Simon Crean

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Hon Simon Crean

Simon Findlay Crean (born 26 February 1949) is an Australian politician. He was leader of the Australian Labor Party, and hence Leader of the Opposition at the Federal level, from November 2001 to 2 December 2003.

Crean was born in Melbourne, Victoria. He is the son of Frank Crean, a federal Labor MP from 1951 to 1977, who was Deputy Prime Minister in the government of Gough Whitlam. Graduating from Monash University with degrees in economics and law, Simon Crean worked as a storeman before becoming an official with the Storeman and Packers Union, of which he became General Secretary in 1979.

In 1981 Crean became Vice-President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), and in 1985 he was elected the organisation's President. In this role he played a key role in negotiating agreements on wages and other industrial issues with the Labor government of Bob Hawke. In 1990 he left the ACTU to go into politics.

At the 1990 elections, Crean was elected to the seat of Hotham in the Australian House of Representatives, and immediately entered the Hawke ministry as Minister for Science. He became Minister for Primary Industries and Energy in 1991 and Minister for Employment, Education and Training in 1993.

Following the Labor Party's 1996 election defeat, Crean was an Opposition frontbencher. In 1998 he was elected Deputy Leader of the Opposition and became shadow Treasurer (finance minister). In November 2001, following Labor's third consecutive election defeat, he was elected unopposed as the Leader of the Opposition in succession to Kim Beazley.

On February 4, 2003, Crean led the Labor Party in condemning Prime Minister John Howard's decision to commit Australian troops to the United States-led military action in Iraq.

Through most of 2003, consistently poor polling led to constant speculation of a leadership challenge by Beazley, though a reasonably successful Budget reply speech and the controversy over Peter Hollingworth gave Crean a small fillip. Nevertheless, to end the constant rumblings over a challenge, Crean called for a leadership spill. Polls continued to suggest that the public much preferred Beazley to Crean; nevertheless, when the vote was taken on 16 June 2003, Crean won by 58 votes to 34.

By November, however, polls continued to show Crean trailing Howard badly as preferred Prime Minister. On 27 November 2003 a group of his senior colleagues told Crean that he had lost the party's support and should resign. Crean said he would "sleep on it." On 28 November, however, Crean announced that he would stand down. He became the first federal Labor leader to be replaced without having contested an election. (The former Liberal leader, Alexander Downer, suffered the same fate in 1995.)

After Crean's resignation, Beazley and the Labor Party's finance spokesperson, Mark Latham, announced that they would contest the Labor leadership. At the meeting of Labor MPs on 2 December, Latham defeated Beazley by 47 votes to 45.

Latham then appointed Crean as the Opposition's shadow Treasurer (finance spokesperson), which gave him a continued prominent role in Australian politics. However, in the aftermath of Labor's defeat in the 2004 election, many in the Labor Party felt that Crean's performance in the campaign was poor and he was partly responsible for Labor's defeat: as a result, Crean resigned from his Shadow Treasurer position. At Latham's insistence he was re-elected to the Opposition front bench and became Shadow Minister for Trade.

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Preceded by:
Gareth Evans
Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party
Succeeded by:
Jenny Macklin
Preceded by:
Kim Beazley
Leader of the Australian Labor Party
Succeeded by:
Mark Latham

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