Kim Christian Beazley, Governor of Western Australia. He was previously Deputy Prime Minister (1995–1996), Leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and Leader of the Opposition (1996–2001, 2005–2006) and Ambassador to the United States (2010–2016).(born 14 December 1948) is a former Australian politician serving as the 33rd and current
Beazley was born in Subiaco, Western Australia, the son of politician Kim Beazley senior. He studied at the University of Western Australia and Balliol College, Oxford, attending the latter as a Rhodes Scholar. After a period as a lecturer at Murdoch University, Beazley was elected to parliament at the 1980 federal election, winning the Division of Swan for the Labor Party. He was added to the ministry when the party won the 1983 election, and served continuously through to the party's defeat in 1996. His longest-held portfolio during that time was Minister for Defence (1984–1990). In 1995, Beazley was elected deputy leader of the Labor Party in place of Brian Howe, thus becoming deputy prime minister.
After Labor lost power in 1996, Beazley was elected unopposed as party leader in place of Paul Keating. He led Labor to the 1998 election, recording a positive swing but falling well short of victory. After a second defeat in 2001, he resigned the leadership in favour of his deputy Simon Crean. However, in 2003 Beazley made two attempts to regain his old position. He lost an initial challenge to Crean in June, and then after Crean's resignation in December lost a ballot to Mark Latham by two votes. Beazley was eventually elected to a second term as leader in January 2005 when Latham resigned in the wake of the 2004 election. Beazley was replaced by Kevin Rudd in December 2006, following a spate of poor opinion polling. He retired from politics at the 2007 election.
From 2010 to 2016, Beazley served as Ambassador of Australia to the United States. In April 2018, it was announced by Premier Mark McGowan that Beazley would succeed Kerry Sanderson as Governor of Western Australia on 1 May, for a term of four years.
Beazley was born at King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, Subiaco, Western Australia. His father, Kim Beazley Snr, was the Labor MP for Fremantle from 1945 to 1977 and education minister in the Whitlam Government (1972–75). His mother, Betty Judge, was an Australian athletics champion and record-holder. Beazley's uncle, the Reverend Syd Beazley, was one of the more than 1,000 prisoners of war who died in the sinking of the SS Montevideo Maru in July 1942.
Beazley contracted polio as a child, at the age of six. He was educated at Hollywood Senior High School and the University of Western Australia, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and subsequently a Master of Arts. Then, on a Rhodes Scholarship, he attended Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated with a Master of Philosophy. At Oxford, he befriended Tony Blair, who would become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Geoff Gallop, later to be Premier of Western Australia. After he returned to Australia, Beazley tutored and lectured in politics at Perth's Murdoch University. He was recruited to Labor's right-wing faction by Graham Richardson and John Ducker, before being elected MP for the seat of Swan at the 1980 election.
Career in government
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 Royal Australian Navy's submarine program, which was beset with some technical problems and cost over-runs. Beazley has had a lifelong interest in military matters; his consequent enthusiasm for this portfolio, and particularly for military hardware, earned him the nickname "Bomber Beazley".
Beazley was then Minister for Transport and Communications (1990–91), Finance (1991), Employment, Education and Training (1991–93), and Finance again (1993–96). He supported Hawke in his leadership battles with Paul Keating in 1991, but retained his position when Keating deposed Hawke and became Prime Minister in December 1991. Beazley was Deputy Prime Minister 1995–96.
Beazley's hold on Swan grew increasingly tenuous over the years. He saw his majority more than halved in 1990, and was nearly defeated in 1993. With Labor sinking in the polls during the run-up to the 1996 election, Beazley shifted to Brand, a slightly more secure seat south of Perth.
First term as Labor Leader
In the 1996 election, Labor was heavily defeated by the Coalition under John Howard. Keating resigned, and Beazley was elected unopposed as Labor leader. He had the difficult task of rebuilding a party that had just suffered the second-worst defeat of a sitting government since Federation.
