Peter Beattie

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The Honourable
Peter Beattie
Peter Beattie August 2013 (cropped).jpg
Beattie in 2013
36th Premier of Queensland
Elections: 1998, 2001, 2004, 2006
In office
20 June 1998 – 13 September 2007
DeputyJim Elder
Paul Braddy
Terry Mackenroth
Anna Bligh
Preceded byRob Borbidge
Succeeded byAnna Bligh
Treasurer of Queensland
In office
28 July 2005 – 2 February 2006
Preceded byTerry Mackenroth
Succeeded byAnna Bligh
Leader of the Labor in Queensland
In office
19 February 1996 – 13 September 2007
DeputyAnna Bligh
Preceded byWayne Goss
Succeeded byAnna Bligh
Leader of the Opposition of Queensland
In office
19 February 1996 – 20 June 1998
Preceded byRob Borbidge
Succeeded byRob Borbidge
Member of the Queensland Parliament for Brisbane Central
In office
2 December 1989 – 13 September 2007
Preceded byBrian Davis
Succeeded byGrace Grace
Personal details
BornPeter Douglas Beattie
(1952-11-18) 18 November 1952 (age 65)
Sydney, New South Wales
Political partyLabor
Spouse(s)Heather Beattie
Alma materUniversity of Queensland
Queensland University of Technology
Trade Unionist

Peter Douglas Beattie AC (born 18 November 1952) is a former Australian politician who served as the 36th Premier of Queensland, in office from 1998 to 2007. He was the state leader of the Labor from 1996 to 2007.

Beattie was born in Sydney but grew up in Atherton, Queensland. He worked as a lawyer and union secretary before entering politics. Beattie was elected to the Queensland Legislative Assembly at the 1989 state election. He served as a government minister from 1995 to 1996 under Wayne Goss, and then replaced Goss as party leader following a change in government. As leader of the opposition, Beattie led the Labor Party back to power at the 1998 election, and won further victories at the 2001, 2004 and 2006 elections. He retired in 2007 and was succeeded by his deputy Anna Bligh.

After retiring as premier, Beattie was appointed to a series of public relations positions with the state and federal Labor governments. He made an unsuccessful attempt to enter federal politics at the 2013 election, standing in the Division of Forde. In 2016, Beattie was made chairman of the organising committee for the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. He was appointed chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission in February 2018.

Early life[edit]

Beattie was born in Sydney as the youngest of seven children. He was raised by his grandmother at Atherton, a small town in North Queensland, and attended Atherton State High School.[1] He moved to Brisbane to attend the University of Queensland, graduating with a Bachelor of Laws degree. He was President of the Student Club at St John's College. He completed a Master of Arts degree from Queensland University of Technology, and then began practising as a lawyer.

Prior to his election to parliament, Beattie was a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland and secretary of the Railway Stationmasters' Union.[2]

Pre-parliamentary career[edit]

In 1974, he joined the Australian Labor Party, which had been in opposition for 17 years and had just suffered the worst defeat in its history at the hands of the dominant National Party Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

In the 1980 federal election, Beattie was the Labor candidate for the federal Division of Ryan and was defeated by the Liberal incumbent John Moore, but achieving a 3 percent two party preferred swing in the process.

Beattie became involved in the campaign led by Dr Denis Murphy to reform the Queensland branch of the party, which was dominated by elderly and conservative trade union leaders. In 1981 the federal Labor Party leader, Bill Hayden, led a federal intervention in Queensland, and Beattie became Queensland State Secretary. Eight years later, Wayne Goss became Queensland's first Labor Premier since Vince Gair in 1957.

Early parliamentary career (1989-1996)[edit]

At the 1989 election Beattie was elected to the Queensland Parliament as MP for Brisbane Central. Something of a maverick within the parliamentary party during his early term, Beattie was mistrusted by faction leaders and kept out of the ministry. His main post was as chairman of the parliamentary committee overseeing the Criminal Justice Commission (now the Crime and Misconduct Commission), a role in which he frequently took the side of CJC Commissioner Sir Max Bingham against the Goss government, earning Goss's ire. Beattie also publicly criticised Goss for being out of touch. Goss did not appoint him to the ministry until Labor's near defeat at the 1995 election, where Beattie became Minister for Health. He was only in office for three months before the Goss government lost office following defeat in the Mundingburra by-election.

Goss then stood down as ALP leader, and Beattie was elected in his stead, thus becoming Opposition Leader. His first act as Opposition leader was to move a motion in Parliament preventing the new Coalition government under Rob Borbidge from calling an early election. Labor feared that an early election could give the Coalition an outright majority. The motion carried.

