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Peter Reith Biography

Peter Keaston Reith AM was an Australian politician who represented the Liberal Party in the House of Representatives from 1982 until 2001. He was born on July 15, 1950, and passed away on November 8, 2022. He served in the House of Representatives from 1984 until 2001. Between the years 1990 and 1993, he served as the party’s deputy leader and also held a cabinet position in the Howard administration.

Reith was born in Melbourne, and he attended Monash University for his legal education. He made his home in Cowes, in the state of Victoria, and was a member of the Phillip Island Shire Council from 1976 to 1981. (including as shire president for a period). At a by-election held in Flinders in 1982, Reith was successful in winning a seat in parliament. At the federal election in 1983, he was unsuccessful in defending his seat, but he was successful in doing so the following year. In 1990, Reith was chosen to serve as the Liberal Party’s deputy leader under the leadership of John Hewson. After the election in 1993, Michael Wooldridge was selected to take his position. During his time in the Howard Government, Reith held the positions of Minister for Industrial Relations (1996–1997), Minister for Small Business (1997–2001), Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations (1998–2001), and Minister for Defence (January 2001–2001 election), the last of which was his final position before he stepped down. After he left politics, he went on to serve as the director of a corporation and as a political pundit.


Early life 

On July 15th, 1950, Reith was born in Melbourne, Australia. His formal education took place at Brighton Grammar School and then continued on to Monash University, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in both economics and law respectively. After that, he began his career as a lawyer, first in Melbourne and later in Cowes, a small community located on Phillip Island. After being elected to the Council of the Shire of Phillip Island for the first time in 1976, he served as President of the Council during his final year of service in 1981.

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During the time that I spent on Phillip Island Reith was a driving force in the development of Newhaven College on Phillip Island, which is an independent institution. In addition to that, he was the primary advocate for the construction of the research center for penguins.


Political life 

In 1966, Reith became a member of the Liberal Party. In December 1982, he became a member of the House of Representatives after representing his party and winning a by-election for the seat of Flinders. [2] The by-election was held as a result of the departure of the previous Deputy Liberal Leader Sir Phillip Lynch.

Only three months later, in March 1983, voters rejected Reith for the seat in the general election. At the election in December 1984, when there was a significant shift toward the Liberals (even though it was not enough to win them government), he was successful in regaining the seat, and he maintained his hold on it for the subsequent 17 years.

Reith served as a shadow minister beginning in 1987 and continuing until 1996, with the exception of a few months in 1993. After serving as Shadow Minister for Housing and Shadow Minister for Sport and Recreation before becoming Shadow Attorney-General in 1988, he also held the position of Shadow Minister for Housing. [2] In the latter capacity, he successfully headed the “no” campaign during the constitutional referendum that took place in 1988.

In addition to that, he served as the Shadow Minister for Defense and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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Following the loss of the 1990 federal election by the Liberal Party, which was led by Andrew Peacock, and Peacock’s subsequent resignation from the leadership, Reith attempted to take over the leadership of the Liberal Party himself, but he was defeated by John Hewson, who won by a margin of 62 votes to 13.


After Hewson’s victory, Reith was then elected deputy opposition leader and appointed Shadow Treasurer, positions he held from 1990 until 1993. He served in both capacities for a period of time spanning from 1990 until 1993. Reith was one of the architects of the Liberal Party’s “Fightback!” strategy, which included a Goods and Services Tax. He was a co-architect of the concept together with Hewson.

In 1991, he served in the capacity of shadow to five different Treasurers. This was the outcome of a leadership crisis that year among the party that was in power at the time, the Labor Party.

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During the years 1990, 1991, and 1992, Reith served as Shadow Treasurer. During each of those years, a different Treasurer presented the Budget.

After the Liberals were soundly defeated in the 1993 election, he tendered his resignation as the Shadow Treasurer. In the post-election ballot, he was defeated and Michael Wooldridge was elected to take his position as deputy leader of the Liberal Party.

Despite the fact that Reith was the currently serving Deputy Leader, he was up against five other candidates for the position, one of them being Wooldridge, and Reith did not receive a sufficient number of votes to advance to the final round of voting. Reith was given the position of Minister for Industrial Relations and Leader of the House after John Howard won the 1996 election by a landslide. Howard also became Prime Minister of Australia. He was one of the most well-known and powerful members of Howard’s cabinet throughout his time in office. His responsibilities included drafting and implementing the government’s industrial relations policy, and he is perhaps best known for the significant productivity reforms that followed the 1998 Australian waterfront dispute. These reforms came about as a result of the dispute over working conditions on the waterfront. The manner in which Reith handled the dispute, which included an abortive attempt to use Australian Armed forces personnel who had been trained in Dubai to take over waterfront jobs and later the use of hired security guards wearing balaclavas and accompanied by dogs to remove working waterside workers from the work site, both of which were unsuccessful. He gave Patrick Corporation his full backing in its dispute with the Maritime Union of Australia, which resulted in vehement criticism from the unions[4] and the Australian Labor Party (ALP). [5] The disagreement was ultimately resolved when it was brought before the judicial system, where it was decided in favor of the unions and where new enterprise agreements were established in compliance with the court’s directives.

