Kennett-Peacock Car Phone Conversation

Long before mobile phones became the ubiquitous accessory of the 21st century, a famous conversation took place between the then Leader of the Opposition in Victoria, Jeff Kennett, and his close friend, the former and future Federal Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Peacock.

The Victorian Liberals had performed well in a by-election on the evening of Saturday March 23, 1987. On his way home by car, Kennett rang Peacock. The call was intercepted by a man with a scanner. The conversation found its way onto the front pages of the newspapers and the Leader of the Opposition, John Howard, sacked Peacock from the shadow ministry.

It was a particularly bad period for the Liberal Party. The coalition with the National Party was under strain from the Joh For Canberra push by the Queensland Premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Leadership tensions between Peacock and Howard simmered. Bob Hawke eventually called an early July election and increased his majority in the House of Representatives.

  • Listen to the Kennett-Peacock car phone conversation (5m)

This is the transcript of the Kennett-Peacock car phone conversation.

KENNETT: He got on the phone and said are you happy with the result, and I said “No I’m not”, and he said “Why?” and I said “Without your front pages and total disunity I’d have had ten percent swing. I would have got myself another four and you’ve fucked it up for me and he went off his brain.

PEACOCK: Oh did he?

KENNETT: And he went off his brain trying to (inaudible)

PEACOCK: He went off his brain?

KENNETT: And I said…

PEACOCK: And HE went off his brain?

KENNETT: He said to me, “I didn’t like the way you kept me out of the campaign”. I said, “Wouldn’t have you in it, and I didn’t have any federal people in it.”

PEACOCK: Well you didn’t have me. Didn’t have anyone.

KENNETT: And I said to him, “Tomorrow, I’m going to bucket the whole lot of you”.

PEACOCK: No! Don’t do that Jeffrey.

KENNETT: Hold your flow. I said, “Tomorrow John” and he said, “I know where your sympathies lie”, and I said, “I couldn’t give a fuck. I have no sympathies any more. You’re all a pack of shits and tomorrow I’m going berserk”. Well he went off his brain and in the end I said to him, I said, “Howard. You’re a cunt. You haven’t got my support, you never will have and I’m not going to rubbish you or the party tomorrow but I feel a lot better having told you you’re a cunt.”

PEACOCK: Oh shit!

KENNETT: And the poor little fellow didn’t know whether he was Arthur or Martha.

PEACOCK: Oh shit!

KENNETT: (laughing) I just thought I should let you know.

PEACOCK: Well, tomorrow you are humble. You do feel better. And I am getting out of that car. I’ve told you. I told Margaret, I said “Tomorrow I’m just gonna get out of that fuckin’ car and say this is not Howard’s day, it’s not my day, it’s not Carla’s day, it’s not anyone’s day, not Richie’s day. This is a day for Jeffrey Kennett”. And I was thinking that I’d go in even earlier, and even if only a third of the bastards were there I was gonna go and grab the mic and say this is unprecedented. This in the midst of the most horrific difficulties and I faced ’em when I was the leader in by-elections, we haven’t had ’em for some years. We had a great win yesterday, and the only person who is deserving. Not just earnt it, but deserving of support is Jeffrey Kennett and if you don’t give him everything then you’re letting down the Liberal Party.

KENNETT: Well, all I can say. I thought I should let you know where I ended up with your little mate…

PEACOCK: Well, fuck him. I’m not worried. I just.. I almost bloody cried. I was terribly worried. I was terribly worried. My fuckin’ anger yesterday as Margaret knows. First thing I came in last night I said “Oh, fuckin’ cunt! I said the whole fuckin’ thing could upset tomorrow” I was really… And she was saying “What’s Jeffrey done?” and I was saying “It’s not what Jeffrey’s done. It’s what everyone’s fucking done to Jeffrey”.

KENNETT: Well. I think we came out of it alright and certainly…

PEACOCK: Alright? The news reports. Have you seen them on the television?

KENNETT: No.

PEACOCK: They’re saying “Labor down 7%”. Cain is claiming on a two party preferred vote – and don’t you let that cunt get away with that – it’s only 2%. They’re saying the Joh campaign has stopped in it’s tracks. In one part of the three state electorates it’s something like 2 to 3% down on the last vote and the Liberal Party will walk in.

KENNETT: Well. We won on primaries in every lower house seat. And even in the National Party seats. So it’s a fantastic…

PEACOCK: Well, exactly. That’s what I interpreted from it. Mate I didn’t have the details, I was just going to talk you. And don’t you (inaudible) me. You can all go and get stuffed. This is Jeff Kennett’s day.

KENNETT: Well. It’s been a good result. But anyway. Howard won’t know whether he’s Arthur or Martha.

PEACOCK: I know. But you feel better?

KENNETT: Oh yes.

PEACOCK: Be humble. Everyone’s gonna say “You are the greatest leader” since sliced bread mate.

KENNETT: It’s a good all-rounder.

PEACOCK: Where are you?

KENNETT: I’m on the way home. I’m going home and having a reasonably early night and I will see you tomorrow.

PEACOCK: I’ve got to sit in the chair about four or five rows back from the front. And I’ll allow Howard, after he’s had his tumultuous reception to come down and sit next to me and be photographed together smiling.

KENNETT: Oh, how pathetic.

PEACOCK: I would do that.

KENNETT: How pathetic!

PEACOCK: Yeah but I’m doing it on the basis of when I get out, and when I talk because they’ll be chasing me because of the federal issues, I’m just gonna talk Kennett. I knew it was gonna happen, and it should have been fuckin’ better but it would have been better despite those difficulties.

KENNETT: Well there’s two points. One is the federal difficulties. The other point is the way Cain tried to bloody deceive the electorate on this price control thing.

PEACOCK: That’s right.

KENNETT: And the good thing about it….

PEACOCK: Be humble mate.

KENNETT: Oh, I know.

PEACOCK: They’re behind you. So you don’t have to…

KENNETT: The thing is we didn’t (inaudible) like Cain and the National Party did to try and win political support. We might have lost some votes on that price control thing but we’ve kept very firmly to our philosophies. That’s an important part of this whole win I think.

PEACOCK: Well make those points. But just tell them, there are hundreds of thousands of people in this state who are going to support you. And you’re right. And that’s it. Just be humble.

KENNETT: I will see you tomorrow.

PEACOCK: I look forward to it. And I am just so thrilled.

KENNETT: Alright mate.

PEACOCK: See you then.

KENNETT: Give my regards to your good lady.

PEACOCK: Ok. Ta. Bye.

KENNETT: Bye.

 

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  1. […] The most famous example of this was the interception of the uncomplimentary mobile phone conversation between former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett and then shadow minister Andrew Peacock about future prime minister John Howard in 1987. Scanner enthusiasts recorded the very frank late night chat which caused a political uproar when it subsequently appeared on newspaper front pages. The transcript and audio has been posted for posterity on australianpolitics.com. […]

  2. […] the edge off even Keating’s fiery rhetoric. The intercepted Kennett-Peacock mobile phone conversation was a singular and fleeting glimpse into the private conversations that take place on a daily basis […]