Kim Beazley

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For Kim Beazley's father Kim Beazley senior, see Kim Edward Beazley.
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Hon Kim Beazley

Kim Christian Beazley (born December 14, 1948), Australian politician, is a former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, and has been Leader of the Australian Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition since 28 January 2005. He previously held these positions from 1996 to 2001, when he resigned after losing two federal elections. He was returned unopposed to the Labor Party leadership following the resignation of Mark Latham and the withdrawal of two other candidates.

Beazley was born in Perth, Western Australia. His father, also called Kim Beazley and now generally known as Kim Beazley senior, was Labor MP for Fremantle from 1945 to 1977. The younger Kim was educated at Hollywood High School in Perth, at the University of Western Australia, where he gained an MA, and at Oxford University (Rhodes Scholar 1973), where he gained a Master of Philosophy degree. While at Oxford, he became close friends with Tony Blair and Geoff Gallop (now the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Premier of Western Australia respectively).

After returning to Australia, he tutored and lectured in politics at Perth's Murdoch University before being elected MP for the seat of Swan at the 1980 election.

Beazley became a protege of Bob Hawke, Labor leader from 1983, and in that year he was appointed Minister for Aviation in Hawke's first ministry. He was Minister for Defence, with a seat in Cabinet, 1984-90. In this role he was responsible for establishing the Australian Navy's submarine program which has been beset with technical problems and cost over-runs (see Collins class submarine).

Beazley was then Minister for Transport and Communications (1990-91), for Finance (1991), for Employment, Education and Training (1991-93) and Finance again (1993-96). He supported Hawke in his leadership battles with Paul Keating in 1990-91, but retained his position when Keating deposed Hawke and became Prime Minister in December 1991. Beazley was Deputy Prime Minister 1995-96. At the 1996 elections Beazley shifted to the safer seat of Brand, south of Perth.

In 1996, on the defeat of the Keating government by John Howard, Beazley was elected unopposed as Labor leader and became Opposition Leader. He campaigned against Howard's Goods and Services Tax (GST) and came very close to winning the October 1998 federal election: Labor polled a majority of the two-party vote but failed to win enough seats.

In mid 2001 Labor was well ahead in the opinion polls and seemed set to win the elections due at the end of the year, but in August a political crisis erupted when the Howard government refused to allow the MV Tampa, a Norwegian freighter, to set down on Australian soil at Christmas Island several hundred asylum seekers which the crew had rescued from an unseaworthy boat in nearby international waters. Howard was able to campaign effectively on the issues of border protection and national security, a task made easier for him by the September 11 terrorist attacks. When the November 2001 election was announced, Howard had taken a commanding lead in the polls and seemed set for a huge victory. But Beazley's dogged campaigning regained some of this ground and Labor suffered a net loss of only four seats.

Beazley resigned the Labor leadership after the elections and was succeeded by Simon Crean. But by 2003 Crean had failed to make any headway against Howard and Labor MPs began to fear that Howard would easily win the elections due in 2004. Crean's opponents persuaded Beazley to attempt a return to the leadership by challenging Crean. The Labor Caucus (parliamentary Labor Party) re-elected Crean in June 2003, not convinced that Beazley offered a better alternative. Some Beazley supporters continued to plot against Crean, however, and Beazley refused to rule out a further challenge.

On 27 November Crean's closest supporters told him that he had lost their confidence, and the next day he announced his resignation. Beazley immediately announced that he would be contesting the leadership when the Labor Caucus met on 2 December. His only opponent was the party's economic spokesperson, Mark Latham. Latham defeated Beazley by 47 votes to 45. After the ballot Beazley announced that he would remain in politics as a backbench member and would recontest his seat at the 2004 elections.

In July 2004, however, Latham arranged for Beazley to return to the Labor front bench as Shadow Defence Minister. This followed controversy over Latham's policy of withdrawing Australian troops from Iraq by the end of 2004, a policy which was criticised by officials of the Bush Administration and the U.S. Ambassador to Australia, Tom Schieffer. Beazley's return to the front bench was generally seen as a move by Latham to reassure Australian public opinion that a Labor government would not put the U.S.-Australian alliance at risk.

After Labor's defeat in the October 2004 federal election, at which he became the longest-serving Labor member of the Parliament, Beazley again returned to the backbench, saying "my time as leader of the Labor Party has come and gone, it's over for me as far as leadership is concerned". But after Latham resigned as leader on January 18, 2005, Beazley announced his intention to contest the leadership, saying that he was "absolutely fired with ambition."

Referring to widespread doubt that Labor could win the 2007 election under a leader who had already lost two elections, Beazley said: "There's no doubt in my mind that I can lead a winning team in the next election. The road to the prime ministership of this nation is a long and hard road. It's not an easy one. And there are many twists and turns on that road. I'm in my 25th year as a member of the Federal Parliament and I know this: public opinion is volatile and it can change."

Beazley was re-elected as federal Labor Leader when the Labor Caucus met on 28 January, following the withdrawal of the other potential candidates, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. Labor hoped that Beazley could follow a similar course to John Howard, who failed in his first term as Opposition Leader but returned in 1995 for a second term and then won the 1996 election. An election is not due in Australia until late 2007.

See also: Politics of Australia

References


Template:Succession box one to two
Preceded by:
Paul Keating
Leader of the Australian Labor Party
1996–2001
Succeeded by:
Simon Crean
Preceded by:
Mark Latham
Leader of the Australian Labor Party
2005–present
Succeeded by:
(incumbent)

Template:End box

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