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Remembering the Hawke Government 1983–1991

In the lead up to former Prime Minister Bob Hawke’s memorial service on Friday 14.6.19, the Machinery of Government blog has produced a series of reflections on Hawke’s government from 1983 to 1991. The first instalment sees Emeritus Professor Patrick Weller noting that Hawke’s cabinets were extremely well run.

‘Hawke’s cabinets were among the best run in the last 35 years.

‘In part that was fortuitous. When he was elected leader, he wanted an immediate impact. The one policy document ready for release was the report of a taskforce, Labor and the Quality of Government, prepared primarily by Gareth Evans and Neal Blewett. Among other issues it described how a Labor cabinet would work. It proposed an inner cabinet and outer ministry, breaking the assumption of the Whitlam government that all ministers should be part of cabinet. It re-asserted that collective responsibility should apply within the party as well as in public.

‘These changes added discipline that was to be a hall mark of the early Hawke governments, in contrast to the experiences of its giddy predecessor. Every new minister was committed to the process. In the first five years that commitment meant the rules and procedures, requiring due process and proper negotiation, were almost self-enforcing. Ministers would ask if a new proposal had followed the rules, making the chairing of cabinet easier for a new prime minister.’

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