Sunday, September 19, 2004

A Short Bio

Paul John Keating was born on 18 January 1944. He became the 24th Prime Minister of Australia in 1991. Previously, he was the treasurer in the Hawke Labor government from 1983 to 1991.

Early career
Keating grew up in the working class suburb of Bankstown and was one of four children. He left school at the age of 15 and joined the Australian Labor Party. He worked as a clerk and research assistant for the trade unions. Each year when the HSC results are released, the name Keating is often quoted in the media reminding disappointed Year 12 students that some of the greatest Australians never went to university.

At the age of 25, Keating won preselection for the Federal seat of Blaxland. He was elected in the 1969 election and became the youngest legislator in the country. He would go on to be the member for Blaxland for another 27 years until his government was defeated in 1996. Keating became the Minister for Northern Australia a few weeks before the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor government in 1975. After the defeat of the Whitlam government, Keating joined the opposition front bench.

When Bob Hawke was elected as Prime Minister in 1983, Keating became the nation's treasurer. Warning Australians the country was in danger of becoming a "banana republic", Keating introduced many macroeconomic reforms including the floating the Australian dollar, substantial cuts in tariffs, and reforms of taxation. These reforms laid the foundations for the economic prosperity enjoyed by Australia in recent years.

Hawke and Keating worked in a successful partnership during much of 1980s. The economy prospered. The Labor Party won consecutive elections in 1984, 1987, and 1990 and dispelled any myths that the conservatives were the natural party for government. Keating's parliamentary performance was legendary. Described as the government's "parliamentary howitzer", he had little difficulties demolishing his political opponents.

In 1988, in a famous meeting at Kirribilli House, Hawke and Keating discussed the handover of the leadership to Keating. Hawke agreed in front of witnesses that after the 1990 election he would resign in Keating's favour. In the early 1990s, Australia like many other Western nations fell into recession. After winning the 1990 election, Hawke reneged on the Kirribilli Pact, forcing Keating to challenge him for the leadership.

Keating's first leadership challenge was unsuccessful. He resigned as Treasurer and stayed on the backbench. Throughout the rest of 1991, the popularity of the Hawke government waned. Caucus turned to Keating for salvation. In December 1991, Keating defeated Hawke in a second leadership challenge, and became Prime Minister.

Prime Minister
Assuming the Prime Ministership in 1991, Keating faced an unenviable task. The economy was in the depths of recession. The 1993 election was fast approaching and by then Labor would have been in power for 10 years. The government faced a resurgent opposition led by the new opposition leader Dr John Hewson. In the words of most commentators at the time, the 1993 election was "unwinnable" for Labor.

In the 1993 election, Hewson proposed a GST, sweeping cuts in personal income tax and cuts to government spending. The government led by its new leader severely damaged Hewson's credibility in a series of set-piece parliamentary encounters. Defying all odds, Keating led his party to an election victory in 1993 with an increased majority. On his victory speech on election night, Keating thanked the "true believers" out there who stuck with Labor during the hard times.

As Prime Minister, Keating's promoted "big picture issues" such as making Australia a republic and a multicultural society, achieving reconciliation with Aboriginies, and further economic and cultural engagement with Asia. It was here he truly showed himself to be a man ahead of his time. These issues were embraced by a large section of the electorate, especially the tertiary-educated middle class. But they failed to carry the aspirations of rural and outer-suburban voters.

Between 1993 to 1996, Keating saw off two opposition leaders: John Hewson, followed by Alexander Downer. But when John Howard regained the Liberal leadership in early 1995, many voters responded to his message of social conservatism. Keating fought an uphill battle against the "it's time" factor in the 1996 election. The economy was recovering but slowly. Showing decisive leadership, Keating would sack a Labor MP Graeme Campbell for making racist comments. Unfortunately, ethnic voters did not award Keating's multicultural policy. They flocked to John Howard in the 1996 election after he assured them he had changed his views on immigration from the 1980s. Howard would later betray these people's trust with the rise of Pauline Hanson in the late 1990s. In the crucial weeks of Labor's re-election campaign, Keating's chances of a close result was damaged by Ralph Willis' "letter bomb" incident. At the time of Keating's defeat in 1996, polls had showed he was still the preferred Prime Minister but his party lagged far behind the Coalition.

Keating was a true visionary. People who are ahead of their time are often treated harshly. History will treat Keating kinder than the Australian electorate did in 1996. When Australia eventually becomes a republic, when there is genuine reconciliation with Aboriginies, and when there is finally a multicultural society, the chief architect will be remembered.


At 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

very good homepage im ding an assingnment on you i have to do a biography on you and draw a picture

At 7:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keating had some great ideas especially superannuation. He was highly entertaining and certainly missed when he resigned. However people were sick of his over-bearing views on non white immigration, multi-culturalism (yuk). He went war too far and fast and was given the chop. Had he pulled his horns in a bit he could have been PM for longer.

At 4:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank-you very much for this page. I had to do an assignment on any prime minister and a chose Paul Keating. It's actually quiet funny because some people think he was the best prime minister in the world and that he shouldn't of got the cut, yet others think he was the worst thing that happened to Australian Politics.
I wasn't alive when he was prime minister but I think he would've been great.

At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everytime I put PaulKeating into Google search up comes John Paul Young`s song"Yesterday`s Hero".


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