Beazley, however, quickly made up ground on Howard as the Coalition's poll numbers sagged, particularly when Howard broke his previous promise not to introduce a Goods and Services Tax (GST). Beazley led the ALP contingent at the Constitutional Convention in February 1998 which was called to discuss the issue of Australia becoming a republic. Beazley advocated "minimalist" change and described transition to a republic as "unfinished business" for Australia. He said that foreigners "find it strange and anachronistic, as many Australians now clearly do, that our head of state is not an Australian". The ALP proposed appointment of a president by two-thirds majority of parliament. In his opening address, Beazley told the Convention:
Our nation is a republic in all but name. We argue that we as a nation should recognise the reality of our small "r" republican arrangements by making the necessary adjustments to place the capping stone on that structure – a Head of State who is unambiguously Australian – a Head of State who is one of us.
In the October 1998 election, Labor polled a majority of the two-party vote and received the largest swing to a first-term opposition since 1934. However, due to the uneven nature of the swing, as well as the Coalition's large majority going into the election, Labor came up eight seats short of making Beazley Prime Minister. Beazley did, however, manage to slash Howard's majority by more than half, from 19 seats to five.
In mid-2001 Labor was well ahead in the opinion polls and seemed set to win the election due at the end of the year, but in August the Tampa affair occurred 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 whom the crew had rescued from an unseaworthy boat in international waters. Beazley's compromise stance was pilloried as wishy-washy. Beazley's momentum was also stalled by the September 11 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 only a net loss of two seats to the Coalition.
Beazley resigned the Labor leadership after the election 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 election 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, most notably Stephen Conroy, continued to plot against Crean, and Beazley refused to rule out a further challenge.
On 27 November 2003, Crean's closest supporters told him that he had lost their confidence, then on the next day when Crean announced his resignation from the Labor party leadership. Beazley immediately announced that he would be contesting the leadership when the Labor Caucus met on 2 December 2003. 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 election.
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. 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 United States–Australian alliance at risk.
Second term as Labor Leader
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 18 January 2005, Beazley announced he would 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 2005 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.
In September 2005, the publication of Mark Latham's The Latham Diaries contained comments by Latham to the effect that Beazley was a "dirty dog" and was not fit to "clean toilets in Parliament". Latham's abuse resulted mainly from two allegations: firstly that Beazley had engaged in a prolonged campaign to undermine Latham in his positions as a frontbencher and as opposition leader and, secondly, that Beazley (as leader) had failed to provide support to Labor MP Greg Wilton, who later committed suicide. All of these allegations were vehemently denied by Beazley, his supporters and others.
In the first half of 2006, Beazley focussed much of the Labor Party's parliamentary inquiry into the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) scandal, which allegedly involved bribes and kickbacks with the then Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, that universally breached UN sanctions, to which Australia was a signatory. The situation reached a climax in the aftermath of Treasurer Peter Costello's 2006 Budget, whereby for the first time in recent Australian political history, the opposition leader and his colleagues ceased inquiry on the budget papers after just six questions, before resuming further questioning on the AWB scandal. The media criticised the ALP, although many ministers acknowledged the need for the Government to be held accountable for the AWB scandal.
These tactical deficiencies plagued Beazley's return to the leadership and were amplified by factional infighting in the broader Labor Party, raising many questions concerning both his ability to lead and the stability of the party. At the time, opinion polls by ACNielsen and Newspoll on preferred leader had him at record lows. This was confirmed in a forum on the SBS Insight television program on 2 May 2006, which specifically dealt with the Labor Party's political struggles, where some community members voiced their concerns about being disillusioned with Kim Beazley, and a lack of understanding of the values and policies for which he and the party stood. While Beazley admitted that winning an election was difficult, he was adamant that the 2007 election would be a "referendum on the Howard Government's unfair industrial relations laws".