Premier (1998-2007)[edit]

At the 1998 state election Labor won 44 seats out of 89, and was only denied a majority when One Nation won six seats that otherwise would have gone to Labor if not for leakage of Coalition preferences.[3] The balance of power rested with two independents, Peter Wellington and Liz Cunningham, and the 11 One Nation MPs. Labor needed the support of only one crossbencher to make Beattie premier, while the Coalition needed them all for Borbidge to stay in office. Wellington announced his support for Labor, allowing Beattie to form a minority government.

A few months later, Charles Rappolt, the One Nation member for Mulgrave, abruptly resigned. Labor's Warren Pitt, who had held the seat from 1989 to 1995, won the ensuing by-election, giving Beattie a majority in his own right. Pitt would have retaken his old seat a few months earlier, if not for Coalition preferences leaking to Rappolt.

Shortly before the 2001 election, he faced a crisis when a CJC inquiry - the Shepherdson inquiry - revealed that a number of MPs and party activists, including Deputy Premier Jim Elder, had been engaged in breaches of the Electoral Act by falsely enrolling people to boost their faction's strength in internal party ballots. As well a former State Secretary and newly elected MP Mike Kaiser, and a senior adviser to Wayne Goss had been falsely enrolled some 16 years earlier as part of a factional battle. Beattie acted swiftly, forcing a number of MPs to quit politics and forcing Elder to resign as Deputy Premier. In the ensuing campaign, Beattie claimed a Labor win would ensure stable government. He argued the only alternative was a Coalition government propped up by One Nation and former One Nation MPs—an argument that gained particular resonance when Borbidge's own party room reneged on Borbidge's promise not to preference One Nation.[3] Beattie was rewarded with a smashing victory, winning 66 seats out of 89—the biggest majority Labor has ever won in an election. It also took all but one seat in Brisbane.

Beattie’s key agenda was to transform Queensland into Australia’s "Smart State" by restructuring the education system, skilling the workforce and encouraging research and development and high tech biotechnology, information technology and aviation industries to locate in Queensland. In 2003, the Premier was awarded an honorary doctorate of science from the University of Queensland "in recognition of his leadership and commitment to higher education through Smart State initiatives and his support for research in the fields of biotechnology and nanotechnology".[4]

2004 state election[edit]

In February 2004 Beattie again went to the polls, and again a crisis blew up shortly before the election, with a highly critical report on the state of Queensland's system of child protection. Beattie accepted full personal responsibility for the issue, and paradoxically turned the issue into a positive for the government. At the 7 February elections Beattie won 63 seats, a net loss of only three, losing four seats to the National-Liberal Opposition but gaining one from them. This made him one of the most successful state politicians in Australian history.

2005/2006 Queensland Health crisis[edit]

Beattie in 2006

In the latter part of 2005, Beattie faced potentially his most serious political crisis: the revelations and inquiries into Queensland Health and the Bundaberg public hospital after Jayant Patel, an Indian-born surgeon who performed several botched operations, some of which resulted in death, fled the country to the United States, where he had previously been struck off the register. Amid the controversy, the health minister Gordon Nuttall resigned his portfolio, the Speaker, Ray Hollis, resigned after controversy associated with his use of Parliamentary expenditure, and the Deputy Premier and Treasurer, Terry Mackenroth, retired, forcing by-elections in the safe Labor seats of Redcliffe and Chatsworth on 20 August. Labor suffered major swings against it and both seats were lost to the Liberal Party, the first serious electoral setback for Beattie since becoming Premier.

A Newspoll in late 2005 showed support for Labor in Queensland down six percentage points to 50 per cent, an all-time low since Beattie became Premier. Following the retirement of the Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr in 2005, Beattie became the longest-serving state Premier among his contemporaries.

2006 state election[edit]

Despite this, Beattie went on to win the September 2006 election convincingly, with a slight swing towards the ALP in terms of its primary vote, and two party preferred result.[5] Coalition Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg stepped down. Before the election Liberal Leader Bob Quinn was forced by his party colleagues to step down a fortnight before polling day.[6] The campaign of Quinn's replacement Dr Bruce Flegg was characterized by inexperience and indecisiveness and lacked an organised, professional approach.[7] Premier Beattie therefore was never challenged by the opposition and was able to secure a fourth consecutive term in office. This result puts Beattie in the realm of iconic political figures. He is the only state Labor leader since Neville Wran, NSW Labor Premier from 1976 to 1986, to do so and is Queensland's fourth longest serving Premier after Labor's William Forgan Smith (1932–1942), the Country Party's Frank Nicklin (1957–1968) and National Party Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen (1968–1987).


