Bob Hawke has been hailed by advocates as Australia’s greatest environmental prime minister who had the guts to make unpopular decisions for the benefit of the country.
Following his death, the 89-year-old’s long list of achievements has been applauded, with environmentalists honouring his record for protecting Australia’s natural beauty.
Former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown says Mr Hawke’s history-making tenure began with a promise on the 1983 election night to save the Franklin River in Tasmania, which was facing damming for a hydro-electricity development.
“It was an extraordinary moment in environmental history,” Mr Brown told reporters in Tasmania on Friday.
“He was Australia’s greatest environmental prime minister ever.
“He was a leader who was prepared to sometimes take unpopular decisions because he felt they were right for the future of the nation.”
His other achievements include the introduction of Landcare, which became a “world icon” for community involvement in government-funded repair of rural lands and rivers, Mr Brown said.
Mr Hawke also expanded Australia’s world heritage listings to include the Gondwana rainforests of the New South Wales-Queensland border region, Queensland’s Daintree wet tropics, Shark Bay in Western Australia and Uluru-Kata Tjuta in the Northern Territory.
He also expanded existing heritage areas for the Northern Territory’s Kakadu and the Tasmanian wilderness world heritage areas.
“We haven’t seen a government with the environmental kudos that Bob Hawke gave since his time, it’s been downhill,” Mr Brown said.
The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia also praised the former prime minister’s environmental achievements, including his leadership along with other countries to halt mining exploitation in Antarctica.
“Bob Hawke changed the perception of environmental protection from a fringe issue, to a centrepiece of what good governments do,” WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said.