Australian politician and Labor prime minister (1991–96) with ambitions to make Australia a republic.
Born in a working-class suburb of Sydney, the descendant of Irish Catholic immigrants, Keating left school at fourteen and became involved in politics a year later. As a young man he worked as an employee of Sydney County Council, managed a pop group, and became a researcher for the Federated Municipal Employees' Union. An MP at twenty-five, Keating was soon appointed minister for the Northern Territory. In 1983, as treasurer in the government of Robert Hawke, he had to face considerable personal unpopularity for his policies of financial deregulation.
In 1991 Keating ousted Hawke to become prime minister. As premier he continued his policy of market deregulation, which promoted significant economic growth. A lifelong opponent of the traditional Anglophile Australian political establishment, Keating supported controversial legislation on behalf of Aboriginal claims to national territory. In 1993 he triumphed in the federal elections, confounding the predictions of the pundits to win Labor an unprecedented fifth successive term in office. Setting his sights on establishing an Australian republic by 2001, to mark the centenary of Australia's dominion status, Keating initiated a vigorous public debate on the future of the monarchy. In 1996, however, Labor suffered a massive electoral defeat, which ended his premiership.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).