Australia mourns former PM Bob Hawke

he nation is mourning former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke who died peacefully at home aged 89.
he nation is mourning former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke who died peacefully at home aged 89.

With one day left before Australians go to the polls, the country is mourning the death of its most successful Labor prime minister, Bob Hawke.

The Labor Party legend and Australia's 23rd prime minister died peacefully at his Sydney home, aged 89, on Thursday.

He is being remembered by all sides of politics as a man who made Australia better and as a "bloke" loved by all.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said he last saw "the great Bob Hawke" last week and his legacy would last forever.

"Bob Hawke loved Australia and Australia loved Bob Hawke. But his legacy will endure forever," he said in Sydney on Thursday night.

"He brought people together, he brought Australia together, he modernised our economy, he transformed our society, he protected our environment."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr Hawke made Australia stronger.

"It was his ability to connect with everyday Australians with a word, with that larrikin wit, with that connection and an understanding of everyday Australian life that we will most remember Bob Hawke," Mr Morrison said.

Mr Hawke was Labor's most successful federal leader, known as much for his larrikinism as his policies that helped modernise post-war Australia.

He frequently sculled beers, making the Guinness Book of Records for downing a yard glass while a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and even in his later years indulged fans at the cricket by knocking back drinks.

But he gave up the drink while prime minister and proudly boasted he "didn't touch a drop" while in the top job.

The former ACTU leader rose through union and Labor ranks and won the party four elections, with his wife and mother to their children Hazel by his side.

But in 1991 he was dumped and replaced by his treasurer Paul Keating, his marriage hit the rocks, and eventually he and Hazel divorced. He married his biographer Blanche d'Alpuget in 1995.

Mr Hawke's family will hold a private funeral. A memorial service will be held in Sydney in coming weeks.

Ms d'Alpuget was among those to honour her husband's political contribution and its lasting impact.

"Among his proudest achievements were large increases in the proportion of children finishing high school, his role in ending apartheid in South Africa and his successful international campaign to protect Antarctica from mining," she said in a statement.

"He abhorred racism and bigotry. His father, the Reverend Clem Hawke, told Bob that if you believed in the Fatherhood of God then you must also believe in the Brotherhood of Man. Bob would add today the Sisterhood of Women."

Australian Associated Press