Beattie announced on 10 September 2007 his decision to retire from politics. His resignation as Premier officially took effect on 13 September 2007. At the time of his retirement, he was the longest-serving state premier in the country.[8] The Labor caucus elected Anna Bligh as its leader on 12 September.[9] In 2009, Anna Bligh led her party to a state election victory, thereby becoming the first Australian female to be popularly elected as a state premier.

He officially stood down as the Member for Brisbane Central on 14 September 2007. Beattie then served as Queensland's Trade Commissioner to North and South America based in Los Angeles, a position he was appointed to by Anna Bligh in March 2008 after previously stating that he would not accept a federal or state government role.[10]

In late May 2010 Beattie announced that he was retiring early from his position as Queensland's Los Angeles-based trade and investment commissioner.[11] In June 2010 it was announced that he had accepted a position with Clemson University in South Carolina.[12] On 24 August 2011, the Gillard Government appointed Beattie as Australia's first Resources Sector Supplier Envoy charged with promoting a Buy Australian at Home and Abroad program for supplying products to the Australian resources industry.[13]

Federal politics[edit]

Beattie with Kevin Rudd, the then-Prime Minister of Australia, during his unsuccessful campaign for the Division of Forde at the 2013 federal election

Beattie's popularity often led to speculation that he would enter national politics,[14] particularly after federal Labor's defeat at the 2001 federal election. But Beattie resisted such suggestions, saying that he loved Queensland too much to leave, and anyway Canberra was "too cold".[15] On announcing his retirement he again ruled out a move to federal politics, saying that he would, politically speaking, disappear.[16]

However, in August 2013, Beattie announced his intention to run in the 2013 federal election in the Queensland federal seat of Forde. He was defeated by incumbent Liberal National Party MP Bert Van Manen.[17]

Media involvement[edit]

Beattie's self-description as a "media tart"[18] as well as his political successes have led to a love-hate relationship with The Courier-Mail, Brisbane's daily newspaper. Columnist Peter Wear, for example, ran a long-running satire on Queensland politics in general with the major role played by "President for Life Mbeattie".

Beattie in August 2013

The controversy over the performance of the government-owned electricity supplier Energex during the severe 2003-2004 storm season in South East Queensland resulted in the characterisation of Beattie as "Power Point Pete" by Courier-Mail cartoonist Sean Leahy, with the location of the drawing's eyes and nose designed to replicate the holes of a power point.

In August 2007 the Beattie government proposed to reduce the number of councils from 154 to 72, which would result in the merger of a number of regional and extra-metropolitan councils into larger Regional Councils. This proved particularly unpopular in the affected regional areas.


In May 2005 Beattie released his autobiography Making A Difference, in which he described his upbringing, political life and his views on key issues, including health, education and social reform. The book is part memoir, part manifesto.[19] Beattie says that the reason he released the book while he is in office, rather than when he is retired, is because no-one would want to read about him if he was not in the public arena. It was Beattie's third book after his autobiographical piece In the Arena (1990) and the thriller The Year of the Dangerous Ones.

Political commentator[edit]

Beattie joined Sky News Live as a commentator across multiple programs in 2015.[20] Beattie began co-hosting his own program with Peter Reith in April 2016, as a replacement format for Richo while that program was put into hiatus following the ill health of host Graham Richardson.[21]

Sporting interests[edit]

Beattie at the Queen's Baton Relay for the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast

In May 2016, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk appointed Beattie as appointed chairman of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Corporation, the organising committee for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. It was criticised by some as a political appointment.[22][23] The organisers received criticism for barring broadcasters from showing footage of the athletes entering the stadium for the closing ceremony, as a result of which Beattie publicly apologised and described it as "clearly a stuff-up".[24]

Beattie was appointed to the board of the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) in July 2017, as an independent commissioner.[25] In February 2018, he was appointed chairman of the commission in place of John Grant.[26] He is a supporter of reforming the organisation's constitution to give National Rugby League (NRL) teams and state organisations direct representation on the board.[27]

In April 2018, Beattie was involved in two embarrassing moments just weeks apart as the new chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission. The first gaffe came when he did not know the nickname of the Cronulla Sharks. Beattie was asked by Phil Gould “The team that plays out of the Sutherland Shire — is it the Cronulla Hawks, the Cronulla Seagulls or the Cronulla Sharks?”. Beattie replied “I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t have a bloody clue, but I’ll know next week".

