Australia.

The Labor legend died peacefully in his Sydney home aged 89 on Thursday May 16, 2019. He was prime minister from 1983 to 1991.

He was Australia’s longest serving Labor leader after successfully winning four elections.

Here is Mia Freedman’s chat with Bob’s wife Blanche. Post continues after podcast.

Hawke was considered a charismatic and forthright politician, with an upfront manner. Brutally honest but always likeable.

Here are 5 things that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Bob Hawke.

1. Equality in the workplace.

In 1984, the Hawke government introduced the Sex Discrimination Act which stopped women being discriminated against based on their marital status, being pregnant or being of childbearing years.

Susan Ryan was appointed to the portfolio as minister assisting the prime minister for the status of women, and she served in that role from 1983 to 1988.

The pair are also responsible for the passing of the Affirmative Action Act in 1986, which is now known as the Workplace Gender Equality Act.

2. Environmental protection.

Hawke passed the World Heritage Conservation Act when he first came into office, which blocked the damming of Tasmania’s Franklin River for a hydroelectricity development.

The battle went to the High Court, but Hawke won answering conservation activists calls to “let the Franklin run free”.

His decision paved the way for more environmental legislation such as the current Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.


He also banned new uranium mining at Jabiluka in the Northern Territory, and made sure the Kakadu National Park was given world heritage listing.

The government also made sure Tasmania’s forests and the North Queensland rainforests were added to that list.

3. Affordable healthcare.

In 1984, Hawke introduced Medicare.

It was originally introduced in part by Gough Whitlam but had been dismantled by Malcolm Fraser’s government.

It was Australia’s first affordable and universal health insurance system.

4. A strong Australian dollar.

This has been called Hawke’s most significant decision.

In 1983, when he first came into office, he floated the Australian dollar so it would no longer be pegged to other currencies like the British pound or US dollar.

It was part of Hawke’s plan for deregulation, and many commentators think it helped Australia avoid the impacts of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

5. A global economy.

Hawke can be credited with transforming our economy from a national one to a global one.

He founded the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to promote growth in the region and help open up our telecommunications industry to competition.

He also sold the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and allowed the operation of foreign-owned banks.

Hawke also overhauled taxes, cut tariffs, introduced enterprise bargaining and advocated for free agriculture trade.