Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke dies aged 89 - days before ...

bob hawkeBob Hawke 'had a unique ability to speak to all' (Image: getty)

The hugely popular Mr Hawke, 89, died on Thursday and was hailed by Labor leader Bill Shorten for his role in advancing opportunities for education among the working class. Mr Shorten said in a statement: “With his passing, the labour movement salutes our greatest son. ”Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr Hawke "had a unique ability to speak to all Australians and will be greatly missed”.

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While others may have struggled to dismiss a reputation for boisterous, if well-meaning, behaviour, silver-haired Mr Hawke said it helped him win favour with working-class voters.

Mr Hawke earned his reputation as a "larrikin" in part due to his setting a world record for drinking a "yard", or 1.4 litres, of beer in 11 seconds while at Oxford University.

Robert James Lee Hawke, a former trade union leader, was first elected to parliament in 1980 and was named leader of Australia's centre-left Labor Party less than a month before a snap general election in 1983.

Voters quickly embraced Hawke and Labor won an unlikely landslide victory against the conservative government led by Malcolm Fraser, who had been in power for nearly a decade, for Mr Hawke to become Australia's 23rd prime minister.

He won a fourth election in 1990 to become Australia's longest-serving Labor prime minister but his popularity began to wane amid a recession.

Labor is on track to end six years of conservative rule of the Liberal-National Coalition although re-election prospects for Mr Morrison have been lifted by tightening polls

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