Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke dies at 89

May 16 (UPI) — Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke died Thursday at his home in Sydney. He was 89.

The Labor Party leader led Australia from 1983 to 1991 and continued to stay active in politics, writing an open letter to opposition leader Bill Shorten this week wishing him luck in Saturday’s election against incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Shorten in a statement Thursday called him a “leader of conviction” and a “builder of consensus” who inspired him to go into politics.

“In Australian history, in Australian politics, there will always be B.H. and A.H.: Before Hawke and After Hawke,” Shorten said. “After Hawke, we were a different country. A kinder, better, bigger and bolder country.”

Hawke was a charismatic politician who loved beer and cricket and could often be seen downing a beer in one gulp well into his 80s. He joined the Labor Party at age 18 in 1947 and won a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford in 1953. He won a seat in parliament in 1980 and became labor leader in 1983.

Paul Keating served as treasurer under Hawke, and succeeded him as prime minister in 1991.

“Bob possessed a moral framework for his important public life, both representing the workers of Australia and more broadly, the country at large,” Keating said. “Bob, of course, was hoping for a Labor victory this weekend. His friends, too, were hoping he would see this.”

Hawke will be buried in a private service attended by his family. A memorial service will be held in Sydney in the next few weeks.

“Bob Hawke and Paul Keating and their governments modernized the Australian economy, paving the way for an unprecedented period of recession-free economic growth and job creation,” his wife Blanche d’Alpuget said. “Today we lost Bob Hawke, a great Australian — many would say the greatest Australian of the post-war era.”

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