Kim Beazley

Kim Christian Beazley AC (born 14 December 1948) is an Australian former politician and diplomat. He was leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and leader of the opposition from 1996 to 2001 and 2005 to 2006, having previously been a cabinet minister in the Hawke and Keating governments. After leaving parliament he served as ambassador to the United States from 2010 to 2016 and governor of Western Australia from 2018 to 2022.

Kim Beazley
Official portrait, c.2010s
Governor of Western Australia
In office
1 May 2018  30 June 2022
MonarchElizabeth II
PremierMark McGowan
Preceded byKerry Sanderson
Succeeded byChris Dawson
Ambassador of Australia to
the United States
In office
17 February 2010  22 January 2016
Prime Minister
Preceded byDennis Richardson
Succeeded byJoe Hockey
Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
In office
20 June 1995  11 March 1996
Prime MinisterPaul Keating
Preceded byBrian Howe
Succeeded byTim Fischer
Leader of the Opposition
In office
19 March 1996  22 November 2001
Prime MinisterJohn Howard
Preceded byJohn Howard
Succeeded bySimon Crean
In office
28 January 2005  4 December 2006
Prime MinisterJohn Howard
DeputyJenny Macklin
Preceded byMark Latham
Succeeded byKevin Rudd
Leader of the Australian Labor Party
In office
19 March 1996  22 November 2001
  • Gareth Evans
  • Simon Crean
Preceded byPaul Keating
Succeeded bySimon Crean
In office
28 January 2005  4 December 2006
DeputyJenny Macklin
Preceded byMark Latham
Succeeded byKevin Rudd
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Swan
In office
18 October 1980  2 March 1996
Preceded byJohn Martyr
Succeeded byDon Randall
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Brand
In office
2 March 1996  24 November 2007
Preceded byWendy Fatin
Succeeded byGary Gray
Minister for Finance
In office
23 December 1993  11 March 1996
Prime MinisterPaul Keating
Preceded byRalph Willis
Succeeded byJohn Fahey
Minister for Employment and Education
In office
27 December 1991  23 December 1993
Prime MinisterPaul Keating
Preceded byJohn Dawkins
Succeeded bySimon Crean
Minister for Transport and Communications
In office
4 April 1990  27 December 1991
Prime MinisterBob Hawke
Preceded byRalph Willis
Succeeded byGraham Richardson
Minister for Defence
In office
13 December 1984  4 April 1990
Prime MinisterBob Hawke
Preceded byGordon Scholes
Succeeded byRobert Ray
Minister for Aviation
In office
11 March 1983  13 December 1984
Prime MinisterBob Hawke
Preceded byWal Fife
Succeeded byPeter Morris
Deputy Leader of the Labor Party
In office
20 June 1995  19 March 1996
LeaderPaul Keating
Preceded byBrian Howe
Succeeded byGareth Evans
Personal details
Kim Christian Beazley

(1948-12-14) 14 December 1948
Subiaco, Western Australia, Australia
Political partyLabor
  • Mary Ciccarelli
    (m. 1974; div. 1988)
  • Susie Annus
    (m. 1990)
Children3, including Hannah
EducationHollywood Senior High School
Alma mater
ProfessionAcademic, politician, diplomat

Beazley was born in Perth, the son of politician Kim Beazley. He studied at the University of Western Australia and Balliol College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar. After a period as a lecturer at Murdoch University, Beazley was elected to Parliament at the 1980 election, winning the Division of Swan. Prime Minister Bob Hawke appointed Beazley to the Cabinet following Labor's victory at the 1983 election, and Beazley served as a minister continuously through to the party's defeat at the 1996 election. His roles included Minister for Defence from 1984 to 1990, Leader of the House from 1988 to 1996, Minister for Finance from 1993 to 1996 and Deputy Prime Minister from 1995 to 1996.

After Labor's 1996 defeat, Beazley was elected unopposed as Labor Leader, replacing Paul Keating. Despite winning the popular vote at the 1998 election, Beazley could not win enough seats to form government, and after a second defeat in 2001, he resigned the leadership. He attempted twice to return to the leadership, doing so in 2005 after Labor lost the 2004 election, but was successfully challenged by Kevin Rudd in December 2006 following poor opinion polling. Beazley retired from Parliament at the 2007 election, which Labor won, and in 2010 was appointed Ambassador to the United States. He held this role until 2016, before being nominated as Governor of Western Australia by Premier Mark McGowan in 2018.

