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Shorten, Plibersek, Hawke, D'Aluget and Vice-Chancellor celebrate Hawke birthday and honorary
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Former PM Bob Hawke awarded honorary doctorate

9 December 2016
Sydney University awards former PM Bob Hawke an honorary doctorate

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke AC received an honorary degree from the University of Sydney. Honorary degrees are awarded to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the wider community.

The Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson, former PM Bob Hawke and Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence. 

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke AC received an honorary degree from the University of Sydney for his leadership on economic reforms, environmental protection and the introduction of initiatives such as Medicare, the Family Assistance Scheme and the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum.

“Among the many achievements being recognised by this honour are the economic reforms undertaken during Mr Hawke’s leadership, made possible by co-operation between unions and employer organisations. They include the float of the Australian dollar, deregulation of the financial sector and dismantling of the tariff system,” said Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Belinda Hutchinson AM.

Honorary degrees are awarded to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the wider community or achieved exceptional academic or creative excellence. Mr Hawke will receive a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa).

I congratulate Mr Hawke on his doctorate and the many accomplishments it commemorates.
Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence

Mr Hawke made his name in the political arena while President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, earning respect for his considerable expertise across many areas including the ability to build consensus and resolve industrial issues.

In 1980 Mr Hawke was elected to the House of Representatives as the Labor MP for Wills.  In 1983 he led Labor to a landslide victory and was sworn in as Australia’s 23rd Prime Minister.  He led his party to victory again in 1984, 1987 and 1990, making him the most electorally successful Labor leader in history. He remains Labor's longest-serving Prime Minister.

The Hawke Government had a strong emphasis on protecting the environment and in 1983 used its powers in the High Court to prevent the Tasmanian government from building the Gordon‑below‑Franklin dam in Tasmania.  His government was also successful in securing world heritage listing for Tasmania’s forests, the North Queensland rainforests and Kakadu National Park.  

Antarctica was given protection from mining exploration and exploitation, (until 2048 under the Madrid Protocol), due to Mr Hawke’s personal intervention and commitment.

Other legacies of the Hawke government include improved financial assistance to low-income families and the integration of employment, education and training.

Bob Hawke at lectern

“I congratulate Mr Hawke on his doctorate and the many accomplishments it commemorates. I note that, in connection to the University, Mr Hawke appointed our alumnus Charles Perkins as Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, making him the first Indigenous Australian to head a Commonwealth department,” said Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney.

In 1985, the Hawke government officially returned ownership of Uluru to the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal people.  

In his occasional address Mr Hawke reflected on the serious threats posed by climate change and urged Australia to become a safe storage site for nuclear waste as an essential support for the use of nuclear power.

Describing the issues at stake as profoundly important, he said such an arrangement would be a win both for the world’s environment and for Australia. He suggested that a percentage of the revenue generated be directed to Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. 

Leader of the Australian Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, at an event following the ceremony, congratulated Mr Hawke on his many significant contributions to Australia society and commented,"I believe the Australian people loved Bob Hawke because they knew he loved the Australian people." 

The awarding of the degree coincided with Mr Hawke's 87th birthday. 

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