Australia in the 1980s

Bob Hawke's ascendancy

In September 1980, Bob Hawke resigned as president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to become a member of parliament for the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

In February 1983, prime minister Malcolm Fraser called a snap election. Bill Hayden was immediately replaced by Bob Hawke as leader of the Australian Labor Party. The ALP went on to a convincing win in the national election on 5 March.

In April 1983, Bob Hawke held a National Economic Summit in Canberra, aiming to reach agreement between unions, employers and government on the best way to proceed with fixing the economy. The Hawke government reached a historic agreement with the unions to keep wage claims down. This agreement became known as the Prices and Income Accord, or the Accord. In exchange for wage restraint, the government pledged to reduce inflation and to assist employment growth. Periodically renewed, the Accord lasted for the following 13 years.

Bob Hawke was prime minister for the rest of the decade, winning the 1984 and 1987 elections. He was eventually replaced in 1991 by the former treasurer, Paul Keating.

A snapshot of 1988

  • January
    • The first Aboriginal television station, Imparja, began transmission in Alice Springs.
    • Australia's Bicentennial celebrations began and the First Fleet re-enactment vessels arrived at Botany Bay.
    • The new Parliament House on Capital Hill in Canberra was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

  • June
    • Kay Cottee became the first woman to sail single-handedly and non-stop around the world.
    • The $2 coin went into circulation replacing the old $2 note.


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