Early life and education

Beazley was born at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Subiaco, Western Australia, on 14 December 1948.[1] His father, Kim Beazley, was the Labor MP for Fremantle from 1945 to 1977 and served as Minister for Education in the Whitlam Government from 1972 to 1975. 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 at the age of six.[2] He was educated at Hollywood Senior High School and later the University of Western Australia, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and subsequently a Master of Arts. He subsequently won a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated with a Master of Philosophy.[3] While at Oxford, he befriended Tony Blair, who would later become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Geoff Gallop, who would later become Premier of Western Australia. On his return to Australia, Beazley tutored and lectured in politics at Murdoch University in Perth. A Labor Party member since his youth, he joined the right-wing Labor Unity faction, alongside fellow future Cabinet Ministers Graham Richardson and John Ducker.[4] He won selection for the seat of Division of Swan in 1979, and was elected to the House of Representatives at the 1980 election.[5]

Political career

Cabinet Minister, 1983–1996

Beazley (middle) in 1986

Beazley was considered a protege of newly-elected Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who like Beazley was a Western Australian former Rhodes Scholar. Hawke appointed Beazley to the Cabinet immediately after his election in 1983, making him Minister for Aviation. Following a reshuffle after the 1984 election, Beazley was promoted to become Minister for Defence, a role he would hold until 1990, making him one of the longest-serving holders of that post.[6] Beazley took a particularly active role as Defence Minister, appearing frequently in the press, and was responsible for establishing the Royal Australian Navy's submarine programme, although this would be beset by technical problems. Beazley's time as Defence Minister, combined with his lifelong interest in military matters and enthusiasm for military hardware earned him the nickname "Bomber Beazley" in the press.

In 1988, Hawke appointed Beazley to the additional role of Leader of the House, a position he would continue to hold until the end of the Labor Government in 1996. After the 1990 election, Beazley requested to be moved to the role of Minister for Transport and Communications in order to gain greater exposure to domestic political issues. He served in this role until 1991, and fervently supported Hawke during that year's leadership tensions between Hawke and Paul Keating. After Keating successfully challenged Hawke and became Prime Minister in December 1991, he moved Employment and Education, putting Beazley in charge of overseeing the creation of the Government's welfare-to-work programmes as part of the economic package 'One Nation'.[5]

Beazley was considered to be a strong supporter of Keating following Labor's fifth consecutive victory at the 1993 election, and in a reshuffle that year, Keating appointed Beazley as Minister for Finance, where he helped to establish the Government's landmark reform of establishing compulsory superannuation schemes. After Brian Howe chose to retire from politics in June 1995, Beazley was elected unopposed to succeed him as Deputy Leader of the Labor Party and was duly appointed Deputy Prime Minister, a role which he held until Labor's defeat at the 1996 election.

Beazley's hold on his seat of Swan grew increasingly tenuous over the years. He saw his majority more than halved in 1990, an election that came during a bad time for the incumbent Labor government in Western Australia. Three years later, he was nearly defeated despite a nationwide swing to Labor. Ahead of the 1996 election, Beazley successfully sought nomination for the safer Labor seat of Brand, just south of his previous seat.[5]

First term as Leader of the Opposition, 1996–2001

After Labor's heavy defeat by the Coalition under John Howard in 1996, Beazley was elected unopposed as Leader of the Labor Party, becoming Leader of the Opposition.

Beazley made a strong start in the role, quickly gaining a lead in opinion polls, particularly after Howard broke his previous commitment not to introduce a Goods and Services Tax (GST). Beazley was Labor's lead representative 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".[7] Subsequently, at the 1998 election, Labor polled a majority of the two-party vote and received the largest swing to a first-term opposition since 1934. However, while Labor regained much of what it had lost in its severe defeat of two years earlier, the uneven concentration of their vote left Labor eight seats short of making Beazley Prime Minister. Much of the Labor swing came in seats it already held, not in the seats it needed to take back government.[8]

Despite defeat, by securing a majority of the vote just two years after a landslide defeat, Beazley was re-elected unopposed as Labor Leader. The party spent much of the following three years well ahead in the opinion polls, and seemed set to win the next election, but in August 2001, following the Tampa affair when the Howard Government refused to allow several hundred asylum seekers to disembark on Christmas Island, Beazley was judged to have failed in response.[9] Beazley's momentum was further stalled by the September 11 attacks, which saw an increase in support for Howard, who pledged to support the United States, and Labor subsequently lost the 2001 election.

