Andrew Sharp Peacock AC GCL (born 13 February 1939) is a former Australian politician and diplomat. He served twice as leader of the Liberal Party (1983–1985 and 1989–1990), leading the party to defeat at the 1984 and 1990 elections. He had earlier been a long-serving cabinet minister.
Peacock was born in Melbourne, and attended Scotch College before going on to study law at the University of Melbourne. A former president of the Young Liberals, he was elected to Parliament at the age of 27, filling the blue-ribbon seat of Kooyong, vacated by Sir Robert Menzies. Peacock was appointed to cabinet in 1969 by John Gorton, and later served under William McMahon and Malcolm Fraser. He held a variety of portfolios, most notably serving as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1975 to 1980. He unsuccessfully challenged Fraser for the Liberal leadership in 1982, but was then elected as Fraser's successor following the party's defeat at the 1983 election.
At the 1984 election, the Peacock-led Coalition slightly reduced Labor's majority. He resigned the Liberal leadership the following year after failing to have his deputy John Howard removed; he was duly replaced by Howard. He remained a member of the shadow cabinet, and in 1987 unsuccessfully challenged Howard for the leadership; he was instead elected deputy leader. Peacock finally returned as leader in 1989. However, his second term lasted less than a year, as he resigned after another electoral defeat in 1990. Peacock left politics in 1994, and was later appointed Ambassador to the United States (1997–1999).
Peacock was born in Melbourne, Victoria, the son of Andrew Sharp Peacock Sr. and the former Iris Lamb. His father was a marine engineer and one of the founders of Peacock and Smith Ltd, a large ship-building firm. He was educated at Scotch College and at the University of Melbourne, where he graduated in law. He practised law in Melbourne while making a rapid advance in the Liberal Party. He unsuccessfully contested the seat of Yarra in the 1961 federal election, although he bucked the national trend by increasing the Liberal primary vote, impressing party elders. He was president of the Young Liberals in 1962, and in 1963 he married Susan Rossiter (1942–2016), the daughter of Victorian Liberal MLA Sir John Rossiter. They had three daughters, one of them being the horse trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam. By 1965 he was President of the Victorian Liberal Party.
Early political career
In February 1966, former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies resigned, triggering a by-election in Kooyong, the eastern Melbourne electorate that he had held for 32 years. Peacock gained Liberal preselection, making him the favourite in this comfortably safe Liberal seat. The Liberals (and their predecessors) had held the seat since Federation, usually without serious difficulty. As expected, he won the 2 April by-election, albeit with a slightly reduced majority. He easily retained his seat in the general election held seven months later. In 1969 he was appointed Minister for the Army, and in this role played a minor part in the drama which brought down Prime Minister John Gorton in 1971. In 1972 William McMahon made him Minister for Territories, in charge of Australia's colonial possession, Papua New Guinea, where he was responsible for bringing in self-government.
When the Liberals went into opposition in December 1972, Peacock became a senior member of the Liberal frontbench. As a party moderate, he was a supporter of the new leader, Billy Snedden. When Snedden lost the 1974 election, Peacock began to be seen as a leadership candidate, but it was Malcolm Fraser who took the initiative and deposed Snedden in 1975. Fraser made Peacock foreign affairs spokesperson, and when Fraser led the Liberals back to power in December 1975 Peacock became Minister for Foreign Affairs, aged 36.
He served as Foreign Minister until 1980, acquiring a reputation as an effective, well connected and hardworking minister although he was seen by some as an international playboy, particularly through his well-publicised relationship with Shirley MacLaine (his marriage had by this time ended in divorce). He had a number of acrimonious disputes with Fraser, particularly over the recognition of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. After the 1980 election he asked for a change of portfolio, and Fraser made him Minister for Industrial Relations. In April 1981 he suddenly resigned, accusing Fraser of constant interference in his portfolio. Fraser called a party meeting, at which Peacock tried to depose him as party leader and Prime Minister. Fraser managed to fend off this challenge. John Howard succeeded Sir Phillip Lynch as Deputy Leader in the same meeting.
Leader of the Liberal Party
Fraser's government was defeated in the March 1983 election by the Labor Party under Bob Hawke. Fraser immediately retired from politics, and Peacock contested the party leadership, defeating Howard, who remained as Deputy Leader.
As Opposition Leader, Peacock faced an uphill battle against the hugely popular Hawke. At the 1984 election he was given little chance of winning, but he performed better than expected by reducing Hawke's majority. In 1985, as Labor's position in opinion polls improved, Peacock's popularity sank and Howard's profile rose, keeping leadership speculation alive. Peacock said he would no longer accept Howard as deputy unless he offered assurances that he would not challenge for the leadership. Following Howard's refusal to offer such an assurance, in September 1985 Peacock sought to replace him with John Moore as Deputy Leader. The party room re-elected Howard as Deputy, contrary to Peacock's wishes. Despite possessing greater support in the parliamentary party than Howard, Peacock unexpectedly resigned, concluding the situation was untenable. Howard was comfortably elected Opposition Leader on 5 September, and appointed Peacock Shadow Foreign Minister.
