Paul John Keating (born 18 January 1944) is an Australian politician who served as the 24th Prime Minister of Australia and the Leader of the Labor Party from 1991 to 1996. He had previously served as Treasurer in the Hawke Government from 1983 to 1991.
Keating was born in Sydney and left school at the age of 14. He joined the Labor Party at a young age, serving a term as state president of Young Labor and working as a research assistant for a trade union. Keating was elected to the House of Representatives at the age of 25, winning the Division of Blaxland at the 1969 election. He briefly served as Minister for Northern Australia in the dying days of the Whitlam Government. After Labor lost power in 1975, Keating held increasingly senior portfolios in the Shadow Cabinets of Whitlam and Bill Hayden. During this time he came to be seen as the leader of the Labor Right faction, and developed a reputation as a talented parliamentary performer.
After the Labor landslide at the 1983 election, Keating was appointed Treasurer by Prime Minister Bob Hawke. He became one of the most influential figures in the Government, overseeing the introduction of a large number of reforms intended to liberalise and strengthen the Australian economy. These included the Prices and Incomes Accord, the float of the Australian dollar, the elimination of tariffs, the deregulation of the financial sector, and reform of the taxation system (including the introduction of capital gains tax, fringe benefits tax, and dividend imputation). After an initially close partnership, leadership tensions began to increase between Hawke and Keating, culminating in a secret agreement that Hawke would eventually retire in Keating's favour. Keating became Deputy Prime Minister in 1990, but in June 1991 he unsuccessfully challenged for the leadership, believing that Hawke had reneged on their earlier agreement. He resigned as Treasurer, but mounted a second successful challenge six months later.
Keating became Prime Minister following the early 1990s recession, which as Treasurer he had famously described as "the recession we had to have". After a long run of poor polling, Labor was widely expected to lose the 1993 election, but Keating fought a strong campaign and managed to instead increase its majority. The Keating Government introduced compulsory superannuation, created an infrastructure development program, privatised Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank, and helped make republicanism and indigenous rights the subject of national debates, establishing the Republic Advisory Committee and enshrining native title in statute law.
At the 1996 election, Labor suffered a landslide defeat to the Liberal–National Coalition. He retired from Parliament shortly after the election, but has remained active as a political commentator, whilst maintaining broad business interests. Since leaving office, Keating has received consistent praise for his role in modernising the economy as Treasurer, while valuations of his time as Prime Minister being more mixed.
Early life and education
Keating was born at St Margaret's Hospital in
Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, on 18 January 1944. He was the first of four children born to Minnie (née Chapman) and Matthew John Keating. His father worked as a boilermaker for the New South Wales Government Railways. All of Keating's grandparents were born in Australia. On his father's side, he was descended from Irish immigrants born in Galway, Roscommon, and Tipperary. On his mother's side, he was of mixed English and Irish descent. His maternal grandfather Fred Chapman was the son of two convicts, John Chapman and Sarah Gallagher, who had been transported for theft in the 1830s.
Keating grew up in Bankstown, a working-class suburb in western Sydney. His siblings include Anne Keating, a company director and businesswoman. Leaving De La Salle College—now known as LaSalle Catholic College—at the age of 14, Keating left high school and decided not to pursue higher education, and instead worked as a pay clerk at the Sydney County Council (the city's electricity distributor). He then worked as research assistant for a trade union, having joined the Labor Party as soon as he was eligible. In 1966, he became president of NSW Young Labor. In the 1960s, Keating also managed a rock band, "The Ramrods".