Backbencher and Shadow Cabinet Minister, 2001–2005

Beazley outside Parliament House, Canberra in July 2004

Although Labor's loss in 2001 was narrow, having lost two elections in a row, Beazley felt obliged to resign as Labor Leader; he was succeeded by Simon Crean, and sat on the backbench for the first time since 1983. Despite initial improvements in Labor's opinion polling, by mid-2003 Crean was performing very badly against Howard as preferred Prime Minister, and Labor MPs began to fear that the Coalition would easily win the next election. Beazley was persuaded to challenge Crean for the leadership in June, although Crean was comfortably re-elected.

Despite this, Crean continued to perform poorly in opinion polling, and on 28 November 2003, Crean announced that he would be resigning as Labor Leader. Beazley immediately announced that he would contesting the leadership, but was narrowly defeated by Shadow Treasurer Mark Latham by 47 votes to 45. After the result, Beazley announced he would remain in Parliament, but was unlikely to return to the frontbench again. In July 2004, however, Latham arranged for Beazley to return to the Labor frontbench 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. Later that month, Beazley was forced to battle claims he had a "special relationship" with Ratih Hardjono when he was Defence Minister; it was alleged this relationship posed a security risk.[10][11]

Second term as Leader of the Opposition, 2005–2006

Beazley in November 2005 declaring Labor would "oppose the Howard Government's industrial relations legislation in every respect, at every stage until the next election".
Kim Beazley before a crowd protesting proposed WorkChoices legislation, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground 30 November 2006

Labor was comfortably defeated at the 2004 election, at which Beazley also became the longest-serving Labor MP. After Mark Latham resigned the leadership, Beazley was elected unopposed to replace him in January 2005. Rejecting doubts from some that Labor could win the 2007 election with 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." Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard had considered standing in the election, but withdrew at the last moment.[12]

In the first half of 2006, Beazley focused much of the Labor Party's efforts on the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) scandal and the Government's WorkChoices legislation; the former allegedly involved bribes and kickbacks with the then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein that breached UN sanctions. The situation reached a climax in the aftermath of Treasurer Peter Costello's 2006 Budget, whereby for the first time in Australian political history, the Opposition Leader ceased questioning the Budget papers in favour of further questioning on the AWB scandal. This led to heavy media criticism for the Labor Party, although some acknowledged the need for the Government to be held accountable for the AWB scandal.[13]

These perceived tactical deficiencies plagued Beazley's return to the leadership and were amplified by factional infighting in the broader Labor Party, raising many questions concerning Beazley's ability to lead. At the time, opinion polls by ACNielsen and Newspoll for preferred Prime Minister had him at record lows. This was confirmed in a forum on the SBS Insight television program on 2 May 2006. Beazley said that, whilst winning an election would be difficult, he was adamant that the 2007 election would be a "referendum on the Howard Government's unfair industrial relations laws".[14]

Beazley's leadership was fatally undermined following several public gaffes, including at a press conference on 17 November 2006 when Beazley confused the name of grieving TV host Rove McManus with George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove.[15] Following this, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard reached an agreement to challenge Beazley as a joint-ticket, with Rudd as Leader and Gillard as Deputy Leader, and on 30 November 2006, Rudd declared his intention to challenge for the leadership. At the ballot held on 4 December, Rudd defeated Beazley by 49 votes to 39.[16]

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."[17] It was subsequently revealed that Beazley's brother David had died of a heart attack at age 53 shortly before the vote took place; Prime Minister John Howard led tributes to Beazley, saying that he was a "thoroughly decent man" and expressed his "genuine sorrow" both for his political demise and for his family tragedy.[18]