After the mid-term parliamentary break, Beazley's fortunes slightly improved, with voter concern over interest rate rises, petrol prices and industrial relations giving Labor some electoral comfort. This was later evident in polls which suggested the ALP's primary vote was at around 40 per cent – the minimum considered necessary to gain government. However, polls concerning preferred leader still positioned Kim Beazley well below John Howard.
2006 leadership challenge
With continued weak performances in preferred Prime Minister opinion polls, 2006 was punctuated by a number of embarrassing gaffes from the opposition leader. At a press conference on 17 November 2006, Beazley confused the name of grieving TV host Rove McManus with President Bush's adviser Karl Rove.
Beazley's leadership of the Labor Party came under increasing pressure. Opposition to Beazley again centred around foreign affairs spokesperson Kevin Rudd and health spokesperson Julia Gillard. According to media reports, the New South Wales Right faction promised its support to Rudd for leadership so long as he challenged Beazley before Christmas. On 30 November 2006, Rudd met with Beazley and announced his intention to challenge for the leadership. On 1 December, Beazley called a spill for the entire Labor front bench, including the leadership. Both sides claimed that they were in a winning position.
A ballot was held on Monday 4 December and Kevin Rudd was declared the winner and leader of the ALP, by a margin of 49 votes to 39. After the leadership results were announced, Jenny Macklin withdrew from the contest for deputy leader, which allowed Gillard to be elected unopposed to that position.
Following the ballot, Beazley said of his political future, "For me to do anything further in the Australian Labor Party I would say is Lazarus with a quadruple bypass. So the time has come for me to move on but when that gets properly formalised I will let you know." It was also revealed that his brother David had died of a severe heart attack at age 53, shortly before the vote took place.
Journalist Peter Lewis would later cite that the removal of Beazley as ALP leader in 2006 may have been a mistake in retrospect given the leadership crisis that would later ensue with the removal of Rudd as Prime Minister in 2010.
In October 2016, almost a decade after Beazley's ousting as leader, journalist Chris Mitchell stated that Beazley was the best Prime Minister Australia never had.
Beazley announced on 13 December 2006 that he would retire from Parliament at the 2007 federal election. In 2009, Beazley was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for his service to the Australian parliament.
He worked as a professorial fellow at the University of Western Australia, focusing on politics, public policy and international relations. He also served as Chancellor of the Australian National University in 2009, having succeeded Allan Hawke. He is a member of the Council of Advisors of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. He was appointed to the Defence SA Advisory Board in South Australia in 2009.
In September 2009, Beazley was appointed as Ambassador of Australia to the United States. His appointment began on 17 February 2010. In his role as Ambassador, he promoted global free trade through the Trans-Pacific Partnership and has opposed protectionism. He was succeeded by former Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey on 8 December 2015.
One of his daughters, Hannah, was the unsuccessful Labor candidate for the Western Australian Legislative Assembly electorate of Riverton at the 2013 election. Hannah also ran for 2019 federal election as a candidate for Swan. She achieved a minor swing but the incumbent Steve Irons retained his seat.
Between 2016 and 2018, Beazley was a Distinguished Fellow of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and a regular contributor to the institute's commentary and analysis website The Strategist.
Governor of Western Australia
In September 2017, it was reported that Beazley was the favoured choice of Mark McGowan to replace Kerry Sanderson as Governor of Western Australia when her term expired in 2018. On 3 April 2018, McGowan confirmed that The Queen had approved Beazley to replace Sanderson and he was sworn in as the 33rd governor on 1 May 2018.
- 26 January 2009: Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) "For service to the Parliament of Australia through contributions to the development of government policies in relation to defence and international relations, as an advocate for Indigenous people, and to the community."
- 12 February 2019: Knight of Grace of the Order of St John
- 2018: Honorary Commodore in the Royal Australian Navy.
- 2018: Colonel of the Royal Western Australia Regiment.
- 2018: Deputy Prior of the Order of St John.
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