The next gaffe came when on national television, Beattie spotted a young child in the background while doing an interview with Karl Stefanovic. Beattie said “You’re obviously a Newcastle Knights supporter". The child then said "This is an Barcelona shirt". Stefanovic wasted no time in pointing out his error, erupting with laughter before saying: “No, it looks like the Knights, but I think that’s a soccer team, Barcelona".[28]


On 1 January 2001, Beattie was awarded the Centenary Medal for his contribution to Queensland.[29] On 11 June 2012, Beattie was named a Companion of the Order of Australia for "eminent service to the Parliament and community of Queensland, through initiatives in the area of education and training, economic development, particularly in biotechnology, information technology and aviation industries, and to the promotion of international trade."[30]

Personal life[edit]

Peter is married to Heather Beattie, a former professor of nursing. She was briefly involved in Brisbane City Council politics in her own capacity in 2012.[31] The Beatties have three adult children, Larissa, Denis and Matthew Beattie. Peter is an Anglican, and his wife is the daughter of an Anglican clergyman.


  1. ^ "Disruptive influences - Griffith Review". Griffith Review. Retrieved 2015-11-02.
  2. ^ "Disruptive influences - Griffith Review". Griffith Review. Retrieved 2015-11-02.
  3. ^ a b Green, Antony. Queensland election preview. Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2012-01-25.
  4. ^ Queensland Premier to receive UQ honour - University of Queensland, 7 Dec 2003
  5. ^ "Bulletproof Beattie cruises to fourth victory in a row". Sydney Morning Herald. 10 September 2006.
  6. ^ "Party changes renew Qld election speculation". ABC News. 8 August 2006.
  7. ^ "Nothing great about debate or the campaign". The Australian. 9 September 2006. Archived from the original on 1 September 2007. - Media clipping re-published by Queensland Media Club
  8. ^ 'Beattie retires as Qld Premier', ABC News online, 10 September 2007.
  9. ^ 'Anna Bligh: first woman to be Queensland Premier' Archived 6 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine., Australian Labor Party, retrieved 12 September 2007.
  10. ^ The Australian (2008). Former Queensland premier Peter Beattie backflips into government's US trade post. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  11. ^ Walker, Jamie (28 May 2010). "Peter Beattie bows out, with praise for Julia Gillard". The Australian.
  12. ^ Mitchell, Peter (23 June 2010). "New job for Peter Beattie in America". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  13. ^ Minister for Innovation (2011). Buy Australian at Home and Abroad Archived 4 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  14. ^ "Is Peter Beattie Preparing To Leap Into Federal Politics?". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2 July 2005. Retrieved 4 August 2007.
  15. ^ Dickie, Phil (8 February 2004). "Man of the people magic". Melbourne: The Age.
  16. ^ Cosima Marriner (11 September 2007). "Beattie quits and promises to disappear". Melbourne: The Age.
  17. ^
  18. ^ Beattie an unashamed 'media tart' - AM Archive, ABC Local Radio, Thursday, 11 May 2000
  19. ^ "Making A Difference" Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine. - listing on publisher Gleebooks' website
  20. ^ Knox, David (20 February 2015). "Peter Beattie joins SKY News". TV Tonight. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  21. ^ Davidson, Darren (4 April 2016). "Mark Latham joins Alan Jones on Sky News weekly show". The Australian. Retrieved 20 April 2016.(subscription required)
  22. ^ "Peter Beattie appointed new Commonwealth Games 2018 chairman". ABC News. 17 May 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  23. ^ "Peter Beattie named as new Gold Coast Commonwealth Games chief". Brisbane Times. 17 May 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  24. ^ "Peter Beattie apologises for Commonwealth Games closing ceremony 'stuff-up'". SBS News. 16 April 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  25. ^ "Former premier Peter Beattie accepts role as independent commissioner on ARL board". 25 July 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  26. ^ "New ARLC chairman Peter Beattie vows to bring clubs together after latest stoush". Brisbane Times. 21 February 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  27. ^ "Peter Beattie insists Australian Rugby League Commission reform will go ahead". ABC News. 12 March 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Peter Beattie". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  30. ^ "Companion (AC) in the General Division of the Order of Australia - The Queen's Birthday 2012 Honours Lists" (PDF). Official Secretary to the Governor-General of Australia. 11 June 2012. p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 June 2012.
  31. ^

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Rob Borbidge
Premier of Queensland
Succeeded by
Anna Bligh
Preceded by
Terry Mackenroth
Treasurer of Queensland
Succeeded by
Anna Bligh
Preceded by
Jim Elder
Minister for Trade
Succeeded by
Anna Bligh
Preceded by
Anna Bligh
Minister for Trade
Succeeded by
John Mickel
Preceded by
Jim Elder
Minister for State Development
Succeeded by
Terry Mackenroth
Preceded by
Rob Borbidge
Leader of the Opposition in Queensland
Succeeded by
Rob Borbidge
Party political offices
Preceded by
Wayne Goss
Leader of the Labor Party in Queensland
Succeeded by
Anna Bligh
Parliament of Queensland
Preceded by
Brian Davis
Member for Brisbane Central
Succeeded by
Grace Grace