Several figures later speculated that the removal of Beazley as leader in 2006 may have been a mistake in retrospect given the subsequent leadership chaos that engulfed the Labor Government from 2010 to 2013.[19] After her own fall as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard expressed regret in working with Rudd to roll Beazley as leader.[20]

Post-political career

Ambassador Kim Beazley, flanked by Consul General Karen Lanyon, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and US Ambassador to Australia, Jeff Bleich, in California, May 2015
Ambassador Beazley giving an ANZAC Day message in 2014 from Washington

Beazley announced on 13 December 2006 that he would retire from Parliament at the 2007 election, which Labor won in a landslide.[21] In 2009, Beazley was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for his service to the Australian Parliament.[22]

Beazley was appointed a professorial fellow at the University of Western Australia, teaching politics, public policy and international relations.[23] He also served as Chancellor of the Australian National University from 2009 to 2010, having succeeded Allan Hawke.[24] He was also appointed as a Member of the Council of Advisors of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

Ambassador to the United States, 2010–2016

In September 2009, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that he would appoint Beazley as Australian Ambassador to the United States.[3][25] His appointment began on 17 February 2010.[26] In his role as Ambassador, he promoted global free trade through the Trans-Pacific Partnership and has opposed protectionism.[3] He was succeeded by former Treasurer Joe Hockey in January 2016.[27]

In February 2016, shortly after returning to Australia, Beazley was made President of the Australian Institute of International Affairs.[28] Beazley was also named a Distinguished Fellow of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.[29][30]

Governor of Western Australia, 2018–2022

In September 2017, it was reported that Beazley was the favoured choice of Premier Mark McGowan to replace Kerry Sanderson as Governor of Western Australia when her term expired in 2018.[31] On 3 April 2018, McGowan confirmed that on his advice, Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia had approved Beazley to replace Sanderson. Beazley was sworn in as Governor on 1 May 2018.[32][33] In an interview with John Anderson in 2018, Beazley explained why he continued in public life:

I've always had a concern with Australian survival, when you look at the various commitments I've had in political life, an awful lot of it revolves around our national defence. And the sense that I have is that survival is a close run thing for Australia. Survival on many fronts. The quality of our community is part of that. Our education system is part of that. Our family life is part of that. But also the physical defence of our approaches is part of that. You think about your kids. You think about your grandkids. You think about everybody else's kids. You think about your friends. And you think, what we've got here is a society worth preserving and worth improving. And if you find yourself lucky enough to engage with it... then you must continue.[34]

Viceregal styles of
Kim Beazley
Reference styleHis Excellency the Honourable
Spoken styleYour Excellency


Personal life

Beazley was married to Mary Ciccarelli from 1974 to 1988, together they had two children, and later to Susie Annus from 1990, with whom he had one child. One of his children, Hannah Beazley, is currently the member for Victoria Park in the Western Australian Legislative Assembly.[38] Hannah had unsuccessfully contested Beazley's seat of Swan, in the 2019 federal election.[39]


Books and monographs

  • Beazley, Kim C. & Ian Clark (1979). The politics of intrusion: the super powers and the Indian Ocean. Sydney: Alternative Publishing Cooperative.
  • Beazley, Kim (1989). Australia and Asia: our strategic neighbourhood. Sydney: Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific, University of Sydney.
  • (1997). 'New images': an Australian perspective. London: Sir Robert Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

Essays, reporting and other contributions

  • Beazley, Kim E. (2009). Father of the house: the memoirs of Kim E. Beazley. Annotations by Kim C. Beazley and John Bond. North Fremantle, W.A.: Fremantle Press.
  • Dean, Peter J., ed. (2013). Australia 1942: in the shadow of war. Foreword by Kim Beazley. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107032279.
  • Beazley, Kim (March 2018). "Without America". Correspondence. Quarterly Essay. 69: 125–129.



