December 1991 Australian Labor Party leadership spill

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December 1991 Australian Labor Party
Leadership spill
← June 1991 19 December 1991 1996 →
  Second Keating Cabinet 1994 (cropped Keating).jpg Hawke Bob BANNER.jpg
Candidate Paul Keating Bob Hawke
Caucus vote 56 51
Percentage 52.3% 47.7%

Leader before election

Bob Hawke

Elected Leader

Paul Keating

A leadership spill of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), the party of government in the Parliament of Australia, was held on 19 December 1991, the second spill in a year. Backbencher and former Treasurer Paul Keating defeated Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who had led Labor for eight and a half years.


Bob Hawke had been leader of the Labor Party since 3 February 1983, and Prime Minister since the 1983 election, with Labor winning a record four elections under his leadership. The unexpectedly close win at the 1990 election, coupled with the deepening economic recession, fuelled tensions within the government over economic policy, resulting in a breakdown of Hawke and Keating's previous "close cooperation".[1] A re-energised Liberal opposition led by John Hewson, a qualified economist, gained ground in the opinion polls.[citation needed] Hawke had alienated key NSW Right powerbroker Graham Richardson in late 1990 by denying him the transport and communications portfolio, causing Richardson to support Keating as a leadership alternative, before bluntly telling Hawke he no longer had the support of the Right.[2] He also reneged on an agreement with Paul Keating, known as the Kirribilli agreement, that he would hand over the leadership to him following the 1990 election.[1] On 3 June 1991, Keating challenged for the leadership, but lost in a 66-44 vote and moved to the backbench.

By late 1991, Hawke's public support continued to decline as the Australian economy showed no signs of recovering from the recession and the opposition Liberals launched their Fightback! economic policy, without strong response from Hawke.[3] The final straw was when Hawke sacked Keating's successor as Treasurer, John Kerin for his perceived communication weaknesses in early December.[citation needed] Keating supporters began a campaign to undermine Hawke's leadership.[2]


The following table gives the ballot results:

Name Votes Percentage
Paul Keating 56 52.3
Bob Hawke 51 47.7

Keating's second challenge was a success: he defeated Hawke by 56 votes to 51. Keating said Hawke had gone missing for four of his eight years as prime minister and had to be propped up by him.[4]

Foreign Minister Gareth Evans was unable to attend the second ballot as he was overseas.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b National Archives of Australia. "In office - Robert Hawke (11 March 1983 – 20 December 1991) and Hazel Hawke". Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  2. ^ a b "RICHARDSON, Graham Frederick (1949– )Senator for New South Wales, 1983–94 (Australian Labor Party) | The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate". Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  3. ^ Making public policy decisions : expertise, skills and experience. Alexander, Damon,, Lewis, Jenny M.,. Abingdon, Oxon. p. 179. ISBN 9781317697725. OCLC 898868398.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. ^ "Playing politics is playing for keeps". The Advertiser. 24 February 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  5. ^ Caldwell, Anna. "How it works: PM may come down to lucky draw". NewsComAu. Retrieved 2018-08-31.