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Kim Beazley, junior

Kim Beazley

Kim Christian Beazley (born December 14, 1948), generally called Kim Beazley junior, Australian politician, was born in Perth, Western Australia. His father, Kim Edward Beazley (generally known as Kim Beazley senior), was Labor MP for Fremantle, a working-class district of Perth, from 1945 to 1977 and Education Minister in the Government of Gough Whitlam. 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. He tutored and lectured in politics at Perth's Murdoch University before being elected MP for the middle-class 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. He 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 1993-96. 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 Tampa, a Norwegian freighter full of (alleged) Afghani and Iraqi asylum seekers, to land in Australia. 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 pursuaded 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 Crean 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.

On 2 December Latham defeated Beazley by 47 votes to 45, ending what was almost certainly Beazley's last chance to lead the Labor Party. After the ballot Beazley announced that he would remain in politics as a backbench member and would recontest his seat at the 2004 elections.

See also: Politics of Australia

Preceded by:
Paul Keating
Leaders of the
Australian Labor Party
Followed by:
Simon Crean