Additionally, Reith was responsible for the introduction and execution of reforms to the Commonwealth public service, a large package of reforms for small businesses, and an innovative employment program for native Australians.

In 1994, when Reith was a member of the opposition, he advocated for citizen-initiated referendums. However, he had no support from his Coalition colleagues, and the head of the National Party, Tim Fischer, referred to the proposal as a “law-making cancer.”
During the campaign for the referendum on whether or not Australia should become a republic in 1999, Reith argued for Australia to become a republic and supported the idea that the president should be elected directly.

In the year 2000, Reith became involved in a controversy regarding the use of his phone card, which had racked up charges of fifty thousand Australian dollars. He stated that his son’s access to the PIN connected with the card allowed him to make around one thousand dollars’ worth of phone calls.   Reith’s name had been brought up as a potential replacement for Howard in the years leading up to the phone card controversy.

In the year 2000, Howard gave Reith responsibility for the Defense portfolio. The year after that, Reith made public his intention to eventually retire, and he chose not to run for reelection in 2001. Late in the election campaign, he became embroiled in the “Children Overboard affair,” in which the government made claims that asylum seekers had thrown children overboard as a ploy to secure passage to Australia, and he failed to correct the record when he was advised that there was no evidence for the claims. The government had claimed that asylum seekers had thrown children overboard as a ploy to secure passage to Australia. Reith defended his actions and made public statements about the matter in the documentary series The Howard Years, which was screened in Australia in November and December 2008, in Leaky Boat, which was released in July 2011, and in the documentary Go Back to Where You Came From, which won the Logie Award for Best Documentary in 2012. Greg Hunt, also a Liberal, followed Reith as the Member of Parliament for Flinders, while Senator Robert Hill took over as Minister for Defence after Reith stepped down.


After leaving parliament 

After he left his position in parliament, Reith pursued a number of interests on a part-time basis. These included consulting a Sydney government relations firm, Tenix, as well as a major defense supplier and others. In his role as executive director at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (with headquarters in London), he served from 2003 to 2009; during that time, he was a representative for the countries of Australia, the Republic of Korea, Egypt, and New Zealand. During his time in London, Reith also participated in an independent commission that reported on UK tax reform to the opposition party led by Cameron.

In 2011, after Reith had written a report for the Liberal Party on the 2010 election, he challenged Alan Stockdale, who in the 1990s had been the State Treasurer of Victoria, for the president of the Liberal Party. Alan Stockdale had been the State Treasurer of Victoria during that time. In that election, Reith came in second place, one vote behind Stockdale, who won 56 to 57. When Liberal leader Tony Abbott was captured on video showing his vote to Stockdale, he effectively made his vote for Stockdale public. Stockdale was the recipient of Abbott’s vote. During the year 2013, Reith served as Chairman of the Victorian Gas Market Review, which came to a close with the presenting of his report to the Napthine Government.

Since 2014, Reith has contributed an article each week to The Sydney Morning Herald. In addition, he works as a political commentator for Sky News Australia, where he frequently appears on programs like AM Agenda and The Cabinet.

In April 2016, Reith began filling in for Richo as a temporary co-host alongside Peter Beattie. This was done as a replacement for Richo when the host of that program, Graham Richardson, was out of commission recovering from major surgery.

In April of 2016, Reith registered with the state of South Australia to work as a political lobbyist. Bechtel Infrastructure Australia (Pty Ltd) and G4S Custodial Services Pty Ltd are his clients in that jurisdiction, and he serves as their legal representative.

As a result of Reith’s hospitalization in March 2017 for what was believed to be bleeding on the brain, he was unable to follow through with his intention to challenge Michael Kroger for the presidency of the Liberal Party. Some people believed that power broker Marcus Bastiaan had been allowed to stack branches unchecked, thus they supported Reith’s challenge to Kroger. State Opposition Leader Matthew Guy had backed this challenge.


Personal life and death 

On November 8, 2022, at the age of 72, Reith passed away as a result of Alzheimer’s disease-related complications.


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