Howard lost the 1987 election to Hawke, largely due to the Nationals pulling out of the Coalition in support of Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen's quixotic bid to become Prime Minister. After the election, Peacock was elected Deputy Leader in a show of party unity. But Peacock's supporters began to plot against Howard, and in May 1989 they mounted a party room coup which returned Peacock to the leadership. Peacock, now 50, cultivated a new mature image, enhanced by a second marriage to Margaret St George. He also renewed the Coalition with the Nationals.
On 18 March 1990, Peacock was interviewed by Laurie Oakes on the television program Sunday, regarding his stance on the Multifunction Polis (MFP), a proposal to build a Japanese funded technology city in Australia. Peacock attacked the MFP concept, saying it would become an Asian "enclave". According to Roy Morgan Research, Peacock's attack on the MFP did not help him politically, and the Labor Party used the issue to highlight division within the Liberal Party, as John Elliott and others supported the MFP. The following day, The Australian newspaper ran a headline titled Peacock a 'danger in the Lodge'.'
Although Hawke's government was in political trouble, with record high interest rates and a financial crisis in Victoria, Peacock failed to defeat Hawke at the 1990 election. The Coalition actually won a slim majority (50.10 percent) of the two-party vote and took seven seats from Labor. It also slashed Labor's majority from 24 seats to nine. However, it only garnered a 0.93 percent two-party swing. Combined with a three percent swing against the Nationals (who saw their leader, Charles Blunt, ousted in his own seat), this prevented the Coalition from picking up the additional seven seats the Coalition needed to make Peacock Prime Minister. Although Peacock was credited with helping the non-Labor forces regain much of what they had lost three years earlier, it was not enough to save his job, and he resigned after the election. He became Shadow Attorney-General (1990–92) and Shadow Trade Minister (1992–93) under the new leader, Dr John Hewson, whom Peacock had supported in getting the job in 1990 over Peter Reith and to stop Howard returning. After Hewson's election as leader, Hewson endorsed Peacock as his deputy, which caused a furore with Howard supporters. Peacock, however, had no interest in becoming deputy leader again and withdrew happily. Reith was instead elected deputy in a close contest against Peacock supporter David Jull.
Peacock resigned from Parliament in September 1994. In 1996 when asked about blocking John Howard, Malcolm Fraser said Peacock obviously was, while Peacock claimed he supported John Hewson continuing. When Howard became Prime Minister in 1996, he appointed Peacock as the Australian Ambassador to the United States. Since the end of this appointment in 1999, Peacock has mostly lived in the United States.
In 2002 he married Penne Percy Korth, a Washington, D.C. society figure and former United States Ambassador to Mauritius. Midway through 2002 Peacock joined Boeing Australia Holdings as President of Boeing Australia. He retired from Boeing in 2007, and joined Gold Coast-based fund manager MFS Ltd as chairman. He held the position for 15 months, resigning shortly before the firm collapsed with debts of $2.5 billion. He later stated: "I should have looked more carefully at MFS before going into it. The business wasn't going well, and I thought I could turn it around but I couldn't.".
His daughter Ann Peacock married Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger in 1999. They had two sons before separating in 2009. Peacock had earlier endorsed his future son-in-law Kroger as his successor in Kooyong in 1994 but Kroger declined.
Peacock and his American-born third wife retired to Austin, Texas, where she had gone to university. He visits Australia regularly and does not intend to become a U.S. citizen, although he holds a green card. He gave up drinking after moving to the U.S., after experiencing heart problems. Peacock supported Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, after originally supporting Marco Rubio in the Republican primaries. He placed a bet on Trump to become president even before the first primary, at odds of 16–1. In a January 2018 interview with the Australian Financial Review, he said he was "disquieted by the first year's performance", praising Trump's tax cuts but expressing his disappointment with Trump’s decisions to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. According to Peacock, his wife is a staunch conservative and regards him as "the most liberal person she's ever met". He has expressed dismay at the disappearance of moderate Republicans, and the general polarisation of American politics.
Peacock was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1997.
In 2017, Peacock was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun by the government of Japan, "for his contribution to strengthening and promoting friendly relations between Japan and Australia".
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- Kelly, Paul, The End of Certainty
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- Official Web Site of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Archived 11 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- 2017 Autumn Conferment of Decorations on Foreign Nationals, Embassy of Japan in Australia, 3 November 2017