Peter Reith

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The Honourable
Peter Reith
BEc, LLB (Monash)
Peter Reith cropped.jpg
Minister for Defence
In office
30 January 2001 – 26 November 2001
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by John Moore
Succeeded by Robert Hill
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
In office
21 October 1998 – 30 January 2001
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by David Kemp
Succeeded by Tony Abbott
Minister for Small Business
In office
18 July 1997 – 30 January 2001
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by Geoff Prosser
Succeeded by Ian Macfarlane
Minister for Industrial Relations
In office
11 March 1996 – 18 July 1997
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by Laurie Brereton
Succeeded by Himself (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations)
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party
In office
24 March 1990 – 13 March 1993
Leader John Hewson
Preceded by Fred Chaney
Succeeded by Michael Wooldridge
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
In office
24 March 1990 – 13 March 1993
Leader John Hewson
Preceded by Fred Chaney
Succeeded by Michael Wooldridge
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Flinders
In office
4 December 1982 – 5 March 1983
Preceded by Philip Lynch
Succeeded by Bob Chynoweth
In office
1 December 1984 – 10 November 2001
Preceded by Bob Chynoweth
Succeeded by Greg Hunt
Personal details
Born (1950-07-15) 15 July 1950 (age 64)
Melbourne, Victoria
Political party Liberal Party of Australia
Spouse(s) Julie Reith (separated)
Alma mater Monash University
Profession Lawyer
Politician

Peter Keaston Reith (born 15 July 1950) is a former Australian politician and lawyer. He was a Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia.

Early life[edit]

Born in Melbourne, Reith was educated at Brighton Grammar School and at Monash University, from which he obtained bachelor's degrees in economics and law. He then practised as a solicitor first in Melbourne and then at Cowes, a small town on Phillip Island. First elected as a Councillor of the Shire of Phillip Island from 1976, he was Shire President in his last year on the Council in 1981. Whilst living on Phillip Island Reith was behind the establishment of Newhaven College, an independent school on Phillip Island. He was also the key proponent for the establishment of the penguin research facility.

Political life[edit]

He joined the Liberal Party in 1966. Representing that party, Reith entered the House of Representatives via a by-election in December 1982, caused by the resignation of ex-Treasurer Sir Phillip Lynch. Although Reith lost the seat of Flinders only three months later at the March 1983 general election, he was not out of parliament for long. He regained the seat in the December 1984 election, which saw a substantial swing towards the Liberals (though not enough to win them government), and he continued to hold the seat for the next 17 years.

Except for a few months in 1993, Reith was a shadow minister without a break from 1987 until 1996. His posts included that of Shadow Attorney-General in 1988; in this capacity, he led the successful "no" campaign at the 1988 referendum. After the defeat of Andrew Peacock at the 1990 federal election, and Peacock's subsequent resignation from the Liberal leadership, Reith sought the leadership himself, but was defeated by John Hewson, who won 62 votes to 13.[1] Immediately thereafter Reith was elected deputy opposition leader and appointed Shadow Treasurer, a position he held from 1990 to 1993. Along with Hewson, Reith was one of the architects of the Liberal Party's "Fightback" policy, including the Goods and Services Tax. He resigned as Shadow Treasurer after the Liberals were defeated in the 1993 election. In addition, he lost the deputy Liberal leadership in the post-election ballot, and was replaced by Michael Wooldridge.

Following the landslide victory of John Howard at the 1996 election, Reith became Minister for Workplace Relations. In that role, he was one of the best-known and most influential members of Howard's cabinet. His responsibilities involved drafting and implementing the government's industrial relations policy, and he is perhaps best known for the significant productivity reforms which followed the 1997/8 waterfront dispute. Reith's handling of the 1998 Australian waterfront dispute, in which he openly supported Patrick Corporation in its contest with the Maritime Union of Australia, led to criticism from unions[2] and the Australian Labor Party (ALP).[3] Reith also introduced and implemented reforms to the Commonwealth public service.

In 2000 Reith was embroiled in an investigation over the improper use of a phone card with a bill totalling $50,000 AUD. Reith admitted that about $1,000 of phone calls were attributed to his son's access to the PIN associated with the phone card.[4] However, Reith didn't admit that $1,000 of unauthorized phone calls by his son should be his responsibility.

PETER REITH: In the nine month period to the 30th of August there were 619 to Malaysia, 448 calls from Singapore, 317 calls to Singapore, 389 calls from various mobile phones, 478 calls from various countries back to Australia - 2,301 calls in total costing $9,100.45. So my immediate reaction was - well, obviously I haven't been using the card and obviously this card has fallen into, you know, the wrong hands as it were and there was an unauthorised use. http://www.abc.net.au/pm/stories/s197803.htm

Howard transferred Reith to the Defence portfolio in 2000. The following year, Reith announced his impending retirement, and did not contest the 2001 election. Late in the election campaign Reith became embroiled in the "children overboard" controversy, in which the government made unsubstantiated claims that asylum seekers had thrown children overboard in a ploy to secure passage to Australia. Reith defended his actions. He made public statements about this matter in the documentary series The Howard Years, which screened in Australia in November and December 2008, in Leaky Boat in July 2011 and in the 2012 Logie award winning documentary "Go back to where you came from". Reith was succeeded as Liberal MP for Flinders by Greg Hunt and as Minister of Defence by Senator Robert Hill.

After politics[edit]

After leaving parliament, Reith had a number of part-time interests, including advising a Sydney government relations firm, Tenix, a major defence supplier and others. From 2003 to 2009 he was an executive director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (based in London); in this capacity he represented Australia, the Republic of Korea, Egypt and New Zealand. While in London, Reith was also a member of an independent commission that reported to the Cameron Opposition on UK tax reform.

During 2011, after writing a report for the Liberal Party on the 2010 election, Reith challenged Alan Stockdale (who in the 1990s had been State Treasurer of Victoria) for the presidency of the Liberal Party. In that contest, Reith lost to Stockdale by just one vote: 56 to 57. Liberal leader Tony Abbott effectively made his vote for Stockdale public, when he was recorded on camera showing his vote to Stockdale. In 2013 Mr Reith was Chairman of the Victorian Gas Market Review which concluded with the presentation of his report to the Napthine Government. From 2014 Reith has been writing weekly for the Sydney Morning Herald and is a political commentator Sky AM Agenda and Paul Murray Live also on Sky.

References[edit]

Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Phillip Lynch
Member for Flinders
1982 – 1983
Succeeded by
Bob Chynoweth
Preceded by
Bob Chynoweth
Member for Flinders
1984 – 2001
Succeeded by
Greg Hunt
Political offices
Preceded by
Laurie Brereton (industrial relations)
David Kemp (employment)
Geoff Prosser (small business)
Minister for Industrial Relations
1996 – 1997
Succeeded by
Tony Abbott (employment
and workplace relations)
Ian Macfarlane (small business)
Minister for Employment and Workplace
Relations
and Small Business

1997 – 2001
Preceded by
John Moore
Minister for Defence
2001
Succeeded by
Robert Hill
Party political offices
Preceded by
Fred Chaney
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia
1990 – 1993
Succeeded by
Michael Wooldridge