Paul Keating

Quick Facts

  • Name: Paul John Keating
  • Born: Sydney, 18 January 1944
  • Prime Minister 1991–1996
  • Famous quote: ‘This is the recession Australia had to have.’
  • Manager of a rock band, collector of French antique clocks


Paul Keating grew up in the Sydney suburb of Bankstown. At 15 he left school, joined the Australian Labor Party (ALP), worked as a clerk and managed ‘The Ramrods’ rock band. In 1966 he became President of the ALP’s Youth Council.

In 1969 when he was 25, Keating was elected to the House of Representatives. In 1975 he became Minister for the Northern Territory in the Whitlam Government, three weeks before the Governor-General dismissed that Government. Keating was a Shadow Minister in the Labor Opposition from 1975 to 1983, and he became Treasurer after the ALP, with Bob Hawke as its leader, won the 1983 election. Treasurer for eight years he took steps to modernise the Australian economy. The stock market crash of 1987, followed by a three-year economic recession, presented significant challenges during Keating’s time as Treasurer.

In 1991, Keating considered Hawke should resign so he could become Prime Minister. Hawke would not resign and Keating challenged Hawke for the leadership of the ALP in June 1991. However, the ALP maintained support for Hawke. Six months later Keating challenged again, this time successfully. On 20 December 1991 Keating became Prime Minister. In 1993, he led the ALP to victory in an election that many political commentators thought he would lose.

Keating’s prime ministership is remembered for its economic reforms, including removing restrictions on foreign imports, allowing foreign banks to operate in Australia and beginning the process of selling government-owned businesses such as the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas. His government strengthened Indigenous land rights and took steps to increase workforce skills and strengthen Australia’s relations with South East Asian nations, especially Indonesia. During his prime ministership, Keating passionately promoted the idea of Australia becoming a republic.

In 1996 Keating contested his second election. High interest rates and unemployment contributed to his government’s defeat by the Liberal National Party Coalition led by John Howard. After that defeat Keating retired from parliament. Since then Keating has pursued careers in business and academic life and is often asked to comment on national and international issues.



  • Carroll, Brian  2004, Australia's Prime Ministers: From Barton to Howard, Rosenberg Publishing.
  • Gordon, Michael 1996, A True Believer: Paul Keating, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Qld.
  • Grattan, Michelle (ed) 2010, Australian Prime Ministers, New Holland Publishers, (Australia).
  • Keating, Paul 2001,  Engagement – Australia Faces the Asia–Pacific, Macmillan.

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