  1. "Births". The West Australian. Perth, WA. 16 December 1948. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  2. Polio Australia
  3. Harvey, Ben (February 2014). "King of the Hill". The West Australian: West Business Insider. pp. 6–8.
  4. FitzSimons, Peter (1998). Beazley: a biography. Pymble, NSW: HarperCollins. pp. 159–160. ISBN 0-7322-5876-6. OCLC 39444847.
  5. "The Hon Kim Beazley MP". Senators and Members of the Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  6. Brian Toohey (7 July 2002). "Security proves a complicated affair". Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  7. "The Age and Sydney Morning Herald – Australia's Constitutional Convention 1998". Archived from the original on 10 December 1999. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  8. Green, Antony (4 February 2016). "How Many Seats Did John Howard Lose at the 1998 GST Election?". ABC News. Archived from the original on 23 March 2018. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  9. See, for example, Pat Secker MP, House of Representatives Debates, 24 September 2001, p. 31282
  10. "Spy claims Beazley a 'security risk' – National". 30 June 2004. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  11. Sim, Susan (19 February 2000). All the President's whisperers, Straits Times (Singapore).
  12. "Gillard gives Beazley clear run at leadership". ABC News. 26 January 2005. Retrieved 4 December 2006.
  13. McGrath, Catherine (11 May 2006). "Budget reply a tough test for Beazley". PM. Retrieved 4 December 2006.
  14. "Labor Pains". Insight. Special Broadcasting Service. 2 May 2006. Archived from the original on 7 September 2007. Retrieved 4 December 2006.
  15. "Kim's sympathy for wrong Rove". Australia: News Limited. 17 November 2006. Archived from the original on 19 June 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  16. Hudson, Phillip (4 December 2006). "Beazley's black Monday". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 December 2006.
  17. This refers to John Howard's response to a journalist's question after his loss of the leadership of the Liberal Party to Andrew Peacock on 9 May 1989. The journalist asked, "Do you see yourself as having another chance at the leadership at some future time?" and Howard replied: "Oh, that'd be Lazarus with a triple bypass". From "Howard's Way". Sunday. Ninemsn. 4 December 2006. Archived from the original on 30 August 2006. Retrieved 4 December 2006.
  18. "Tearful Beazley bows out". The Age. 4 December 2006. Retrieved 4 December 2006.
  19. "Axing Beazley was first mistake". 24 February 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  20. Federal Politics (23 September 2014). "Gillard accuses Rudd of sabotage, offers regret on Beazley". Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  21. "Beazley to retire at next election". ABC News. Australia. 13 December 2006. Retrieved 13 December 2006.
  22. "Beazley's political passion undiminished". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 January 2009. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
  23. "Former Deputy Prime Minister joins UWA" (Press release). University of Western Australia. 2007. Retrieved 4 April 2008.
  24. "Beazley appointed ANU chancellor". ABC News. Australia. 25 July 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2010.
  25. "Mr Beazley goes to Washington". ABC News. Australia: Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 17 September 2009.
  26. "Wheelchair-bound Beazley becomes US ambassador". ABC News. Australia. 18 February 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2010.
  27. "Joe Hockey appointed to US ambassador post". ABC News. Australia: Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 8 December 2015.
  28. "The Hon Kim Beazley AC FAIIA". Australian Institute of International Affairs. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  29. "Australian Strategic Policy Institute: Kim Beazley". 2018. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  30. "ASPI The Strategist: articles by Kim Beazley". Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  31. "Former Federal Labor leader Kim Beazley tipped to be WA's next governor". Perth Now. September 2017.
  32. "Kim Beazley named next governor of WA". ABC News. Australia. 3 April 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  33. "'The best PM we never had': Kim Beazley sworn in as WA's 33rd governor". Sydney Morning Herald. Australian Associated Press. 1 May 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  34. "Conversations: Featuring His Excellency The Hon Kim Beazley AC, Governor of Western Australia". John Anderson. 26 October 2018. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  35. The Honourable Kim Christian BEAZLEY: Companion of the Order of Australia, AustralianGovernment, 26 January 2009, retrieved 26 October 2019
  36. "Understanding the Most Venerable Order of St John" (PDF). Governor of New South Wales. Governor of New South Wales. 12 December 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  37. Invested as a Knight Commander of the WA Commandery of the Order of St John, Western Australian Government, retrieved 11 April 2019
  38. "Liberal Party almost entirely wiped out in WA election landslide that was over before it began". 13 March 2021. Retrieved 14 March 2021.
  39. "Federal election 2019 Swan result". Community News Group. 19 May 2019. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
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