Time icon

Parliament House is currently

Paul John Keating

View full image.

Prime Minister, 20 December 1991 to 11 March 1996
Australian Labor Party

Tenacious in his politics and visionary in his thinking, Paul Keating (b. 1944) spent more than 26 years in Parliament, and over five as Prime Minister. As Labor’s longest serving Treasurer, he navigated profound economic changes, while as Prime Minister he legislated for native title and established compulsory superannuation.1

Born in Bankstown, NSW, Keating left school at 15 and worked as a pay clerk, union researcher/advocate and manager of a music band which he took ‘from nowhere to obscurity’.2 Politically active from an early age, in 1959 he joined the ALP and was mentored by former NSW Premier Jack Lang.3

Elected as the Member for Blaxland in 1969, Keating was the Parliament’s youngest member at just 25. In 1975 he was appointed Minister for the NT, just weeks before Whitlam’s dismissal.4 That same year he married Annita van Iersel and they had four children before separating in 1998.5 In Opposition, Keating took on various portfolios and served as NSW Labor Party president (1979–83).

When the ALP returned to government in 1983, Keating became Treasurer and formed an effective partnership with Prime Minister Bob Hawke. Keating became ‘the architect of Australia’s economic deregulation’, floating the dollar, reforming the financial sector, and removing direct controls on interest rates.6 However, by 1991 the economy was in recession, and tensions grew between Keating and Hawke. Specifically, Keating’s contention that Hawke had broken an agreement to hand over the leadership led to a party room challenge.7 After this initially failed, Keating won a second attempt and became Prime Minister.

As Prime Minister, Keating created the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, and reorientated Australia in the Asia–Pacific through increased trade, diplomacy, and multi-lateral engagement. Other achievements included establishing the National Training Authority, and the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. In 1993, he established the Republic Advisory Committee with a planned transition by 2001.

Keating burnished his reputation as a merciless rhetorical brawler on the floor of the House, aiding his victory in the 1993 supposedly ‘unwinnable’ election.8 However, his policy reforms and combative leadership style often proved divisive. In 1996, he was swept from power by John Howard and resigned from Parliament.

Since leaving office, Keating has written on foreign policy and published a collection of speeches.9 Visiting Professor of Public Policy at the University of NSW, has consulted on business, and remains an active public commentor on superannuation, and Asia-Pacific issues. In 1997 he declined to be awarded an AC.10

Robert Lyall Hannaford AM
South Australian-born painter, sculptor and conservationist Robert Hannaford (b. 1944) grew up on his family farm before moving to Adelaide in his teens to complete his education. He worked as a political cartoonist for the Advertiser from 1964 to 1967. Though largely self-taught, Hannaford’s passion for painting was encouraged by Australian artists and mentors, Sir Hans Heysen and Ivor Hele. In 1967 and 1968, Hannaford attended the Ballarat Technical Art School, under the control of the School of Mines in Ballarat and from 1969 to 1973 was the winner of the AME Bale Art Scholarship. Hannaford has been at the forefront of contemporary Australian portraiture, winning the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 1990, the Viewer Prize in 1991 and 1998, and as a frequent finalist in the Archibald Prize. Hannaford’s portraits of other prominent Australians include Chief Justice Murray Gleeson, Dame Joan Sutherland and Governor-General Sir William Deane. In 2001, he was commissioned to paint the centenary sitting of the Australian Parliament. Hannaford was made an AM in 2014 for his service to the arts.11

Paul John Keating
by Robert Lyall Hannaford
Oil on canvas
120 x 98.4 cm
Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

1. Information in this biography has been taken from the following: T Bramston, Paul Keating: The Big-Picture Leader, Scribe, Melbourne, 2017; ‘Prime Ministers of Australia: Paul Keating’, National Museum of Australia; ‘Australia’s prime ministers: Paul Keating’, National Archives of Australia; ‘Australian Prime Ministers: Paul Keating’, Museum of Australian Democracy. Websites accessed 29 September 2021.
2. L Writer, G Hardie and J Stiles, ‘“What if” moments that changed Australia forever’, The New Daily, 1 August 2014, accessed 29 September 2021.
3. B Nairn, ‘Lang, John Thomas (Jack) (1876–1975)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed 29 September 2021.
4. ‘Australian Prime Ministers: Paul Keating’, op. cit.; Bramston, op. cit., p. 116.
5. ‘Paul Keating’s partner: Annita Keating’, National Archives of Australia, accessed 29 September 2021.
6. ‘Australia’s Prime Ministers: Paul Keating’, op. cit.
7. Bramston, op. cit., p. 301.
8. R Sullivan, Policy debates in Federal Election Campaigns, 1972–96, Research paper series, 1997–98, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 1997, p. 11, accessed 29 September 2021.
9. Bramston, op. cit., p. 649.
10. ‘Paul Keating: after office’, National Archives of Australia, accessed 29 September 2021.
11. Information in this biography has been taken from the following: ‘Robert Hannaford’, High Court of Australia; ‘Robert Hannaford: artist statement’, artist website; ‘Robert Hannaford AM’, National Portrait Gallery, 2018. ‘Hannaford, Robert’, A McCulloch, S McCulloch and E McCulloch Childs, eds, The New McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art, Aus Art Editions in association with The Miegunyah Press, 2006, p. 496. Websites accessed 25 March 2021.

Connect with us


We acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of country throughout Australia and acknowledge their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to the people, the cultures and the elders past, present and emerging.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website may contain images and voices of deceased people.