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Labor Icon Bob Hawke Dies Age 89

Bob Hawke, Australia’s 23rd Prime Minister and the longest serving Labor PM, has died.

His wife Blanche d'Alpuget confirmed the news on Thursday night.

"Today we lost Bob Hawke, a great Australian -- many would say the greatest Australian of the post-war era," she said in a statement.

"He died peacefully at home at the age of 89."

A private funeral will be held by Blanche and Hawke's children -- Sue, Stephen, Rosslyn and stepson Louis -- and grandchildren, with a public memorial service to be held in Sydney in the coming weeks.

"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," d'Alpuget's statement continued.

"Bob was dearly loved by his family, and so many friends and colleagues. We will miss him.

"The golden bowl is broken."

READ MORE: 'Our Greatest Son': Australia Mourns Labor Icon Bob Hawke

A lasting legacy

Born Robert James Lee Hawke, but known to most simply as Bob, the South Australian-born politician was the nation's third-longest serving Prime Minister with an eight-year stint in the top job between 1983 and 1991.

“'Do you know why I have credibility? Because I don't exude morality," he once famously said.

A former union leader and Rhodes Scholar, he helmed the reshaping of Australia's economy in the tumultuous 80s, overseeing the floating of the dollar, deregulation of the financial system and far stronger ties with a globalised economy.

His legacy the reintroduction of universal healthcare in the form of Medicare; the establishment of 'Advance Australia Fair' as the national anthem; the privatisation of the Commonwealth Bank, Optus and Qantas; reforms to tariffs; and the introduction of taxes on fringe benefits and capital gains.

The Hawke administration also enacted the Australia Acts, which saw Australia become independent of British courts by ending the ability to appeal to the U.K Privy Council, as well as stopping English parliament to enact laws about Australia; and handed back Uluru to the Pitjantjatjara traditional owners.

"I find a fence a very uncomfortable place to squat my bottom," he once said, in explanation of his convictions.

A life in politics

He came to parliament in 1980, elected to the Victorian seat of Wills. Seen as a future leader from the beginning, in early 1983 -- just two and a half years after entering federal politics -- he was named as Labor leader.

That same day, then-Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser called a snap election, in hopes of exploiting Labor in-fighting. But Hawke would lead the opposition to a historic landslide win, and became PM just a month after taking the party leadership.

Hawke is remembered for some of the most meaningful moments in recent political history. In 1989 he tearfully promised to allow Chinese students to stay in Australia after the Tiananmen Square massacre, and his government allowed 42,000 Chinese students to stay in Australia.

He also made the famous -- and ultimately unfulfilled -- promise that "by 1990, no Australian child will be living in poverty."

A political titan in public, Hawke also had a famously turbulent personal private life.

His decades-long affair with Blanche D'Apulget is the stuff of Australian political and gossip legend, as the PM saw her while still married to wife Hazel. Hawke and Blanche would marry in 1995, nearly 20 years after he first asked her to marry him in 1978.

Keating and Kirribilli

His relationship with treasurer Paul Keating was one of the most interesting in modern politics, with the pair a formidable team in a strictly business sense, but with a strained personal relationship due to Keating's leadership ambitions.

The famous 'Kirribilli agreement' saw Hawke agree to stand aside for Keating following the 1990 election, and Keating installed as deputy PM. However, impatience saw Keating publicly undermine Hawke and challenge for the leadership in June 1991.

That initial challenge was unsuccessful, but a second leadership vote in December 1991 saw Keating narrowly win and take the top job.

Hawke returned to the backbench but resigned from the parliament in February 1992,  taking on a number of directorships and consultancy positions.

A larrikin to the end

Despite his political legacy, Hawke may be remembered more for his good nature and personality.

Perhaps his most popularly celebrated moment came following Australia's landmark win in the America's Cup sailing tournament, when Hawke -- dressed in the now iconic jacket emblazoned with Aussie insignia -- laughed "any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum!"

His drinking exploits are also the stuff of legend. At one point he held a world record for the fastest time to down a yard glass of beer.

His annual sculling of a drink at the Sydney test cricket match is looked forward to by many, with cameras finding the former PM each year and fans encouraging him on.

He also lent his name to a brand of beer in recent years.

Hawke was also famously injured during a parliamentary cricket match between the PM's office and the press gallery.