1996 Australian Labor Party leadership election

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1996 Australian Labor Party
leadership election
← 1991 19 March 1996 2001 →
  Kim Beazley crop.jpg
Candidate Kim Beazley
Caucus vote Unopposed

Leader before election

Paul Keating

Elected Leader

Kim Beazley

The Australian Labor Party held a leadership election on 19 March 1996, following the resignation of Paul Keating after the party's defeat at the 1996 federal election. Kim Beazley was elected unopposed as Keating's replacement, thus becoming Leader of the Opposition.

Speculation about Keating's successor began midway through his second term in office, as a result of consistently poor polling. Finance Minister Kim Beazley, Health Minister Carmen Lawrence, Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, and Employment Minister Simon Crean were all reported as possible contenders at various stages.[1][2][3] In June 1995, deputy leader Brian Howe announced his resignation. Beazley was elected unopposed as his replacement, thus becoming Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. Keating then endorsed Beazley as his own eventual successor, stating that he was "the obvious person in the long run". It was reported that Carmen Lawrence was the preferred candidate of Howe's Labor Left faction for the deputy leadership, but that she chose not to stand because she did not have the numbers in the caucus as a whole. Her position was thought to have been damaged by an ongoing Western Australian royal commission into her role in the Easton affair.[4]

In April 1995, opinion polling by AGB McNair on behalf of The Sydney Morning Herald had Gareth Evans (20 percent), Carmen Lawrence (18 percent), Kim Beazley (13 percent), and Simon Crean (8 percent) as the favourites to succeed Paul Keating as Labor leader, although 31 percent of respondents were unsure.[5] By July 1995, the same polling firm had Beazley on 27 percent, followed by Lawrence (19 percent), Evans (10 percent), and Crean (9 percent).[6]

Keating announced he would resign as Labor leader on the night of 2 March 1996, when it became clear that Labor had lost the federal election to John Howard's Coalition. By the following week, it was correctly being reported that Beazley would be elected unopposed as his successor when the Labor caucus met on 19 March. However, there was initially some concern that he would not win his seat, the Division of Brand in Western Australia – his final margin of victory was only 387 votes.[7][8] In the lead-up to the caucus meeting, most media attention was given to who would be the party's new deputy leader. Gareth Evans eventually defeated Simon Crean by 42 votes to 37.[9]


  1. ^ "Early odds for Labor Succession Stakes". The Canberra Times. 29 July 1994.
  2. ^ "Paul Keating's kiss of death". The Canberra Times. 13 May 1995.
  3. ^ "Sprucing up Kim Beazley". The Canberra Times. 24 June 1995.
  4. ^ "Howe goes: Beazley gets the nod". The Canberra Times. 21 June 1995.
  5. ^ "18% want Lawrence to lead ALP". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 April 1995.
  6. ^ "Beazley favored as next leader". The Age. 5 July 1995.
  7. ^ "Beazley takes a deep breath". The Age. 4 March 1996.
  8. ^ "Labor's pain begins". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 March 1996.
  9. ^ "Would-be PM Evans elected Deputy Opposition Leader". The Sydney Morning Herald. 20 March 1996.